The words you’re about to read may surprise you.
Your pastor is not perfect.
Go back and read those words again.
I think most of us know this in our minds, but we don’t really get it. How do I know that? Look at how pastors are often treated. I’ve had the privilege of walking with several pastors over the years and I’ve seen what’s behind the curtain. I’ve seen their struggles in ways most people won’t ever see.
I’ve seen the critical emails about the outfit pastors wore the previous week. I’ve heard complaints about difficult decisions pastors have had to make regarding members of their congregations. I’ve seen people leave churches when pastors refused to address the selection of songs, the color of the carpet, or the flavor of coffee available.
When people bring up these issues, they are really questioning the pastor’s ability to lead and make decisions, whether critical or trivial.
Pastors have to deal with these real problems. They do this while they’re also preparing the weekly services, visiting those who are sick, planning funerals, helping grieving families, counseling crumbling marriages, studying to teach and preach better, lead meetings and teams, and much more.
I’ve had countless conversations with pastors who have expressed the real depth of their depression. Those aren’t easy conversations. Pastors grow weary.
There are many things that cause stress that isn’t their fault. Sometimes it is their fault. Sometimes pastors make mistakes. Sometimes they drop the ball. That brings on an entirely different level of stress, anxiety, and depression.
So what should we do? What is our role as members of a congregation?
The first thing we need to do is show grace. When our pastor fails to live up to our expectations, we need to realize that our expectations may be too high. We also need to realize that our opinion isn’t the only one in the church and our pastor is trying to work in ways that are best for everyone, regardless of our opinions.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t hold pastors accountable. There are times where there is an obvious failure that has to be addressed. Sometimes that’s a moral failure or a leadership failure. If the pastor does something that is clearly not in the best interest of the church then take appropriate actions. Most churches have rules and policies in place for these extreme situations. However, don’t call the disciplinary committee because your pastor forgot a birthday or disagrees with you on the interpretation of your favorite memory verse.
Lift Them Up
The second thing we need to do is to support our pastors. At the end of Exodus 17 we see Israel defeat the Amalekites in battle. Leading up to this Moses sees first hand some of the biggest problems with leading. It feels like they just left Egypt and there’s already groaning about their situation and about Moses as a leader. They find themselves in a great battle at Rephidim.
Moses goes to a hilltop and stretches his hands up while Joshua leads the troops in battle. As long as his hands are up the Israelites are winning. When his arms get tired and start to drop, the Israelites begin to lose. Aaron and Hur see this happening so they go to Moses and help lift his arms up. This is the support that Moses needs and honestly, the kind of support that every leader and pastor needs.
Lift your pastors up. They need help more often than they’ll ever admit. One way you can lift them up is by praying for them regularly. Another way is by assisting with church responsibilities. Every church is different, but if you ask around it won’t take long for you to find what jobs aren’t getting done. Fill in when and where you can. Another way is to use your gifts. Maybe a gift you have is something that will offer your pastor the rest she needs.
Every time you feel the urge to complain about something, stop. Ask yourself if there’s any way you can help lift your pastor’s arms up. If there is, do it. If you can’t think about anything specific, pray for them.