In 1992, the second Sunday of October was designated as Pastor Appreciation Day with the purpose of uplifting and encouraging pastors. This year it will fall on October 10th. Although it’s great to have an official Sunday to recognize our God-called team of men and women here at Bethel who’ve dedicated their lives to full-time ministry, someone else beat the ‘92 date by approximately 1,940 years.
Paul one-upped Pastor Appreciation Day by designating in his letter to the Thessalonians, that we should have an everyday appreciation toward those who shepherd God’s flock. “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other” (1Thessalonians 5:12-13).
The other reason I hold our leaders in the highest regard in love is . . . I see them through a familiar lens. I pastored for several years and saw the highs and lows, blessings and curses of pastoring up close and personal. Most days you wouldn’t want to do anything else on earth but teach, serve, and minister full-time to God’s people, and, some nights you’d rather just love Jesus and dig sewers for a living. It’s a familiar lens because I’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
There are so many situations our pastoral ministry classes never covered. Like, how to survive a pandemic and lost friendships; preaching joy and hope when yours are hanging by tired threads of faith; telling your congregation you have feet of clay . . . but never being able to show them. Why? Because you are the pastor. And like Mary Poppins, “Practically perfect in every way.”
Here’s a real and raw example of what it means to be called to the ministry.
One Sunday morning, a stoic, middle-aged man walked in right before our service was to begin, and said he had to talk to me. “Now.”
He and his wife had visited four or five times, and except for handshakes and greetings after service, that was the extent of our relationship.
Fortunately, that morning, I had a pastor-friend as a special speaker. I told Mike to jump right in after worship as I left to meet the gentleman in my office.
When seated, his emotions erupted. “I’ve been sitting up in the Capitol Forest with a gun,” he confessed. “Trying to decide if I should kill myself . . . and thought I’d come down here
and . . . maybe talk to you first.”
He cried. I counseled and prayed for him (and myself) during the entire message going on outside my office door. Then, you know what happened? He left. And I went out to shake hands, slap some backs, and smile with the flock God had entrusted to me as they filed out. They never knew, nor would they, what had just happened. Why? Because that was my calling. My job.
Granted, that’s an extreme example, but Folks, that’s the down and dirty of what it means to give your life daily in full-time ministry. No matter what. To be ready in season and out of season. To preach and teach God’s word when His anointing is there and it’s flowing through your lips to open hearts, or even when your own heart aches and the weight of the whole world is pushing down on your shoulders. Because that’s our calling. Our job.
It would be an understatement so say the last eighteen months have been difficult and challenging for those who serve full time at Bethel. And since most of us on our three campuses haven’t walked a mile in our leader’s shoes, let’s follow the Apostle Paul’s inspired words. This month, let’s hold Jason, Adam, Brookes, Dave, and the other faithful ministers at Bethel in the highest regard in love because of their work.