As I have been traveling and wandering around this summer, I have noticed what seems to be a greater emphasis on Clergy Appreciation Month (or Pastors Appreciation Month) than I have seen in recent years. The acknowledgement and participation in this annual month of gratitude has taken on a life of its own since its humble beginnings back in October 1994.
I certainly hope that you and your family have been/are being recognized and celebrated this month. You deserve it. I am constantly praying for you and your congregation and that you are working together like a well-oiled machine to bring glory to Christ and to share His salvation.
However, I also know that there are many of you who do not receive the accolades to which you are entitled. In many cases, this occurs because a congregation does not fully understand its responsibilities with regard to its pastoral staff (such as encouragement and affirmation). At other times, it could reflect on some omission or failure on the part of the pastor. I want to address this possibility. I want to share my own observations about how a pastor should be earning the appreciation of his people.
As the old saying goes, “Nothing succeeds like success.” When I travel about the country from church to church, I see this phenomenon repeated: “Success breeds success.” When a church is doing what it does best, people flock to it. When a body allows contention, indecision, staff problems, uncontested sin, and arrogance to sneak into its hallways, people drift away.
When pastors ask me how to jump-start their churches, I tell them first to pray. Then, I tell them to encourage unity with the leadership, and have a vision. Do what you do best and don’t try to be like everyone else. Just be yourself! That’s how you and your congregation will please God.
With God on your side, a healthy self-image, and a renewed vision for your ministry, you and your church can become all that God has planned for you to be. But with an attitude of arrogance or pride or disharmony, the “slide” could be just around the corner.
The pastors I see succeed (and I’m not talking attendance numbers) are those who are assured of their call, cast a proper vision for themselves and their ministry, stay focused on the main thing, appreciate the success of their colleagues, don’t take themselves too seriously, maintain good health, love their families foremost, and walk humbly with their Lord. That’s a recipe for success.
I began pastoral ministry in 1963. I was 23, fresh out of seminary, and assigned to a church on the wrong side of the street in a Southern California community. I was given practically no chance of pulling my little charge out of the doldrums. But I had learned from my heritage how important it was to love people. So I did.
I visited their homes, paid attention to their children, visited the sick in hospitals and nursing homes, and prayed for the downtrodden and lonely. I made myself available and told them publicly that, next to my family, they were the most wonderful people in the world to me.
It is critical for your congregation and community to know that the shepherd of the flock is truly that — approachable, responsive, gentle, and genuinely filled with compassion. Those characteristics are more significant for the leader of the flock than academic degrees, church growth numbers, or status achieved.
The Pastor Shepherd (John 10:1-28):
- Lays down his life for his sheep.
- Knows his sheep.
- Protects his sheep.
- Feeds his sheep.
- Encounters his sheep.
- Can locate the sheep in his pasture.
- Searches for the lost sheep.
- Promises eternal life to those who believe in the Good Shepherd. It is a ministry modeled after the Good Shepherd Himself.
“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself” (John 10:11, MSG).
“Whatever you do … do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).