[NOTE: I realize the potential of this post. On the one hand it can seem rather self-serving. Since I am a pastor it is kind of like the kid putting his Christmas list on the refrigerator. At the same time, there is something extremely valuable in the quotient of this pursuit. Therefore, acknowledging the value and the awkwardness, I press ahead.]
How can you encourage your pastor?
1.) Pray for him. This may go without saying but it mustn’t go without doing. Your pastor is not the spiritual super-hero; he is a weak man who is given to pride and discouragement. You need to pray for him every chance you can. Pray that God would grow, sustain, encourage, and protect him. Pray that he would have great joy in Christ while hating sin and loving the sheep. You can even follow the Apostle Paul’s pattern and tell him that you are praying for him. This is a great encouragement (cf. Col. 1).
2.) Engage him. If a guy is in ministry chances are he loves people. Your pastor probably loves you very much. He wants to hear from you. He wants to learn about you. What is going on in your life? What is bringing you joy? What is bringing you despair? Engage him on his own life, family and ministry. Talk to him. Encourage him.
3.) Show up. Believe it or not we don’t sit around preparing Bible studies, sermons, ministry plans, and classes for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, there is a great personal benefit to studying–but the purpose, what drives us is the mission of the church. We want to make and train disciples for Jesus. Therefore, consider who God has joined you with and why. Then be quick to take advantage of their giftedness. Come and eat from the word and lock arms in missionary service together.
4.) Serve. Nothing will encourage your pastor quite like witnessing people responding to the word of Christ by reflecting Christ (Mark 10.45). Look for opportunities within your church family to serve one another.
5.) Be hospitable. One of the great pastoral burdens is getting to know everyone in the church family. There are new people, mature members, newer Christians, and people looking for spiritual answers. We want to talk with everyone. We want to encourage and help everyone. As it turns out, however, we don’t have enough time in the day/week. We need help. This is where you come in. Have people in your home, encourage them in the faith, and serve them in the fellowship of the gospel. Become a self-appointed deputy of hospitality. This will greatly encourage your pastor.
6.) Be a Mission-Catalyst. Effective leaders work hard to continually articulate the mission and vision of their organization. Our mission is to make and train disciples. I say this all the time at Emmaus. When I hear people saying this, doing this, or encouraging others to do this–I am greatly encouraged. They are buying into the most important priority in the world! So take that mission and drive it down deep into the cracks and crevices of your church.
7.) Be Submissive. This does not mean be a door-mat or a blind sheep. However, it does mean that Christians should not be divisive and unsubmissive to leadership (Heb. 13.7, 17). If you have settled the issue of doctrinal and philosophical agreement with the church leadership then it is time to join the church and come under their leadership. In so far as they follow and promote Christ, then joyfully submit to them. It brings them joy!
8.) Bring him some pearls. I love when people come up to me and show me some pearls from their diving in the ocean of God’s Word. What excitement and joy there is when someone comes up to the surface with a freshly forged truth of Christ’s beauty. Come and share that stuff!
9.) Bring him some trash. We also like trash. What I mean by this is why like to help when things are tough. If there are problems or difficulties in life then we want to help. Listen, we know it’s there; this world is broken and sin hurts. Some come and talk to your pastor. Let him pray for you. Let him help you. It brings him joy.
10.) Give him the benefit of the doubt. This goes with #7. If you consider that a) your pastor is a sinner, b) you are a sinner, c) you have a church full of sinners, then you have a pretty good chance that he is going to offend you or someone else someday. Aside from the obvious transgression, if there is a way to see what he meant or didn’t mean, or cover it in love, then by all means, give him the benefit of the doubt.
11.) Be his brother or sister. It can become dangerous if the pastor thinks he is a professional–he will become impersonal and distant. It can be equally dangerous if church members look at him as from a different family (ie the clerical realm). It is best when pastors and members function like a family, brothers and sisters, loving and serving God as they live in community together.
This list could go on and on. I am thankful I serve at a church where a lot of this happens. In fact, I sat and thought about what, in light of the Scriptures, encourages me about the people at Emmaus and this is what I came up with. I pray that God would use it in others’ lives to be replicated for the joy of pastors and the health of the church.