“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (ESV)
I’m not sure I knew this passage existed before I became a pastor. Even if I did know it existed, I had no idea what it meant until I became a pastor. Pastor Jared Wilson rightly says, “The good pastor is a fellow who feels the weight not just of his own neediness for Jesus but yours as well. He is typically the one fellow who loses sleep at night because of what’s happening (or not happening) in the church. While you worry about yourself and your family and your friends, he worries about himself, his family, his friends, and everybody else’s selves, families, and friends. There is the daily pressure on him of his anxiety for the church. Good pastors feel this.”
This is true for every pastor I know. I’ve heard people say that pastors are only in it for the money. I’ve heard people say that men become pastors because it’s easier than having a “real job.” I can honestly say that I don’t know a pastor that fits into either category. I can also say that pastoring is the single hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s not usually hard physically. But intellectually, emotionally and spiritually it is a brutally hard job. There are pressures and burdens that press down on the pastor. Where does the biggest part of this burden come from? For me and for every pastor I know, this burden comes from Scripture.
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV)
Did you catch that part about the pastor watching out for your souls as one who must give an account. As I understand it, there will be a day when I stand before Christ and give an account for the souls of the people in the church I pastored. That is weighty stuff to consider. It is even weightier when you are the one in the position that makes you accountable.
Pastors fulfill their responsibilities in light of this truth. It presses on them with the sermons they preach, the care they provide, the counsel they offer, the leadership and guidance they give. Pastors feel an eternal weight over the souls that are entrusted to their care. This eternal weight isn’t just because we will give an account to Christ. It is also because of the soul itself. Not to sound overly dramatic, but heaven and hell can literally hang in the balance because of what the pastor does, doesn’t do or the way he does it. This is a significant weight that presses on the pastor.
This weight doesn’t end when someone makes a profession of faith in Christ. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,” Galatians 4:19 (NKJV) The pastor continues to feel this weight as he desires to see Christ formed in those under his spiritual care. The pastor has an enormous desire to see people grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The pastor has an enormous desire see people progress in sanctification and live in the freedom of holiness.
So what does your pastor do? He watches out for and cares for the souls of the people. He works for the glory of God, the salvation of the lost and the sanctification of the saints.
That is an honorable job. Those who do this job should be loved and respected by the people they are trying to see saved and sanctified. Let me give you a few practical things you can do to help your pastor as he cares for your soul.
Talk to him not about him.
One morning at the gym, I heard a couple of guys ripping someone apart. I had no idea who they were talking about until they said his name and I realized it was a pastor in the community. The pastor had done something that one of them didn’t like and rather than going to talk to the pastor about it, he chose to talk about the pastor. You aren’t always going to agree with your pastor. He may well do dumb things or say dumb things that hurt your feelings or offend you. At that point, choose to talk to the pastor and not about him.
Let him do his job.
Every pastor needs wise counsel from godly people who are willing to help resolve issues and strengthen the church. No pastor needs an armchair quarterback who criticizes his every action without offering any solutions. Let the pastor do his job.
Let him put his family ahead of you.
Huge numbers of pastors say that the ministry has been detrimental to their family. Many pastor’s marriages are hurting because the wife feels that everyone in the church is more important to her husband than she is. Many pastors kids rebel against Christ because of bitterness over everyone in the church coming before them. Allow the pastor to have a healthy marriage by letting him put his wife and her needs ahead of you and your needs. Allow the pastor to demonstrate his love for his children by putting them and their needs ahead of you and your needs
Pray for him.
I grew up thinking that pastors didn’t have the same concerns and struggles that “regular people” did. Now that I’m a pastor, I know that’s not true. I don’t know that I can fully say that pastors have greater spiritual struggles than other people do but I know that I am far more aware of them as a pastor than I was before I was a pastor. Pray for your pastor, his family, his study time, his faith, his spiritual strength and his sanctification. Pray for him and let him know you are praying for him. Tomorrow I’ll give some practical ways you can pray for your pastor.