As a church member it’s easy to want or even expect the church's leadership to do all the work. We expect our church to offer the right programs, produce solid sermons, offer enough Bible studies and small groups, put on the right events, do enough outreach, offer mission trips and so on. But have we ever stopped to think about our responsibility as Christians to the church and our pastor? There are burdens that should be shared by church members and their pastor.
Erik Raymond, pastor of Emmaus Bible Church and writer for The Gospel Coalition, has written an article titled “What is a Church Member’s Responsibility to Their Pastor?” Raymond consulted the writings of Samuel Jones (pastor from 1763-1814) and found 15 responsibilities for the church members and pastors in Jones’ treatise on the church. What Raymond discovered over all was a need for solidarity and support between the congregation and pastor, in terms of prayer, suffering, honor, love, and finances. You can read all 15 points of the treatise here.
Here are 3 things church members need to remember about their responsibility to their pastor.
1. Church members are called to obey and respect.
A Christian’s call to obedience is done according to God’s will and for His glory. It may not be something we want to do, but if we are in the church, God has called us to solidarity—to work together, carry each other’s burdens, and respect authority.
Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
Philippians 2:29 says,
“So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him,”
2. Church members are called to pray.
We pray often for those in the congregation who are suffering, ill, or in need of help. But do we pray just as often for our pastor who leads us? There are so many things we can pray for our pastors and their family. Crosswalk contributor Daniel Darling explains,
“He may not ask you for it. He may seem strong and courageous and "with it" all the time. But underneath that is a fragile, desperate soul often squeezed by the pressures of serving God's people. So pray for faithfulness, refreshment, wisdom, creativity, humility, people skills. I never fully realized the need to pray for pastors until I actually became one.”
Paul says in Ephesians 6:19,
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,”
And in Colossians 4:3,
“And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.”
3. Church members are called to contribute and support.
Church members are not only called to receive, they are also called to give. We are called to give of our time, our obedience, respect, and tithes. Jones writes,
“They ought to stand by them in their trials, afflictions, and sufferings…
They ought to contribute towards their maintenance, that they may apply themselves to the extensive duties of their office…
This support of the minister should not be done in the way of charity, or alms, but as a matter of right; and, if the people are able, it ought to exceed his bare necessity, that he may be able to be exemplary in acts of hospitality…”
Our pastors need our support through trials they face; pastors are not perfect, they have struggles like everyone else. Pastors need their congregation to step up to the plate and take on responsibilities within the church so they can continue their work; this is part of the shared burden within the church and a sense of solidarity that the work cannot be done if we’re not all working together. Pastors also need to be paid a fair salary so they can support their family.
I once heard a pastor say that approximately 10% of church members do 90% of the work. It’s nice when you see people volunteering at church; it allows programs to continue and outreach to be done. But if it’s always the same people doing all the work, then they’re going to burn out sooner or later. If you’re not currently serving somewhere in your church, and you’re able, start inquiring about where you can step in to help those who serve regularly.
Paul wrote to Timothy saying,
“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.” (2 Tim. 4:16)
And to the church in Corinth:
“If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.” (1 Cor. 9:12)
All of these duties “are to be performed in love to our Lord Jesus Christ,” says Jones. He references John 14:15, “If you love me, keep my commands.”
We’ve talked a lot about the pastor, but the pastor’s wife also needs our support and prayers. Crosswalk contributor Kelly O’Dell Stanley reminds us to give the pastor’s wife her time:
“Don’t assault her with problems and petty complaints when she walks in the church doors, and unless it’s urgent, don’t pull her out of the church service to tell her details of your latest drama. If you can, give her time to come before God on her own. To let God renew and refresh her, and to allow her to unburden herself of the week’s worries.”
We should want our pastors and their wives to be refreshed and renewed in God. One good question to ask before you take your problem to your pastor or pastor’s wife is, ‘Have I taken this to God first?’
Kelly O’Dell Stanley offers this prayer for pastors and their family:
Dear Lord, it is an honor and a privilege to serve You. But some roles, like that of a pastor and his wife, come with weighty expectations. Help me not to place unreasonable expectations on those who serve You, and replace my judgment and criticism with passionate prayer and generosity of spirit. Thank You for the dedication of my pastor’s wife. Thank You for the woman she is—the good and bad, the strong and the weak. Show me how to love her just as she is, and teach me to appreciate the particular ways You have designed her to fulfill it. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
5 Things Your Pastor’s Wife Needs (But Doesn’t Know How to Ask For)
5 Ways to Pray for Your Church
7 Reasons Worshipers Need the Church
How the “Me First” Mentality is Ruining the Church
Image courtesy: Pexels.com
Publication date: February 9, 2017
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.