The Church’s Responsibility to Its Pastor
It’s not just the pastor who has a responsibility to the church, but the church also has a responsibility to their pastor and his family. Paul requested of the Thessalonians, “Appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thessalonians 5:12 NASB). All too often churches have lost good and dedicated pastors because they have felt neglected and unappreciated in one way or another.
When pastors give their heart and soul for the church and its people, without feeling anything in return, they will often lose heart and give up. When this takes place, it’s usually not long until the church has lost a good pastor. This can be avoided if the church will make the pastor feel it is as much behind and dedicated to him as he is to them. Allow me to share a few things pastors need from the church and its people.
“I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 NASB).
Cooperation. The Bible says, “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves unto them; for they watch over your souls, as they that must give an account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you”(Hebrews 13:17 KJV). Notice, you can make his job a joy or grief by your cooperation or lack thereof. One will be profitable to you and the other will not. I don’t mean that you should ever submit in a blind obedience as with Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre.
A pastor should never rule in a dictatorial way. Peter said, “Neither as being lords over God’s heritage but examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3 KJV). In other words, getting behind the pastor and his vision, following his leadership and direction – as long as his leadership is consistent with scripture and not contrary to it. If you don’t totally agree, pray for him instead of criticizing, complaining and talking negatively. Let God deal with him. The Holy Spirit can do a much better job than we can. After all, God’s the one your pastor is suppose to be accountable to and getting his vision from.
God works through headship and not the other way around. God’s economy is not set up as a democracy as our nation is. God’s government is more like the military. There are many different levels of headship over various areas which are all ultimately subject to the commander and chief. Your pastor is in a headship position over the church, under Jesus, the chief shepherd (Ephesians 4:11-16). Actually, the pastor could be likened unto the central nervous system. He receives messages from the head (Jesus) and directs them to the different members of the body to be carried out. When this is reversed, problems inevitably arise.
When my daughter was giving us our first granddaughter. While in labor, my wife began encouraging her to walk hoping to speed up the labor process. A while later the doctor came in to check her and discovered the baby was breech and probably had been so for a while. Without surgery it could have been tragic for both of them. After the birth, there was a period of time they thought her baby might have to wear a brace on her hip because of the position she had been in with both her head and feet pointing upward. Thankfully everything turned out fine and she didn’t need the brace after all. The God-given birthing process illustrates ever so clearly how dangerous it is when the body tries to lead the way instead of the head as intended by God.
When your pastor presents a vision, project or need, get behind it. If everyone would do so, there would be no end to the encouragement and enthusiasm it would produce in him or her. When volunteers are needed, it’d be great to be inundated with volunteers and have to turn people away. It would thrill the pastor, excite the body, build the kingdom, and be a tremendous witness to any visitors that might be looking on.
Prayer. Your pastor needs dedicated people standing behind him in prayer. The spiritual battles and pressure he faces are unprecedented. That’s why Paul urges believers to pray for all in positions of authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2). This includes your pastor. Samuel said to his people, “Moreover, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Samuel 12:23a KJ). This is not only applicable to leaders praying for their people but also the people praying for their leader. It’s a sin not to pray for him. We have no reason to ever complain or criticize when we see a leader go through a difficulty or failure if we haven’t been praying for them regularly. Those who say the most are usually those who have almost never lifted up a prayer for them.
Can you imagine the feeling of support, encouragement and strength that’s infused into a leader when he knows his people are praying for him. I think of two occasions in the life of Peter. The religious leaders had threatened him and when he reports it to his company “They lifted up their voices to God in one accord” (Acts 4:24 NASB). Imagine being him, feeling the pressure of the threat just issued and all your people begin to cry out to God in a thunderous fashion. Again, Peter is arrested and thrown in prison, “But prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (Acts 12:5 NASB). He’s miraculously released by an angel and goes to Mary’s home and sees “Where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12 NASB). Upon seeing this, he knows they are the reason he has been set free from prison and delivered from certain death.
