By the time I reached my 18th birthday, I’d lived in six states. All across the country. Including Alaska. And Ohio. Talk about a nomadic upbringing.
As a result, I’m often asked, "Was your dad in the Service?" My normal response is, "Yes, but only the first few years."
But the truth is, he was in the Service all of those years. Just not in the way "service" is normally defined.
You see, I grew up a P.K. A "pastor’s kid." While my dad wasn’t an itinerant minister, every few years we moved as God led. Making our way across the country and back.
It all started when I was 4 years old and my dad completed his time in the Air Force. Our then-family-of-four packed up and moved from Alaska back to my parents’ hometown in Ohio. There, several times a week, my dad made a one-hour trek each way to Bible college.
Once he’d earned his undergrad degree, we moved again. This time to Texas where he attended seminary. From there, his life’s a history of servanthood. First in the role of pastor and then later in life as a hospice chaplain.
As a pastor, my dad’s job didn’t start or end with the pulpit. It went far beyond preparing messages, showing up at church to deliver them, and shaking a few hands afterward. Just like your pastor, he was called to serve a congregation of diverse personalities and abundant needs 24/7. And, even though he was normally given one to two days a week off, in reality he was always serving. Always on call.
Appreciating Our Pastors
When we take the time to really examine what pastors do, we realize what a full load they carry. We see that they don’t have an easy job that stays confined to a certain limited number of hours a week.
They make themselves available to pray for those who are sick, even if it’s Monday, their designated "day off." They often rush to the hospital following an accident, heart attack, or stroke, even if it’s three o’clock in the morning. When a family is walking through grief, pastors don’t reserve their comfort and support for when they’re "timed in."
October marks Clergy Appreciation Month in the United States. On one hand, I think it’s wonderful we have an entire month devoted to appreciating pastors and other clergymen. On the other hand, I believe we need to go beyond that. We need to make sure that we’re appreciating and honoring our pastors every month of the year. Not simply October.
What are some practical ways we can appreciate, and even serve, our pastors?
I love how Joshua Harris answers this in his book, Stop Dating the Church: Fall in Love with the Family of God. A pastor himself, he writes that we can do this by being "members that make our pastors’ jobs enjoyable." He explains:
First, embrace, obey, and love God’s word personally. Nothing makes a pastor happier than to see a member of his church growing in godliness.
And take it upon yourself to protect your pastor by praying for him and by refusing to engage in slander against him. Leadership isn’t easy. It’s certainly easier to comment and critique the job someone else is doing than it is to lead. So don’t critique your pastor; pray for him and find ways to encourage him. And if others engage in gossip or slander, challenge them and refuse to participate.
Praying for our pastors and making sure we speak well of them goes a long way. But we can do more. I believe an important way we can serve our pastors is by actively volunteering in our churches and being faithful to keep the commitments we make.
Co-Laboring as Fellow Workers
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes, "For we are fellow workmen (joint promoters, laborers together) with and for God." While Paul wasn’t the Corinthians’ pastor, he was a spiritual leader in their lives. But he didn’t consider himself above them. Rather, he viewed himself a fellow worker with them. Laboring toward a common goal.
As members of a church, it’s true that we’re under the authority of our pastor’s leadership and we need to subject ourselves to his oversight as long as it’s biblically-based. But, at the same time, we’re also called to labor with him. To be fellow workers. We can do this by willingly serving within our churches in whatever capacity we’re asked.
When we look for ways to labor alongside our pastors, we’re not only fulfilling our duty as Christians to love one another through service, we’re also helping our pastors be successful. We’re coming alongside them to preach the gospel and help the body of Christ mature in their love for the Lord and for one another.
But simply saying we’ll serve isn’t enough. Good intentions don’t count for much if no action accompanies them. We need to make sure that we’re people of our word. That what we say we’ll do, we actually do. That if we commit to teach Sunday School, that we’re there. If we say we’ll regularly serve on the worship team, that we do.
As individuals called to co-labor with our pastors, let’s do it in such a way that our pastors know we love and respect them. Let’s live out our appreciation for them by making their job, as Harris writes, "a joy."