In Gratitude for Faithful Pastors

by Daniel Henderson


When it comes to church leaders, the rare negative exceptions tend to make the most sensational news. Rarely do the faithful, godly pastors receive the recognition they deserve; recognition that would help us all keep a balanced and grateful perspective on the landscape of pastoral ministry.

The headlines are all-too-frequently sprinkled with reports of high-profile pastors who have been unfaithful to their marriage vows. Stories of financial scandal surface occasionally. One might begin to think that all pastors are immoral, dishonest, or otherwise unworthy of our trust.

The ratings-addicted media always milks these situations for all they are worth. Sadly, the credibility of the Christian message, the integrity of pastoral ministry, and the name of Christ is soiled in connection with the news of spiritual leaders behaving badly.

Tough Times for Ministry Leaders

Apart from the sizzling headlines of the exceptional scandal, we know that those in pastoral ministry face tough times overall. According to Focus on the Family, 1,500 U.S. pastors leave the ministry every month because of church conflict, family problems, marriage challenges and, in some cases, moral failure.

A recent New York Times article reported that members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension, and depression at rates higher than most Americans.[i] Studies also indicated that, in the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

The Good News

Yet, there is good news amidst the scandals and risks. As a matter of perspective, there are roughly 320,000 churches in the United States.[ii] Many of these are small churches, served by a bi-vocational pastor, or no pastor at all. Some larger churches employ a team of pastors. Estimates tell us there are 600,000 clergy in the United States.

It is good to remember that for every high-profile negative news story there are hundreds of thousands of pastors who are walking in integrity, loving their spouses, caring for their families, sacrificing for their congregations, preaching the Word, and faithfully fulfilling their calling.

Of the estimated 1,500 pastors who leave ministry every month, there are hundreds of thousands who endure and even thrive. There are multiplied thousands every year who enter ministry for the first time and also return to ministry after a break from the grind.

Our Role of Positive Support

More importantly, we can all make a positive difference by supporting and encouraging our pastoral leaders. This is great news – and something every believer can embrace because we know how vital it is and how much is at stake. We can each do something to help stem the fallout and failure among church leaders.

Of course, October is Clergy Appreciation Month and provides a great opportunity to do the right thing. In reality, our leaders are worthy of appreciation 12 months out of the year. First Thessalonians 5:12-13 tells us, “…honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and warn you against all that is wrong. Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because of their work” (NLT). Hebrews 13:7 also says, “Remember your leaders who first taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives…” (NLT).

Here are five key ideas to implement in October and all year round:

Pray for Your Leaders – The Apostle Paul often asked for prayer (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; also Ephesians 6:18&19; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1). Charles Spurgeon said, “I know of no greater encouragement than that my people would pray for me.” Our prayers are a gift that God uses to provide power and protection for our church leaders. Prayer also keeps our attitudes aligned with the heart of God. It is hard to be a prayer warrior and critic at the same time.

Give Practical Encouragement – The squeaky wheels in the church tend to get the “grease” of attention and energy from leaders. One negative letter can easily outweigh the impact of five positive ones. Take time to let your leaders know, via notes, e-mails, and phone calls, of your deep appreciation for their life and ministry. Be specific. Encourage others to do the same.

Provide Tangible Blessings – Most pastors live on a limited budget. Special tokens of kindness that provide memorable experiences are always appreciated. A gift certificate for a nice meal, an overnight get- away, a visit to the bookstore, or a mini-vacation is always a blessing beyond words.

Protect Their Reputation – Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches; Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” A pastor’s reputation is valuable beyond calculation. One of the great gifts you can give your pastors is to counteract the typical gossips and critics found in every church. Whenever there is some juicy tidbit of “news” circulating in the church, you can either add water or gasoline to the fire. Become known as one who supports and protects your pastor and his family.

Don’t Forget Their Families – The spouse and children are the unsung heroes of pastoral ministry. Often they are forgotten. Consider all of the above expressions of support, and apply these ideas in thoughtful and specific ways to each family member.

Fueling Their Joy and Endurance

When our leaders don’t stay in the fight, it makes it hard for us to win our imperative spiritual war. Discouraged pastors cannot serve to their full potential. Each of us can offer great encouragement to help them thrive and endure. Hebrews 13:17 challenges us to follow and support our spiritual leaders because they watch out for our souls, as those who must give account to God. Then the passage adds, “Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Let’s fuel the joy of our leaders. It is profitable for them, their families, our churches, and our Christ-honoring mission in this world.

