Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Pastors Talk About Church

Leslie Basham: Pastors and their wives can do a lot, but they can’t do everything. Here’s pastor’s wife, Holly Elliff.

Holly Elliff: Sometimes, it’s overwhelming. There are so many needs, and you can’t fix those needs. I have to say to women all the time, “I wish I could fix this for you, but I can’t. I can tell you what God’s Word says, but I can’t bring immediate solution to your problem or your issue.

Leslie: It’s October 20th, Pastors Appreciation Month, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

All this month we’ve been helping you honor your pastor and his wife. You’ve had a chance to order the Pastor’s Wife Gift Set. It’s a one of a kind gift that includes a new book from Nancy, gourmet teas, a mug, and some other special things.

Nancy’s also taught a series called How to Listen to a Sermon. She’s been encouraging you to give your pastor a new level of attention and thoughtfulness. You can hear this series and order the gift package at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Why are we making such a big deal about pastors? Because being a pastor is a difficult, yet crucial job. You may not see all the challenges your pastor faces, but today, you’ll hear from a panel that will help you understand how to be encouraging at your church. Here’s Nancy to get us started.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re doing something on Revive Our Hearts today that I don’t think we’ve ever done before. We’re doing an interview, which is not unusual, but seated around this table with me are six other individuals. In fact, we had to do some scrounging to come up with enough mikes, mike stands, and equipment to get everyone around this table.

As we’ve been talking about how church members can minister and be a blessing to their pastors, the pastor’s families, church staff members; I thought it would be fun to just talk with some pastors and their wives about their perspective on what is an encouragement and a blessing to them.

Joining me in the studio today are three couples who are special friends of mine from the Little Rock area. Bill and Holly Elliff have been long time friends; we go back a long way. Bill is currently the pastor of the Summit Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bill and Holly have eight children, and God has given them a heart and a love for reaching people and for discipling people. They’re both actively involved: Bill is a pastor, preacher, and elder of a church, and they are also in one-on-one ministries in people’s lives.

Then there are two couples from The Bible Church of Little Rock. Lance Quinn is the pastor of The Bible Church of Little Rock and his wife’s name is Beth. Lance and Beth have become dear friends of mine since I began recording Revive Our Hearts in Little Rock several years ago. They also have eight children.

That was not a criterion to be on this program today, but it just so happens that both of these couples believe that children are a blessing. That certainly adds to the complexity of your lives as a pastor and wife when you have not only the flock to shepherd there at The Bible Church of Little Rock but also a good-sized flock that you shepherd in your home. Thank you for being with us here today.

Then I have Tim and Hannah Senn. Tim is the pastor of student ministries at The Bible Church of Little Rock and has been there over seven years. His wife Hannah also has a huge heart for those young people. They have four children.

Last Sunday night the youth lead the worship at The Bible Church of Little Rock. I was in that service. Tim and Hannah, it was such a blessing to see the heart of so many of those young people and hear their testimonies and see how God has used you in discipling those young people. Thanks to all of you for joining us today on Revive Our Hearts. I’m looking forward to our discussion.

I want to start out by reading something somebody sent me by email last night. It said:

After hundreds of years, a model preacher has been found to suit everyone. He preaches exactly 20 minutes and then sits down. He condemns sin, but never hurts anyone’s feelings. He works from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM in every type of work, from preaching to custodial service. He tithes weekly to the church and stands ready to contribute to every good work that comes along.

He is 26 years old and has been preaching 30 years. He is tall and short, thin and heavyset, and handsome. He has one brown eye, one blue, hair parted down the middle—the left side dark and straight, the right brown and wavy. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all his time with older folks. He smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls a day on church members, spends all his time evangelizing the unchurched, and is never out of the office.

Bill Elliff: Where did you find that bio on Lance Quinn? (laughter)

Nancy: As I read that I thought, “We laugh, but it’s kind of sad, too, because it depicts that there are expectations for pastors, pastor’s wives, and youth pastors. We could throw in there, worship and music leaders. Everything—a perfect combination of all qualities of pastors. Do any of you ever feel a sense of expectations that are not totally realistic from some of the people in your church?

Lance Quinn: Only daily. It’s an amazing thing to be in pastoral ministry because while no one would ever listen to a list like that and say, “Yes, that’s right. That’s my expectation.” Subtly, it happens like that all the time. When you are in pastoral ministry for any length of time, you realize that those expectations are often completely unrealistic. You discount them for the most part because there’s no way you can live that way.

