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Several years ago my family and I went to the sea lion show at the St. Louis Zoo.  One of the sea lions had been refusing to perform, so they opened the show up – for free – to try to coax him back into action.  He performed beautifully for us. 🙂

Have you ever been to one of those water-animal shows?  The first few rows are painted a different color to indicate the “splash zone.”  If you sit in those rows, you’ll be face to face with the clear side of the tank and see things no one else can see.  You might also get called up to touch the sea lions or to feed them fish, or to play some other part in the show.  But if you are sitting in the splash zone, watch out! As you see the amazing feats of the creatures God created to fill the seas, you will get wet.  When the animal impacts the water after an amazing jump, the water is displaced to make room for the animal.  Since it has no place to go, that “radial jet” flies upward and outward.  The initial splash leaves the tank at 20-30 times the speed of the animal hitting the water. And if you are in those front rows, it smacks you in the face and leaves you dripping from head to toe.  Some people like that and choose to sit in the splash zone.  Some people put up with it because they enjoy the special view.  Some of the people in the splash zone are sitting there because someone they love wants to be in the splash zone.

Our pastors live life in the splash zone.  And their wives and families are there with them because they love him. It’s a unique calling – life in the splash zone. One one hand, they have front row seats to watch God working. On the other hand, they are close enough to get smacked by the water, and getting smacked by the water isn’t always fun.

But just like a close-up view of an orca whale may make the splashes worthwhile, our pastors can embrace and endure any number of splashes of criticism, anger, messy marriages in the counseling room, censorship of the government, slander, gossip, and the pain of walking hand-in-hand with hurting, broken people when they catch those special moments of seeing that God is working through them.  There’s something incredibly in+couraging about seeing His strength at work in your weakness.  There’s something that inspires perseverance in the heart of a pastor, in knowing it’s all God, but he chose to use you as an instrument of his grace.

But what would it be like if the sides of the tank were solid metal instead of clear?  Would it be worth it to sit in the splash zone if the underwater view was obscured?

So, as we close out Pastor Appreciation Month (or as I like to call it, “Restart Acts of Appreciation for your Pastor Month“), let’s think about ways we can help our pastors to see the underwater action.  We can serve our pastors as they do life in the splash zone by telling them about how God is working in our lives (2 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor) and by protecting them from some of the spray (3 Ways to Protect Your Pastor). We can also serve them by sitting there with them – even if it means we get wet, too. Participating in ministry in your local church is one of the best ways to “appreciate” your pastor.

Maybe October is the time to look for ways to serve in the church, to join a Bible study, or to start a ministry. Do you have any idea how encouraging it is to a pastor to see the people God has entrusted to him growing by using their gifts to edify the church?  Have you thought about how encouraging it is to see that the sacrifices you make as a pastor make a difference?  When poeple are drawn to love Christ and live fully for him in the moments between Sundays… pastors are excited! They are in+couraged. And they see the glory and power of God on display.

A church full of folks living out Ephesians 4:1-16 would bring joy and encouragement to any pastor’s heart.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

Joining him in the splash zone encourages him as together you sit in those front row seats with a view of God’s grace and power and glory. And though you might also experience the cold blast of the radial jet as folks crash in front of you, you’ll get the great view, too. You’ll get to see them rise above the water and swim with skill.

You might even get to rescue a few folks from drowning.