My attention was drawn today to the blog of Rick Whitter 'Thoughts on Life and Leading', Rick serves as a State Administrative Bishop for the CHurch of God in Minenesota. The particular blog that caught my attention was 'Five Ways to Discourage Your Pastor'.
I have been in full time Christian leadership for almost thirteen years, and I can identify with each of the five points Rick writes, which if you haven't read the blog are:
- Be a no show at the Sunday service
- Don't support the church financially
- Don't grow as a disciple of Christ
- Fight progress and growth
- Leave the church
I posted a link to Rick's article on Facebook and Twitter, and one of my congregation asked if there was a sequel 'Five Ways To Encourage Your Pastor'. As far as I know Rick hasn't written a sequel, but it got me thinking about what encourages a church leader/pastor/minister/vicar/priest (delete as appropriate). For me the answer is quite simple, it is the opposite of the things that can discourage a leader.
So here are the five things that encourage me as a church leader:
- People who make worshipping God with the church family a priority: We all lead busy lives, school, work, hobbies, family life, holidays, and lots of other things that demand our attention. But what really encourages me, is when people set aside time not just once every few weeks, or when they feel like it, but every week to worship God with other Christians, because they realise that this is one of the most important things we do as Christians, and that it is a great honour and privilege. There are 168 hours in the week, on average we will spend around 56 hours a week sleeping (8 hours a night). That leaves 109 hours for all the other activities we undertake during the week. Giving two to three hours of that week to gather with God's people to worship him, is surely the very least we can do. It encourages me that when people are busy, and they can't make their usual service, they make time to come to a different service, because it is important to them, and because there is something incredibly special about being gathered with other Christians to worship God together. As CS Lewis wrote, "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation."
- People who support the church financially: I am encouraged when I see generosity in action. Paul in 2 Corinthians 9:7 writes 'Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.' There is a joy and a release in being able to give financially to support the work of the church, and the building of God's kingdom. Generosity pours out of a grateful heart, it comes from recognising that all that God has done for us, and that all we have comes from God. The church should never have to worry about finances, because if we give generously, and sacrificially, there should be no financial problems. When people give generously it is a blessing to those who give and those who receive. Jesus said "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:21) When people give generously it is a sign that their hearts are set on God, and that they have surrendered their material possessions to God.
- Seeing people grow as disciples. In the great commission Jesus instructed us to "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). The greatest joy for a pastor, is when they see people growing and maturing as Christians, and when people take seriously the call to be followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ. It is even more thrilling when the people the pastor has helped disciple, themselves go onto help disciple other people. As part of this process of growing as disciples, it is really encouraging for the pastor, when people in the church recognise that as disciples of Christ, they are being called to serve God in the world, and that we are all called to full time Christian ministry, irrespective of whether they are young or old, healthy or infirm, rich or poor, employed or not. Each one of us is called to serve God in the place where he has called us. It encourages the pastor when people start to recognise that their workplaces, homes, schools, colleges, universities, clubs, are the places where God has called them to serve him. Because when this happens, it transforms the way we view what we do Monday to Saturday, and the opportunities we have every single day to serve God by serving our neighbour. This is our Frontline, the place of possibility and potential.
- Welcome progress and growth. It encourages the pastor when the church is actively seeking God's will for the future, so that the church has a clear vision for what God wants. The first Christians were called people of 'The Way', Jesus didn't intend to create an institution, but a movement that would transform the world. It is encouraging to the pastor when we have a dynamic church, which is open to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, which brings about change. It is encouraging to the pastor, when peoples hearts are set on searching for what God wants.
- A growing church. A healthy church should be a growing church. The church should be growing spiritually, as peoples relationship with God deepens. From this the church should be growing numerically, as through the ministry and witness of the church, through the teaching, preaching, worship and engagement in mission and evangelism others come to faith in Christ.
This is just a few things that encourage a pastor/church leader, but there are many more things that could be added to the list.
Being in church leadership is an incredible privilege, but it can also be incredibly hard work, and very demanding (not only for the leaders but also their families too).
What comes across from Paul's letters in the New Testament is his deep love for the church. In 2 Corinthians 2:4 he says 'For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you.' This deep love for God's people, is something church leaders/pastors/vicars share. Pastors give out a huge amount of themselves in serving others, and are grateful for the privilege of doing so. But in turn, please remember us in your prayers, because it's not always easy, and at the end of the day we're only human, and like everyone else need love, support and encouragement!