How to pastor your pastor
Pastors are not Super-Christians. They need the love, support and encouragement of church members and fellow leaders if they are to faithfully serve the people entrusted to them.
Pastoring pastors is a gospel issue. God loves the Church with a passion; it is the community through which he reveals his glory on earth (Ephesians 3v21). The health and wellbeing of a church is significantly influenced by the health and wellbeing of its leaders and of its pastor(s) in particular.
Why do pastors need pastoring?
The simple answer is that they’re human. That means they are created and therefore have needs – by design. It also means that they are fallen and are constantly in need of the gospel. Even their highest motives and best efforts are tinged with the need to win approval or justify themselves.
The more complex answer is that pastors have an extraordinarily difficult job to do and the fall-out rate is too high. In some cases pastors suffer a loss of gospel unity through conflict, in others a loss of gospel integrity through moral sin, and in too many cases a loss of gospel vision through resistance and opposition. It all serves to damage the witness of the church and hinder the progress of the kingdom of our glorious Lord Jesus.
Most pastors I know work too hard. They know that they have to work at 100% capacity some of the time but they make the mistake of thinking they can do it all of the time. Because many work from home and are ‘on-call’ 24/7, there are no satisfactory boundaries in place to protect home and family from the demands of church and ministry. One doesn’t have to drill too deeply to discover that many ministry homes are not the havens of peace and joy we would wish them to be. Even when the pastor is spiritually healthy, he is often aware that some issues at church are wrong but knows that he will face serious opposition if he seeks to address them.
How can pastors be pastored?
It goes without saying that pastors need to be pastored. How can this be accomplished? It’s ideal if your pastor is pastored by his fellow elders and by the congregation he loves and serves. And in many cases this is exactly what happens. It’s an enormously encouraging sign when pastors testify to the way they are loved and supported by their churches.
Sometimes, the issues that concern a pastor relate to his fellow leaders or to members of the congregation. That explains why peer-to-peer support is a vital supplement to the care he receives from the congregation. Only fellow pastors know what it feels like to be a pastor.
In short, every pastor needs a mentor who is ready to act as good friend, confidante and accountability person. He may be a longstanding friend, a fellow student from Bible college days or a representative of FIEC. This individual needs to meet the pastor regularly – say every six months – and be ready to ask penetrating questions about family life, work-life balance, the pastor’s own enjoyment of the Lord Jesus, the joys and sorrows of leading church right now etc. But let’s come back to the ideal – to the pastor being pastored by his own congregation.
How can we pastor our pastor?
Do you want your pastor to be fresh and full of spiritual vitality? There are many things that I could mention, but let me suggest one step you might wish to consider – honouring him. Can you remember what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 5v17?
“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”
In a related passage (Hebrews 13) the leaders are those who spoke the word of God to us and who keep watch over our souls. The author says, “Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith”. The reason he exhorts us to obey our leaders is because they keep watch over our souls by speaking the word of God to us. The authority with which they speak is the word of God. That’s why Paul says that the elders worthy of double honour are those who preach and teach – they have an awesome, terrible, glorious responsibility in the church for which they must give account on Judgement Day.
So, do you want a pastor who is fresh and who keeps pressing on – loving the Lord Jesus, loving the gospel, loving you and loving leading the church? Then take the author of Hebrews’ words to heart – make [his] work a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you (Hebrews 13v17).
If you never ask the question “How are we honouring our pastor?” it’s likely that you’re not. There will be consequences. Maybe he’s heading for leadership burnout and joining the long list of casualties. Perhaps not this year or next. But the longer he ‘runs on red’, the greater the likelihood that it will happen. That’s why pastoring our pastors is a gospel issue.
This article was first published in our Spring 2012 edition of Together magazine under the title ‘Pastoring Pastors’.