Was there a time that someone helped me when I needed it the most?
I have truly been positively influenced by numerous people over the years. In every church that I have served there have been people who have gone above and beyond in supporting me, embracing my family, and allowing me to just be me. There were times in Moses Lake where certain individuals invested their own time and resources in remodeling our apartment. Others dropped off groceries. Still others went above and beyond at the birth of our first two children through visitation, meals, and gifts. Then there are the last three years at Maltby. I am always amazed and overwhelmed at their outpouring of love that I receive (whether it be a note slipped in my box, a pastor’s appreciation offering, or just an uplifting conversation over dinner).
You really do not know what you have until it is gone. I will never forget my first day of high school . . . traumatizing enough for anyone but made even worse by the fact that I had just moved into a whole new district and was thus forced to make new friends. I met a guy in my second period class who seemed to be a good guy. We were really excited about lunch – open campus (we could go anywhere our Freshman feet could take us in the allotted thirty-five minutes). There was only one obstacle: The Hill. This was where all of the upperclassmen hung out anxiously awaiting any unsuspecting freshmen. Initiation time.
We made it to the Tastee-Freeze in one piece. This was probably the worst thing that could have ever happened to us for two distinct reasons. First, Tastee-Freeze is a heart attack waiting to happen. Second, overconfidence makes you sloppy and will only lead to making mistakes. Neither of us saw them coming. They cornered us against a tree . . . and brought out the duct tape. We were finished. I don’t know how it happened exactly, but I do know that my “friend” escaped. He ran. He did not run for help. He just ran away. He left. I was all alone. Now it was just me . . . and the giants . . . and the duct tape. I did what every fifteen year old boy would do in my position . . . I laughed. This was too much to take. My friend abandoned me. I guess the laughing was not what they were expecting. They taped my wrists, got half way done with my ankles, and just left. The irony is that they later found my “friend” and ended up throwing him in the dumpster. Poetic justice. Our friendship never survived that day.
How do we treat the pastors who have devoted themselves to us?
There is nothing worse than being left alone when we need someone at our side. Sometimes pastoring can be lonely. Recently I had the privilege and honor to speak at a Sunday Morning Gathering at my former church. I was able to share the following message with some of my closest friends. I did not pick this topic so that I could gain favor or finances. I did not choose this subject because of certain conversations or any recent event. In fact, this church has done a fabulous job of taking care of their lead pastor (he has been there for nearly a decade). They have always shown honor and appreciation to him and his wife. My hope was just to encourage them to maintain and mature that prevalent attitude amongst them.
Every pastor experiences moments of attack and/or abandonment at times. The statistics are quite staggering . . .
- 70% claim to not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor
- 95% do not regularly pray with their spouses
- 80% spend less than fifteen minutes a day in prayer
- 70% study bible only when they are preparing for messages
- 1,500 leave the ministry every month (claiming exhaustion, corruption, or conflict)
- 80% feel unqualified or discouraged
- 50% would leave if they had any other means of making a living
- 90% claim the greatest challenge is dealing with difficult people (worship leaders, associate pastors, or board members)
This is really nothing new. Even the Apostle Paul needed prayer (asking for it no less than five different times in five different letters). He had a special place in his heart for the people of Ephesus. The church was positioned in a place of great impact. The region, modern-day Turkey, was central in commercial and religious matters. Sure the church was imperfect but aren’t they all? The people were trying to figure out how to unite both the Jews and and the Gentiles. They were constantly being tempted to worship Artemis (the god of the hunt and fertility). I can think of a whole lot of churches who are trying to love each other in spite of their differences. I can name a whole lot of communities where people are chasing something . . . and many of them are looking for someone to love.
Likewise, things were not going so well for Paul. He was under house arrest (again – but this time in Rome). He probably felt a bit overwhelmed with the present situation and even questioned if he could really carry on this mission being left all by himself. Here is what we can learn . . . Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Being a Christian without prayer is no more possible than living without breathing.” I would add, if you would allow me, being the church without praying for your pastor is no more possible either.
Paul wrote from prison, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:18-20).
Speaking in the context of spiritual warfare and striving for healthy relationships, Paul reminded the believers to be alert on all occasions (both in preparation in life and in actual engagement with the enemy). He spoke of the importance of being in constant connection with the Holy Spirit. Imagine, he was an apostle and author of nearly half of the New Testament, and yet he understood the importance of having an attitude of dependency and humility. How much more do we need that same perspective? How much more do our pastors and leaders need such attributes?
He then asked the church to remember him in prayer – that he would be given the right words at the right time. He understood that he was an ambassador in chains – that he was liberated from sin in order to serve the cause of Christ. He was entrusted with the opportunity to declare that Jesus was Lord before the Roman authorities. Too often, in our culture, saying “Jesus is Lord” is a catch-phrase or a cute bumper sticker. For Paul and his peers, this phrase was a declaration of allegiance. He was a part of a Kingdom when every one else was forced to participate in an Empire. Paul needed supernatural courage and confidence to be relentless as a messenger of the good news – to be frank and uninhibited in his openness in speech (both with truth and with love).
How can you specifically pray for your pastoral team?
If an apostle and hero of the faith needed prayer, how much more does our leadership? Join me in praying for his integrity. Our hope should be that he always enjoys a strong and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray that he always has good health (spiritually, mentally, socially, and physically). Let’s do everything in our power to keep the unity of the church. Discuss all differences in private and celebrate his strengths in public. Our motive must never to be right but to do right – bringing resolution to the conflict and reconciliation in all relationships.
Pray for his family. Respect the complex role of his spouse. Too often she cannot win. Either she is accused of doing far too much or far too little. Understand that she has been appointed director of different ministries for different seasons for different reasons. Accept and affirm the place of his children. Allow and encourage them to take time for their family. Allow each child the opportunity to be who they are rather than what you expect them to be.
Pray for his ministry. Our hope is that our leaders speak with clarity and courage. Pray that he has the dream of enlisting a church to reconcile the world. There is an entire city outside the four walls of your church who are waiting for the Answer. If only they would admit that they have lived as rebels? If only they would believe that Jesus offers them forgiveness? If only they would commit to trust and obey his leadership instead of their own ideas?
Can you envision a church of people walking together with God and what they could accomplish together? Christ followers who expose people to God’s love, enjoy other believers, equip them in their faith, who experience the ministry, and exalt God with their lives . . . people being the church! I have had the honor to work with many incredible men and women who want to see Christ’s kingdom come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
How can we continue to show support to our pastoral team?
I am sad to say that many churches that Paul helped plant did not come around him when he needed them the most. One of last letters, if not his very last, tells the story of a man who was largely abandoned by those he had invested his life into. This was his final arrest . . . this time in a dungeon . . . and this time by an Emperor who wanted him and his movement to be silenced in the worst way. You can read more about his struggle in 2 Timothy 4:9-18. There were only a handful of men and women who would support Paul in his darkest hour (Luke, Tychicus, and Timothy were among them).
I am quite confident that my church and yours will not do that to the leaders that we have been given. Pray for your pastors, ministry directors, and board members. Write letters of support and encouragement. Make sure they know that they are not alone . . . and then be willing to partner with them on the mission of connecting your world to the love and life of Jesus Christ.