October is “Pastor Appreciation Month” and, rightfully, we gladly include all ministers and staff in our expressions of sincere gratitude. So much of what ministers do is publicly unseen and seldom recognized. Granted, most ministers do not want adulation; however, we owe it to ourselves to say thanks. After all, our parents taught us: “When someone does something nice for you, you should always say ‘thank you.’”
We also honor our ministers, not because they are perfect, but because Scripture compels us:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. Ephesians 5:17.
Most ministers are lucky to receive any honor or encouragement, let alone double honor. It would do well for church deacons and other leaders to give serious thought to the question:
“What would it look like for our church to show double honor to our pastor and staff?”
In considering giving honor, it is interesting that Paul qualifies his instruction by saying that those who receive “double honor” are those who “direct the affairs of the church well.” So, what are the metrics to discern if the minister is doing a good job? When the church is unified and the attendance, giving, and mission involvement are all good, it is obvious that the pastor is worthy of double honor. However, when the church is floundering and the pastor’s input and influence is making no difference, and possibly making things worse, obviously the minister is not doing a good job directing the affairs of the church. However, if the church has no major stress issues and the pastor visits the sick and the elderly regularly and preaches sermons that are “ok”, but the attendance is slipping or barely holding its own – is that pastor “directing the affairs of the church well?” Is that minister worthy of honor; let alone double honor?
When contemplating giving honor to pastors of declining churches, leaders should consider that more than 85% of all American churches are plateaued or declining. Many times the reason for the decline is not the pastor but lay leaders who are risk-adverse and unwilling to adapt their outdated traditions and preferences and release their pastor from time-consuming routines and committee structures. No wonder the church is declining! The leaders have robbed the pastor of the freedom to lead and focus on areas that could produce a turn-around. Many churches are so entrenched in perpetuating the current status quo that they give only lip-service to making changes that potentially could make a difference. Because of immediate pressing demands, the pastor and leaders give little attention to addressing long-term needs of: leadership development, effective organizational structures, transformative discipleship, and planning inspiring, passionate worship services.
Many faithful pastors are like the apostle Paul who must have had serious questions about the success of his ministry. Every letter he wrote to his congregations mentions some serious issue that needed correcting. When he confronted the issues facing his congregation in Corinth, a church filled with division and moral issues, he pleaded that they “not accept the grace of God in vain.” Author Richard John Neuhaus suggests that Paul might have been wondering if his own ministry was in vain because of the lack of results he saw in Corinth.
Pastor, if you are reading this and you are disheartened, please be encouraged. As one who serves beside you, please know that I honor you and so do many others who are part of your “silent majority”. In fact, we think you are worthy of double honor. This is true of all of you! (Except those who are outright jerks, and you know who you are. If you don’t, ask your spouse and then let’s talk. 🙂 )
With much appreciation and brotherly love,