In Acts 14:19, Luke writes, “But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing he was dead.”
“Welcome to the ministry!” Chuck Swindoll says. “One moment you’re taking a bow, and the next you’re dodging tomatoes, or worse, stones. Been there, done that. Trust this silver-haired, old shepherd on this one: Once the honeymoon is over, the rocks begin to fly. Popularity in ministry is a perilous cliff with a jagged edge that can cut a ministry in two.”1
Wanna’ know the rest of the story?
Swindoll continues, “Remarkably, though laying lifeless in a pool of his own blood, Paul got right back up and walked back into the city from which he had been dragged and left for dead.”2
Why did he do that? He hadn’t finished his sermon. Luke says, “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).
Those four verses describe the overwhelming majority of ministers and pastors. They don’t know how to quit. They just keep getting up. No matter who knocks them down or how many times they get knocked down, and they “preach the Word in season and out of season,” week after week, year after year.
1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” Romans 13:7 says we are to give “honor to whom honor is owed.”
October is “Pastor Appreciation Month,” and the second Sunday in October is the day it’s celebrated. “Pastor Appreciation Day” was initiated by Hallmark Cards in 1992. Dr. James Dobson and Focus on the Family expanded both the awareness and observance of this annual event in 1994.
While no minister or pastor worth his salt would ever seek recognition or praise (Proverbs 27:2), if people knew what ministers and pastors experience on a daily and weekly basis, they’d be much more inclined to pray for them and encourage them, and they’d do it more than once a year.
No one knows the hurts, the pain, the sleepless nights and sacrifices of the average pastor.
Bob Russell says, “Ministry is hard. It’s rewarding. It’s a divine calling. It’s gratifying. But it’s a very difficult task day in and day out. We’ve probably all seen the statistics on pastors who leave the ministry, the state of clergy marriages, ministers who battle depression, and more. Some studies paint a very dark picture; others are rosier. But regardless of the numbers, the point is that the ministry is a high, holy and hard calling.”3
No one knows the hurts, the pain, the sleepless nights and sacrifices of the average pastor and his family. How many hospital calls have been made. How many nights away from home in meetings or in someone else’s home, trying to save a marriage, solve a problem, or just be with someone during the darkest night of their lives. How many missed meals with their family because someone else needed them. How many anniversaries or special occasions had to be postponed or how many of their kid’s activities had to be missed or, at best, they arrived late because someone in the church had a crisis that demanded their presence.
No one knows the disappointments and discouragement that comes from watching people fall away or just walk away, even after years of investing in them or ministering beside them. Most people are never aware of the criticism pastors receive or the gossip they’ve been the victim of because they stayed on the high road and never said a word. Most would be stunned if they knew the number of times they’ve been betrayed by former leaders, staff members, or members of the congregation.
“Ministry is like war, and ministers like platoon leaders,” Kent Hughes says. “Sometimes platoon leaders give orders; sometimes they fire on the enemy; sometimes they clear minefields; sometimes they carry the wounded; sometimes they bolster the frightened with horseplay. Platoon leaders don’t spend a lot of time deciding if they’re talented at shooting or good at carrying the wounded or gifted at finding mines. Likewise, when you’re fighting principalities and powers in high places, it’s usually more productive for the kingdom to do things that need doing when they need doing, regardless of one’s strengths.”4
In other words, you do what needs to be done. No matter what, no matter where, no matter when.
Someone wrote this about pastors: “He is a servant of the public on twenty-four hour call. There is seldom a moment in any day that he can truly call his own. His moods must be as changing as a chameleon. One moment he stands beside an open grave trying to speak a word of comfort to a sorrowing loved one. An hour later he may take part in the joyous festivities of a wedding. He is expected to be the mender of broken hearts and homes, even though his own heart may be crushed. He is expected to have the spirit of a fighter and the bedside manner of a doctor.
He deals with the individual and the masses. In public affairs he is the representative of Christianity. People look upon him as a teacher and counselor. He is expected to speak with force and clarity on fundamental issues. He must not be too aggressive and cannot be too timid.
He speaks as God’s servant. He opens the Bible and preaches messages that make the Lord’s meaning for life clear – sometimes painfully clear. In the study he must search for facts like a scholar. Even when tired in body he must find the hours for prayer and study so essential for his ministry. In a world filled with questions, he is expected to have the answers.
He is a true shepherd – out in front of the sheep, setting the direction and pace of our going. He models the gospel he preaches. We should desire to follow him as he follows Christ.
He needs the love and concern of our people. He needs our belief in him, our praise, our prayers. People look on him as a hero and expect him to be flawless when, in fact, he makes mistakes and knows it better than anyone else. He is our Pastor, but only with our faithful support can he come close to being what we want him to be – a man with a smile for every joy, a tear for every sorrow, a prayer for every need, and a verse for every situation.”
Warren Wiersbe said, “Christian service means invading a battleground, not a playground; and you and I are the weapons God uses to attack and defeat the enemy. When God used Moses’ rod, He needed Moses’ hand to lift it. When God used David’s sling, He needed David’s hand to swing it. When God builds a ministry, He needs somebody’s surrendered body to get the job done. You are important to the Lord, so keep your life pure: ‘A holy minister [servant] is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” 5
God needs pastors – and so do we. I’m thankful for every pastor who has had an impact on my life and helped me in my walk with the Lord. I’m thankful they stayed on the wall and stayed faithful, when it would’ve been easier to just quit and do something else. I could never repay any of them for the investment they’ve made and continue to make in my life, that has paid me dividends over and over again.
There are no perfect pastors. Just as there are no perfect churches or perfect church members. But every pastor could be a lot better and a lot more effective if we would pray for them, support them and encourage them. Our churches would be better and more effective, too!
Think about this: If pastors up and quit like so many church members have done over the years, there wouldn’t be a church anywhere. Thank God for those faithful pastors and people who have stayed.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 says, “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”
If God has blessed you with a pastor and pastoral staff, and the Word is being preached, the lost are being saved, lives are being changed and disciples are being made, you should get on your knees and thank God.
You should also support them, AND THANK THEM!
© 2016. Barry L. Cameron
[I want to say, “Thank you” to the incredible staff God has blessed us with here at Crossroads. As Paul said, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). I also want to encourage our entire church family to join me in praying for them, supporting them AND THANKING THEM!]
1 Swindoll, Charles R. Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit. W. Publishing Group. Nashville. 2002. pg. 145-146
3 Russell, Bob. After 50 Years of Ministry: 7 Things I'd Do Differently & 7 Things I'd Do the Same. Moody Publishers. Chicago
4 Shelley, Marshall. Kent Hughes. Deepening Your Ministry through Prayer and Personal Growth: 30 Strategies to Transform Your Ministry. Nashville, TN: Moorings, 1996. Print. Pg. 225
5 Wiersbe, Warren W. On Being a Servant of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007. Print. pg. 46
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.