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Pastor Appreciation Month

Every October, churches across North America pay tribute to pastors and their ministry. They take time to write notes, give gifts, and creatively express their gratitude for the ceaseless love and investment that their pastor makes in their spiritual growth and general well-being all year long. While I have previously discussed my mixed feelings towards Australians adopting various U.S. holidays (like Halloween or Thanksgiving), I hold no such mixed feelings towards the non-official Pastor Appreciation Month. In fact, I’m waiting to greet it with cake, streamers, and much adulation.

Management and leadership icon Peter Drucker was recently quoted saying:

Over the years I have made a career out of studying the most challenging management roles out there. After all of that I am now convinced the two most difficult jobs in the world are these—one, to be President of the United States, and two, to be the leader of a church.

I’ve never been a pastor, so I have no personal experience to draw from when it comes to grasping the mammoth physical, mental, and emotional resources that a pastor is daily required to have available to him. However, what I do know is what it takes to pastor me, and if I multiply that by the number of people in my church, it just about melts my brain. Keeping in mind that everyone is different—so the list that you may write will look different from mine—as I think more closely about what I look for in someone called to lead a church, here are a few things that I deeply appreciate about my pastor.

In Humility

Like many pastors, he’s actually an introvert. It might surprise you to learn that a vast majority of pastors are not energized by being around people, and they don’t naturally seek the spotlight. This is true for my pastor who avoids behaviours like sitting in the front row on Sunday morning; rather he sits with his family in the middle of the church, among the congregation. Paul teaches us in Philippians 2:3 that we should:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

I appreciate the simple choice to be seated amongst the rest of the body of Christ. Now, sure there are obvious ways in which the pastor executes his duty in leading the congregation, and for the most part, these happen from the pulpit or stage. However, it’s equally the times off-stage that humility is exemplified—and it’s here that lessons are (also) taught and (hopefully) caught.

Coupled with this is the speech he adopts when introducing himself. There are many ways in which this could be done, but he chooses to regularly use the phrase “I’m one of the pastors here.” He feels no need to highlight the fact that he’s the ‘Head’ or ‘Senior’ pastor, but rather, he simply makes himself known as part of the team of people who have been commissioned to love and lead the congregation. Maybe this doesn’t seem significant to you, but it speaks volumes to me.

In Theology

Perhaps this is my inner student coming out, but words are very important to me. I appreciate a well-crafted phrase or a carefully constructed sentence. I appreciate the deliberate choosing of words that will best convey clear meaning, leaving little room for misinterpretation. This is why I so appreciate my pastor’s use of language. For simple examples, I regularly pick up on his choice to leave Biblical terminology where it belongs in a passage, opting to explain the big truth rather than diminish the term by using a lesser one; and I note the way in which prayers include every person of the Trinity, subtly (but practically) teaching the congregation a wonderful truth about the doctrine God.

Coupled with this conviction for clarity is the mature theology that is communicated through various liturgical phrases sprinkled throughout a Sunday service. As an example, whenever he reads portions of Scripture it generally begins with a sentence such as “hear the words of the Lord, communicated through his servant Paul” and ends with the phrase “This is the word of the Lord” (to which the congregation is meant to reply “thanks be to God”). I love this because he pastors me through the reminder that we are not simply reading an interesting or educational story authored by men, but that God himself encounters us in a convicting, encouraging, transformative way as we hear Scripture read.

In Love

There are many ways in which a pastor should demonstrate love to his congregation. These can broadly fall under two categories: feeding the sheep and fending off the wolves. I appreciate the ways in which I’ve seen my pastor actively show love in both of these ways. First, I feel loved because of the hours of preparation I know he invests in preparing sermons. He is a primary source for shaping my spiritual growth, and I need to have confidence that instead of throwing together a few devotional thoughts on Saturday night, he pours over a Biblical text out of love for my spiritual well-being. I appreciate that when it comes to feeding the sheep, my pastor gives full, healthy home-cooked meals, and doesn’t simply serve reheated microwave dinners. Second, while my pastor doesn’t often actively step into the political arena, if significant issues arise that could sway Christians under his care, there’s no hesitation in providing quality, orthodox sources to ensure his sheep aren’t led astray. A recent example of this was his exhortation for the congregation to become familiar with the Nashville Statement.

Why Wait?

If I was to hand out pens and Post-it notes to everyone in my congregation on any given Sunday, I have no doubt that each one of them would be able to write a paragraph, a sentence, or a word that captures ways in which they are thankful for our pastor. There’s no doubt that leading people to become mature disciples of Christ is a great privilege, but I’m equally sure that every pastor feels the enormous weight of responsibility that comes with sitting in the captain’s chair. Being a pastor isn’t all wedding days and newborn babies; it’s intense conflict, traumatic loss, constant scrutiny, and strenuous, gruelling work.

I would love to see Australians adopt Pastor Appreciation Month. It’s hard to deny that our pastors are deserving of time set aside to honour them for the innumerable, invaluable ways in which they care for us. Moreover, as we plan gifts or write our thank you notes, I think it would equally serve as a reminder to each of us just how much our pastors actually do for us. But imagine for a moment if we were to go a step further and cultivate a culture of continual thanks for all the ways in which our pastors serve us every day of the year. Wouldn’t that be something.

How can you express appreciation to your pastor today?

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Published inChristian Living