Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Encouragement from a Pastor’s Perspective

Leslie Basham: Pastor Crawford Loritts feels like so many people try to get their pastor to support their agenda. But what would happen if church leaders approached their pastors like this:

Pastor Crawford Loritts: “All right, pastor, here’s what’s on my heart: How can I contribute and adjust this to make sure that I’m maximizing my contribution to where the church is going?”

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 5.

October has been designated Pastors’ Appreciation month, so today we’ll focus on encouraging church leaders. In a few minutes, Crawford Loritts will share a pastor’s heart. He’ll show you some practical ways to encourage God-given leaders in your church.

First we’ll hear from Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She’s taking us to Scripture to show us why it’s so important to encourage our pastors.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I want us to look today in the book of Hebrews chapter 13. We’re going to look at three different verses in that passage that talks to us about our responsibilities toward our leaders.

Hebrews chapter 13, and we’ll begin in verse 7—Hebrews 13, verse 7: The writer says, “Remember your leaders.” Now some of your translations will say, “Remember those who rule over you.” That word leaders and rulers, it can mean the same thing. “Remember your leaders; remember those who rule over you, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

Now, again, in this passage we see three responsibilities of the leaders. What are they to do? They’re to lead or shepherd or rule over the flock. They are to be servant leaders.

And second, they are to speak or teach the Word of God. That’s their responsibility: speak the Word of God to us.

And then, they are to provide a faithful, godly example for the flock to follow. They’re to live a life of faith and purity and an example that they can say to us, as the apostle Paul did to the Corinthians, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

So those are their responsibilities—to lead, to teach the Word of God, and to provide a faithful, godly example for us to follow.

Now, what are we to do? Well, we are to remember these people. We are to learn from the lives of godly leaders. And I think it’s talking here about not only present leaders but past ones. And that’s why I sometimes take time to reflect back on leaders that God has put in my life over the years, some of them are now with the Lord, but I remember them. I remember the example of their lives.

We’re to imitate their faith. That means we’re to emulate godly characteristics in the lives of those who have taught us the Word of God. And I’m so thankful that God has given me pastors over the years who have been men of integrity, men of godly character. I look on the lives of those pastors and leaders of the church I attend now, and I say, “There’s an example for me to follow. I need to follow that example. I need to emulate their lives.”

Now the writer to Hebrews goes on to say in verse 8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teaching.” I think in the context this is saying, “Remember that leaders come and leaders go, but there’s one leader who stays the same: Jesus who never changes. Put your trust in Him. Follow the example of the leaders, but remember your ultimate leader is Christ. Set your hope in Him. He’s the only one who will never fail you.”

And that, by the way, is a protection against being carried away by false teachers and wrong doctrines, to evaluate everything you hear in light of what you have learned from God’s Word, what you have been taught by faithful ministers of the Word of God.

Now move down to Hebrews chapter 13 to verse 17, verses 17 and 18, Hebrews chapter 13. The writer says, “Obey those who rule over you,” or those who guide you. Obey those who guide you. The New American Standard says, “Obey your leaders and be submissive for they watch out for your souls as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.”

Now the implication here is that spiritual leaders in the church have a God-given responsibility to lead, to guide, to rule over the flock. They have been invested with the authority of Christ who is the Chief Shepherd. When they lead, they represent Him.

Now, it’s an enormous responsibility they have to represent Him well, to guide on His behalf. They will have to give account for how they lead or how they rule and for the spiritual condition of their flock. That’s a heavy responsibility. That’s why we need to pray for these men. They will give account for our spiritual condition.

They’re responsible to watch over our souls, but what’s our responsibility?—to follow, to obey their teaching, to submit to their leadership and their spiritual authority. We will have to give account for how well we follow, for how well we have submitted to their teaching.

Now, you say, “Well, that seems really obvious.” If you look around today, you’ll find many churches where it doesn’t work this way, where the congregation rules the leaders. And that’s why I think it’s important to note that biblically the leaders are the ones who are supposed to lead. The congregation is not to rule over the leaders. That’s not biblical.

