We’ve all seen it play out either before our eyes or in cyber space. A pastor is discouraged about something. Before you know it, that pastor has resigned a Call and has joined another fellowship. Maybe he has disqualified himself from office. Maybe he has had enough of pricking against the goads of his flock who do not have ears to hear. Maybe the wounds are self-inflicted from a sinful man saying or doing a sinful thing. Whatever the case, a pastor did not have anyone to encourage him in a time of need.
It is a sad commonplace among us that we pastors tend to eat our young. Instead of being an encourager, a true brother to a hurting pastor, we ignore his problems and tell him “I’ll pray for you” while not praying for him. God knows I am guilty of that act. We don’t wish to get involved while he hurts. Granted, a pastor should do everything not to interfere in certain matters. That is not his business. But it ishis business to show kindness to a brother pastor when he is hurting.
Encouragement of a hurting pastor is the right thing to do. And you don’t have to be another pastor to encourage a pastor. All it takes is having the intestinal fortitude to say to your pastor, “You look down and out. Is there anything I can do to help you?” Don’t be surprised if your pastor doesn’t dump his sorrows on you. He’s been taught to remain stoic in every circumstance. However, you may encourage him by praying for him and with him right then and there. Pray he remains faithful to his Divine Call and faithful to his Lord. Pray he also remains faithful to his wife and children, if applicable.
Encourage him also to return to what he’s given to do: study God’s Word and pray for his flock. Prayer and labor in the Word is meant to refresh the pastor in his daily dealings with sin and grace. It may be the greatest effort he can do right now even to say the Lord’s Prayer! At least it is a start. One never knows how deep the discouragement goes.
Another good idea is to speak well of the pastor in public, even if it means a public rebuke of other Christians. I’ll give you an example from my days before seminary. I served on my home congregation’s council. One council meeting, the Treasurer of the congregation said that my pastor was willing to skip a paycheck because there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills and pay him. Another member of the church council (a man now asleep in Jesus, but forever in my thoughts) spoke up on this matter in a very forthright, but direct way. He was a quiet man, but when he spoke, everyone listened. The gentleman said it was a disgrace that pastor was asked to skip a paycheck until there was more money in the treasury. If it meant coming to church wearing an extra layer of clothes in the winter or going without air conditioning in the summer because we couldn’t afford to pay the power bill, that was fine. If it meant having to use the bathroom before he left home because we didn’t pay the water bill, that was fine. He ended his comments by saying that as long as he was a council member, this would be the last time his pastor was asked to wait two more weeks for his paycheck.
To you that may not sound like encouragement for a pastor. To my ears, that was a resounding “yes” and “amen” for my pastor. Let him be paid and let the other bills go. The man who preaches the Gospel and delivers the Gifts should be paid first!
God forbid we lose another pastor to Candidate status because no one cared to notice that he was hurting or that he was questioning whether or not he should be Lutheran, let alone a pastor. Take the time to encourage your pastor today. Your good words may be just the thing he longs to hear!