What you try to do is do what the Lord has called you to do—to be faithful to the Word, to be faithful to your wife, to your children, and to develop a ministry mindset that says, “I know automatically that I’m not going to please everyone. I cannot try to do that. If I do, I’m going to frustrate myself, and I’m going to frustrate everybody around me.” I’ve got to be faithful to what the Word of God says: be a faithful pastor.

Nancy: Now, I know that all of you are couples who love the church where God has placed you, and you have congregations who love you. What are some of the expectations that you’ve run into from time to time that you’ve found to be not very realistic?

Bill: I think one of those is: The pastor is everywhere all the time.

Nancy: That would make him—God.

Bill: That would make him omnipresent—absolutely! We’re everything but that. If you’re not at the bedside of every person . . . Honestly, I think when I pastored a church of 120 I could do that. But if the Lord blesses you with the opportunity to be in a larger setting, that’s absolutely impossible! You have to—of course—develop other ways to shepherd that flock. You still have . . . We need to tend to the needs of people.

But the old mindset of thinking that one man has to be there at every point is, I think, an unrealistic expectation. I think another one is: The pastor can sacrifice his family on the altar of ministry. It’s very, very easy to do that. Because of a man-fearing spirit—honestly—we would prefer others over the needs of our family. I’ve come to the point, a lot of times, where I just have to say to people: “I have appointments.” I don’t divulge what all those are, but they are critical appointments.

Time with God is an appointment. Time with my family is an appointment, and it has to have a place of priority.

Nancy: Now, people in your churches probably would not say, “We expect you to sacrifice your family. But what are some of the ways that people in a congregation might, in effect, put pressure on their pastor or their youth pastor, to sacrifice their families?

Tim Senn: Well Nancy, I can talk about youth ministry a little bit. Certainly, the calling of God on a man to minister to students is a strong calling. I believe my wife has been called as well, to be my wife and to minister with me. But often times there is a large expectation that she’ll be everywhere: at every event, every retreat, every mission trip, or every outreach that we do. But with four small children, that’s just not always possible.

Her heart is to be at every event, to disciple young girls, and to do all that she can to support me. But really, I think that some people expect out of pastors that their wives are kind of a “package deal” with the pastor.

Nancy: The fact is: If your family is what God wants it to be, you’re going to be better as a pastor, a youth pastor, or a wife. If your family is crumbling and the priorities there, aren’t met; ultimately, you’re not going to be as effective.

Tim: That’s right. What our wives do really free us up for ministry in a way that would not be possible if there were distractions at home or if things just weren’t going well at home. It’s a great encouragement to have a wife that’s capable. You know that things at home are going to be handled in a trustworthy manner.

Lance: One thing, I think too, to answer your question . . . There are a lot of people who, as you said, would not expect you to sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry. But what they do is that they become so myopic themselves. They think so deeply about their problems, their issues, their life; that they sometimes lose their own sense of discernment about your life.

Because their problem is so large, because their issue is so gargantuan, they will assume that any time they call you or any time they see you, they can walk up to you and talk to you about the issues of their life. They assume that you don’t have any other responsibilities because they’re so focused on trying to get their problems solved.

Sometimes that discernment will need to be corrected and you’ll need to say to them, very lovingly, but very honestly: “I’m really not going to be able to talk right this moment. Can we talk at some other point?" Or, "I’ve got to be home for dinner with my family.”

I’ve got to be able to do the things that I’ve been called to do, like Bill said a moment ago. I’ve got an appointment for the study of the Word; I’ve got an appointment for prayer time with God, or I’ve got an appointment that really calls me to do something that transcends that relationship at that moment.

Now, if the pastor doesn’t ever come out of his office and he doesn’t ever come out of those times in which ministry will need to occur—during his studies, as he prays—then he’s not being a faithful shepherd. So there’s a balance. But people need to trust us that we’re trying to work through that balance in our own lives. Of course, we’re not going to perfectly balance those things, but we do try to minister to people. We just need to have patience as we minister to them.

Bill: Well, the reality is: A lot of times we bring it on ourselves. There’s both sides of this. One is people’s expectation and the other is your passion for ministry. You see these needs—you want to go meet them and go after it. I think all of us care about people, love people, and want to be used of the Lord.

It’s interesting to me that one of the things that happens is, people are in crisis—let’s say in their family . . . Well, the crisis has been going on for two years and they won’t respond to possible counsel that’s been given, teaching that’s been given. Then, all of a sudden, when it reaches tsunamic proportions in their life, they can be offended that you don’t drop everything and come right now—at 8:30 or midnight.

