The secret life and needs of a church leader

WARNING: This blog post runs the risk of appearing self-serving, when in fact it is meant to address a very real need that goes far beyond my puny life & experience.  Reader discernment is advised.

When you’ve served as a soldier in a combat scenario, you have a different view of the words “firefight, crossfire, casualty of war.” They are words full of meaning that you truly understand, because of what you have experienced.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 – We ask you brothers, to respect those who labor among you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly because of their work.

I came across this passage in my morning reading/study time. It strikes close to home… very close. I’m a Pastor. I have been a Pastor in one shape or form for 95% of my adult life. As you might imagine, these verses carry a very particular meaning for me.

I’m writing this post to give a loving admonishment to those of you who are faithful members of your local church. Paul wrote these instructions about how you should think of and respond to your church leaders from his own experience as a church leader. He knew the need (did you hear that… it’s a NEED) that church leaders have to be respected, honored, esteemed very highly in love. He knew something about their struggles and lives that most of the flock didn’t know. I want to clue you in… to give you the inside scoop…

Church leaders, are in a very precarious position. Their calling is not only about leadership, it is also about example. The scriptures call them to be examples. Everyone in the church is watching. Everyone is wanting to see how their leaders “do” life as a Christian. So far so good… but that role carries with it very unique challenges and burdens. The church needs to understand what their leaders contend with so that they can learn to relate to them accordingly. Here we go…

1) Church leaders have needs too. While leaders should be and are appropriately expected to be stronger, more mature, and more capable than the average person in the flock, they are not invincible. Just as you have the challenges, struggles, hurts, setbacks, and losses of your everyday life to deal with, your church leaders have the exact same burdens in their own lives. But ON TOP OF THAT, they must also be concerned about the care, safety, and direction of the flock with which they’ve been entrusted (you). They carry a double-load, if you will. Do you get that? Do you appreciate it? Your church leaders NEED to be encouraged, affirmed, built up, and helped to fight off the weariness that comes from the unrelenting task of living in obedience to the Lord as an example to the flock, and faithfully shepherding His flock at the same time. Don’t misunderstand, they love to do it – but they can’t do it apart from your help! They need you to be concerned about them, interested in their lives, eager to express appreciation, telling them you are praying for them, encouraging them, sharing specific ways that your life has been touched by their ministry. In other words, they need to know that their labor is not in vain and that there are faithful, caring people in their corner.

2) The leader’s wife bears the weight too. The typical church leader’s wife loves the church and ministry just like he does. She often does much of what helps his ministry to be helpful for the church. She involves herself in counseling, women’s ministry, children’s ministry, music ministry, discipling or mentoring, etc. But she’s not the one getting paid. Let that sink in for a moment. She does everything she does, for all those people, without any compensation. Yet, it’s not uncommon for her to be expected to be the female counterpart to the Pastor or Elder while not being given the same respect, honor, or reward and acknowledgment that he is. Her faithfulness and involvement is assumed much of the time, while as a person she is often unnoticed and underappreciated. Church, if you have a Pastor or Elder’s wife who loves the Lord and loves the church, you have a treasure beyond value! Don’t forget her. Don’t neglect to value her. Don’t be remiss in encouraging her, thanking her, telling her how you pray for her, being her support. She needs it. The typical church leader’s wife gets discouraged more quickly and more easily than the leader himself… perhaps because she’s doing it all with no “payback” (salary, notoriety, etc.). Don’t cause her to languish under the burden of her generous service. Come alongside.

3) Church leaders need consistent care from the church family. Love or appreciation is never able to be stored up to be saved for a rainy day. It’s like the manna God have the Israelites in the wilderness, it has to be provided anew almost daily. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not that your leaders are pitifully-needy people, but they are human beings. They need the grace of God’s encouragement that comes through the means He’s appointed, which is you, church. Your leaders need your encouragement and support regularly. That’s how God keeps them afloat. If they don’t get it, weariness WILL set in. Discouragement WILL set in. And neither of those will do any good for any of you.

4) Ask yourself some hard questions.

  • Do I seek to be friendly to the leaders in my church?
  • Do I seek to show interest in their lives?
  • Do I inquire how I can specifically pray for them, and follow up on those requests with care?
  • Do I pray for them and with them?
  • Do I tell them I am praying for them?
  • Do I tell them specifically what I’m praying for them?
  • Do I ask about their struggles and/or lives in a compassionate, encouraging way?
  • Do I consider how I can spur them on in their work and life?
  • Have I ever considered asking my leaders how I can be of encouragement or help to them?
  • Do I find practical, loving ways that I can express my appreciation for them?
  • Do I see my leaders only as resources for my benefit or as brothers and sisters in Christ who need my encouragement?
  • Am I allowing my own social awkwardness or insecurity to keep me from affirming or appreciating my spiritual leaders?
  • Am I consistent in my affirmation and encouragement of my leaders?  How can I become more consistent?
  • Can I find ways to regularly appreciate the wives of my church leaders?
  • What am I going to DO about this issue?
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