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As I started thinking and praying about ways to show appreciation to our pastors, my thoughts took an interesting turn.  Maybe you’ve never thought about it quite like this either.

We are all called to do something.  And whatever it is, whether we eat or drink, we should do it all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23).  Our pastors are called to labor in the church – to sacrifice, to serve, to teach and admonish, to pray and weep, to keep watch over the souls of his flock, to accurately handle the word of God – all for the glory of God and for the sake of the body.  This is no small calling.

And when we think about the devil prowling around seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), it makes sense that those who lead others to Christ and into greater understanding of obedience to Christ are a specific target for that “devouring.”

At different points in history, we have seen or read about pastors who have “fallen.”  Whether they have fallen into sexual sin, embezzlement, or manipulated their authority (which should be servant leadership) to grasp for power that should not be theirs, when we see and publicize these falls, we hurt the whole body.

That does not mean we should hide the fallen soldiers (for that is truly what they are, fallen soldiers) or make excuses for their sin.  It also does not mean we should condemn them – they are already held accountable for the souls under their care by God himself (Hebrews 13:17).  Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Even fallen pastors are in Christ.

What it does mean is that we need to protect those who lead us.  We need to look on these giants of the faith – these everyday heroes – and realize Satan knows their kryptonite. The men and women who lead in our churches are human – sinners saved by grace – soldiers in a cosmic battle. Sometimes soldiers fall.  But we can do a lot to protect and defend our leaders so that they can remain steadfast.  We can do a lot to uphold them so they can continue to lead the fight, to push back the dominion of darkness.  They don’t have to fall.

3 Ways to Protect Your Pastor

As you think through ways to appreciate your pastor this month, I’d like to encourage you to protect your pastor in three ways.

  • Pray for your pastor

    This may seem obvious, but how often and how much time do you spend really praying for your pastor – more than the cursory “be with our pastor as he brings the word” type prayers? October is a great time to commit to praying regularly for your pastor – for the particular temptations and unique struggles he faces. Please, please, please spend regular, concentrated, intentional time praying for your pastor. Pray for him to remain humble and sensitive to the Spirit. Pray for him to rightly divide the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15). Pray for him to understand you and the congregation such that he can apply Scripture with great wisdom. Pray for his congregation (you!) to search the scriptures (not opinions or feelings) to see if what he says is true (Acts 17:11).  Pray for his heart to find confidence in Christ alone.  Pray for his relationships with his wife and his children.  Pray for their relationships with Christ – that they might encourage and strengthen him as they labor together as a ministry family for the body of Christ. Pray that he stands firm in the day of trouble and and that he will have courage to follow Christ during persecution.

  • Guard his time – with God and with his family

    Pastors are people, too. And ministry is more than a job, it’s a lifestyle. If your pastor is going to do all we prayed for above, he is going to have to be connected to Christ and connected to his family. And he will need your practical support, in addition to your prayers, if he is to remain steadfast in the word and a leader in his home.  October is a great time to think about how to guard his time throughout the year with his family and to commit to supporting and protecting his time alone with God. Thinking practically here, it might mean respecting his time in prayer – like when his head is bowed in his office, and you have to decide whether or not to knock. It might mean understanding the balance he needs to have between studying alone in his office, and being engaged with members of the congregation or reaching out to unbelievers. It might look like offering babysitting for a “date night” in October or a gift card to his favorite restaurant so he can spend time with his family, but maybe it’s about cultivating an environment year round where the pastor is not the only acceptable person to do hospital visits, funerals, and crisis counseling. Maybe we allow for our pastor to honor his commitments to his wife and kids as much as we expect him to honor his commitments to the other members of the church. And please, make sure he takes a regular day off (Mondays might not be best)- and respect his day off. {On a personal note, our church actually set up a schedule for couples to babysit in our home on a monthly basis so Mike and I can have a regular opportunity to connect. For those of you with pastors who have young children – this is a great way to support his ministry in the home.} Other ideas I’ve seen in practice: there are churches maintain the yard for the pastor’s home – not a parsonage, but their privately owned home – so the pastor is freed to spend his time “off” with his family. Other churches offer housecleaning, child care, an end-of-year gift, or occasional grocery cards. Get creative and think about how you, as an individual, and as a church, can protect and support your pastor’s time with God and with his family.

  • Defend your pastor in your own mind and with others

    If you are praying, in faith, for all those things in #1 above, then please commit to assuming the best about what the elders in your church decide. Commit to respectfully asking for more information if something doesn’t make sense to you.  And commit to directing critics to speak directly with the leaders in the church rather than having conversations amongst the members which put the pastors, elders, and deacons in a negative light. Slander and gossip have no place in a church, and will undermine the work of the church.  When you have concerns, go to God first, and pray for wisdom and clarity. Search the scriptures for truth and understanding. And then, if you think the pastor is or your elders are  wrong – commit to talking to them privately and directly (Matthew 18:15-20) before you voice your concerns to others. Another way to defend your pastor is to defend his ministry in the budget process. Pastor Appreciation Month often coincides with the budget process. Take your care for his ministry into conversations about the budget. As you think about a book allowance, study leave, a line item for expenses associated with pastoral visits and denominational involvement, as you consider vacation time, his salary and benefits, and set the budget for outreach – defend him. Commit to seeing him as a person, not a line item in an ever-tightening budget. Defend him as a person called to serve in a specific way who is to “get his living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:9-14).

And I leave you with these verses as you consider protecting your leaders:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12