Let me begin by saying that I pastor the greatest church on the planet. It’s not a perfect church, no way. It’s not a great church because we make movies—that has nothing to do with it. It’s a great church made up of some great people who have learned to pray, seek the Lord for revival, preserve the unity of the saints, and follow hard after God. I’m sure we have a few knuckleheads, but they usually don’t raise their heads around me.
That being said, it wasn’t always that way. My first five years were hard. I wrote about this in my book Prepare for Rain. Although we never had a church split, we did have 800 people leave in my first ten years. Looking back, those were great “back door” revivals. As one friend says, “Every healthy body needs to vomit now and then.”
The crowd that left were the typical ones who have a form of godliness without the power:
All in all, it was worth it. It was tough on my ego when fellow pastors asked me how it was going, but it was worth it. The church was cleansed and purged, and we could have NEVER made movies or built the Legacy Sports Park or had a relationship with our sister church, Mt. Zion, if they had remained. They were too self-righteous, bigoted, and narrow minded to allow such ministries.
I say all that to say that during this month many churches will have some sort of Pastor Appreciation emphasis. The pastor will get a few cards, a few hugs, a few “thanks for being our pastor”—but at the end of the day, for most pastors, they will not be honored.
Why? Here’s the logic.
1) If we honor him, he’ll get the big head. Our job is to keep him humble.
Don’t worry, I rarely meet a pastor who has been thanked too much. Most of them look like they just came out of a gang initiation, and after the beating the gang decided they still wouldn’t let him in.
2) He won’t be here but a couple of years, so why get close to him?
No wonder they leave. Why stay somewhere and cast pearls before swine. Shake the dust off your feet and move on.
3) I don’t like the way he _ (the reasons are legion).
This is where nitpicking really kicks in. God’s people are good at whining and complaining about anyone who leads. Just ask Moses.
4) We don’t have it in the budget.
5) He didn’t visit me when I was in the hospital with an ingrown toenail.
6) He rubs me the wrong way.
Here’s a thought, turn around.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
What should change? Glad you asked.
First of all, the minister of the gospel is worthy of double honor. Period. End of discussion. The Bible teaches it, and that settles it. God didn’t ask your opinion or mine about that. It’s always right to do the right thing.
Secondly, his family needs it. They are on the listening end of all the critics and cynics who undermine, gossip, attack, and pick at their husband and dad.
Thirdly, a church will never have the favor of God if they don’t show the man of God respect and love.
Again, I can go on and on. You know what I’m talking about.
Here’s the rub. I see it on multiple levels. We honor Mom on Mothers’ Day and then sit on our rear ends and never help her or honor her the other 364 days out of the year, as if that’s going to make her feel better. Get the picture? A wayward son who never calls sends his mom a cheap card on Mothers’ Day and thinks that covers it all. For kids like that, moms should have a “My Child is a Jerk” day.
We’ve set aside days and months to emphasize certain people or causes in hopes of raising awareness. It does, to some extent. But in reality, honor and respect for those who love us and lead us should be in our daily spiritual DNA. We shouldn’t have to be reminded to love someone or appreciate someone. It should be a part of anyone who has experienced the new birth.
Hey, even my dogs lick my hands the minute they see me. (Please don’t try this after a sermon.)
For years, a few couples in our church had a staff appreciation dinner for the entire ordained staff. They can no longer do it because of health reasons. It was a great meal, with great fellowship and prayer. But the reason it worked was because they were appreciative 365 days out of the year. It wasn’t an event on their calendar as much as it was a part of their lifestyle. They continue to honor us and pray for us on a weekly, if not daily basis. That, my friends, is better than any event.
Let me give you some ways to honor your pastor on an ongoing basis.
1) Pray for him daily. He needs the prayer; you need the practice. Pray for his family, his health, his sermon preparation, and his study time.
2) Pray before you come to church that God will give you ears to hear and feet to obey.
3) Stop gossip, criticism, and backbiting on any level. As Barney Fife would say, “Nip it in the bud.”
4) Do things anonymously for him during the year. Leave a card with a gift certificate to a nice dining establishment on his pew. Offer to babysit his children so he and his wife can have a night out. Send flowers to his wife. Buy his kids an iTunes gift card.
5) Help him with the resources he needs. Get him a good Bible study software program (like WORDsearch). These resources are a worthy investment.
6) Sit toward the front. One of the things that frustrates every pastor I know is the crowd that gets to church early to sit as far back as they can. What is so foolish about that is we never do that at our kids’ games. When we are at a sporting event, we want to be close to the action. When we are at the church, where eternal action takes place at the altar, we want to be as far away as possible.
7) Make sure the deacons and personnel give him a paid study week every year, preferably two study weeks. This is a time where he can get away in a hotel or a cabin to pray, study, and seek the Lord. Pay for it—all of it—room, meals, travel.
8) Send him to a conference like ReFRESH®. I’m not saying this because it’s “my” conference. I just know that through the years we’ve been able to love on pastors who have felt neglected and beaten up. It’s a time to encourage them to stay with the stuff and not quit. They need it, and your church will benefit from it.
9) PAY THE MAN. Quit nickel-and-diming the pastor and staff. He is called on to serve 24/7. He keeps the same hours as a doctor for 20% of the pay. You owe him retirement, health benefits, and a salary he can live on. God loves a cheerful giver. I would say that God doesn’t love churches that are cheap when it comes to compensation.
10) Be the kind of church member that makes him want to stay at the church. Be an encourager, supporter, prayer warrior, and friend. Most pastors have no one they can confide in. Earn the right to be that person.
(copyright 2011, Michael Catt)
Michael served as the President of the Large Church Roundtable, the Southern Baptist Convention as an IMB Trustee, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Preaching Conference, Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, and President of the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. He has spoken at conferences, colleges, seminaries, rallies, camps, NBA and college chapel services, well as The Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove. Michael is the recipient of The Martin Luther King Award, The MLK Unity Award, and a Georgia Senate Resolution in recognition of his work in the community and in racial reconciliation.
Michael and his wife, Terri, have two grown daughters, Erin and Hayley.