I am writing two blogs at the same time about how a pastor should treat their church and how a church might treat her pastor. You read the other one by clicking here.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold, in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11
About twenty-five years ago I asked my wife if I was her favorite preacher. She didn’t even pause but said, “No, Andy is.”
Not long after that conversation, I left the ministry to work on a marriage that my distorted understanding of ministry had almost destroyed.
After several years of not standing behind a pulpit, I was invited to preach again. When the service was over, my wife leaned over to me and said that she had forgotten how good of a preacher I was and that she really enjoyed hearing me.
Not going to lie, tears came to my eyes.
Years later, Lynette and I heard a speaker talk about marriage and how men need to be respected for what they do. He said that much of their sense of worth is derived from how well they perform professionally. God’s design is that we strive for excellence in what we do to provide for our families.
Then he said something like, “Wives make sure you speak words of admiration to your man when he comes home. He needs to hear that you think what he does is wonderful. He needs to hear that you admire and respect him professionally. Never neglect this, ladies. I promise you there is an attractive person at work who is going to tell him. And if you haven’t said it and they won’t stop saying it, you increase your odds of losing him to her.”
I glanced over at my wife and noticed tears brimming in her eyes. Later, after everyone had left, I asked her what moved her so much about that clip. And she said something that was so insightful for both of us. She said, “For years people would tell you how good of a preacher you were, but you had such a big head in those days that I didn’t want to make your head grow even larger, so I never told you how good of a leader and preacher you were. I should have told you. Maybe it would have helped save us both a lot of pain.”
My heart was pierced.
We both felt the weight of that insight. I felt it in the stupidity of falling for the devil’s bait, and she felt the weight of not speaking life into a parched soul.
Not too long ago I preached a sermon and when I was finished, and we were walking out of the building, my wife grabbed my lapel and pulled me close to her and said in a whisper for my ears only, “God told me something and I want to tell you.” She said, “That was the best sermon you’ve preached in years. I needed to learn about trusting God. It really helped me. Thank you.”
My wife has been listening to me preach since 1981 and the person who touches me the most with her words is Lynette Chambers. They are more valuable to me than gold.
Here is a ministry analogy. What if a church found a way to speak words and do deeds of respect and admiration for their pastor? What if the church decided deep down in her soul, down where the knobs are, that above all else she was going to communicate to her undershepherd that they were the apple of her eye?
Do your best to be sincere with your words of admiration. (Better to not say anything than to lie when an outreach plan is bad.) And if you struggle to find something to affirm in your pastor, keep looking and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you. If you still can’t find anything worthy of praise, go see a counselor. You have other problems.
Also, be very specific about what you admire. Just saying “nice meeting” or “good event” is pleasant but not as helpful as sharing where exactly God spoke to you through the meeting, for instance. And share the words as soon as you can.
Your pastor needs to know that you don’t worship them, but that they are valued.
One of the most discouraging things that happen to pastors is that they get delayed feedback on non-sermon aspects of ministry. In other words, every Sunday most pastors stand at the back of the church to say goodbye to folks. Where an awful lot of lying happens in the church.
“Great sermon, pastor.”
You and I both know that we are doing well if we preach a good sermon once a month.
Let’s leave sermons aside for a moment and think about offering affirmation for longevity, prayers, faithfulness, gentleness, presence, or just the one-on-one impact that comes from a mentoring relationship. It’s been my experience that affirmation for these kinds of things happen when the parishioner is moving to another state. If they are doing something that is impacting you, tell them right away. Don’t delay.
One last quality that helps to Velcro your words to your pastor’s soul is when you personalize it. Let me give you an example. The other day a man told me, “Pastor, I appreciate you challenging me. I see God working in and through you and that encourages me. As you can tell we sometimes start at different places on an issue, but you are gracious and full of truth. Two things I hope to emulate one day.”
And, by the way, the frequency of the affirmation is not as important as depth.
I promise you no matter what others may say, the person a pastor wants to hear from the most is you. Your words are balm for our souls and they may just save you a ton of pain. There are no guarantees that words of admiration will protect your relationship with your pastor, but I can testify from experience that the absence of them weakens the bond.
Respect. You can’t give too much of it to the pastor God gave you. You might be surprised at how much love will flow your way when you tell your shepherd how much you admire them.
So very well said, Joe. One of the things I miss the most about my current church is the closeness that I used to have like I had with Dub. I also had it with the pastor at my subsequent church. I believe the lack of intimacy between pastors and members is a function of the fear of being vulnerable on the part of both parties, but at least in my case, it isn’t on my side of the equation. And I do believe that your members don’t have to deal with that problem with their pastor. If so, they are blessed. 🙂
I love you, Joe Chambers