Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to Encourage Your Pastor

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss on an important way you can serve your pastor.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Don’t be contentious; don’t stir up strife. God hates it when we stir up strife, disloyalty, or contention among His people. It may happen in the church, but don’t you be a part of it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 4.

Nancy’s beginning a two-day series called, Encouraging Your Pastor.

Nancy: As you may be aware, October has been designated as Pastor’s Appreciation Month, so as we come into that special month, I want us to take some time to look into God’s Word and talk about why it’s important to appreciate our pastors, and how we can express our appreciation for them.

I am so grateful for the many godly pastors and spiritual leaders that the Lord has put into my life over the years. I think about Pastor Earl Connors—he’s now with the Lord—he’s the man who baptized me when I was five years old. I have two memories of Pastor Connors, beyond my baptism.

One is his pastoral prayers on Sunday mornings. As a little girl, it seemed to me eternity had come when that man prayed. They seemed to be really long pastoral prayers, but I remember that now, some forty years later—him praying for his people.

Then I can remember when he would serve the Lord’s Supper—communion—and he would pass the plates to the deacons and elders at the front. After they would pass out the elements, he would quote memorized passages from the Old and New Testaments about the sacrifice, the body, the blood of Christ. I just have that memory of Pastor Connors washing the congregation with the Word of God and praying over us.

Then I think of Bill Hogan, the pastor that I grew up under for many years. He gave me such a love for the Word, built a foundation of God’s Word in my life, and instilled in my heart a love for the expository teaching and preaching of the Word. Bill and his wife, Jane, still are connected to my life. They pray for me and for Revive Our Hearts every day of the week, years later.

I think of so many others: spiritual leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth workers, music ministers, people who have ministered to my life, have shepherded my heart, have cared for my soul.

God’s leaders, what a blessing. By the way, I had a reminder this week regarding what a blessing they are. I got an email from one of the elders of my church saying that the elders had prayed together for me and for these recording sessions this week.

I was so encouraged and was motivated again to ask, “What can I do to be a blessing to those elders and to the pastors and to the leaders of our church.”

The Word of God identifies for us a number of requirements for those who are in positions of spiritual leadership. It tells us how they are to administer their duties, what their responsibilities are. But the Scripture also gives us some requirements for those of us who are called to follow their leadership.

It talks about the attitudes that we are to have toward our spiritual leaders and how we’re to act toward them, how we’re to treat them. I want to look at several of those New Testament passages over the next couple of days, and I want to challenge you to let God search your heart, and show you how well you are following the spiritual leaders that God has put into your life.

One of the most important passages along this line is found in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. So let me ask you to turn there. We want to look at verses 12 and 13. In this passage we see three responsibilities of leaders and three responsibilities of followers.

As I read these verses, see if you can pick out the responsibilities of leaders and the responsibilities of followers. Verse 12, “We ask you brothers to respect [or some of your translations will say know—to respect or know] those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”

Did you catch what the responsibilities are—first of the leaders? It says first that they are “to labor.” The New American Standard translates that as “diligently labor.” They are to “exhibit great effort and exertion,” John MacArthur says, “to the point of sweat and exhaustion.”

In other words, being a pastor or spiritual leader is hard work. They’re to diligently labor in the ministry. And then it says they are “over you in the Lord.” That means that they are supposed to lead; they are supposed to exercise authority. They’re supposed to provide direction and guidance and leadership for the flock of God. They are shepherds of the flock, and so they are to provide leadership.

And then it says they “admonish” you—some of your translations may say “instruct” you. They are to teach, admonish, not just giving people head knowledge, but for the purpose of life change. Their responsibility is to correct the sheep, the flock, when they see we’re going in the wrong direction.

They’re supposed to show us where we need to change and to warn us what will happen when we don’t change. So those are the responsibilities of leaders. Now, what’s really important for us to see in this verse is our responsibilities as followers.

What are they? First, we’re to respect or know our leaders, we’re to esteem them, and then thirdly, we’re to be at peace among ourselves, which I think speaks to the relationship between the people and the spiritual leaders. What are the first two responsibilities?

The first one is to respect or to know them, the second is to esteem them very highly in love. What does that mean, to respect, to know them. The word has to do with recognizing, appreciating them. First of all, we need to know who our spiritual leaders are.

