How to Treat Your Preacher
October, as many of you may know, is Pastor Appreciation month. Being a preacher is an awesome responsibility with many rewards and burdens. It is not merely a job or a vocation, but a calling of God.
As you may know, I served as pastor of full-time churches for over thirty years and now serve as an interim pastor in my sixth assignment. It has been the joy of my life and, at the same time, a very difficult experience. There is an incessant pressure that can lead to burn out. In spite of the pressure, it is a joyful experience seeing people grow in the Lord and deepen their walk with Christ. It is a calling, one that I take very seriously.
There is often a lack of understanding concerning this calling: what it means, what the responsibilities are, and how those responsibilities change in each church setting. Yet Hebrews 13:7-9, 17, 24 speaks to how God wants pastors and ministers to be treated. It reads:
“Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t be led astray by various kinds of strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be established by grace and not by food regulations, since those who observe them have not benefited. . . . Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. . . . Greet all your leaders and all the saints.” (CSB)
Three times the writer used the designation, “your leaders,” which refers to the spiritual leaders of the local assemblies. From this passage we see that each Christian has three responsibilities toward the spiritual leaders of his or her local church.
We must remember them (vv. 7-9)
- The word “remember” may suggest that these leaders were dead, perhaps martyred, and should not be forgotten. While we do not worship people or give them the glory, it is certainly right to honor them for their faithful work (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
- These leaders probably led the readers to Christ because they had spoken the Word to them. When you recall how few Christians had copies of the Scriptures then, you can see the importance of the personal ministry of the Word. We must not take the Word for granted.
- The believers could no longer hear their departed leaders speak, but they could imitate their leaders’ faith because their lives pointed to Christ! Church leaders may come and go, but Jesus Christ remains the center of our faith.
We must respect them (v. 17)
- When a servant of God is teaching the Word of God, the people of God should submit and obey. It is the pastor’s God-given responsibility to preach the Word, but it is the responsibility of the congregation to obey the Word.
- It is much easier to “win souls” than it is to “watch over souls.” The larger a church grows, the more difficult it becomes to care for the sheep. However, when a shepherd is faithful to watch over souls, it is important that the sheep follow him.
We must respond to them (v.24)
- Every Christian should be on speaking terms with his pastor. Never allow any “root of bitterness” to grow up in your heart (Hebrews 12:15). Resentment and bitterness will only poison you and the whole church.
- Every church member must be careful how and when they speak to their pastors. For example, one thing I advise people is never criticize a pastor directly before he goes to the pulpit to speak. That should never occur. One must be careful to speak to a pastor at the appropriate time and with the appropriate spirit.
Show your pastors appreciation this month and every month by taking up these three responsibilities. Thank your pastors for the work they are doing and let us join together to do the great work to which the Church has been called!