And what happens in these churches in these congregations. There’s this little power core in so many churches today—little churches, big churches—where people are stubborn, they’re self-willed, they’re, in many cases I think they’re maybe not even believers. They may be tares in among the wheat, but at best, they’re carnal. They’re stubborn. They’re self-willed, and they have to be in charge. So they keep their thumb on top of that pastor, on top of those leaders. “You have to do it my way.”

This passage is saying, “Let the leaders lead. Let them be the leaders. They have to give account to God, and what do we have to do?—to be responsive, to be responsive to our spiritual leaders, to follow their teaching.

Now, we’re assuming that their teaching is from the Word of God. We’re not talking here about blind obedience. We’re not talking about a cult where you follow your leader to the point of where you drink cyanide and commit mass suicide. That’s not biblical.

They’re responsible to be teaching from the Word of God, and we need to be searching the Scriptures and making sure that ultimately we are obeying the Word of God. But assuming we have a pastor who’s teaching the Word of God, we are to follow their teaching. We are to listen to their teaching. We’re to heed their biblical counsel.

When your spiritual leaders stand before God, as they will one day, to give account for their flock, for your life, will they be able to do it with joy? They’re going to have to say to the Lord, “I’ve shepherded this flock. I did it to the best of my ability.” Will they be able to do it with joy, or will they have to do it with grief, as the Scripture says?

They’re charged with watching for your soul. Are you following in such a way that when they give account, they will be able to say, “Lord, here are the souls of the people I’ve watched over. Here’s the flock You gave me. I’m bringing them to You, and they’re in good condition”?

And when you stand before God to give account, as you will one day, will you be able to say, “Lord, I’ve followed the spiritual leadership that You put into my life, the pastors, the teachers, the leaders, the elders, the deacons, and other spiritual leaders—parents, husband”? Did you follow the leader?

Ultimately, again, let me just say our leader is Christ. We’re not talking about blind obedience. But God has blessed so many of us with spiritual leaders who have a heart for God. They love the Lord. Are we making it easy for them to lead us spiritually, or do we make it hard? Are we supporting them? Are we lifting up their hands?

The apostle Paul said of the Thessalonians, “What is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”

I want my spiritual leaders to be able to say that about me, that I am a glory and a joy to them, that I am a blessing to them, that I make their job easy, that I make their job a joy, that I lift them up, and that I respond to their teaching and respond to their leadership, and that it makes their job of shepherding a joy.

Leslie: Are you a joy to your pastor? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been showing you how to encourage those in leadership at your church.

Nancy talked with Pastor Crawford Loritts about this at Revive ’11, a conference Revive Our Hearts hosted for women’s ministry leaders. Nancy wanted to ask Crawford first-hand what it’s like to be a pastor and how women can encourage God-given leaders.

Nancy: I want to just, as we’re standing here, take a few minutes to let him say any practical words of encouragement or wisdom or exhortation that he would have for us as a pastor, coming from a pastor’s heart. Ladies, we need to listen to God’s men that He has put in positions of pastoral and elder spiritual leadership, and we have one here today.

So, Pastor Crawford Loritts, just shepherd us for a few minutes here. First of all, just a word of encouragement about women’s ministry, what difference can it make. From your perspective, how can it bless the local church?

Pastor Loritts: Yes. I think it’s huge. It is everything that we need as pastors, just to see the women in our church align to vision and to where the church is going and to have proactive allies among the women.

Try as we might, there are significant gender differences, and, I’m a pastor, but I’m a man, and I need someone on our team to help me to speak female and to help shepherd the hearts of our women. So it is really, really huge.

We have a women’s ministry director at our church, and she does a great job of nurturing and helping. She often will whisper in my ear, “Crawford, you need to think about doing these things.” And she’s a part of our team in helping us with our strategy. So I think it’s excellent.

The greatest thing that you can do for your pastor and for your church—and this comes across as a cliché—but to make it a top priority to pray. Pray for your pastor. Pastors are human. We’re not the fourth member of the Trinity. There’s a lot on our plate, and sometimes we can come across, when we have vision for something—and I’ve been there—when we have vision for something. The problem is sometimes the vision gets a little bit disproportionate in how you present it to him.

In other words, our vision then, therefore, becomes the only thing that the church does. And so what ends up happening is you think he’s being defensive—and he might be.  You know, we’re only human. He might be—but you think he’s being defensive, and you need to know that when you walk out of his office, there are other issues that are coming across his desk. There are other needs. There are student ministry needs. There are needs with single parents; there’s issues there.