Know, I assume you know who your senior pastor is, and you probably know who the other people on the pastoral staff are, although in some large churches today, it’s possible that you would not know who those people are. It’s important that we get to know who they are.

We also need to know who the deacons, the elders, the spiritual leadership of the church—whatever they’re called in your church—you need to know who they are. You need to know them well enough that you can be deeply grateful for how they serve the flock, well enough to respect them. We’re to respect or to know those who minister spiritually to us, those who care for our souls.

Then we are to esteem them very highly in love. That’s a strong term. It means to hold them in the highest regard. Now that’s the Scripture speaking. It’s not saying here that they are perfect.

We’re assuming that they’re human, that they are not yet glorified, we’re assuming also that they’re fulfilling their responsibilities, but it says here that we’re to hold them in the highest regard. Why? It doesn’t say because they have a great personality, it doesn’t say because we love their style. It says, “because of the work that they do,” because they fulfill these responsibilities before God.

I think it’s important not only that we have this heart attitude of respecting and esteeming very highly in love those who provide spiritual leadership for us, but we need to let them know that. We need to express to them that we esteem them, that we respect them, that we love them. That means we need to take time to recognize them, to identify the contributions they have made to our lives—to express appreciation and gratitude to our spiritual leaders for their labors on our behalf.

Do the spiritual leaders in your church know that you appreciate, respect, esteem and love them? You say, “I’m just one person in the congregation. They don’t care what I think.” You know what?Your attitude and your response to those spiritual leaders is important. Paul’s talking here to all the people in the church.

Do the spiritual leaders in the church know that you are fulfilling this responsibility? How can you do that? Well, say it for one thing, verbalize it. And then write notes, write cards, find ways to express your appreciation—birthday cards, anniversary cards . . .

And I’m talking here not just about the pastor, but about the youth pastor, the worship minister, the deacons, the elders, and of course their wives. It's so important to include their mates in this because they are together in ministry. Thank them. Say to your pastor what it is that you appreciated about a particular message, how God used it in your life. Don’t just keep it to yourself. Let him know. He needs that encouragement. Praise, affirm.

Thanksgiving is coming up, and I love sending Thanksgiving cards. Actually, I don’t send Christmas cards anymore because so many people do and I figure they don’t get as much attention, but I do send Thanksgiving cards. I thank people who are ministering and serving with me and who are leading my life spiritually.

“Thank you for your investment in my life.” Make sure you encourage their wives, and your pastor’s wife will be so encouraged, so blessed if you will minister to her, if the church will minister to her husband. And then let me just add this thought about respecting, esteeming your spiritual leaders, about esteeming them very highly in love’s sake.

One practical way to do that is to make sure you speak well of your spiritual leaders to others. That’s the positive way of saying it. Here’s the other way: don’t criticize them. Don’t be a gossip, don’t be a critic, don’t be evaluating the sermons—especially in front of your children.

Your children will pick up your attitudes toward spiritual leaders, and not only spiritual leaders in your church, but toward their teachers, toward other authorities, toward government authorities. The way you respond to spiritual authorities will have a huge impact on the way your children view your authority and the way your children respect other authorities.

Speak well of your spiritual leaders, not only to them, but to others as well. If you have a concern—and again I say, they’re just men, they’re human, they’re flawed—if you have a concern, tell the Lord about it. Pray about it, ask the Lord to deal with that issue.

Now, if there’s a violation of a biblical principle, there may be other steps that need to be taken, but you make sure that you are not creating dissension or disloyalty in the body of Christ, but that you’re speaking well of your spiritual leaders to others. Respect them, know them, esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.

And then we come to the third responsibility that’s found in that passage, where Paul says, “Be at peace among yourselves.” I don’t think I really ever thought about that verse before until I got into this study. I thought about this thing about being at peace among yourselves between pastors and people. It struck me that Satan delights in creating division and conflict in the church.

God has made the church to be a unity, to be one in the Spirit. And what does Satan do? He comes in and he tries to tear things apart. I see this happening all around me. It seems to happen in one of two ways: He goes to extremes. Either you have spiritual leaders who are not biblically qualified, or they fail to fulfill their biblical responsibilities. I’ve seen, and you’ve heard stories, about great moral failure or sin being covered up in the leadership, doctrinal error, abuse of power, abuse of authority. Those things are tragic, and I know that some of you perhaps have been in church situations where you’ve been really damaged by that kind of thing.

