Leader Care is a ministry of Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries that provides hope and care to pastors, church staff and their families through Christ-centered support. October is Pastor Appreciation Month, a time to honor and celebrate all those God has called to shepherd the church. Some of our facilitators from across the state shared some words of encouragement, wisdom and helpful reminders for pastors and leaders.
Tend My Lambs – Written by Josh Jennings
When I first surrendered to God’s call for ministry I began serving as a part-time youth minister. It was easy to love those students, and I longed to see them “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” While we always seemed to have fun together, and the Lord did show me some fruit from that labor, I found my love for the students begin to wane. As they became comfortable with me, they also became more apathetic to my teaching. One day as I was spending time in the word the Lord gave me some encouragement for that season that has repeatedly encouraged me over two decades of trying to love his church the way he loves his bride. In John 21:15-17, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Without going into the nuances of that exchange, what struck me was Jesus’ response to Peter each time he affirmed his love for Jesus – “Tend my lambs.” It is true that Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk 12:31), and there are no “off-seasons” for loving others (even difficult church people). Still, we all must testify that we often fail to love others as Jesus would have us to do. Sometimes loving Jesus’ lambs is so difficult that you are tempted to give up tending them altogether. Fortunately, Jesus does not expect you to serve merely out of your love for the sheep – as important as that is. Rather, he says to let your love for him be the fuel that propels you through difficult times in ministry. So, Pastor, do you love Jesus? Then keep tending his sheep! Know that you are appreciated by many, but most importantly the Chief Shepherd.
The Dirty Business of Shepherding Sheep – Written by Josh Jennings
Two of the most discouraging church business meetings I have had to endure occurred during Pastor Appreciation Month the first two years I served as a preaching pastor. In those meetings, one person, in particular, said things to me and about me that shadow all other criticism I have encountered over two decades of ministry. Fortunately, years before those meetings the Lord showed me something in his word that has sustained me through various seasons of discouragement and circumstances of pain in his kingdom work. John 21:15-17 records the conversation between Jesus and Peter where Peter is given three opportunities to proclaim his love for Jesus in the wake of his three denials of his master. As Peter affirms his love for Jesus three times over, Jesus’ response is always the same – “Feed my sheep.” It hit me early in ministry that the only thing that would sustain me in this labor would be my love for Jesus – and the same is true for you. You will not last a lifetime in ministry if you serve based on the flock’s love for you. Just like sheep, church people can get dirty, smelly, and mean; sometimes biting you so hard and so often that you long to throw in the towel. Countless numbers of our brothers have left their posts and refused to take up another post, in ministry because of the pain and lack of love served up by the flock they were called to lead. Yet Jesus never fails to love you beyond what you deserve, and he never turns mean and undesirable toward you. If you base your commitment to ministry on your love for Jesus, then you will never run out of fuel for service. So, Pastor, do you love Jesus? Then keep feeding his sheep! Happy Pastor Appreciation Month!
Love for Jesus: The Fuel for Pastoral Ministry – Written by Josh Jennings
In our church, we just wrapped up a year-long training for potential elders. We’ve discussed everything from polity to pastoring. We were challenged repeatedly with the expectations of Scripture for elders, and the daunting task of being responsible for the spiritual health of the flock. Genuinely, no one has walked away feeling worthy in himself of the call to serve as an elder/shepherd. In our last meeting, we looked at Jesus’ conversation with Peter in John 21:15-17. Everyone was familiar with the text (as I’m sure you are also), and naturally, some of the nuances and details were mentioned in our conversation. After some discussion, I asked them to zoom out a bit and see a broader theme in these verses. We noted that each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, Jesus then instructed Peter to “Tend my sheep.” We spent time discussing how difficult it is to sustain love for sinful people, and how impossible it is to continually earn the love of sinful people. Our conclusion was two-fold. First, any progress we make in shepherding God’s people will have to be fueled out of our love for Jesus, and more so his love for us. Second, as we claim to love Jesus, we are bound by his command to tend his sheep. The Bible simply will not allow us to claim a love for Jesus while at the same time consistently and willfully refusing to tend his sheep. A difficult question here arises for us pastors: “What does my willingness and commitment to tend Jesus’ sheep say about my love for him?” So, Pastor, do you love Jesus? Then keep tending his sheep! Thank you for all that you do to shepherd the Master’s flock!