Make sure your pastor knows you’re praying for him. What a difference it will make in him. In the churches I’ve pastored we usually have had a prayer meeting before each church service. I can tell you that when I have heard people audibly lifting their voices to God, praying fervently for the service, and for me it literally supercharged me. It gave me boldness and courage to stand and minister with boldness and confidence. I could tell the difference in the entire service. Strengthen and encourage your pastor through prayer and the anointing of God will remove every burden and break every yoke of bondage (Isaiah 10:27 KJV).
Loyalty and faithfulness. What a blessing faithful and loyal people are to a ministry. Nothing compares to it. The sad thing is that there are fewer faithful people in a body than those who are not. In fact, scripture gives every indication that it has been this way from the beginning. Paul in writing to the Ephesians addresses them as the “saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1 KJV). It is estimated that 20% of all the people in a particular church carry all the load (financial, involvement, and attendance). It could even be less today. That’s a sad commentary on our society. It should be the opposite and if it were the church would be doing phenomenal things for the glory of God. The problem is everyone is committed everywhere else but their local church. If the pastor is to accomplish anything of what God has called him to do, he must have faithful and loyal people behind him. He can’t do it himself. The Psalmist said, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men” (Psalm 12:1 NASB). That is an indictment against our day if there ever was one.
Many talk a good talk but aren’t there when you really need them. There are few people you can really depend upon. The Word of God declares, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy (faithful) man” (Proverbs 20:6 NASB)? Down a little further the psalmist states that these false declarations end up being a snare to us both spiritually and in the natural realm as well. “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vow” (Proverbs 20:25 NKJV). How often have you vocalized a commitment to something and afterwards ran into some difficulties and failed to follow through on what you said. This becomes a snare to you. God takes it serious when we commit to something and your pastor does too. He’s depending on you and when you don’t follow through, he wonders what happened. This can produce a since of hopelessness, thinking there’s no one he can depend upon. Let’s be men and women of our word. “Let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No” (James 5:12 NKJV). If anything, a pastor needs to know that he can trust and depend upon his people. Be known as a people who can be depended upon in your attendance, involvement, finances, and fulfillment of all you say.
Loyalty also speaks of your consistent support (standing behind your pastor and the ministry) both during good and flourishing times as well as the hard and difficult times. Many are faithful, dedicated and loyal when every thing seems to be full of blessing, but when things get hard they’re gone or at least no longer behind you in full support. There will be difficult times no matter how much God has ordained a man and his ministry. It’s during these periods that he really needs you.
What about when accusations are being hurled at your pastor and ministry? Do you stand firm in his defense? He needs you whether all that is being said is false, true or partially true. If you will be loyal and stand behind him, God will reward you whether he has fallen into error or not. God stands behind him. When you do so alongside of God, as co-laborers together with Him, you can’t help but have His support. The Bible says, concerning His called men and women, “No weapon formed against you shall prosper; And every tongue that rises up against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness (vindication) is from Me, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17 NKJV). God will deal with all who come against His servants. Let’s always stand behind them in full support. God promises His blessing will be upon all those who are faithful. The wise man wrote, “A faithful man will abound with blessing” (Proverbs 28:20a NASB). The blessing will be there, just continue to stand firm with him through the rough times as well as the good. If there’s anything that needs dealt with, let God take care of it.
A teachable spirit. “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you, rebuke a wise man and he will love you, give instruction to a wise man and he will be yet wiser, teach a just man and he will increase in knowledge” (Proverbs 9:8-9 KJV). Having a teachable spirit is imperative if you are to be a blessing to the ministry and pastor. It’s very difficult to pastor someone who isn’t willing to learn. One of the purposes of having a pastor is that of a spiritual leader and mentor. The church member or congregant who isn’t willing to learn will never grow wiser or increase in knowledge. They will be a continual thorn in the pastor and leadership’s side. He will fight everything they try to do. If he doesn’t do so outwardly, he will at least do so in spirit. A resistant spirit can be felt. I don’t know how often people have come to me and said they felt something was wrong but weren’t sure what it was. Usually when this has happened there was someone with a resistant spirit I was battling with. They didn’t know what was going on but could feel something taking place in the spiritual realm.
