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Life has been full of changes for us in the last year and lately I’ve been reflecting on the Lord’s faithfulness in our lives: helping us feel at home in Houston, giving us a church and friends, and simply helping us to like where we are and what we are doing. But I’ve also been reflecting on how grateful I am for the pastors who helped me along the way—not just in the last year, but through my whole life. The Lord has orchestrated moments throughout my 30 years that have led me to where I am now. He has used many people—family and friends—to help me through each step of my life. But when I look back on what I consider the most pivotal moments in my life, there has also always been a pastor who has played a major role in those.

  • I’m thankful for the pastor who shared the gospel with me and baptized me. He passed away last year, and I will always be grateful for the vital role he played in my life.
  • I’m thankful for the pastor who introduced me to international missions. His passion for it influenced my own. He remains a close family friend.
  • I’m thankful for my campus pastor in college. College was difficult in many ways, and I don’t know that I would have made it through without his help. I’m grateful for a lot of people in my life, but he will forever remain at the top of that list.
  • I’m thankful for the pastors of the church I joined while in seminary. They taught me about the importance of the local church, gave counsel through many major life decisions, and sent us out with love and support.
  • And I’m grateful for the pastors of my church now, who welcomed us with open arms and treated us like family from day one. I believe Houston felt like home to us more quickly because of their welcome.

Encouragement for Pastors

Pastors, if you are reading this, know that your work is appreciated. You may be single-handedly leading a congregation at the moment, or you may be one of several elders pastoring a church together. Either way, you have a giant task in front of you. I pray that regardless of your situation, you have people around you to keep you accountable, encourage you, pray with you, and take care you as you take care of your congregation.

There are a thousand things distracting you—from budgets to disciplinary issues to preparing sermons. But I encourage you, in the midst of all of it, keep the Great Commission your focus. Let Christ’s last words to the church be your priority.

Teach us the Bible—and not just what bits and pieces of it say on a certain topic. Topical sermons certainly have their place, but we also need the whole Bible. We need to be taught how to read it and how to interpret it. Encourage us (and perhaps even force us) to evangelize. Exemplify the pastoral qualities listed in 1 Timothy as best you can, and ask us to pray for you to uphold those. Help us figure out if we’re being called to overseas missions, church planting, seminary, or other strategic relocation and send us out to do it.

Let us serve you. There may be church members who only take from you, but I pray that for every extra-needy member, there is one ready to serve you. While we may not have pastoral responsibilities, we can take up a lot of slack in other areas. We can do administrative tasks, we can clean, we can be advocates for missionaries, we can lead small groups, we can bring you dinner or babysit your kids. Certain burdens should not be yours to bear alone. We can bear those burdens together, praying for and encouraging one another.

Your job isn’t easy, but I am thankful for your willingness to obey the Lord in caring for His sheep.

An Exhortation for Church Members

Pastors have hard jobs. Many of them also have other full-time jobs or side hustles. And, let’s be honest, pastoring is a full-time job no matter how much you’re getting paid. Hebrews 13 tells us they are to watch over and care for the souls of us church members. That’s a huge responsibility. So what does that mean for those of us who are not pastors?

First, that same passage tells us to obey and submit to them. That’s not always easy. Some of us are just too individualistic for our own good. We want to be part of a church…as long as they don’t try to meddle in our lives. We want to make our own decisions and simply be affirmed in those, rather than accepting wise counsel—and maybe pushback— from our leaders. To be clear, Hebrews is talking about leaders who are faithful to Scripture (see verse 7 of that same chapter); those who meet Scriptural qualifications laid out in 1 Timothy and Ephesians. We should receive their counsel and weigh it appropriately, measuring it against Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Second, Hebrews tells us to let them watch over our souls with joy and not with groaning. I’ve honestly never paid much attention to that part of the passage before. But as I get older and continue to experience life in the church, I’m starting to understand what this means.

We church members are going to do some boneheaded things. We’re sinners; it is inevitable. But, we can either handle our sin in a way that gives joy to our pastor, or causes him grief. We will need correction and accountability. In some cases, church discipline may be necessary. And while accountability, correction, and church discipline are never fun, they are necessary components for our sanctification. I’ve seen discipline bring joy and restoration because church members submitted to their leaders, repented, and accepted counsel and correction. I’ve also seen it cause deep grief when church members chose to remain in their sin or even leave their church family to avoid confrontation.

Hebrews tells us that it is to our advantage to allow our leaders to lead us with joy. Let us remain humble, repentant, and heed the counsel of those called to care for our souls. For other ways to love your pastor well, I suggest this article by Chuck Lawless.