By Joe McKeever
There was a time when it was easier to pastor a church than it is today. There was a time when churches running a thousand on Sunday were considered mega. There was a time when churches took what they had in the way of pastoral leadership and pretty much went with it without a lot of complaints.
Those days are no more. It’s a different world we live in.
People demand strengths and excellence and results from their leaders. They look for power in the pulpit and skills in relationships. They want degrees and winsomeness and it wouldn’t hurt if you looked sharp either.
They want to be fed in sermons and challenged in programs. They want input in decisions and no longer hand the keys to the kingdom to the new preacher.
What they do not want…
–What most do not want is to be embarrassed by the preacher, for their church to become the laughingstock of the community, for the attendance to drop, or for the financial situation to become dire.
–If they could, they would like the church to reach the unchurched and make a difference in the poorer section of town, but all the while retaining their church as it has always been.
–If they could, they’d like to become a mission-minded congregation where members go overseas and return with glowing reports of work done, but without they themselves being asked to go.
–They want good sermons and effective leadership from a pastor who has earned their respect and whom they like, but they don’t need to be bothered as he accomplishes this.
Someone ought to encourage him. Lord knows there are enough forces out there overwhelming him and pushing him in the other direction.
So, today, let’s encourage him. Let’s “give him heart,” as the word “encourage” actually means.
Let’s pray for the pastor.
“Father, take notice of this one You called into your work. You see what he’s up against. He wants to please You more than anything, yet he knows if he displeases enough of the congregation, he’s out of a job and loses the opportunity to make a difference for Thy sake.
“Lift up his heart, O Lord. Encourage him. Give him a strong backbone, a gentle heart, a sharp mind, the warmth of a family’s love and deep sleep when he lies down at night.
“Give him a wise and loving mate, one who knows when to rub his back and when to administer a sharp elbow or a gentle kick. Give him faithful children who will be an emotional comfort, a delightful diversion, and the source of terrific sermon illustrations.
“Give him a heart for Thee and a love for Thy people. In Jesus’ name.”
Question: When we began with “let’s encourage him,” did you expect a list of ways to accomplish that? Buy him a book, send him to the Holy Land, write him a note, give him a raise?
Nothing wrong with those. Everything right with them.
But they do not touch him in the deepest place, that spot variously called his “inner sanctum” and his control center. His heart of hearts.
God alone has the key to that room. He alone can enter and fill it and do the work that needs doing there. That may require healing or cleansing, complete renovation or just a touchup. The pastor may need victory over a habit or the strength to start a new one.
God knows. So, let’s ask Him.
So, let’s pray for the pastor some more.
“Lord, I do not know what my particular pastor needs most of all from me. I suppose I know what he needs from his wife and children: for them to love and support him and be happy in their own right. And it’s fairly clear what he needs from the ministerial staff and the deacons: to do their jobs well and be faithful. But what does he need from me?
“It almost goes without saying he wants me to be a healthy, faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. I hope I’m that already, or well on the way. He needs me to be low maintenance, too. He has so many members, he cannot afford to devote too much time and energy to one.
“So, I’ll pray for him.
“I’ll pray every time I think of him. And when I’m with others in the church, I’ll encourage them to pray for him.
“I’ll try not to pray manipulative prayers. Like, ‘Help him do what we want him to’ or “Lord, send the pastor to visit Sister Helen.’ That kind of foolishness just dumps more expectations on him and adds more worry lines to his face.
“And even though I know it’s a generality that often hides what we ought to be praying, Father, I’m going to ask You to bless my pastor. In the ways that You alone know of, in places You alone can touch.”
“Bless him with joy in his relationship with Thee, deep satisfaction in his relationship with his wife and family, excitement in his relationship with the staff and church leadership, and wisdom in his relationship with the members of the congregation and the demands of his job.”
Prayer is the most faith-filled activity a believer ever does.
–Prayer requires faith because we never see the One we are addressing. Faith prays to the Father in Heaven.
–Prayer requires faith because we rarely will see the results we are requesting. Faith asks and expects.
–Prayer requires faith because if we do not know to what extent God is answering, the easiest thing to do is to quit asking. Faith keeps at it. It prays without ceasing.
–Prayer requires faith because it goes against my natural tendency to do everything myself. Faith admits its need, humbles its heart, and calls on Heaven for reinforcements.
And, I don’t think I’ll tell the pastor I’m praying for him.
There’s a temptation to feel I should let him know that I’ve gotten serious about praying for him. But even that can be a form of manipulation. He walks away wondering if I’m expecting something in return for this or using prayer to get my way.
There’s a temptation to feel that prayer itself is not enough, that he needs to know I’m praying for him or it won’t “work.” How foolish.
How counterproductive. How un-faith-filled.
If prayer really does touch Heaven, if God really does want to touch and bless and empower this one I’m lifting to Him with my intercessions, then to pray for him is enough. Thereafter, I can leave it with the Lord.
In fact, I might even decide not to encourage others to pray for him until I’ve done so consistently for a year or more.
Beginners tend to get excited over some new project and beat up on those who don’t share their enthusiasm. Maybe I’ll just keep my prayers for the pastor private.
The Lord knows and He sees. Surely, that’s enough.
–And when my pastor is flourishing, doing a great job and enjoying life, I’ll thank the Lord for answering my prayers.
–When the pastor is growing and making a lasting difference in people’s lives, I’ll believe God has heard my prayers and thank Him.
–When the pastor’s family is doing well, I will rejoice and give thanks.
–And if the Lord takes my pastor from us and moves him to a place of even greater opportunity and challenge, even though that hurts, I will recognize that the Father in Heaven knows best. I will give thanks for His blessings upon this one’s ministry.
But what if my pastor does not seem to do well? What if he falters and stumbles? What if he even leaves the ministry over something in his life?
I will look to the Father and pray for him. The Lord alone knows what is inside the man. Not everyone in every pulpit was called into this work and not everyone calling himself “pastor” is privileged to shepherd the Lord’s flock.
I will pray and then I will trust the Lord to do what He decides is best.
“Father, bless my pastor with the touch of Heaven. Whatever he needs most of all today, I claim for him in Jesus’ name, by Jesus’ blood, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
Joe McKeever is a cartoonist and a former director of missions for New Orleans Baptist Association. This editorial first appeared on his website.