Give honor to whom honor is due. –Romans 13:7
The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. –I Timothy 5:17
In my denomination October is “Pastor Appreciation Month.” I suspect most of our churches work at observing it. In social media I see where pastor friends are expressing thanks for being recognized and honored.
It’s good to be appreciated.
But what if you aren’t?
What is a pastor to do when the time of appreciation comes and goes without one word of affirmation from his congregation? The denomination suggested everyone show appreciation to pastors and ministers on staff and the silence was deafening. The anniversary came and went without any recognition from the church.
Should he take the slight personally? Should he be offended? Take it as a sign that he should be looking for his next place of service?
A pastor said to me, “Is it all right if I feel hurt?”
I’m perhaps not the right one to answer this, as my pastorates all did a fair job of showing appreciation when it was called for. One church celebrated my tenth anniversary with a huge dinner at the city auditorium where the featured guests were people from my past who had influenced me–Sunday School teachers, my college president and his wife, classmates. Then, they presented my wife and me with all-expense paid tickets to the Holy Land. (I served only one other church more than ten years and don’t recall what they did. But I’m sure they did something.)
To the pastor who called me feeling under-appreciated, there are three points to be made. I offer them here humbly.
One. They should have.
The church should have shown appreciation. It’s right, it’s biblical, and it’s in their best interests to do so. The next pastor will be glad to come to a church that loves and appreciates its ministers.
Two. Show them how.
As the pastor, you are their lead teacher and in the best position to be teaching your people to show appreciation. You do this by leading them to honor others–staff members, veteran teachers, and others who have excelled in serving our Savior.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I drove hundreds of miles to a church in Tennessee that was honoring its minister of music on his twentieth anniversary. Since I had been pastor during his youth, I was given time in both morning services to speak. I told the congregation, “Honoring this good man and his wife speaks so highly of your church and of your pastor.” Anyone who has observed churches through the years will have noticed that many a pastor wants appreciation for himself but is slow to extend it to those who work alongside him.
A responsible pastor will make sure the church honors his colleagues in appropriate fashion.
Three. Their failure is not all bad.
From an eternal perspective, the fact that they did not show appreciation is probably in your best interest. It serves to remind you not to look to your people for your affirmation and support, but to the One who called you into this work in the first place. That might be a painful lesson, but a good one.
I’ve encountered far too many pastors who get their affirmation from the people in the pews. They rejoice when complimented on a sermon and mope when criticized for same. It’s human nature and we all get it. No one wants to be criticized, no one volunteers to suffer for Jesus. We want to please Him and to minister to His people, but something inside us insists that God’s faithful people should rejoice when we do well. But not all do.
I suspect many of our congregations judge a pastor by how well he meets their needs but without a clue that they should be caring for him.
The ultimate affirmation is still ahead.
Pastors appreciate the familiar story of the veteran missionary couple who were returning home from many years of serving God in Africa. On board the ship was a political celebrity with a vast entourage who were constantly celebrating the man. When the liner docked in New York, a crowd greeted the celebrity who was given a parade into the city with a marching band.
As the crowd moved off, the other passengers were able to disembark. As they exited the ship. the veteran missionaries looked around in search of a familiar face. Finding none, they could not control their sadness.
The minister said, “Lord, is there no one? No one to welcome us home after all these years?”
Just so clearly came the voice of the Lord: “Remember, my son. You’re not home yet.”
There is a homecoming awaiting the faithful of God. Those who serve well will be rewarded as only the Heavenly Father is able to do it.
And you’ll be so glad you were faithful.
You will be rewarded at the resurrection of the righteous. –Luke 14:14