Some of the least pastored people in the world are pastors.
These men work long, unpredictable hours, addressing every physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual issue under the sun, sacrificing their schedule, comfort, and a thousand other things, all without being relieved of their own personal, individual needs.
Our most prominent, visible members of the body can easily get left out of the regular rhythm of one-anothering (Romans 12:10; Galatians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). They’re racing from one crisis to another, filling the gaps with counseling and training, striving to maintain a healthy and happy home. Too often there simply are not time and resources to set aside ministry even for a brief time to be encouraged, fed, and equipped themselves.
The Spiritual Needs of Pastors — And Everyone Else
But all of us are needy — desperately needy. None of us has reason to rest on our spiritual track record or position in the church (1 Corinthians 10:12). Any one of us, especially apart from our local community of faith, is susceptible to the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). There are not exceptions made for ministers, as if they’ve graduated beyond the need for spiritual encouragement and counsel.
The spiritual health of a pastor really ought to be a priority for his people. Paul writes, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). It’s a command for leaders, but it’s a warning to all of us who hear it. If the pastor is led away from the truth or from living a life in line with the gospel, everyone’s in danger.
Getting Practical for Your Pastor
The command for the rest of us is equally clear, “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).
How can we multiply the joy of the men making us happy in Jesus? We could give them a night out with a gift card and without the kids. We could cover the bases for a weekend to free them to travel or worship elsewhere without the pressure to pastor. We could write an encouraging note about God’s work through them or reminders of God’s promises. You might have creative ideas more specific to your pastor.
Equippers Need Equipping
Paul tells us that pastors have been appointed by God to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Sadly, and unfortunately, this means shepherds spend so much time feeding and training the flock that they often sacrifice their own growth and learning. But for equippers to equip well, they must be equipped well themselves.
This can happen through personal reading when the pastor is disciplined and able to carve out time regularly. Fellowship with other local pastors often fosters this kind of ongoing growth. Various conferences and events are devoted to needs and development in the ministry. There are also an increasing number of websites and online courses being offered for continuing education in spiritual leadership.
So here’s an encouragement, as 2013 comes to a close, to consider how you and others might partner together to care well for your pastor. Dream big. Pray for fresh ideas that would strengthen your particular shepherd. Perhaps 2014 could be the year your pastor felt cared for like never before.
The Pastor, the Vine, and the Branches
At Desiring God, we want to help and encourage these leaders in their ministry wherever God has placed them, with whatever responsibilities they carry each week. For more than 25 years, we’ve been hosting a conference for pastors, hoping each year to stir their affections afresh for Jesus and send them out better able to do the same for you.
This February, our conference focuses again on our Savior and will remind us of the remarkable union we have with him through faith. It’s the hope of every sinner and the strength of every minister. We believe and pray that it might be what your pastor needs at the beginning of another year of ministering God’s word. Among the hundreds of ways you could care well for your pastor, would you consider encouraging, facilitating, or even sending your pastor to be with us in Minneapolis this February 3–5?
For more information, see the event page.