So think in terms of you being a part of the whole, and understanding that your role is to contribute to the vision, not just to leverage what you’re doing. Do you follow what I’m saying? So when you think that way, you approach things as an ally and not as a squeaky wheel that’s trying to get some oil.

Nancy: Did you get that? Do you need any more clarification?

So, as you think about the women’s ministry in your church—I know Karen’s been real active in ministering to women, too—what are some ways that we as women can lift up the hands of, encourage, support, bless pastors, spiritual leaders in the church?

Pastor Loritts: I think the very first question you should always ask your pastor is, “Pastor, what’s on your heart?”

Nancy: Rather than, “Pastor, here’s what’s on my heart”?

Pastor Loritts: Exactly. I’ve got to be a steward of where we’re going as a church, what our vision is. Okay? I can’t get away from that.

But I have to come alongside of the people that are called there, and I’m assuming that God’s given them incredible pieces to help translate that vision a reality. So my role as a leader is to come to them and ask them, “What’s on your heart? How can I remove the barriers, the roadblocks from you?”

So I view my role that way, too. Now, it works both ways. You need to come to your pastor and ask the question—let’s stand back a little bit. Let’s get up to 30,000 feet. “Where are we going as a church? What’s on your heart? What’s on the hearts of the leaders here? All right, Pastor, here’s what’s on my heart. How can I contribute and adjust this to make sure that I’m maximizing my contribution to where the church is going?

Too many people are looking for a platform to leverage their ministry rather than an opportunity to fulfill the mission, and I think there’s a different way of thinking, and I don’t think any pastor in his right might . . . in fact, home boy might fall over dead if you came to him like that. He’d go, “Whoa! Where did that come from?”

Don’t wait, don’t assume, don’t assume hostility. Now, pastors can be insecure. Pastors can be a very high threat.

Nancy: Of course, women’s ministries, they are never insecure.

Pastor Loritts: No . . . well, I’ll let you speak to that.

Nancy: I think we’re all insecure, right?

Pastor Loritts: Right. Well, we bring our stuff with us, but I think if you invest more than you withdraw from him, you’d be surprised at the ally that you’d have.

Nancy: Boy, that’s worth writing down. If you invest more than you withdraw from him, you’ll be surprised at the ally that you might have.

It sounds like you’re really talking about a servant’s heart.

Pastor Loritts: Absolutely.

Nancy: That’s what you were saying last night.

Pastor Loritts: Absolutely. It’s taken me years to get there. I’m hard headed. I’m driven. The stuff that I speak on strongly is because I’ve been to God’s woodshed about it. So let me just tell you that.

But you’ve got to get to a place where you truly believe that nobody’s going to take anything from me, and stop making your ministry personal. Don’t make it a statement of your own significance and value, and when you think cause, you think contribution, you think kingdom—it is amazing how fulfilled you ultimately will become.

Nancy: We have hundreds of pastors’ wives here. I wish Karen could be here this weekend, and Karen wishes she could be here.

Pastor Loritts: So do I. I’m nervous as all get out. I’m afraid Nancy’s going to ask me something and I go, “I don’t know.”

Nancy: How can women in the church—because a lot of us are leading women’s ministries—how can we be an encouragement and a blessing to our pastors’ wives?

Pastor Loritts: Yes—reduce your expectations of her. That’s where it all begins.

Nancy: I think I heard some “Amen’s” out there. That’s where all the hundreds of pastors’ wives are, right?

Pastor Loritts: Now, I want to say something to the pastors’ wives, and please, please don’t hear this as sounding male locker roomish, okay? But I need to say this: One of the hard lessons I’ve learned in life and in leadership is that people will treat you the way you let them treat you. I don’t mean that bullish in any way. But I think pastors’ wives . . . what I would suggest to you is to project the way in which you expect people to treat you.

Set some healthy boundaries and take the pressure off of yourself of having to match your husband’s public gifts. You don’t necessarily have to do that. You need to be free to do what God’s called you to do and your husband needs to make sure that he tells the elders or the leaders of the church, “No, you hired me. You didn’t hire my wife. And she’s not expected to be all of this stuff. Give her freedom to be who she needs to be.”