But I want to say, it’s not my responsibility to deal with those issues. God does not hold me responsible, and God does not hold you responsible for the sin of our spiritual leaders. We may be affected by it, and we may have to respond to it, but our responsibility is to fulfill what God has told us to do as followers, and that’s what we want to focus on.

And the other extreme I’ve seen Satan do is—not just sin in the spiritual leaders—but it’s sin in the members. It’s carnal church members who have to be in control, who stir up conflict when they don’t get their way. And let me say—and I want to say this graciously—it’s often caused by women . . . not always, but often. Women who are speaking when they should not be speaking, women who are creating disorder, who are out of order at times, not following biblical responsibilities if they have a concern to talk to their husbands first.

Sometimes as women with our tongues—we can talk more than men, generally—we can create all kinds of dissension and disunity in the church. That doesn’t let men off the hook, but that says we just need to be really careful. And so we see some of these churches that are characterized by strife, by conflict, throwing out pastors who are godly men . . . not perfect, but godly men.

Churches that are contentious, making it impossible for some pastors to lead the flock . . . I’ve said many times in recent years, I cannot imagine wanting to be a pastor today. So many churches make it so hard for men to pastor. There’s this general thing in our culture that’s against authority, that thinks nothing of speaking openly and outwardly about our disagreements with authority.

We’re not careful how we speak about authority. We don’t care about being respectful anymore to authorities. That’s in our whole culture. When that comes home to roost in the church, that can be a very devastating thing. I have seen many times in a number of recent situations where men of God have been rendered impotent, powerless, and ultimately just had to leave the church, because of the worst kind of gossip, disloyalty, pettiness, anger, division, hostility, attacks, public attacks, behind-the-scenes attacks, and so many times it comes down to carnality and control issues.

There’s this little control group in the church—“This is my church. I started it. I’m a charter member. I’ve been here longer. I’m twice his age . . ." These attitudes that are so ungodly can tear apart churches. I know that some of you in this room have been in the middle of some of those kinds of situations recently and have seen the danger that can happen.

I was made aware recently of a pastor in Georgia who has been in his church for fourteen weeks. It’s a church of about fifty people including children, little tiny church. Yet when there was a meeting called to denounce some of the pastor’s actions and activities after he’d been there fourteen weeks, one-hundred-fifty people showed up.

Some of them were church members who had not been to church for eons, but they came to voice their discontent, their dissatisfaction, and to discuss this controversy involving this pastor. Someone sent me, and you can see I have here a sheaf of papers, most of which are clippings from the local paper about this whole controversy.

Letters to the editor, there’s now a lawsuit involved—people suing the pastor—it’s an unbelievable thing—and I’ve read a number of these clippings. This whole things has turned so ugly, so much contention, accusations. Some of these articles talk about how gossipers have fueled rumors; they’ve fanned these rumors into flame.

There have been public accusations—some of these are outright lies. Some of these are petty things. Let me tell you what some of the accusations are: His sermons are too long. He was imported from the North—which in fact is not true—he grew up in the South. He mostly recently lived in the North, but that was one of the big things. He went to a seminary in California rather than one closer to home in the South. These are things that are being said publicly.

There are some other doctrinal concerns . . . people who obviously are not grounded in the Scripture, stirring up controversy and contention. And as I read these articles and as I think about some of these situations I’ve heard about recently, how the heart of God must be grieved, as He sees His church which He loves, for which He died, being torn apart. This is Satanic—this is not of God, when these issues are tearing apart the church of God.

This raises the question, “What about when things happen in my church that I really can’t respect or that I believe really are wrong?” A friend wrote me recently expressing her concern over a situation in her church.

Her church happens to be a well-known evangelical church, and there were some situations that took place in the church, actually involving her. The way they were handled was very disappointing and disillusioning to her. All I know is her side of the story. If her side of the story is accurate, my assessment would be, I would think the situation should have been handled differently.

I have to keep in mind that I only know her side of the story. I don’t have the perspective of the leadership of the church. But just taking her at face value, I want to share with you an email that I sent to her. This was my response to her and I think it will give some perspective about dealing with situations like this.

