A Prayer for Pastors

This morning's message is for my pastor friends.  Or for anyone who has a pastor.

Thank you cards are crowded on the table at the entry of my house - dozens that arrived for Pastor's Appreciation Month.  They slowly collected over the month of October.   The other night I realized just how many there are.  And I wept.

I've always appreciated the kindness shown me and my staff during this month of thanks. We serve a very kind and generous congregation.  But this year it was more important. More meaningful.  If that seems overly sentimental, I apologize. 2020 has been a difficult year for many.  For pastors, it has presented unique challenges.

According to church researcher Thom Rainer, "The vast majority of pastors with whom our team communicates are saying they are considering quitting their churches. It’s a trend I have not seen in my lifetime."

Before I go any further, let me say I have no plans for leaving.  I know I am where God has called me at this time.   So for those of you who are concerned I may be departing, you can breathe easy.  For those who wish I would leave - sorry - you're stuck with me.

Over the last few months, pastor's have had to rethink the way church is done, transitioning to online delivery over the course of a few days.  They have had to mediate all sorts of controversies and disputes no one prepared them for in school.  (Masks?  No Masks?  How do we do children's and youth ministries when social distancing is mandated?)  Pastors have seen counseling loads double.  They have had to calm anxieties, pushing back against conspiracy theories and false prophets  - both of which have multiplied exponentially on the internet.  In a hotly contested election year, some churches have even split over the political divide in our country.  Pastors are not called to be spokespeople for a political party, they are called speak prophetically on difficult issues, regardless of party stance.  We point people toward Jesus and away from sin.  Pastors and churches have rightly increased efforts to care for people who are struggling financially during this unusual time. Perhaps most challenging is the task of creatively finding ways to connect with folks when there are so many opinions about the virus, and people are responding differently.

Still I, and many of my bother's and sisters in ministry, know we are doing what God want's us to do!  And that is a source of great joy.  Pastor's - think of Paul.  He knew mighty discouragement, yet was still able to proclaim, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." -Galatian 6:9

So what if you're not a pastor? What can you do to encourage people in ministry?  Here are some thoughts.

  • Pray daily for your pastor.  Also pray for associate pastors, hospital and military chaplains, and lay ministry workers.  These people are often overlooked and have carried an enormous load over the last few months.
  • Share in the workload.  Several hundred people consider the church I pastor their spiritual home.  There is simply no way one person can be in routine contact with each of these folks to see how they are doing, assess needs, and pray for them.  At our church we instituted a #Reach5 program at the onset of Covid19 encouraging everyone to check in with 5 people a week to see how they are doing and pray.  So grab your church directory and get to work.  If during your contacts you are made aware of a need in the congregation, let you pastor know.  
  • Continue to financially support the ministry of your congregation.  Doing so allows your church to address growing needs in the body and in the community.  Each week we have told our people, "If you have a little extra, give a little extra.  But if you need a little extra, don't hesitate to reach out to the church."   This kind of approach fulfills one of the central purposes of the church (Act 2:44-45).  Imagine what impact congregations will have if they know their local church is a place they can go for support!
  • Continue to engage in your church's live stream and give feedback to your pastor.  Did you like or were you challenged by something you heard in the sermon or worship.  Let your pastor know!  Many of us are missing the robust fellowship times after services where good discussions are had.  
  • Check in with your pastor from time to time and see how he or she is doing.  They will appreciate this.  It can be as simple as a call, card, or text.

These are just a few ideas.  You may have some as well.  If so, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Let me end with the words of Paul that in many ways are a "Prayer for Pastors".  It is my prayer for all of us today:

"I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
-Ephesians 1:16-19 


Amen.





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