The entire essence of discipleship is that of a learner and follower. Jesus is looking for disciples and not religious church members. Many of those that fought so much with Jesus were charter members of the local synagogue. Most of them just wanted to argue and prove their point. There were a few like Nicodemus who really wanted to learn but they were few and far between. The whole point of being a disciple is to learn from one and turn around and teach someone else the very thing you have learned. Paul taught Timothy this principle saying, “The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 NASB). What any true pastor really wants are disciples who have a thirst for learning and in turn take what they have learned to minister to others. If you want to truly bless a pastor, become a disciple in the truest since of the word.
This is one of the very reasons many won’t lock into a local church and be faithful. They feel as if they have no need of being discipled. There’s simply not much that anyone can teach them. Pride is at the core of this type of spirit. Nothing good comes from it. On the other hand, it is the humble spirit that has a thirst for knowledge and feels he can always learn something from anyone. This is the heart of a true disciple. It’s this kind of attitude that is usually a real blessing to its pastor, the church, and its ministries. These are the ones that are always there and can be depended on. These bring exceptional strength and support to the pastor.
Blessing by giving. The pastor gives of himself because he desires to be a blessing and usually isn’t expecting anything in return. However, if something isn’t given in return, somewhere down the line, he (or she) may become bitter and feel he is being taken advantage of. The Word is clear that we should bless those who have been a blessing to us. Paul admonishes, “Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches” (Galatians 6:6 NKJV); and again, “It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things” (Romans 15:27 KJV). It is a spiritual principle that we should bless in every way possible those who have blessed us spiritually. We are in fact indebted to them to do so. This is not just financially but can be in many different ways. Here are a few practical ways we can give back to those who have blessed us spiritually through their teaching and spiritual oversight.
- Cards or notes. You’d be amazed what a card or note of encouragement will do. Paul said we should “Share all good things with him who teaches” (Galatians 6:6 NKJ). When he has taught, said, or done something that has blessed you, let him know it through a card, note, email, or brief word. Often the pastor leaves the pulpit feeling like a failure. He walks away from the service and the devil frequently beats up on him for days telling him how bad of a job he did. One word of encouragement, from someone he has unknowingly touched, will usually break that accusing spirit. Let him know regularly how much of a blessing he and his ministry is to you. When you feel led to forward something you have received via email make sure you add a brief personal note with it. That will mean much more to him than something that has been sent out to multiple others.
- Meals and/or getaways. Take your pastor and his family out for a good meal. This was how pastors used to receive much of their pay from the church. Make it a good meal and not fast food. Better yet, give him a gift certificate for him to take his family out alone. Either one will let him know you care and are committed to him and his ministry. This can and should be done by different individuals in the church but can also be done by the church corporately from time to time. In fact, a good gesture might be for the church to pay for a couple days away for the pastor and his wife just to refresh themselves. Along with covering their motel and a few meals, take up an offering to cover some spending money. You’d be amazed what it will do for him to get out of the spiritual battle for a couple of days. I personally believe every pastor needs a couple of days away at least every quarter, besides vacations, just to get out from under the spiritual pressures. Most have no idea what kind of battles the average pastor and his family face on a daily basis.
- Love gifts for special occasions. The church should look for special occasions where they can express their love with a special offering. There are many such times where the church can confirm it’s commitment to their pastor. He and his wife’s birthdays, Christmas, vacations, etc. This lets him know all he does for the church and its people hasn’t gone unnoticed and that he’s appreciated. Make sure when you take up these special offerings that it isn’t an afterthought. It should be done enough in advance that people have time to plan ahead for what they are going to contribute. There should be a couple in the church, preferably leaders, who take charge and make sure it is well thought out and planned and that all have an opportunity to participate. It might even be a good idea to send a letter out with return envelopes so those who aren’t always in attendance can participate. It’s also a good idea for individuals to periodically just hand your pastor some cash or a check (off the books) to bless and plant a seed into his life for no apparent reason at all.
Salary. “The worker is worthy of his support” (Matthew 10:10 NASB). The word makes it clear that those who spend their time sowing into people’s lives spiritual things should be able to do so in hope of reaping material rewards (1 Corinthians 9:6-14 and Romans 15:26-27). Those in the ministry face a lot of pressures in both the spiritual and natural realms most could never begin to comprehend. The last thing they need is the financial burden of trying to figure out how they’re going to survive. They also have expenses those out side the ministry don’t necessarily have, such as, suits, meeting people out for meals, hospital visits, trips of all kinds where they must eat out, etc. They should be taken well care of.
