[October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Below is my article included in my church’s newsletter, The Challenger, on how to appreciate your pastors without spending any money.]
For this Challenger, pastoral ministry is the theme. As self-serving as it sounds to bring up the reason for this theme, October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Now, technically, the official name is Clergy Appreciation Month, an observance that dates back to 1992 (and for those of you who love trivia, the first Pastor Appreciation card was sold by Hallmark in 1992).
The origins of this observance have a rather humorous story attached, found in the September/October 1996 edition of the Saturday Evening Post:
“In 1992, layperson Jerry Frear, Jr., was brainstorming with church colleagues about how they might be of help to their minister when he glanced at a calendar and noticed that it was almost Groundhog Day. ‘I thought, if they have a day for groundhogs, there ought to be a day for the 375,000 clergy people in America.’ Frear says. So…for the last seven years the second Sunday in October has been set aside to show appreciation for our clergy.”
In all seriousness, pastors and ministers do not do what they do for people’s appreciation and accolades. Why? Our ultimate call in ministry does not originate with people. The apostle Paul says: “For I did not receive it [the gospel which he was called to preach] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). Since God has given us this ministry, we must pursue it with gravity.
So, what steps should you take to show “appreciation” to your pastors? Here are a few:
- Pray for your pastors. I’ve written before that pastors live in perpetual guilt. When pastors are faithful with study and meetings and outreach, their families can become casualties. No wonder so many pastors’ wives say that their husbands are having an affair with their church—all their attention, focus, and affection are misdirected. We cannot do everything we wish we could, so pray that God would give us a balance.
- Pray for your pastors’ families. You may have noticed, but all of us pastors are married. And all of our pastors seem to be trying to start their own countries (the latest being the blessed arrivals of Gwendolyn Embry and Jozy Morter). As critical as our calling is to the church, our primary calling is to minister and lead our families. To adapt a verse from our Lord, “What shall it gain a pastor to gain the affection and growth of a church, yet to lose his family?” We all can answer that—the pastor, the church, the family, and the cause of Christ will not benefit.
- Pray for our preaching teaching ministries. We pastors preach and teach for a reason that’s outlined in 2 Peter 3:18: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our aim is that of Paul’s, to shepherd you by teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-28).
- Make a commitment to come and connect with your church. What? Come to church? “But Pastor Matt, we aren’t supposed to come for you, are we?” No, not at all. A church is only built on Christ and His Word. But when a pastor, who faithfully prays for his people, sees his people taking the most fundamental aspects of the Christian life (going to church—see Hebrews 10:25) being disregarded or put off, then that pastor grows concerned about one’s spiritual walk—so we want you to come (if physically able) for yourself and for the encouragement and building up of others. We don’t want you to miss something great that God will do in and through you.
- Find ways to connect with a group and commit to Kingdom work. Use the spiritual gifting and passions God has given you for His church. We grow closer to the Lord when we use the callings and giftings with which He supplied us for His work and His glory.
Since preaching and leading is my primary calling here at ARBC, I close with a quote from Richard Baxter (1615-1691) wrote to fellow pastors:
Content not yourselves with being in a state of grace, but be also careful that your graces are kept in vigorous and lively exercise, and that you preach to yourselves that sermons which you study, before you preach them to others…When your minds are in a holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits of it.
Pray for this for your pastors. We will most certainly “appreciate” that!