I think there are times when you absolutely need to do that—when you immediately drop everything and go. We don’t negate that. But I’ve found a lot of times that things can wait a couple of days or 24 hours, if it’s a need that’s been there for a while. They don’t quite understand that.

Holly: I think part of what Lance is saying, and what Billy just touched on also . . . It reminds me of one afternoon. I think I’ve mentioned this to Nancy before. I was standing in my den, and all eight of our children were in there. I had been gone for a while and I had come back home. They all had something they needed me to respond to, answer, or do for them. I found myself backing up into a corner as they were all coming at me like little birds. They all had a question, and each of them believed that their problem or their issue was the most important thing right at that moment.

I think that’s what happens lots of times, as we’re ministering to people. As Lance said, in their mind, that is the most important issue in their life. But they don’t realize that we also have lots of other people who also have an issue that they think is critical at that moment.

Sometimes, it’s overwhelming. There are so many needs, and you can’t fix those things. I have to say to women all the time, “I wish I could fix this for you, but I can’t. I can tell you what God’s Word says, but I can’t bring an immediate solution to your problem or your issue.”

I think that being almost overwhelmed by the magnitude of the need sometimes is a real difficult thing for folks in ministry. It is hard to know: What do I respond to? What do I wait on? What do I have to go to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to give me wisdom on this.” I think that occurs all the time in ministry.

Lance: There are also people in all of our churches and all of our fellowships who may not be so myopic—in the sense of their own needs and so focused on that. There are other people in the church who don’t express themselves. These people have expectations that they think the pastor needs to “omnisciently” figure out—and they can be hurt. There can be frustration; there can be gossip; there can be innuendos that “The pastor is not meeting my needs. He’s not ministering to me.”

It may be that the pastor has no idea what that need is because it’s never been expressed. You could probably, in some of those cases, genuinely ask the question: “Does anyone in the church know about your problem?” If they don’t, “How can they minister to you?”

We just had an illustration of this just this past Sunday. There was a precious couple in our church who were moving away. We found out just this morning—a couple of days later after the service—that they were terribly hurt because we did not publicly recognize their departure. In our leadership meeting, we all looked around at each other and said, “Did anyone know? Did anyone know that this was going to be their last Sunday?” We all realized collectively, no one had known.

I had the opportunity to talk with them and say: “I’m so sorry. We did not know that there was any level of expectation, and we did not have any knowledge of this. We would have done something.” Sometimes, you have to be a sleuth; you have to be a detective just so people know that your desire is to minister to them effectively.

Beth Quinn: I have several good friends at the church who have taken it upon themselves to make sure that they call me and let me know of needs that I may not know about. “Did you realize that so-and-so just went in to have her baby this morning?” “Oh thank you, I didn’t know that.” Or, “Did you realize that so-and-so has been sick for a couple of days?”

They know that it’s important for me to know those things, and yet I can’t know everything. So that’s an encouragement to me—that they would think enough about me and know that that would be an encouragement to me—to call me and let me know about some needs that I really want to minister to but would not otherwise have known.

To bounce off of something else that Lance said . . . It has been a great encouragement for us when someone does have a concern either about one of our children or something that we’ve done. Instead of those people stewing about it or maybe even gossiping about it, it’s such an encouragement when they come to us and say, “Can we sit down and talk with you about this?” “We saw,” for instance, “one of your children doing something. I wanted to talk to you about this.”

We just say, “Thank you so much for loving us enough to come to us and share a concern with us before it gets out of hand or turns into a rumor or gossip.”

Nancy: Do you think it surprises people—sometimes—that as a couple or as a family you would have problems or issues of your own?

Beth: Yes, and I think often times they’re afraid to come to us. Maybe afraid that we might respond in a wrong way or maybe just hoping that someone else would do it. But sometimes that doesn’t always happen. It’s an encouragement to us when someone has come and said, “We want to talk to you about something.”

Nancy: So you’re really saying, “We’re members of this body, too.”

Beth: Exactly.

Nancy: We’re brothers and sisters and we need the body in our lives.

Beth: Yes.

Holly: Yes. And I think the key to that is where their heart is as they come.

Beth: Yes, yes.

Holly: Are they speaking the truth in love? Are they there because they genuinely love you and your children and want God’s best?

Beth: Right. Yes.

Holly: So I think that when the heart motivation is pure, that’s a wonderful thing.