I think as women’s ministry leaders, frankly, you ought to accept her for who she is. She doesn’t have to be on the women’s leadership council. She doesn’t have to be . . .  just accept whatever she brings to the table. She’s your sister that happens to be married to the pastor. 

So I think everybody needs to chill on this and tamp things down and stop having this sorority mindset of Christian leadership in the church and this cookie cutter thing, and stop putting more pressure on people than God intended for them to have.

I wish the men were here because I think this is more problem of the husband taking leadership with his wife and telling her, “Sweetheart, you just go be what God called you to be, and you ride as fast as you can on the bicycle that’s been given to you, and don’t let anybody else give you another bicycle.”

Nancy: Okay, before Pastor Crawford heads to the airport and back to his church in Atlanta, you’ve got a thousand women here serving in the local church. Anything else you’d to say from a pastor’s heart to us?

Pastor Loritts: The only thing I would say to you is this . . . Shane Freeman, who was one of the guys on our staff, he’s a remarkable young man, great preacher, adult ministries pastor . . . I heard Shane say the other day, “The greatest gift that you can give to those around you is a healthy, godly you.” And that would be what I would say.

Let’s make sure we have vision, but let’s put the vision down here. Let’s put the walk with God here. It’s everything. And out of your healthy walk with God, there will be the overflow of ideas and vision, and God will use you in ways that you’d never even dreamed possible.

Nancy: How can we pray for our pastors—for you and for our pastors?

Pastor Loritts: To be a pastor—and I don’t care what size church it is—I would argue if it’s less than 500, it’s even more stressful—seriously. So no matter what size church it is, to be a pastor, in certain ways, it’s an undoable job. So I think what we need to do is pray God’s protection for your pastor. Pray that he would have God’s priorities in terms of what he does. Pray that he will give out of the overflow of his walk in relationship with God.

And pray that he will give the people around him the gift of a sanctified “no”—that there’s some things that he just can’t do, and that he’ll say it without guilt. All of us as pastors—we wrestle with that. We absolutely wrestle with that.

So I think to pray for them—and you can pray for me. I pastor a wonderful church—just absolutely wonderful. Those folks love me, and I don’t know why, and I love them. It is great. God’s at work in our church, but we’re like every other church. God has so much more for us, and it seems like here in recent years, my heart for revival has just really been pounding.

We’ve got to break out of this cultural Christianity stuff, this kind of like industry phase of Christianity, and seek the reality of the manifest presence of God—I’ve been preaching a lot about that. In fact, that seems to be the backdrop of almost every message I’ve been giving here lately.

So pray for our church. If the church in the United States would experience an outpouring of the Spirit of God, there’s no telling what could happen around this world.

Leslie: Crawford Loritts will be right back to pray.

That conversation between Pastor Loritts and Nancy Leigh DeMoss took place at Revive ’11. Revive Our Hearts hosted that conference for women’s ministry leaders. We wanted to air that conversation today since October has been designated Pastors’ Appreciation Month.

I hope you’ll do something to show how thankful you are for the pastors at your church, and one of the best ways you and the members at your church can encourage your pastor is to pray. We’d like to help by sending you a 50-pack of the brochure “31 Days of Praying for Your Pastor.”

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll show our thanks by providing these brochures for you to read and share with other members of your congregation. Just call with your donation to 1-800-569-5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, Nancy Leigh DeMoss says it would be very difficult to only pray part of the Lord’s Prayer. Each line leads into the next. She’ll describe why on Monday.

To close our time, let’s get back to Crawford Loritts and Nancy Leigh DeMoss from Revive ’11.

Nancy: Brother Crawford, would you just pray for us?

Pastor Loritts: Sure.

Lord, will You release and unleash Your vision in the hearts and lives of these women? Lord, will You give them incredible kingdom ventures and ideas that will advance the cause of Christ? And at the same time, Father, may we all know the warmth of Your presence, Oh, Lord. May we give out of the fresh overflow of encounters with God.

May You be the dearest and nearest person to our lives and in our lives. And, Lord, may people not just know us for what we accomplish for the kingdom, but may they sense that we really love Jesus. Lord, have Your way through us and use us we pray, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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