I was intrigued by the recommendations for how a church might obtain a better pastor if it didn’t like the one they had. Here are the suggestions:
- Look your Pastor straight in the eye while he is preaching and say "Amen!" once in a while. He will preach himself to death within a few months.
- Pat your Pastor on the back and compliment him on his good points. He will soon feel obligated to attain the same level of excellence and work himself to death.
- Rededicate your life to Christ and ask your Pastor to assign you a major responsibility in the church. He'll die of heart failure.
- Talk to your denominational Superintendent about how the church is developing as a result of his leadership. It won’t be long before the Superintendent will assign him a position on the District or National Staff.
- Pray for your Pastor every day. He will soon become so effective that some larger church will take him off your hands.
There is everything right about the first sentence of each point listed above. But there is nothing right about the motivations for each recommendation. Though the recommendations are intended to be taken tongue-in-cheek, the implication is that building up your pastor to pass him on (or to cause him to pass on) is preferable to building him up to keep him going strong. I would propose in most churches encouraging and strengthening your pastor is more desirable than losing him.
The reality is – a church can make or break a pastor. You get to choose.
The occasion of Pastor Appreciation Month (October) prompted me to survey a number of pastors I know and ask them five questions related to how their churches took advantage of this annual recognition of their staff and fulfill 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13:
"But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work."
Most pastors have a profound and durable sense of their calling. Unfortunately many of them are discouraged and disillusioned. Eighty percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses, according to a Focus on the Family survey, live in the persistent state of discouragement. More than two thirds admit their ministry experience has weakened their personal and professional confidence.
Would you work with me to change this reality? We have within our grasp the power to insure our pastoral staff members and families are not a part of this disturbing reality. We have been given a timely opportunity to cheer our shepherds into greater fulfillment and fruitfulness. Let’s make the most of it.
My survey revealed the full spectrum of responses. When asked, “What does your church do to honor you during PAM,” one pastor responded, “Very Funny – almost never happens here.” One church prepared a “This is Your Life” presentation. One pastor received a trip to Ireland in conjunction with his 25th wedding anniversary. However, surprisingly, most Christians and churches let the month pass without any recognition.
Most telling was the responses to the question, “How could your church more effectively communicate to you their appreciation all year round?” The responses were amazingly consistent and simple. “Send a note of genuine appreciation – especially if they contain something specific.” “A simple ‘Thank You’ goes a long way, especially in counter-balancing the feelings of failure, cheap shots, and vicious criticisms that come your way.”
I was so moved by these responses that I took a break from writing this article to write a note of encouragement to my pastor. To compose, address, stamp and get it ready to mail took me a total of four minutes, ten seconds. It will take you less than five minutes to send a word of appreciation that will be the highlight of your pastor’s whole week! Your thoughtful words will be cherished in his heart and he will think of you often.
A better pastor does await you. He is wrapped up in the one you have. A word of encouragement from you may cause him to emerge. Send it now.
Dr. Rich Frazer is President of SOS International, a worldwide consulting, equipping and resourcing ministry. For more information on SOS International see their website at www.sosinternational.us. Rich lives in La Quinta, CA. with his wife, Debbie.