The pastor should make at least as much as any business man in the church or community. In fact, Paul said, “Let the elders (pastoral elders) who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 5:17 NASB). It’s clear from the context that the “double honor” he’s speaking of is money or salary (1 Timothy 5:18). Double clearly means twice as much as others. Figure it this way, if you take the average salary of the congregation, the pastor, who works hard at preaching and teaching, should make twice that. I know all churches aren’t able to pay that well. It should pay him what is the average salary of the entire congregation at the bare minimum. If you would take each family’s or person’s annual salary and average it out that is what the pastor should be paid, at the very least.
The church that takes good care of its pastor is most usually a blessed church. Every time the churches I’ve pastored have given me a raise the offerings have picked up. This has happened even when the attendance has stayed the same or even decreased. God will always bless the church that takes care of His man/woman. Those who don’t He can’t bless. Let’s properly care for those God has sent to watch over and feed us.
Expenses. Besides his salary the church should take care of the expenses of ministry. He should not have to take out of his personal finances what it takes to do his job properly. Any expenses it takes to minister or equip him to minister more effectively should be reimbursed to him over and above his salary.
- Auto expenses. If the church isn’t able to provide a car for the pastor, along with the expenses to operate the car, it should reimburse him mileage. The IRS has a set amount that’s allotted per mile. It’s only fare that he receive at least that amount.
- Conference expenses. There are usually one or two conferences per year in most denominations and fellowships. The pastor and his wife need to attend these for their own personal enrichment, to rekindle vision, for training, and accountability. These are put on to help the pastor in his ministry. This is an expense the church or ministry should take care of. It should cover registration, travel, lodging (not a cheap hotel), meals, and materials. If the church doesn’t have a credit card, receipts should be kept and everything that isn’t prepaid should be reimbursed.
- Housing. The IRS says pastors can receive housing allowance above their salary that is nontaxable. The only thing that must be paid on it is social security or self employment tax, unless they have been exempt from social security. Their house payment and many other related expenses can fall under this. The church/ministry should cover their pastor’s housing expenses above their salary. An accountant should be consulted to fully utilize this benefit.
- Insurance.The pastor should have insurance like any other professional. This should be provided for him and his family by the church he pastors.
- Health insurance for the pastor and his family is a must. Many a pastor and their family have suffered immense hardship and financial strain because they didn’t have good quality health care. The church should do its best to provide the best health care it possibly can. It should be at least as good as what the average business person has. If at all possible his insurance should also take care of prescriptions and doctor visits.
- Dental insurance should also be provided for the entire family. He deserves no less than those that are a part of a large business or company.
- Life insurance should also be taken out on him in case unexpected tragedy strikes. The pastor’s family must be taken care of. God will bless the people who takes care of the man God has given them. There should be a policy on him and his wife both. It should be at least a substantial term policy. If at all possible get them a whole or universal life policy. This accumulates a cash value in time. Make sure the value is sufficient to take well care of the family in case of an untimely death.
Retirement. Some type of retirement plan should be arranged for the pastor. It can come in the form of a 401K, IRA or universal/whole life insurance plan, etc. It should be taken out in your pastor’s name and not that of the church. There have been occasions where these type of retirement programs were taken out in the church’s name and the pastor had to leave the church for some unknown reason and he was let go without getting any of it. This should never happen. If these are taken out in his own name, by the church, this danger is removed.
Honor and respect. The Bible says, “Render, therefore to all their due: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; and honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7 KJV). Referring to those called of God into full time ministry, “No man takes this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God” (Hebrews 5:4 KJV ). So there is an honor in being called by God into the ministry and we are to give honor to whom honor is due. That isn’t to say that they are better than anyone else but respect is to be given for the office and calling. They have been set apart by God for the work whereunto they have been called and that is deserving of our honor and respect. In showing respect for the minister (pastor), ministry, and the house of God we are showing respect for God also.
