Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, was one of the greatest elected officials in our nation’s history and one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. He was a tsunami of energy, one who never saw a mountain too tall to scale or a fight too threatening to join. He shook the nation, invented the modern presidency, and left a changed country in his wake. In other words, there is a reason why his face, along with Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln is chiseled on Mount Rushmore.
Teddy Roosevelt, reflecting on the burden of leadership and the willingness to risk all and attempt great things, famously observed,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Every time I read Roosevelt's quote, my mind darts to the pastorate, and the fine work that men of God do. The office of the pastorate is a high one, the work a noble one, and the men who faithfully undertake it are worthy of our admiration.
In our age of constant news, social media, and the world’s attentiveness to pastors who have stumbled, it is easy to forget all that pastors do for the church. Sure, we have all heard of a pastor who has not acted admirably, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most of the pastors I know garner my trust and respect and deserve my prayers and support. That, and given my own years serving churches makes me admire pastors. You should too. Here is why.
First, pastors are called by God. Christ has given the church in our age, “evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). One does not stroll into the ministry, one surrenders to it. Pastors are those who have been set apart by God, called by his Spirit, and who have submitted their lives to Him. This requires obedience not only to enter the ministry but to continue in it. Thus, I admire pastors for yielding their lives to God.
Second, pastors minister the Word. The pastor’s one, irreducible responsibility is to feed the sheep the Word of God. Paul stipulates the pastor “must be able to teach,” and he charged Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” and to “preach the Word" (I Timothy 3:2, 4:13; II Timothy 4:2). The pastor who faithfully discharges this responsibility does more than feed the church the Word, he feeds me the Word. Every Christian needs a steady intake of God’s Word. And a faithful pastor, who rightly divides the Word weekly, is worthy of high praise.
Third, pastors are held to a higher level of accountability. In fact, both the task of preaching and the responsibility of spiritual accountability bring this higher level of accountability. It begins with the qualifications of the office, as outlined in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. But it extends to other passages as well, including “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgement,” and that congregations should “obey their leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account" (James 3:1, Hebrews 13:17). This fact is all the more daunting when you realize that pastors face more intense temptation. Satan targets those who’s fall will do most damage to the church and most sully God’s glory. I admire pastors for putting themselves in the arena.
Fourth, pastors tend the flock. Pastors are more than a shoulder to cry on, and they offer more than consolation during life’s trials. They preach, lead, and fulfill a host of other responsibilities, but pastors are men who are willing to bear our burdens of heart. When we need prayer, counsel, or support, pastors stand in the gap for us, they bear our burden with us. Paul spoke of his affection and parental care of the believers in Thessalonica, and Peter exhorted the elders to shepherd the flock with eagerness, not lording it over them. Such is the heart of a pastor, one who loves his congregation. This is no easy task. Church members can be wayward, stubborn, and even rebellious. Thus, the pastor who serves the flock is worthy of our admiration.
Do you admire your pastor? Does he know it? The point is not to put him on a pedestal. The point is to rightly value, appreciate, and honor him. Do not wait until pastor appreciation month. Why not thank him this week? Why not pray for him this week? Why not speak encouraging words about him and to him this week? As you do, he will be encouraged, your church will be strengthened, and you will no doubt be even better served by him.
Editor's note: this originally published at JasonKAllen.com.