I said to her, “I was saddened to hear about the situation in your church. As I read your message, the passage that immediately came to mind was Psalm 118:8–9”—and by the way, those verses happen to be located precisely in the middle of the Bible; they’re two good verses to remember in a lot of situations.

They say, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” I said to her,

Your experience just confirms that the Lord is the only secure object for our trust. People will and do fail us, even the finest Christians and Christian leaders, ourselves included, have feet of clay.

We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world, and we have to respond to imperfect situations with humility, grace, compassion, and wisdom. Unfortunately, if you live long enough, there’s no way to avoid the kind of situations that you’re struggling with.

The challenge is to learn how to respond to those situations without sinning ourselves. Your situation is of particular interest to me right now because I’ve been developing a series for Revive Our Hearts on our biblical responsibilities toward those in positions of spiritual leadership, so I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about these kinds of issues.

The Lord will have to direct you regarding whether you should stay at your church. [She was saying, “Should I leave the church, what should I do?”] Remember, as you think and pray it through, that you will never find a church or church leadership without flaws.

And I want to remind you of that.

For one, you’re going to take your own sinful self. So if you find a perfect situation, once you get there, it will no longer be perfect. You’re not going to find a perfect situation this side of heaven. I said to her,

Regardless whether you stay or leave, I would encourage you to pray for your pastors and the whole team there at your church. I know enough about pastor so-and-so to know that he takes the Lord seriously and wants to be the man and the pastor that God wants him to be. Through your prayers, you can be a part of the sanctification process in the lives of these leaders.

You can help him become more of the man that God wants him to be by your prayers, which will be infinitely more valuable than your criticism.

Whether the Lord leads you to stay or leave, ask God to guard your heart and your tongue so you don’t develop a hard or bitter spirit, and so you don’t become an instrument of criticism or division in the church.

Hard as it may be, ask God to help you focus on and express gratitude for the many praise-worthy qualities that I’m sure exist in these men and in the church. 

Ultimately [here’s something else that’s important to remember], God doesn’t hold you responsible for what those men do, but only for how you respond to what they do. Finally, when you feel discouraged or disillusioned about the condition of a particular church or the church in general . . .

. . . as many do. Let me say, by the way, I was talking with a Christian worker the other day who works in a para-church ministry. She said she hadn’t been in church in ten years because she has been disillusioned by failures, faults, flaws in the church. I don’t know what they are—I know they exist—but she’s wrong in her response.  And I said to this friend that I was writing,

When you feel discouraged or disillusioned about the condition of a particular church or the church in general, I’d encourage you to go back to the Word and rehearse God’s plan and God’s love for His church.

I find that it helps to keep my eyes on the end of the story, the final outcome of the church is that she will be a beautiful bride, without spot or blemish or any such thing. Like it or not, the church—warts and all—is crucial to you and me becoming all God intended us to be. 

And I would just share those words of counsel with you. I don’t know what your church is like, I don’t know what situations are in your church, some of you are in tiny, little churches, some of you are in mega-churches, some of your churches are just going along at a great clip right nowand there’s no major contention in the church. But if you live long enough, you will be in a church situation where you will have the opportunity to be critical, to be negative.

I want to just encourage you that God’s Word says, “Be at peace among yourselves.” Don’t be contentious, don’t stir up strife. God hates it when we stir up strife, disloyalty, or contention among His people. It may happen in the church, but don’t you be a part of it. Don’t do it. Pray, ask the Lord to make you a peacemaker, and ask the Lord to show you how you can minister support and encouragement to the spiritual leaders of your church.

Leslie: Did you ever realize that the way you treat other believers affects your pastor? Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping us see things from your pastor’s point of view in this series called, Encouraging Your PastorWe want to help you encourage your pastor, and for you to spread this message to others in your church.

So, we’d like to send you a fifty-pack of a brochures called Thirty-One Days of Praying for Your Pastor. The brochure will help you pray more effectively, and you can share the rest at church and multiply those prayers.

When you donate to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll show our thankfulness by sending you the fifty-pack of the brochures. Call with your donation to 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation and take us up on this offer.

Pastor Crawford Loritts feels like a lot of leaders in the church try to get their pastor to support their vision rather than discovering the pastor’s vision. He’ll describe how to change that situation tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

 

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

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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