We live in a day where things are very casual, laid back and unfortunately where respect has been greatly diminished. Respect for those in authority, parents, the elderly, the ministry and the house of God has gone by the wayside. God says they should be honored not because they’re perfect, holy or better than others, but because of their calling. Ministers (high priests) are “Taken from among men” (Hebrews 5:1 KJV), which indicates they have all the weaknesses, shortcomings, and potential for failure that every other human has. The only difference is the call that has been placed on their life.
There are many areas in which disrespect is shown in the church and for the man/woman of God. Much of it is done unknowingly. People simply don’t realize they are being disrespectful. Some of the reason for this is that it hasn’t been exemplified, taught or expected from this new generation. We must begin to show respect again by our example, teach others to do so, and expect it once again. We live in a time where people don’t carry themselves with respect or expect it. Part of the problem is we want to be on the same level as everyone else. We are on equal standing as members of the human race and we are all sinners in need of salvation but our calling and standing isn’t necessarily the same. We must, once again, begin teaching this fundamental principle to our people and children and expecting it. Still today when the judge enters a courtroom all rise to their feet and they are referred to as the honorable so and so. Why? Because it is expected and demanded. The scripture makes it clear that the church is a higher court. Let’s restore the honor and respect the ministry is due.
Here are a few areas of failure (in relation to respect and honor) and how we can improve:
- Being on a first name basis. It seems nearly everyone is on a first name basis today. There was a time when children addressed adults as mister, miss, or misses. Now you hear children continually calling out to adults, hey, Bob, Jim, Suzie, what’s up? Children used to address their parents as sir or ma’am. You seldom hear this today. The same is true in the ministry. Everyone is on a first name basis with the pastor. Hey Joe, how’s it going? This is a definite show of disrespect for the ministry if we realize it or not. Part of the problem is with us pastors. We don’t expect it. I used to feel the same. I wanted to be on everyone else’s level. I wanted to be their friend and bud. I found out the hard way this caused many difficulties. When people really need help they need their pastor and not their buddy. It also makes it difficult when you must assert your pastoral authority in a given situation. People can usually deal with it from their pastor but it’s much harder from someone who is just their friend.I don’t have any problem with using pastor with the first name. That’s at least a step in the right direction. It shows you’re not just one of them. There’s an element of distinction. On the other hand, I would have never thought of referring to my pastor as Pastor Paul nor would anyone else I know. He was always Pastor or Dr. Paino. There’s simply a different level of respect he has and expects. I recall him telling a story of a young boy approaching him and calling him Paul. He said he calmly picked the boy up, looked him in the eye and said, I’m not Paul, I’m Pastor Paino. He demanded and expected respect and therefore received it.
- Not respecting the sanctity of church services. Reverence and respect for God, the pastor and the ministry should be upheld in all services. God and your pastor deserve this.
- Talking during worship services. I couldn’t count the times I’ve seen and heard of people carrying on conversations during the worship service. They are sitting there gabbing and wonder why they don’t understand the message or get much out of the service. This is very disrespectful and distracts from what the Holy Spirit wants to do in people‘s lives.
- Allowing children to be disruptive is also very disrespectful, distracting, and takes away from all the Lord intends on doing in the service. It used to be that kids were made to sit still but now they seem to be out of control and not disciplined at all. If kids are constantly getting up and down to go to the bath room and roaming around, the people will be distracted and the purpose of God thwarted. Ideally there will be a service for children, nursery and up. In the case of smaller and beginning works this is not always possible. In these situations, it is necessary for the parents to control their children. All too often parents just think it’s cute when their children are moving around, going up to people during the service and going up and down the aisle. Well, it isn’t and the Lord is not pleased. They must be made and taught to respect the Lord, pastor, and church.
- Disrespecting the platform or altar area. The platform or altar is an area where sanctity must be preserved. It is a place where worship is led and the Word of God expounded. This area should be off limits to everyone who is not there to minister. Children should never be allowed to play on the platform. It is not only disrespectful, but there is usually expensive equipment that could potentially be damaged. Besides, they could easily fall off or trip and get hurt. Let’s teach all to have a respect for everything that pertains to God.
Next article in this series: Ethics in Ministry: Itinerant or Guest Ministries