This guest post is by Christopher Ash, author of Zeal without Burnout and The Book your Pastor wishes you would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask)
Just suppose you want to put a spring in your pastor or minister’s step this week. You decide – for some reason – that you really want to make him joyful, to put in his heart a delight and cheerfulness as he goes about his work of pastoral care. What will you do?
You go home. You get out a (literal or digital) back of an envelope. You stare at the blank sheet. You wonder: what – that I can do, little old me! – will actually serve to cheer him, to make his metaphorical tail wag with delight?
In The Book your Pastor wishes you would Read (but is too embarrassed to ask), I suggest, from the bible, seven virtues for church members. Each of these virtues will make our pastor’s work a joy. Here’s a taster of four of them.
Repent and Believe!
Perhaps the most important is to repent and believe afresh today and every day. Well, you say, I can’t see how that will encourage my pastor. After all, my repentance and faith affects me, not him. Ah, but think again. Why did your minister enter pastoral ministry in the first place? I hope and expect he did it to serve Jesus and his gospel. That is, he did it because he hopes and prays that, through his labours, men and women will repent of their sins and believe in Jesus and his gospel. And then go on and on repenting and believing. So, if you repent and believe with fresh eagerness today, you are doing just exactly what he hopes you will do. He will look at you, see the evidence of fresh penitence and lively faith, and say to himself, “God is answering the prayer I prayed when I came into pastoral ministry. Hooray!” And there will be a fresh spring in his step.
Here’s another one.
Belong to your Church!
Your pastor hopes that, through his preaching, his prayers, his pastoral care and watchfulness, Jesus Christ will build a local church. He longs for the church he serves to grow in maturity in Christ. When you and I hover on the edge of the church, when we are spectators rather than players, when we shop around for churches that meet our needs, we frustrate this longing. A pastor looks at people like us and sighs with sadness. “I wish he or she would dive in, belong, be a proper member, build relationships, be committed to the life of the church.” And so, when we do belong, when we think of church as “us” rather than “them”, when we gather for prayer meetings, when we are part of the glorious “one-another-ness” of Christian fellowship, when we sit humbly under the preached word, then the heart of our pastor will sing for joy.
Or how about this?
Don’t underestimate the impact that simple down-to-earth kindness can have on your pastor. If he is married, kindness to his wife. If they have children, kindness to their children. Kindness is unimpressive; it is not showy; it is practical and thoughtful. Pastor friends of mine and their wives have told me many beautiful stories of such kindness, and it has made such a difference in their lives. One, whose parents were tragically killed in a motor accident, spoke of the overwhelmingly wonderful kindness of members of his church in the weeks and months that followed. Much kindness happens in less tragic or extreme circumstances. It is always of value. Little thoughtful acts of appreciation. Flowers. Chocolates. A hand-written note of thanks. Babysitting. Offers of lifts. The circumstances vary a lot, but the heart of kindness is the same in them all. Don’t underestimate its value.
Here’s one more.
The bible says we are to submit to our pastors and to honour those who “direct the affairs of the church well”. They serve us by leading us. And we must let them lead. We don’t want them to be tyrannical, of course, and a few of them are tempted to do that. We want leadership to be shared amongst more than one elder. But we must let them lead. I know of too many pastors who seek to lead in a godly way, but whose leadership is constantly frustrated by powerful individuals, or sometimes power blocs, in their churches. Some of us have an addictive problem with power; we simply have to be listened to, to be the people who matter. What a pain we become to our pastors! But, then again, some of us have learned that, even if we may be very wise and very experienced (or so we think!), we should graciously let our pastors lead, and follow with enthusiasm. That too will put a spring in the step of our pastors.
There’s more in the book. It’s a neglected area of church life, but an important one.
Christopher is Writer-in-Residence at Tyndale House, Cambridge.
This article was previously published on The Good Book Company blog. The Pastor’s Soul would like to thank Christopher Ash and The Good Book Company for graciously granting permission to reprint this article.