Remember when you were a child and thought your school teacher lived at school? You assumed that teaching was all she did; and she didn’t have a family, home, or hobbies. Then there was that one time you bumped into her at the grocery store and were flabbergasted that she existed outside the school! *GASP* “Mrs. Morton?! Is that you?!” Sometimes church members have this same mentality for their pastor. We forget that he has a family, a home, and hobbies that exist outside the church. We treat him as if he’s a glass figurine to be set on a shelf within the church walls and admired on Sundays but never truly interacted with or known.
If that doesn’t ring true for you, then maybe you’ve put your pastor in a fish bowl. Imagine a child who gets a new pet fish. She sits and stares at the fish, studying and observing it from every angle. The glass fish bowl provides a crystal clear, 360-degrees view, perfect for total inspection! She watches its every move and reports back to her mom with excitement! Likewise, some church members have made their pastor’s life a spectacle—something to be studied, observed, and inspected. Where the analogy breaks down is that church members often watch with a critical eye, ready to scrutinize or gossip, never truly interacting with their pastor or knowing him.
Now, there is some merit to thoroughly observing your pastor’s life, because Scripture holds pastors to a very high standard. Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 outline qualifications for a pastor. In 1 Peter 5, Peter exhorts pastors to be an example to their flock. Much is expected from a pastor’s life; in many ways, their lives are to be observed closely.
Why is it, though, that many church members don’t think their pastor amounts to much outside the church walls? Or on the flip side, why is it that church members unhealthily inspect their pastor as if his whole life should be on display and up for discussion? We ought to consider all of the ways we can and should love and support our pastor as a human, pastor, church member, and child of God.
He is Human
Most of our struggles in interacting with our pastor occur when we forget that our pastor is human! Just like us, he likes to have fun and hang out with friends, watch TV, and play sports. In short, he likes to do normal people things. He, too, has a family and lawn to mow. But deeper than that, he has feelings, desires, hurts, and even sin like we do. Just like we would do with anyone else, if we sin against our pastor, seek reconciliation. If we hurt his feelings, ask for forgiveness. If we disagree with something he said, talk through it with him. He inherited the same sinful nature that each of us did as explained in Genesis 3. And, he is saved by faith through grace, like all others being called by God. We are all on a level playing field in that regard. Therefore, treat your pastor like a human because he is human! Include him in hangouts, joke with him, ask him how he’s doing. Because he is human, give him grace when he falls short—the same grace you desire due to your ‘human-ness’.
He is your Pastor and Fellow Church Member
Your pastor shoulders the weighty task of keeping watch over our souls, and he will have to give an account for how he did as an under-shepherd before the Father on Judgment Day (Hebrews 13:17)! To fulfill this task well demands a lot of time, energy, and sacrifice. The least we can do for our pastor is help him live out this command joyfully. How can we do this? Submit to his leadership like Hebrews 13:17 commands! Jared Wilson, in his book The Imperfect Disciple, says, “Generally speaking, submitting to your elders means maintaining a posture of encouragement and gracious support for them and working to make the church a safe place for them (and their families!)” (pg. 139). Seek to be the kind of sheep your pastor loves to see headed his direction!
Not only is he our pastor, but he is also a fellow church member who deserves the same care as other church members. Biblical community provides eternal strength and encouragement, healing to the soul through confession of sin, and sacrificial service. Our pastor is not excluded from this, so we should seek to care for him and his family just as we would any other church member. He has the responsibility to keep watch over us, but we also have a responsibility to care for him.
He is God’s son
Ultimately, your pastor is a child of God (Romans 8:16). He is justified, redeemed, chosen, holy, and blameless before God. He is God’s workmanship, bearing the very image of God! As one who bears God’s image and has been made a child of God, your pastor should not be overlooked or gossiped about. Instead, he should be highly respected, deeply cared for, and treated as a member of God’s family.
So, think of ways you can maintain a posture of encouragement and gracious support for your pastor, to make the church a safe place for him and his family. If you are looking for ways to begin caring for your pastor, a good place to start is to pray for your pastor. Ask your pastor questions instead of criticizing a decision, and lay down your preferences for the betterment of the whole church body. Also, get to know your pastor and his family. The more we know our pastor, the better we will know how to care for him. The same things you desire (community, fellowship, grace, etc.), your pastor desires also. Let’s not forget he has a life outside the church walls, and his life isn’t a spectacle for scrutiny or gossip. Instead, may your interactions with your pastor be filled with love, respect, and grace as you remember he is giving his life to watch over your soul.
Editor's Note: This originally published at Thinking & Theology.