There is more pressure on the local pastor than ever. We have pressure to live up to the giftedness of the renowned preachers that fill the earbuds of our congregants during the week. We fight the sense of inferiority that comes when we see pictures of other churches on Facebook that are overflowing with young families and students, while we are trying to convince our congregation that lost families need the Gospel. We try to keep our heads above the floodwaters of articles and blogs that inundate our Twitter and Facebook feeds with advice for pastors.
I sometimes wonder whether Christians realize that we can’t preach everything every Sunday, and we can’t address every issue in our churches all at once. Every blogger out there seems to have one tidbit of advice for pastors. Every tweeter out there has a specific issue that pastors must preach this Sunday or else “he obviously doesn’t care about the Gospel.” It can be overwhelming.
So, before you go trolling for another article to send to your pastor’s inbox, allow me to share an insider’s perspective.
A Look into the Mind of Your Pastor.
Chances are, if your pastor is anything like me, he is often very discouraged. Before I became a pastor, I used to read about men like Jonathan Edwards, Andrew Fuller, and David Brainerd and wonder why they struggled with depression. I looked at men like Elijah and Moses and marveled at how they could be so faithlessly discouraged. Now I understand.
It happens for many reasons. When your pastor fails, everyone sees it–and people tend to let him know about it. On top of this, he probably perceives the failures and deficiencies of his congregation to be a reflection of poor leadership on his part. Every time he reads God’s Word he is reminded of God’s standards, and the requirements of passages like 2 Timothy 2:14, 1 Timothy 3:2-7, and James 3:1 weigh heavy on his conscience. At times, he can struggle with feeling like he is failing to bring God the glory He deserves. He also has hundreds of voices from church members, to online bloggers, to conference speakers, to people in his city all yelling at him about the many, many ways he is falling woefully short of exemplifying Christlike leadership.
What Your Pastor Needs more than Advice: Prayer.
I hate to break it to you, but that piece of advice you really want to share with your pastor…well, it’s probably already crossed his mind. In fact, your pastor is probably thinking five or six steps ahead of where your church currently sits. If you are discontent with a problem in your church, chances are your pastors are too.
Rather than approaching your pastor before or after Sunday service to give him your latest nugget of priceless wisdom, here is what you should do. Go pray for him. In fact, don’t just do it on Sunday morning. Pray for your pastor daily. What he needs more than anything from you is prayer. This may seem basic, but think about it: We pastors spend our whole week praying publicly in service, praying for the sick, praying over our church, praying here and there. Who is praying for us? I am becoming increasingly convinced that the success of a church body is strongly dependent on how well the people pray for their pastors.
When you begin to endeavor in fervent prayer for your pastor, you will start to see him as a fragile, fallible person–just like you. He needs the sustaining grace of God just as much as any other believer.
How You Can Pray.
1. Pray for his purity and his family. Married or not, the same temptations to sin abound in his world as in yours. I don’t have to tell you about the dozens of publicly humiliated pastors who failed to keep watch over their sexual purity. I wonder how many members at their churches were desperately begging God for his protection. Additionally, the tendency of discouraged pastors can be to pour more time and effort into ministry to the neglect of their wives and kids. Pray that they would recognize their first priority is to love and disciple their families (1 Timothy 3:2-4).
2. Pray that God would keep him above reproach. Nothing excites the public like the fall of a popular Christian pastor. One fallen pastor gets more publicity than a thousand faithful church members. Pray that your pastor would exemplify 1 Timothy 4:12, “[setting] the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
3. Pray that your church would desire his leadership. The writer of Hebrews commands, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17). What a beautiful picture. Pastors who are leading well. Members who desire the leadership of their humble shepherds. Strive for this in prayer.
4. Pray that He would teach and defend sound doctrine. Titus 1:9 and 2:1 both emphasize the importance of a pastor to teach sound doctrine and to fend off those who would pollute the faith. Pray that the shepherds of your church would not fall into error, and that they would protect the flock from wolves who would come in seeking to devour.
5. Pray that God would open a door for the Word. Paul writes to the Colossians, “Pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the Word, to declare the mystery of Christ…that I may make it plain, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 2:3-4). Pray this not only over the lost in your community, but over those in your church. Pray that a door into your own heart may be opened for the Word. Pray that your pastors’ declaration of the Word would penetrate into your life, the life of your congregation, and the life of your city.
6. Pray that He would boast only in Christ. Success is dangerous. Pray that your pastors would remain humbled by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins we find in his death, and the reconciliation we now have with the Father. Pray that they would continually point to and boast only in the “powerful working of God who raised Christ from the dead” (Col. 2:12). With Paul, may your pastors say, “For this I toil with all His energy which he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29).
Pray for your pastors. Encourage them in small successes. Try your best not to be like the complaining Israelites in the wilderness. Assume the best. Encourage your pastors’ leadership when you see it. And realize the pressure they are under. We need your prayers. The success of your church and of the Gospel in your community is riding on those prayers.