In Praise of Pastors (Part 1 of a 3 Part Series for Pastor Appreciation Month)

This is the first of a three part series on pastors—part 1 called “In Praise of Pastors,”  part 2 called “What does a pastor do?” and part 3 entitled, “How to Bless Your Pastor.”

The call to be a pastor is a high and holy privilege.  It is one of the greatest callings in the world. Yet I believe it is also one of the most challenging callings in the world.

Peter Drucker, the late corporate leadership guru, once said that the four hardest jobs in America are—(and these are not necessarily in order), the president of the United States, a university president, the CEO of a hospital, and the pastor of a large church.   When I read that, I felt some degree of comfort, i.e. that someone else understands—even if few in the church do.

It’s been said that to be a pastor you must have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child and the hide of a rhinoceros!  Why the hard hide?  Because you are working against spiritual lethargy.  When you change the status quo (which is what leaders are supposed to do) you will never please everybody.  Sooner or later you will be criticized for changing something “sacred,” or falling short in some way.   If you do what is right, Jesus said you will be opposed.  So you need thick skin for this job!

Not only that, the expectations these days for being a pastor are enormous.  Consider what one pastor wrote about the job description of the average pastor:  “I’m to be a strong administrator, a charismatic leader, an inspiring preacher, an effective teacher, a wise and empathetic counselor, a person of vision and a public presence. I reach out, welcome, visit, marry, baptize, and bury. I’m to affirm, encourage, exude holiness and sensitivity, chair committees, keep up on my reading, stay relevant, use humor, thrive on “constructive” criticism, prepare two sermons a week, work when everybody else is celebrating, and be available 24/7.  Oh, and be a model spouse and parent to show what a prize family looks like.”

These days, pastoral work is more complex than ever.  You have to wear many hats – to oversee worship, to preach and teach, to administer the sacraments, to supervise pastoral care, to counsel those in need, to bring an entire church to spiritual maturity, to focus it on mission, to lead the charge in evangelism and outreach, to ably oversee the ministries of the church, to promote stewardship, to represent the church to the community, and to promote the overall health of the church.  In all this, hours are long (you are never off duty).  If you are a teaching pastor, the pace can be relentless. When the holidays come, your job does not slow down, but you go into hyper-speed.

The world does not value the role of the pastor as it once did.  And these days it often seems like the church does not appreciate the important role of the pastor.  Is it any wonder that pastors regularly question their callings and the dropout rate of pastors is so high.  A few years ago, Lifeway Ministries did a study on pastors.  It said that for every 20 people who go into the pastorate, only one retires from the ministry.  Why?  According to the study, some burn out, are dismissed or just plain quit.

During this Pastor Appreciation Month (October, in case you forgot—though any time before the end of the year is fine), I’d like to affirm the role of your pastor.  I happen to think it is one of the most important jobs and one of the highest callings anyone could ever have.  In saying this, I am not belittling other vocations. I am just reminding you that so much depends on the influence of a faithful pastor.

Think of it—churches are mission outposts. Pastors are called to lead the charge as they proclaim the gospel and spread the influence of Jesus Christ in their communities.

Or think of it this way.  You may be worrying these days about the direction of the nation’s politics.  But politics is a reflection of culture.  Culture is shaped, to a large extent by its moral fabric.  But that moral fabric is affected by the faith of the people.  In other words, faith is the bedrock foundation for a society. It is churches which shape that faith through its salt and light  influence and the proclamation of the gospel.   And it is pastors who shape the church.

It was the Puritan writer Richard Baxter who said, “all church rise and fall as the ministry (the pastorate) doth rise or fall…”  In other words, as the pastor goes, so goes the flock.

It’s been said that God has two armies.   He ordains the state to bear the sword to keep order and restrain evil. But God also ordains the church as a spiritual army.  It engages in a conflict that is not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities.   It goes forward by those who wield the sword of the Spirit—which is the Word of God.  Its greatest asset is the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ.  What other institution is entrusted with such a call and with such a treasure?

