Love Your Pastor Well: How Sheep Care for Their Shepherds, Part 1
Pastors are called to shepherd their church well with joy in their hearts. The New Testament gives very specific lists of what is required for pastors in how they lead publicly down to how they manage their homes (1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1).
Underneath all we see them do on a Sunday morning - preaching God’s Word, ministering to the flock, the obligatory “I’m doing wonderful” statements, the “How can I pray for you?” questions… they are real people with real needs just like any other church member. They need encouragement. They need to be fed the Word of God. They have trouble sleeping at night. They have family drama. They need the church just as much as any other Christian.
In preparation for this two-part series, I spoke with several pastors (my own included) about what pastors need from their congregations. Their insights were extremely insightful and I’m so thankful for their leadership, humility, and devotion to God’s Word and His Church.
1. Pray for Your Pastor
The necessity of praying for our pastors cannot be overstated. Prayer is the lifeline of the Christian and in the local Church. As stated above, pastors are people too and need prayer for sustenance and perseverance in the ministry.
One of my pastors said it very well…
“One particular way of caring for pastors, one that has brought me much encouragement and demonstrates a genuine love not only for me, but for the entire church, is when I am asked, ‘How may I pray for you?’
When we consider that even Paul requested prayer and with a specific focus - for his much-needed assistance and the success of the work committed to him as a pastor. The greatness of the work a pastor is called to requires a strength that is far beyond his natural skills. It is a strength to persevere in the very real opposition against this work (physically, mentally, and especially spiritually), and the strength to genuinely care for the souls through the preaching of the Word as well as in the counsel sustained by the Holy Spirit. Knowing that fellow brothers and sisters are praying for their pastor in this manner not only blesses the pastor, but through their intercession, the entire body is edified as a result.”
Ask how you can pray for your pastors. It will encourage their souls.
2. Be Specific
For pastors, it can be troublesome to only hear, “Good sermon. Thanks, Pastor.”
The lack of specificity and the pastor not knowing exactly what was “good”, encouraging, convicting, etc. about his sermon can be confusing. Merely stating the sermon was “good” does not provide the pastor with specific feedback or let him know spiritual state of that person – how the sermon specifically affected that congregant, what moved him, what stirred him to seek Christ more, what he was going to do as a result of being convicted over sin, etc.
In giving feedback to your pastors concerning a sermon, be specific. Some things you can share with them include:
- What you were convicted about in his sermon and what you are going to do as a result of that conviction
- What you learned about God and the person and work of Christ
- What stuck out to you and how are you going to apply that specific piece of information.
This will be of great encouragement to your pastor and will help him walk closer with you as he learns where you are at spiritually. He will be better able to shepherd your heart.
3. Submit to Leadership
This is probably the most straightforward command given for churches in how they relate to their pastors (Hebrews 13:17). The sheep are commanded to submit to their shepherds.
Why are the sheep commanded to do this?
Because their shepherds are keeping watch over the souls of their flock as those who will have to give an account to the Great Shepherd.
Every pastor is held accountable by God for how he stewards the souls in his congregation – for good or for evil. If the pastor of your church takes this seriously, this is a huge weight to carry as he realizes the gravity of being held accountable for how he shepherds and guides his people toward holiness and Christlikeness.
A pastor walking in-step with the Spirit of God will lead his church in humility. Simultaneously, a congregation that is walking in-step with the Spirit will be submissive to the leadership of their pastors. This produces joy for both the leaders and the followers. Joy is the goal.
Church, when done rightly with leadership and submission, will be a joy-full place where God’s people gather.
4. Cultivate a Real Relationship with Him and His Family
Make an effort to know your pastors and their families. It’s no secret that pastoral ministry is a very lonely calling. Your pastor needs to be known. Their spouse needs to be known. Their children need to be known.
Most likely, they are so much in the “church spotlight” that it’s easy to forget they are people and have needs for deep relationships and need to be spiritually encouraged.
Hope, Joy, and Boasting
Paul tells the church at Thessalonica, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you?” (1 Thess. 2:19).
The church is the pastor’s hope, joy, and crown of boasting before the Lord Jesus Christ. If the pastor so feels this way towards the local flock, should not the flock, in response, seek to be an encouragement and joy to their pastors?
Pray for your pastors, be specific in what you learned through the sermon, express appreciation (often) for him laboring on behalf of the good of your soul, submit to his leadership, and press into him and his family in relationship. God will be honored when the church, as Christ’s body, builds itself up in love in this way.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas, TX, holds a BA in Religion, and is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.