In the two parishes I have been privileged to serve, the saints gathered there have been awesome in showing appreciation through big and small things done for their pastor and his family. This is not the case for some pastors.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. We have had many articles already this month to help in that endeavor. However, there is a downside to Pastor Appreciation Month, those pastors whose people do not show appreciation at all. This happens for a lot of faithful pastors who just serve without honorable mention in places that don’t get front page recognition. This happens in parishes where the pastor has been faithful in things like Closed Communion only to receive threats (or actual votes) of cuts in pay or even votes of “no confidence” (which only expresses no confidence in Christ or His Word). This happens for the pastor who is depressed and can’t even notice efforts at appreciation. This happens for the family whose head is always gone and is beginning to feel resentment at the Church for taking their husband and father away. There are a variety of situations out there in which pastors and their families are less than appreciated.
There is something about this month, as one pastor hears of another who gets tons of signs of appreciation, as one pastors wife hears of another who is treated to all sorts of stuff. It can get very disheartening and depressing to see such things happening around you. It causes you to wonder a bit about your calling. It brings on a temptation to become bitter (or most likely adds fuel to a fire which is already smoldering). It brings temptation to get lazy in your calling, as if anyone would care anyway?
One of the marks of when Jesus sent out the disciples was that they were to be shown hospitality. They were to be welcomed and appreciated into homes where they brought the Lord’s peace. When this did not happen, the disciples were to leave, wipe the dust from their feet and go on. This was not good for that household at all, but a judgment against her. How have we been treating our pastors? Have we been welcoming to them? Sometimes I wonder if Pastor Appreciation Month is helpful, because shouldn’t every month be one to show appreciation to your Pastor, you know, the man that our Triune God called to serve you in the stead and by the command of Christ? I speak not for myself in this, but I speak in defense of a lot of my brother pastors who are bearing crosses far greater than anything handed to me.
So if you have been negligent in caring for your pastor, showing some form of appreciation – repent. Did God send you this man (if he is your called pastor, then yes He did)? How about showing appreciation to him due to that fact? In teaching the 4th Commandment to kids, I stress that we honor parents not because of how they do their job, but because of Who they represent and Who gave them to us. When teaching on marriage, I teach spouses to love and cherish each other not because of how good they are or sweet, but because our Lord put them together as husband and wife (pointing to the office of husband/wife instead of the man/woman in it). So also – congregations, appreciate your pastors for Who sent them to you. Appreciate them for Who sends His gifts to you through them. Maybe you think he has deserved ill because of his conduct in the office, then appreciate him enough to talk to him out of love, humbly and gently out of respect for his office.
Likewise, pastors (and families), show love for your congregation (even if they do not appreciate you as you wish) not because they are good or bad, but because they are the people God has sent you (or your head of the household) to serve. In His great wisdom you are in that place at this time, to serve faithfully those people. Check yourself to see if you have been domineering to your people and cowered them into their position of non-appreciation. Think about the past of your congregation – have they had previous pastors who may be causing their lack of appreciation? St. Peter certainly speaks of persecutions such as people hating their pastors, but he also warns against reaping our rewards for sinful behavior as well.
One of the crowning glories of our theology is that it is about Christ. So, to follow that – I would say that pastors, no matter who you are or where you serve or whether people appreciate you or not – because of Jesus you are appreciated by your Father who is in heaven. You are appreciated by right of your baptism. Not only that, but God has seen fit to put you in a place to preach, to teach, to speak and show His great appreciation of others for Christ’s sake. Consider the hidden appreciation that God shows as He continues to gather people to you in order for you to serve them. Consider the hidden appreciation that God shows as He sends you to care for your own members.
God’s appreciation of the baptized means wives and kids too. You are not alone in your struggle with being in a place because your husband/dad was called there. God called him there, and you with him. As He has promised to be with him during his ministry, so He is with your whole household as they bear the struggles and pains of ministry. No amount of congregational disfavor can rob that of you. You are baptized, and because of that, you are appreciated by your Father in heaven.
Bottom line – no matter how little human beings show appreciation (or how much), because of our failures we deserve nothing but disapproval. Thanks be to God that the real and eternal appreciation that is ours is that of the Father for the work of Jesus. His solid work, earning that “Well Done”, or “with whom I am pleased” from the Father – is our already because of Jesus and His work for us, applied to us by right of our adoption as His children in baptism.