In his timeless classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (an imprisoned pastor in the 17th century) portrays the pastor with great esteem.  Before the wayfaring pilgrim named Graceless comes to the cross, he enters Interpreter’s House.  There the Spirit shows him what will be profitable to him.   He sees the picture of a person—it is  a pastor –whose eyes are lifted up to heaven, the best of books is in his hands, the law of truth is written on his lips, the world is behind his back.  He stood as if he pleaded with men and a crown of gold did hang over his head.  Bunyan says, this man can beget children (!) and nurse them when born.  He is the only one the Lord has authorized to be his guide in all the difficult places on the way.

Because of the role of the pastor is so critical, I believe that pastors are regularly in the scope of sniper fire from Hell.   They have, as it were, a great big target on their backs.  The one named Diabolos, who throws himself against the cause of Christ, would like nothing more than to sift and destroy its leaders, (as he tried to do with Peter), because he knows of their strategic importance for kingdom work.

That’s why I think Pastor Appreciation month is important.  Friends, we’ve got to double our efforts to bless and affirm our pastors.  Pass this blog post on to the lay leaders in your church.

Figure out how you will bless your pastor before the end of the year.

In the next two posts, I will tell you a little more about the role of a pastor, and how we might affirm them.

This entry was posted in Christian Calendar, Christian leadership, Pastors, The Church, Uncategorized, Worship and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to In Praise of Pastors (Part 1 of a 3 Part Series for Pastor Appreciation Month)

  1. Good words for shepherds of the flock! The life of a pastor is a continual reminder that God put His “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (II Corinthians 4:7). The last three words “not from us” sit in my heart as a deep reminder that the resources for living for God and serving Him in ministry are not within me but “other” to me — “from God – not from us.”

  2. Tom Park says:

    Thanks for a great article, I agree totally. Pastoring a church has to be the most challenging jobs there is, having served for a number of years as an elder, and served in several para church organizations, one of the things I see that could go a long way to helping pastors would be an intentional effort to raise up leaders so pastors aren’t expected to be the super stars. Churches all over the country set out every year to nominate people to provide leadership for the church ( elders/deacons). And so often it seems to take us by surprise and we scratch our heads and wonder who we should ask this year. We seem to be creating “rock star” pastors who are expected to put on a great show every Sunday morning and in the process we are also creating a consumer congregation, elders included who have never been taught that they too are “shepherds” and should be coming along side of the pastor doing much of the heavy lifting of ministry. I believe one of the best gifts we could give our pastors this year would be to begin to eliminate this idea that the pastor does all the work of ministry while we all watch from a distance. Not only should ministry in general be a team effort , drawing on all of our gifts, but leading the church should also be a team effort. Not something left to one man. Autocratic leadership at best creates a burnt out pastor and worse trips him up with the pride that comes with thinking he’s indispensable. Again starting with the great commission: “making disciples” a process which is virtually nonexistent in most churches today to raising the bar on those who serve as leaders in the church in terms of qualifications as well as expectations. Let’s start mentoring servant leaders willing to get into the fray of ministry and free up our pastors to be normal people again.

    • dwsweeting says:

      Thanks for your good comments. You are talking about an Ephesians 4 vision for ministry where passtor-teachers equip the saints for ministry. No bottleneck.

      • Tom Park says:

        Yes Don, those were the exact verses I was considering as I responded to your article. A “no bottleneck” church, a local body no longer paralyzed because of a lack of equipping and developing. But a kind of an “all hands on deck” kind of a thing. A sight to behold, and a flock who would be a blessing to shepherd.

        Looking forward to part two and three, thanks again

  3. Rachelle says:

    Talk to the mothers of young children in the church. Many of them will probably have a great understanding of how the pastor might feel. When you mother little ones, it feels like the work is piled sky-high and will never end. Everyone wants a piece of you. Others are having a good time, and you are the one left to deal with whatever physical or emotional mess must be dealt with. There are a lot of joys, too, just like in pastoring. But those mothers may have great ideas on how to bless and refresh the pastor. Their jobs aren’t so different.

  4. A. Amos Love says:

    Don

    You write…
    “It was the Puritan writer Richard Baxter who said, “all church rise and fall as the ministry (the pastorate) doth rise or fall…” In other words, as the pastor goes, so goes the flock.”

