Lyn Cryderman, associate publisher for Zondervan Publishing House, says that at one of the Promise Keepers' rallies, Bill McCartney invited all the pastors in the arena to join him at the front of the podium. "In a scene reminiscent of a Billy Graham crusade," Cryderman said the ministers went forward, but what happened next was a complete surprise. "Beginning first with enthusiastic applause, soon everyone was on his feet, stomping and cheering in support of the pastors who stood somewhat embarrassed, yet clearly moved by the spontaneous outpouring."There is no position in life more worthy of honor than that of a minister. Pastors live under incredible pressures and make huge sacrifices for the parishes and communities they serve. According to Focus on the Family Ministries, a 2002 Bureau of Labor report says that one-fifth of full-time clergy work more than 60 hours a week, three times the amount of all workers in professional specialty occupations. Chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force (NDP), Shirley Dobson, states, "Our pastors are on the front lines in the effort to defend our faith and our families. We must hold them before the Lord in prayer ... I have a very tender heart for pastors, because they've been there for all of us when we have been in times of crisis --when we've been in times of suffering ... we owe these pastors a debt of gratitude that we'll never be able to pay."
When the apostle Paul gave young Timothy instructions for church order, he admonished by commanding: "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine" (I Tim. 5:17). It's interesting to note that the Bible mentions several groups to whom honor is due, but only one is to receive double honor -- those who have been designated by God to teach and lead the church.
You would think everyone understands the importance of respect for pastors. But Michael D. Miller in his book, Honoring the Ministry, notes that according to George Gallup, respect for clergy has fallen on hard times. "Most institutions and leaders in America have been taking a hit in recent years," says Gallup. "There was a time when members of the clergy were usually the most respected members of their community .... Currently, a slim majority of the public rates the honesty and ethical standards of the clergy as 'very high' or 'high', but one person in three considers them only average, and one in ten thinks they are 'low' or 'very low'."
Granted, there are times when clergy fail miserably. Some deliberately disobey the precepts of Scripture and bring open shame and public reproach on the cause of Christ. Nevertheless, even when this is the case, it should be remembered the position of clergy is to be treated with the utmost respect. When problems occur, they should be dealt with compassionately, quietly and privately if possible, in loving concern for the minister himself and the work of the Lord.
Once I heard Dr. M.A. Thomas, missionary to India, preach on Romans 10:14-15. He brought out an aspect of the text I had never considered. The passage reads: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they be sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!'" In his sermon, Thomas said that for most people, feet are considered unattractive and unappealing. But from God's perspective, even the feet of those who proclaim the gospel are beautiful. "Does that tell you anything about the high regard God has for those who are sent by Him as pastors, missionaries, and evangelists?" Thomas asked.
October is Clergy Appreciation Month and the perfect opportunity to recognize, pray for and encourage your pastor. But maybe you feel your pastor isn't doing the job and the church is suffering. Maybe you feel your pastor should resign and leave the church. You respect the pastor and you wouldn't want to do any harm, but you struggle with showing appreciation for his ministry. How do you handle something like that?
Perhaps the following article found in a church bulletin can help. It's titled, "How To Get Rid of a Pastor." It instructs you should first look your pastor straight in the eye while he's preaching and say "Amen!" once and a while, and he'll probably preach himself to death. Second, you should try patting him on the back and bragging on his good points, which will probably result in his working himself to death. Third, rededicate your life to Christ and ask the preacher for some job, preferably some lost person you could win to Christ, and he'll likely die of heart failure. Fourth, get the church to unite in prayer for the pastor and he'll soon become so effective that some larger church will come and take him off your hands.
You may not feel like stomping and cheering in support of your pastor. It may be you don't realize how spiritually strategic his work is to your life, the church and the community. Maybe you are unrealistically expecting him to be something other than human. Whatever the case, his position is worthy of "double honor." It should be reverenced because it is a high calling of God. And it should be esteemed because to honor God's man is to honor Him!
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. (ChristianActionLeague.net), based in Raleigh.