How to Appreciate and Protect Your Pastor
Written by Jeff Leake
During the month of October, PASTOR'S APPRECIATION DAY is celebrated. My role in life is not only as a pastor of a church, but also as a pastor to other pastors. So I have a glimpse into the challenge that it is to be the spiritual leader not only of your own life, and your family, but to also be the spiritual leader over an entire community of faith (a local church).
WHY IS PROTECTING PASTORS IMPORTANT?
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, the man who is my partner," says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn against the lambs." Zechariah 13:7
GOD APPOINTS LEADERS
Anytime anything new begins in the Kingdom, it always begins with a person. God spoke to Abraham and he went to a new place to begin a new thing. God spoke to Moses to go and deliver Israel from Egypt. God spoke to Joshua to lead the way into the promised land. God spoke to David to build the Temple. In the New Testament, God worked through Peter to bring the gospel to the house of Cornelius. He worked through Paul to plant churches in every city throughout Asia. He worked through Timothy to set the Ephesian church in order.
SATAN ATTACKS LEADERS
This can be seen all throughout the Old Testament. When there was a godly King, Israel prospered. When the leader went bad, it went badly for everyone else. In the period before there were kings, God solved the problems Israel was encountering by raising up a 'judge' who would lead the people out of captivity. Gideon, is an example. He was used by God. But then the devil, led the entire movement astray by tempting Gideon to build an 'ephod' as an idol.
WE NEED A COUNTER-STRATEGY
God's people should form a wise plan to protect the leader so that he is not under unnecessary stress and attack. Like the story when Aaron and Hur lifted the hands of Moses. Like the moment when friends of Paul visited him in his imprisonment to refresh his soul. Like when David's men refused to let him lead the battle because they stated he was more important that 10,000 of the rest of the troops.
THE WRONG APPROACH
So how does a church family, in 2017, provide balanced protection for its leader? So few churches do this well. There seems to several inadequate responses:
#1 - INDULGENCE
The first extreme is to treat the pastor like he is royalty. In some cultures, everything revolves around celebrating the man or woman of God. Often, in this approach there are those who are devoted just to serve the pastor. They follow him or her around. They bring food, refreshments, carry his books, and respond much like an old fashion servant would.
Also, in these kinds of cultures, the pastor may be paid an unusually high salary, be given an independent type of authority (where no one keeps them accountable or questions their decisions), and a lot of fringe benefits.
The problem is that these kinds of cultures may take the pressure off of the leader, but don't seem to provide genuine spiritual protection. It is often the case, in these kinds of churches, where you see a pastor abusing these privileges and ending up in a scandal of a sexual, doctrinal, ethical, or financial nature.
#2 - EQUIVALENCE
The second extreme is to treat the pastor as if he is the same as everyone else, and in some cases should be questioned or challenged more than everyone else. Often this mindset grows out of the pain of a bad experience with a leader who did stupid or selfish things. People become suspicious of leadership in general. These mindsets can also transfer over from people's work life. They have a boss who treats everyone poorly. Resentment grows toward authority, and the pastor takes the brunt of it from something he or she has nothing to do with.
In this situation, there is no recognition of the extra burden a pastor carries in leading people spiritually. It is assumed that the pastor has no more spiritual pressure than the rest of us, so he should require no more support that the rest of us.
The fallout from this kind of environment is that the leader feels discouraged, burnt out, hurt, and alone most of the time. Often they feel judged, misjudged, and under-appreciated. It's the feeling like the people they are leading want them to 'make bricks without straw' and to do it right quick!
When leaders fall, in these kinds of circumstances, it is because they feel so alone and so angry that they act out to deal with the misery inside.
#3 - IGNORANCE
Some churches are not in either extreme. They are just unaware. No one has taught them or told them about spiritual warfare. There is no sense of urgency in their spiritual life about winning a city for Jesus, or breaking down strongholds. They see the church like the see a non-profit or business. It's just all tactical and practical. The leader is just a CEO and should be treated with the same emotional ambivalence that one would treat the leader of any other company.
So they are unconcerned and even apathetic about their leader.
Actually, this is the best of the three bad options. It is not imbalanced in its special treatments and enablements of the leader. And it is not judgmental or harsh in its tone toward the leader. But the result is still personal and organizational vulnerability.
This approach shows more about the lack of spiritual awareness and maturity of the church family. It shows that they either depend too much on the pastor to carry and handle everything, or that they just don't really care so much about the advancement of God's Kingdom. They view church more like a weekend event they go to rather than a spiritual movement that they are participating in. So if the pastor is performing well to meet their weekend needs, they are more than happy to let him bear the load alone.
THE RIGHT APPROACH
VIGILANCE is the only way to protect the pastor. Someone has to pay attention to the reality of vulnerability. Since the devil has a strategy against the leader, the people of God should have a strategy to support the pastor. Someone somewhere has to care enough to form a plan to provide relief and support from the pressure.
This strategy should involve the following:
Spiritual - There should be someone devoted to praying for the leader. Intercessors who can stand in the gap, especially during difficult times.
Emotional - There should be someone thinking about how to make the leader feel appreciated, cared for, listened to, and less alone.
Financial - This is actually a Biblical principle, that the ox should not be kept from eating as they are threshing. Also, 'The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.' 1 Timothy 5:17
Relational - There should be investment in the pastor to participate in networks and go to conferences where they can make friends, learn and grow.
Practical - It makes sense to find out where a leader is weak and surround him with individuals who have gifts that supply what he is missing. In this way, his strengths will shine.
Again, if we think of these things from a personal perspective, it can feel a bit like overkill. Does a pastor really need all of this? But if we think of things from a perspective of spiritual warfare and the advancement of God's Kingdom, then all of this makes so much practical sense. You cannot advance against the enemy without good leadership. You cannot sustain good leadership without a plan to support and strengthen the leader. It's a practical and Biblical solution.