    Wow – That sure is a heavy weight on someones shoulders.

    No wonder failure and burnout for “Pastor/Leader/Reverend.” is rampant today.
    I was ordained. I was in leadership. And have a different take now on pastors.

    1 – Is it possible the reason “Burnout,” “Depression,” “Finishing Poorly,”
    is such a problem for today’s “Pastor/Leader/Reverend” is…

    They have found themselves with a “Title/Position” – “Pastor/Leader/Reverend.”
    That is – NOT – found in the Bible? (Non- biblical, Extra-biblical, Anti-biblical?)

    2 – Another possible reason for “Burnout,” “Depression,” “Finishing Poorly,” is…
    “Pastor/Leader/Reverends” also refer to themselves as “Elder/Overseers.” And…
    “Elder/Overseers” have some very tuff “Qualifications” to live up to.
    (1. Must be Blameless? 2. Holy? 3. Just? 4. Rule well their own house? etc.)

    80% of pastor spouses wish they would choose a different profession.
    80% of pastors say pastoral ministry is harmful to their family.
    77% say they do NOT have a good marriage.

    Isn’t that at least 77%-80% of pastors who do NOT “Rule well their own house?”

    For if a man know not how to rule his own house,
    how shall he take care of the church of God? – 1 Tim 3:5

    And, When these “Elder/Overseers” know in their heart they do NOT meet ALL
    these tuff “Qualifications” the guilt and shame cause fear, anxiety, depression.
    NOT good for “Spiritual” health, “Physical” health, Or your “Families” health.

    3 – And the “Pastor/Leader/Reverend” is taught, by example, in seminary…
    The “Pastor/Leader/Reverend” is a Special Class of Christian – Clergy Class.
    And “separate themselves” from the rest of the body of Christ.

    And – Is the “Clergy-Laity” Divide in the Bible? I can’t seem to find it.

    70% Of “Pastor/Leader/Reverends” say they do NOT have a close friend. :-(
    77% Say they do NOT have a good marriage. :-(

    Yes – a very dangerous and lonely profession indeed. :-(
    And, Pastor Appreciation for someone with a “Title/Position” NOT in the Bible
    IMO – Is NOT going to be the answer to the high drop out rate and pain.

    Maybe that is why – In the Bible…

    • dwsweeting says:

      It is a weighty responsibility, it has always been so, for the shepherds in Israel, and for those in the New Testament, like Peter. Jesus warned Peter that Satan desired to sift him like wheat.

      I honestly don’t think the problem can be reduced simply to a matter of titles or claiming that they are a special class of Christians.

      Look back in church history at people like Spurgeon, Bunyan, Calvin, Augustine, etc… They were called all kinds of things. But they were shepherds. There has always been a burden to being an under shepherd. There is a burden that every leader carries, especially spiritual leaders because of the responsibilities they carry and the spiritual attacks that come their way.

      Leadership is in the Bible. Shepherding is in the Bible. Pastoring is in the Bible. We teach people how to be pastors and leaders. We do not commend the title “reverend.” That’s more of a social custom. And we do not teach, in fact most evangelical seminaries do not teach, that the clergy are a special class of Christians who separate themselves from the rest of the body. Pastors have a unique and important calling. But every Christian shares a calling. Every Christian is called to minister. But Christ gave to the church special gifts—like pastors and teachers, who equip the saints for the work of ministry.

  5. A. Amos Love says:

    Don

    You write…
    “Leadership is in the Bible.”

    Seems Jesus has a unique take on leaders – “ONE”

    Haven’t you ever wondered why Jesus taught His Disciples
    NOT to be called “Leaders?”For you have “ONE” leader – the Christ.

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible.
    Do not be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Mat 23:10-12 – The Message
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only one Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    Jesus instructed **His disciples** NOT to be called **leaders** and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    **His Disciples** all called themselves **Servants.**
    NOT one of His Disciples – called themself – Leader. Or servant-leader.
    NOT one of His Disciples – called another Disciple – Leader. Or servant-leader.

    If Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “leaders”
    and someone calls them self a “leader” or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they one of “His Disciples?”

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? ;-)

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s