(Officially, October was Pastor Appreciation Month. But I don’t imagine it’ll hurt if we encourage our ministers at other times. Reckon?)
Don’t anyone tell the preacher we’re all going to encourage him.
Let him think it was spontaneous on your part.
What I want you to do is something you’ve almost quit doing. No, I’m not talking about praying for him, although there is that.
Write him a letter.
Handwrite it. Make it two pages, no more. Make it positive and uplifting.
And when you do, I can tell you several things about that letter once it arrives at the pastor’s desk….
—It will be a rarity. He gets very little first class mail these days. Everything is done by computers and phone-texts.
—He will keep the letter for a long time.
—It will bless him (and possibly his family members) for years to come, particularly when he comes across it in the future.
Case in point. Last night, I ran across a letter from Christy dated July 15, 1997. Here is what this young lady–perhaps a high school senior–wrote to her preacher.
Dear Brother Joe,
I’ve been saying for some time that I was going to write my pastor a letter of encouragement. So here you go. Do you feel encouraged yet?
You really do a good job in passing on God’s Word to us. Would you like to hear some good news?
There was a lady who complained every Sunday about the sermons. (That’s not it; I’m getting to the good part.) She wanted it to be like when (the former pastor) was here. She even quit going to Kenner and said she’d not return. (That’s not the good part either.)
Well, one Sunday she came back, and you preached on the church split–Note: Christy refers to the church upheaval and division occurring in the late 1980s; I came as pastor September ’90. The sermon Christy refers to was a month before this letter, June of ’97–and letting the past go, and I remember thinking that God had given you incredible insight in dealing with the way things were.
Well, her heart was still hard, I suppose, and invitation time came. I had no idea she was there. I had something on my mind that day and went to the altar to pray. I’m not sure what I prayed; I’ve forgotten. It was probably a prayer for the church based on what you’d said.
Later, when I saw her, she was in such a good mood. She said to my mom when I was absent that when I went to the altar to pray, tears came from her eyes. She had a change of heart. She now gets excited about church.
These days, I see her going around greeting people and smiling.
I also want to say ‘thank you!’ You have done a lot to help me.
I’ll stop there. Christy goes on for another two pages in the letter to point out financial assistance she received in order to attend the church’s “MissionFuge” trip and to sing in the state Baptist youth choir. She ended, How many kids will return home and be able to say they sang the national anthem before the President of the United States at the Orioles/Phillies baseball game, or that they made lasting friendships with godly, talented youth.
Before ending her letter, Christy tacked on a note to my wife. I had long since forgotten this, but she thanked my wife for lending her family Margaret’s car in order to drive Christy’s sister off to college.
And, as if this young lady needed to make her letter any more special, she ended it with “love in Christ, ‘Christy’” and then a drawing of herself! (She knows her preacher is a cartoonist!)
So, how precious was this letter? So much so that over 23 years later, it still blesses me.
So, why not write your pastor?
I do have a couple of suggestions for the letter you write your preacher—
–1) Get specific.
Notice that Christy told of something specifically that had made the difference in the church. That is worth far more than simply assuring the pastor of your love and prayers. Tell him what he has done or said, or how the church has ministered to you.
–2) Do not bring in anything negative.
This is not the time or the place. Re-read your letter before mailing it, and if you need to, rewrite it to make sure everything is positive and encouraging. (Do not say–as one wrote to me in a previous church–“We hated your guts when you first came!” Not good.)
–3) If you need to, make sure he knows who you are.
In a large church with many hundreds of members, you may feel you know the pastor well, but he has a more difficult task in knowing all his flock. So, remind him.
–4) Two pages will be ample. Three at the most.
Christy’s letter was longer, but that was fine.
A friend was telling me about the Sunday School class he teaches. “I really love the literature we’re using,” he said, and named the publisher. “It’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
I said, “Why don’t you write the publisher and tell them that.”
He said, “I’ve never thought of doing that.”
I said, “Tell them you were telling a friend about their material–and tell them what you told me–and decided to drop them a letter saying so.”
“I guarantee you they almost never hear from the people who use their stuff.”
Our Lord is big on encouragement.
Twice, God told Israel that as Moses was about to move off the scene, they would be led by Joshua and he would be needing something from them.
Deuteronomy 1:38. Joshua, the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
Deuteronomy 3:28. But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you shall see.
Just because he’s a man of God does not mean he can live without a kind word or two along the way.
I can assure you the forces of discouragement are working night and day. Let’s show the devil the power of a positive word. And a handwritten note!