Chances are your pastor feels under-appreciated, not very loved, and overwhelmed. The numbers are telling. One survey done in 2005-2006 found that 90% of pastors surveyed (948 out of 1050) felt worn out. 71% felt they were burned out and depressed, beyond just being worn out. Only 23% felt happy and content on a regular basis. That means 77% didn’t! Other studies reveal that about 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month. There’s a whole host more, 50% of pastors in fact, who are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could but have no other way of making a living.
Being a pastor is a hard job. No matter what a pastor says and does, if you have any size to your church, someone is going to have a problem with the pastor’s words or actions. In my experience, most people don’t take that directly to the pastor in a healthy and loving way. Either it’s direct and brutal or it’s indirect and insidious. Here’s what the Bible says about how we should treat our pastors:
Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, New Living Translation
In case you didn’t catch the strong language, here’s what Dale Schlafer writes about this passage:
“The phrase ‘Hold them in the highest regard’ [Show them the greatest respect and wholehearted love] is unusual in the original Greek of the New Testament in that it takes the adverb and triples its intensity. This verse could read, ‘Hold them beyond the highest regard in love.’ Or it might be rendered, ‘Honor, honor, honor in love those who work hard among you.’ In today’s wording, we might paraphrase it, ‘Esteem to the max in love those who work hard among you.’ What we sense here is the apostle Paul’s struggle – almost being at a loss for words – to express adequately what the Holy Spirit wants to communicate to the church, just how much the people in a congregation are to hold their pastor in super-highest regard. Pastors are not to be esteemed for their office, degrees, age, or spiritual gifts, but ‘because of their work.’ “
Are you showing your pastor that kind of honor and love? As you look back towards your actions and words directed at and about your pastor, both your current one and those you’ve had previously, can you honestly say that you have shown them the greatest respect and given them wholehearted love? I can’t. I’ve miserably failed that test and much of my Christian life I’ve been in ministry. I see a lot of the behind-the-scenes struggles that pastors face. And I still can’t say I’ve honored the words Paul commands of us.
However, while I have failed in the past, I must still try to do better in the present. We all must. We sometimes wonder why the leadership in our churches is so lacking. Look at the numbers: the churches aren’t supporting their pastors. Pastors are being worn out. They are being burned out. They are being driven out. So either we’re forcing the good leaders out or we are so wearing them out that they don’t have the energy to lead. That’s what the numbers show. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that God placed a warning to us in Paul’s words, a warning that is Scriptural and therefore His command. You might have avoided lying this past week. You might not have stolen anything. You may have avoided pornography and held your tongue from gossip. But did you honor and love your pastor the way God has commanded? It’s just as important. If we want godly pastors to stick around and be effective, then we have to encourage and support them. We have to love them wholeheartedly. We must share some of their burden. We must ensure they are taken care of, they are honored, and they are edified. Anything less is disobedience.