Copyright © 2015 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

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Labor Day for the Rest of Your Life

By Dr. Lewis Gregory,

Labor Day, in the United States, has traditionally been a day to cease from one’s labors and rest. God offers a lifetime of rest to all who will cease from their fleshly labors and enter His rest. Easier said than done! It is very difficult for most of us to give up on all our “so-called good works.” I know it was for me. My thinking went something like this. “I’m trying as hard as I can, doing all that I can, the best that I can. It may not be the greatest (admittedly I was defeated), but I’m giving it all I’ve got. If all my hard work has only gotten me this far, just think what would happen if I gave up. Why, it would be a disaster, and I would become passive.

Passivity or Divine Activity

Since then, I’ve discovered this kind of thinking to be all too common among Christians. Ceasing from our fleshly efforts, in order to enter God’s rest, is actually shifting from a works-oriented approach, to a grace-oriented approach to living. Ironically, many people have mistakenly thought that an emphasis on grace will lead to a life of passivity. The concern is a strong emphasis on grace—which declares the responsibility for our lives belongs to Christ, and that He will take care of everything for us—will cause many to become passive. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you truly realize your union with Christ, you are not about to sit back and do nothing. Passivity is the last thing on your mind. Once you have discovered what it means to be a new creation in Christ, you are finally ready to do something of eternal consequence. As you begin to realize your true identity in Christ, it actually liberates you to an even greater level of activity—Divine activity. You are fully equipped for godly living. At last, you’re free to do what God has put in your heart to do.

Paul, the chief proponent of this truth, was no slouch. In fact, he was one of the most active Christians on biblical record. Here is what he wrote, “By the grace of God I am what I am . . . I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Did you notice he said that he labored much more than everyone else? He is not bragging—far from it. It is merely a statement of fact. Yet, in a sense, it is bragging, though not about himself. Who did Paul credit for such fervent activity? He emphatically stated that it was God who made him who he was, and enabled him to do what he did. He described this remarkable phenomenon as the grace of God. Paul declared that his labors were a result of God and God alone. He was bragging alright—on God!

The grace of God does not result in passivity. Paul made it very clear that this life of grace, as a new creation, is anything but passive. He told the Colossians, “I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). Paul declared that such a lifestyle is a labor, which involves striving, and results in work being accomplished.
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What was the source of Paul’s labor? The energizing source of his dynamic labor was none other than the indwelling Christ! He also asserted that everything he did was a result of God’s work in his life. It was Christ who did the work. Christ chose (and chooses) to do it in and through human personalities. That’s you and me. We have been granted the marvelous privilege of being co-laborers with Christ. We are the human instruments through whom He has chosen to accomplish His Divine purposes. Divine activity is to be the order of the day, for those believers who are living by the grace of God as new creations in Christ.

On one hand, you don’t do anything; yet, on the other, you do everything. You, in your human strength, are not to do anything. However, you, in the strength of the Lord, are now able to do all things! In Philippians 4:13, Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is now your motto.

Once a young Christian told me this was her favorite verse. When I asked her why, she answered, “It gives me hope and confidence. I am hopeful that things will be different for me as a Christian. I also have a new self-confidence, because God has made me a new person in Christ. Therefore, I am confident of what I can do through Christ, who is now my strength.” May God grant you this same outlook on life!
Once, a friend met a young man who said that he had been a Christian for a few years. After determining that the young man had truly met the Lord, he began to quiz him about his Christian walk. As they became better acquainted, several interesting things emerged.

It became evident that the young man’s life was stagnant. In fact, he seemed to just be going in circles. To make matters worse, he blamed others for his dilemma.

When my friend realized the young man was stuck in a rut, he exclaimed, “Man, you’re sitting on a gold mine, and you’re just letting it go to waste. As a Christian, God has endowed you with a brand new life. Are you telling me that you have Christ inside of you, and yet you are not allowing Him to live His life through you? That’s just not right. It’s time for you to get with the program!”

The same is true for you. If you feel as though your life is going nowhere, then it’s time to get with the program. The transforming truth of the new creation made it possible for the apostle Paul to do God’s work. Likewise, you must be about your Father’s business!

May this Labor Day be the beginning of a lifetime of resting in the Lord. As you do, you will find His grace sufficient for all your labors. And you can rest assured that your labor will never be in vain in the Lord!

Dr. Lewis Gregory (Georgia, USA) is a contributing writer for IOM America – Transformational Biblical Worldview & Exchange Life Development.
Permission obtained from writer to republish Labor Day for the Rest of Your Life. © 2011 Dr. Lewis Gregory. [Adapted from The New You. © 2005 Dr. Lewis Gregory.] Articles, or portions of articles, may be used without written permission, as long as credit is given to the author. Editorial changes by IOM America approved by author.
Scripture note: Changes made to original verses [i.e. bold, indent, underline, parenthetical contents…] are by this article’s author for emphasis and/or clarification.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.