1. Pray for your pastor. The pastor is the spiritual catalyst for the church. That makes the pastor a target for the enemy. Pray for the pastor’s spiritual health. Pray for protection. Pray for wisdom. Pray that the catalytic gifts of apostleship, prophecy, teaching, evangelism, and shepherding will grow strong in your pastor. The most affirming words a pastor could ever hear are, “Pastor, I’m praying for you every day” (Rom 15:30; 2 Cor 1:11).

2. Affirm your pastor. Pastoring may be one of the most difficult jobs in the world these days. Pastors work in an intense environment where their work of caring for humanity brings them up close to the results of sin. While the average person sees death, injury, illness, or family conflict occasionally, the pastor deals with these things on a regular basis. Although pastors do not live for affirmation, words of validation do provide a lifeline of strength through treacherous times. Those little notes saying, “Pastor, you’re making a difference” may be the very thing that helps your pastor make it through another day (Acts 4:36).

3. Bless the pastoral family. Pastoral stress leaks into families and is enough to test the family bonds. Throw in a few wild expectations about how the pastoral spouse and kids are “supposed” to behave and you have a recipe for a family meltdown. The antidote is blessing: Bless the spouse. Bless the kids. Let go of any expectations and treat the family with a rich blessing of heaven’s grace (1 Cor 9:14).

4. Release the pastor from constant ministry so renewal can take place. Pastors who go 24/7 for days, weeks, and months on end will inevitably self-destruct. Mandate that your pastor take weekly breaks for spiritual renewal, as well as annual extended breaks for study leave and vacation. It is a small price to pay for the rich spiritual energy that results from regularly releasing your pastor from ministry (Matt 14:23).

5. Talk with your pastor—not about or around your pastor. Complaining to someone else is corrosive for the entire church family. Writing anonymous critical notes are acts of spiritual sabotage (by the way, smart pastors just throw them in the trash can without reading them). If you have a problem with the pastor, talk directly to him or her and try to work it out. If a resolution cannot be found, then bring a spiritual leader with you and try again. And then (and only then) if a resolution is not found, bring together a larger group to dialogue with the pastor. Challenge privately, and affirm publicly (Matt 18:15–17).

6. Forgive your pastor for falling short of your expectations, because no pastor will perfectly satisfy your demands. Remember that your vision of what a pastor should be is probably unique to you. Everyone else in the congregation has expectations too, and many of these expectations are mutually exclusive. Your pastor will make some mistakes, as all pastors do. Extend your pastor the same grace that God extends to you. If your pastor knows that he or she practices ministry in a safe, grace-filled congregation where risk taking is expected and stagnancy is deplored, your church can become spiritually turbocharged (Matt 18:21–22).

7. Feed yourself spiritually. Don’t expect to live on a limited spiritual diet of thirty-minute weekly sermons. Just as going seven days without eating makes one weak, even with the best sermons you will spiritually starve to death. The role of the shepherd is not to force grass into the mouths of the sheep, but to lead the sheep to green pastures. As you listen to the great sermons your pastor preaches, may you be inspired to get into the Word yourself every day in prayer-filled Bible study (Ps 23:2).

8. Bond with a small group. Do not expect your primary pastoral support to come from the pastor. It is mathematically impossible, and primary care is not his or her role. Regular spiritual support occurs in small groups. When you are plugged into a weekly small group, you will grow together, pray for one another, care for one another, and support one another through all the ups and downs of life. The pastoral staff and lay pastors can serve as a safety net for those not in small groups, as well as care for those in life transitions (Matt 18:20).

9. Follow the leader. The pastor is not the CEO of the congregation; that role is reserved for Jesus. However, the pastor has been given the gift of apostleship, so you should take your cue from the pastor as you follow Jesus, and let your pastor lead. A new pastor might bring change; that is to be expected. But God has always brought a succession of quality pastors, each with leadership to take your church to the next level. God gives your pastor vision. Help the pastor flesh out that vision and do your part to turn vision into reality (Heb 13:17).

10. Exercise your spiritual gifts. Pastoral gifts don’t do much by themselves. However, if you let those catalytic gifts energize your own gifts, you will come alive spiritually. Let the pastor equip you so that your church family can reach unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Take advantage of the teaching and ministry opportunities at your church. Place yourself in optimal places for spiritual growth (Eph 4:11–12).

Dave Gemmell is Associate Ministerial Secretary for the North American Division. This article was first published in Best Practice (July 29, 2013) and has been lightly edited for Elder’s Digest.

2019 Fourth Quarter

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