Happy New Year! I know those are welcome words for many of us, myself included. Given the events of the past year, we are all ready to return to some semblance of normal, although normal will undoubtedly look different than it has in the past. Most people say they are tired and weary about how much of life has been since March of 2020. I resonate with Paul’s writing in Philippians 3:13: “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to those things that are ahead.”
When we consider all the unwanted changes that congregations have had to accept this past year, it becomes obvious why disagreements between fellow church members and church leaders about how we function as a church family can become contentious.
Have you stopped to realize who in the church is expected to maintain peace, keep everyone happy and convince the membership to cooperate together in carrying out the mission of the church? Who is the person that is caught in the middle and placed in a no-win predicament because everyone cannot have what they want? That individual is the pastor.
Early last fall, Thom Rainer published an article on his Church Answers website titled, “Six Reasons Your Pastor is About to Quit.”
According to Rainer, some of those reasons include general weariness and fatigue from the ongoing impact and effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives and ministries. Pastors are discouraged about the degree of discord, division and disagreement within the congregations about how best to navigate the pandemic and its aftermath, as well as other issues of our day. Pastors are also discouraged by an increased amount of criticism that they receive, either directly or indirectly.
Pastoral ministry is exhausting during normal times. Please don’t make this responsibility any more difficult than it has to be. Though you may be tempted to view them as such, pastors are not perfect superheroes. They are human, and they have the same physical, emotional and yes, even spiritual struggles that some church members may have.
Reflect on how your pastor is true to the calling of his God when he preaches and teaches you truth from God’s holy Word. Remember the times he has rejoiced with you in your happiness and wept with you in your time of loss and grief. Be thankful for the times he has prayed for you when you faced difficult challenges.
Hebrews 13:17 tells us that pastors are accountable for the souls under their care. If a pastor is going to function at his best as the servant leader of the congregation, he needs to be physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy. I challenge you to help make that a reality by praying for your pastor, supporting him, and encouraging him and his family. Look for tangible and practical ways that you can minister to him.
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” – Hebrews 13:17 (NKJV).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Milton Hollifield Jr. is the executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)