Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit. [Hebrews 13:17 (NLT)]
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding. [Jeremiah 3:15 (NLT)]
After more than a year without a pastor, our northern church is finally getting its new minister. He will be stepping into some very big and well-worn shoes. The last pastor was at his post for over forty years. To say that the congregation has become somewhat set in their ways is probably an understatement. “But we’ve always done it that way!” and “He’s not like Pastor S!” are bound to be said more than once.
According to our new pastor’s Letter of Call, a pastor is to be “diligent in the study of Holy Scripture, in the use of the means of grace, in prayer, in faithful service, and in holy living.” Having met him, I have no doubt he will do that. His letter also included the duties of his congregation. We are to pledge our “prayers, love, esteem and personal support for the sake of the ministry entrusted to [him] and for our ministry together in Christ’s name.” While congregations expect their ministers to live up to their side of the bargain, I’m not so sure we live up to ours.
As members of a church, do we regularly pray for our clergy? Do we offer prayers for their confidence, wisdom, inspired preaching, and faith? Do we ask God to lift from their hearts the grief they face daily or to help them find time for study and their families? Do we offer our love, friendship and thanks along with their salary? Do we give them our respect even when they’re younger than our children? Do we value the new ideas they bring to our church family? Do we appreciate the insight that comes when someone views us with fresh eyes? As for that pledge of personal support—do we complain rather than make constructive comments? Do we come to our worship with a willingness to try new things (more than once)? Although new doesn’t always mean better, it doesn’t necessarily mean worse! As our churches grow and evolve we have to be willing to grow and change with them. None of us like change but we can’t allow the church to become stagnant. We need new people and the new ideas they bring. Our clergy do not act alone; we all minister together in Christ’s name.
Being a pastor, while a blessed calling from God, isn’t easy. If Moses thought he had problems shepherding his “stiff-necked” people across the desert, he should try shepherding one of today’s congregations! Although it’s supposed to be rewarding, I suspect it sometimes seems thankless and overwhelming. Whether our pastors are new or longstanding, young or old, they desperately need our prayers, love, esteem and personal support for God’s Kingdom to expand!