Josh Jennings – Leader Care Facilitator, Yavapai Region
Well Done Good and Faithful Servant – Written by Mike Hattabaugh
Well done good and wildly successful servant? It’s easy to be discouraged in a fallen world. All around us are signs that no one is listening, following, or even thinking about the things we feel God is so strongly pushing us to share. We go to meetings, catch up on social media, or even read books that tell us how great a ministry can be. STOP. You are NOT judged on your “wild success.” You are rewarded for your faithfulness. The world (even the worldly components of the church) judges us on success. God wants us to be faithful, full stop. So pastors, (and those praying for them) realize you are enjoyed by God for your faithfulness. So take heart! Be full of joy because: “Well done good and FAITHFUL servant.” – Jesus (Matt. 25:21).
Mike Hattabaugh – Leader Care Facilitator, Southern Region
Be the Example – Written by Don Vickers
Pastor, don’t let the devil have a seat in your life! The thief comes to steal, to kill and destroy. Don’t allow him a seat in your work. 1 Peter 5:2-3 tell us, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” How does the enemy work? There could be times that you dread being a pastor. Remember it is a privilege to serve God by serving His church. There may be times when you are not compensated as you should. Remember that God watches over you and will reward your work. Stay away from the temptation to cut corners and shade the truth. You could find yourself trying to be the authority over the church. Remember that God is the authority and He will continue to form His people more into the image of His Son. We need to be an example to them as to what life looks like for one who follows Jesus! The devil will try to discourage you to believe his lies. Remember God’s Word is true and faithful!
Love Your Wife – Written by Don Vickers
Pastor, don’t let the devil have a seat in your life! The thief comes to steal, to kill and destroy. Don’t allow him a seat in your marriage. Ephesians 5:25 tells us, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” How does the enemy work? Instead of communicating with our spouse it is easy to make assumptions as to why they are acting or doing the things they are. We sometimes believe that if they are not going to do their part in this relationship we won’t either! Remember, our call to love our wife is not dependent upon her returning that love. Jesus fully loved us even before we knew our need for Him. He continues to love us fully even when we don’t follow through with our commitments. The devil will try to discourage you to believe his lies. Remember God’s Word is true and faithful!”
If Your Brother Sins Against You, Go to Him Directly – Written by Don Vickers
Pastor, don’t let the devil have a seat in your life! The thief comes to steal, to kill and destroy. Don’t allow him a seat in your church. Matthew 18:15 tells us, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” How does the enemy work? Instead of us going directly to our offending brother, we believe that we should share our offense with those around us – often to find a group of people that agree that we have been wronged. We rarely go directly to the one who has offended to work on the issue. Remember that when people come to you complaining about someone who has offended them, our first course of action is to make sure they have first addressed the issue with that individual. The devil will try to discourage you to believe his lies. Remember God’s Word is true and faithful!
God Qualifies You for Ministry – Written by Don Vickers
Pastor, don’t let the devil have a seat in your life! The thief comes to steal, to kill and destroy. Don’t allow him a seat in your mind. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 tells us, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” How does the enemy work? He begins to tell you that you are not enough. You are not enough for your church, your friends and your family. You can’t measure up to that other pastor. You are not as thoughtful as that other husband. You just can’t compete. Are you sure God has even called you to serve Him? Remember, we are called by God not based on our abilities or merits. He calls us, equips us and uses us especially in our faults to show His greatness among those around us. The devil will try to discourage you to believe his lies. Remember God’s Word is true and faithful!
Don Vickers – Leader Care Facilitator, Southwest Region