In God's design for the Christian life, we don't roam aimlessly from one pasture to the next. We're sheep who need guidance. We're sheep who need leadership. And God, knowing what we need, has given us shepherds to care for us, protect us, and love us. Though ultimately this role is fulfilled in the eternal Shepherd of His sheep, Christ Jesus Himself, God's good design also includes under-shepherds here on earth . . . otherwise known as pastors.
I'm among the many who have known the blessing of being cared for by shepherds who watch over their flocks with tenderness and love. Sometimes, as we reflect upon our pastor's love and care for us, we wonder how we can love our pastor well in return.
When my husband (my favorite pastor!) was ordained to be a minister of the gospel, one of the elders who ordained him, Pastor Paul Martin, spoke to our congregation and charged us with this: Beloved, let me give you this one charge: Love your pastor!
In this charge, Pastor Paul shared seven ways that a congregation can love their shepherd, and his words of encouragement are applicable to every local church context.
How to Love Your Pastor
1. Love his preaching.
He may not be the most remarkable preacher you ever hear, but I cannot find a single text of Scripture that suggests he should be. I see many texts that say he must be faithful, and I can tell you that nothing will encourage his deep study and prolonged faithfulness in the pulpit more than a people who love to hear God's Word preached. If you love his preaching, you should tell him.
You need not worry about puffing him up. There are far too many other things in his life to pop that bubble. But you will help him and strengthen him if you tell him how God is using his preaching ministry in your life. What's more, if you love his preaching, you will pray for his preaching. And if you get to praying for his preaching every week, then you better hang on for what the Lord is going to do.
2. Love his wife.
Few things will encourage your pastor more than when you love the one he loves most of all. Remember that she helps to carry his load but is not paid for it; she enables him to be hospitable, which he must be in order to preach; she carries the brunt of raising faithful children, which he must have in order to preach. Love, honor, encourage, and thank God for this woman.
3. Love his children.
There is a silent pressure on every pastor. It can weigh on him like a bag of wet cement . . . his children. He knows he is called to prioritize them and teach them the ways of God, but, like you, he has to learn all this on the fly while trying to have something to say to everyone else about how to do it! I have been in churches where things are not going well in a pastor's child's life.
Some of those churches know just what to do. They come alongside their pastor with encouraging words, and they actually get down on their knees and pray for that man's kids. If you are going to love this man, you will truly love his children. You will not judge them or hold them to some higher standard. You will expect they need to hear the gospel as much as the other kids in the church. You will love them for who they are.
4. Love him with your complaints.
Christians have a hard time with this, but I want to call you to it. We have lost the art of disagreement. We have become numb to the Scriptural texts that teach us to speak the truth in love. We are more discipled in our methodology by Jerry Springer than by the apostle Paul. But if you love this man, you will learn to come in all humility and speak privately to him of your concerns. You will not make snide remarks or gossip or spread disunity or hold resentments that spread into gangrenous bitterness. When you truly love someone, you can come to them quietly and submissively with honest questions and self-searching that allows for disagreements to lead to agreements.
5. Love him when you don't understand him.
It is an odd thing to be a pastor. We become involved in all the intricacies of others lives, and sometimes we know things about a person or a situation that we simply cannot divulge. Often, it is in these times when misunderstandings grow. Why aren't you doing this or putting a stop to that? Where were you when this happened? Why didn't you come when we asked? How come I have to wait so long to meet with you?
If you love him, you will hope all things! Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7). You will bless him even when he seems to go in a direction you find less than compelling. Love him when you don't understand him!
6. Love him for a long time.
A wise church will set her heart on loving her pastors for a long time. Not just putting up with them—but loving them. You must commit to loving him for the long term. You want a man to be here to bless your babies, baptize your believers, and bury your dead. You don't want a stranger to do that. If that is so, then you must commit to much more than tolerating this man. You must love him. Love him so much that he thinks to himself on his worst days, I'd be a fool to move on from here!
7. Love him because God loved you.
The final and great motivation for our love is never what it gets us—true love is seen in Christ. "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph. 5:1–2). Copy God. Do what He does. Be like Him. Walk in love. Yes, by all means, love one another. But remember to love your pastor, too.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:9–10).
What about you? What are some of the ways you love your pastor?