Lance: It may be that the reason, Holly, that you’re saying that is because sometimes when people do come, we don’t know exactly what is their purpose for coming. How long have they thought about this? How many people have they spoken to before they’ve come to us? When you have people come, you want to assume—because of 1 Corinthians 13 (love believes all things)—that they’re coming with the right motives, but sometimes they also have unrealistic expectations about your children (verse 7, paraphrased).

Pastor’s kids are notoriously held up to a completely unrealistic standard. So much so that if our children do anything that is perceived by anyone as anywhere near to problematic, it can become almost a scandal.

It brings, sometimes, a great burden on our children. We have to sit down and work with them about how you respond to people who are looking at every move you make in the church. That’s difficult.

Bill: All of us want our kids to walk with Christ, be examples, and leaders. But it’s a phenomenal gift that a church member, a member of the body, can give to us as parents: to give our kids grace, just like they give their own kids—like they give somebody else’s kids.

Nancy: Doesn’t that highlight the importance, too, of people praying for your family; praying for your children?

Bill: Absolutely.

Nancy: I wonder if in the congregation people realize that the pastor’s family needs prayer as they raise their kids in the same way that you need prayer as you raise your kids. That it is going to be a work of God to have those kids have a heart for the Lord.

Leslie: If you’ve never thought about it before, I hope today’s program will inspire you to pray for your pastor’s kids. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with a group of pastors and their wives about the ways you can either discourage or encourage the shepherds at your church. This program wraps up a series called How to Listen to a Sermon.

If you missed any of it, you can order it on CD at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can be the one to spread this important message at your church. You could order some CDs for some friends or pass along the transcripts via email. Just visit ReviveOurHearts.com for more information.

October isn’t just Pastor's Appreciation Month. It’s also the time of year when our listeners receive a gift from Revive Our Hearts. It’s the Revive Our Hearts 2007 wall calendar. Each year our team designs a calendar that’s a real work of art.

This year the calendar includes quotes from Nancy’s book, Forgiveness. It’s our gift to you. You can get one free (per household) by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com or by calling 1-800-569-5959.

Breast cancer. What do you think about when you hear that phrase—maybe a feeling of sadness or dread? Maybe you just don’t want to think about it. Next week you’ll learn to associate that phrase with another important concept: God’s purpose and His glory. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Now let’s pray for our pastors. Here’s Nancy, to lead us.

Nancy: Lord, how I thank You for these three precious couples and so many others that I can think of who have pastored and shepherded my life over the years. Lord, as I have looked into the eyes of these couples, I thank You for them. I thank You for their faithfulness.

We hear so many stories about those who are not faithful and those who are doctrinally impure or those who are falling morally. Lord, that breaks our hearts. But we thank You that there are many who have not bowed their knee to the enemy; who have been faithful; who love You and who love Your Word. Many who are laying down their lives for Your sake—for Your kingdom’s sake and for the sake of Your Church.

I pray, Lord, that You would lift up their hands, that You would strengthen them for the work, that You would meet with them in their studies as they dig into the Word. I pray that You would minister to them in their own walk with You, and that they would not feed the flock at the expense of their own hearts and their own family’s hearts.

I pray for protection over their marriages. I pray, Lord, for the twenty children represented between these three couples and thank You, for the evidence—thus far, in the ones that are older—of the fact that they are seeking after You, and they are following You.

But Lord, I pray for every one of these children—without exception—that they would know Christ and walk with Him and follow Him. I pray that You’d call many of these kids into ministry themselves, that they will have seen something—as their parents are in the ministry—that will make them say, “That would be a joy.”

Lord, I pray that You would, in the churches represented here and in all the churches our listeners represent, Oh Lord, may You be glorified. May You give wisdom to the pastors, the deacons, and the elders.

I pray for churches where there are issues that could be seeds of dissention or division. Oh Lord, would You help these men to know how to deal with issues that occur in the church; issues where church discipline is needed? Would You give wisdom and courage and keep them from fear of man?

May they fear You more than they fear anyone or anything else. I pray that You’d provide for them materially. Thank You, Lord, that You’ve told us that we’re to minister to the material needs of those who minister to us spiritually.

Thank You for them; encourage them; strengthen them. Fulfill all of Your holy purposes in and through their lives. May they be able—as Hebrews says—one day to give account with great joy because we (their churches) have heeded the Word as it was preached to us through their lips and their lives (13:17, paraphrased). We pray, with thanksgiving in the name of Jesus, amen.

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

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