October is Pastor’s Appreciation Month. According to Focus on the Family it “is a special time that congregations set aside each year to honor their pastors and pastoral families for the hard work, sacrificial dedication and multiple blessings provided by these special people.”1
So, to honor the clergy, I have written this thank you note. And you’re welcome to share this post with your pastor via social media.
Recently I spoke to a group of pastors and clergy. I opened by saying, “I’m going to share one verse and three truths. Here’s the one verse, ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up’” (Galatians 6:9). Then I gave three truths forming one thought every pastor should never forget.
Pastoral ministry can be wearisome…
“Let us not become weary in doing good…” (Galatians 6:9a)
This has been a wearisome season for pastors. A year ago, we were in the final days of a contentious and divisive national election. And pastors were trying to shepherd their flock during a global pandemic. At times they felt stuck in no-win situations. Pastors made hard decisions on social distancing, mask mandates, and online versus in-person worship services. It has been exhausting, and many pastors are weary.
The adage, “misery loves company,” is true. If you’ve grown weary in ministry, you’re in good company. Even Jesus was exhausted. Before meeting a Samaritan woman, John tells us, “Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well” (John 4:6). Then this exhausted Rabbi did something good; he talked to the ostracized woman. His message changed her life and then her village. And if Jesus grew weary in ministry, maybe it’s normative for pastors to become tired too. It’s a relief to realize that pastoral weariness isn’t necessarily a weakness. Instead, it could simply be an occupational hazard associated with a pastor’s labor of love.
but it’s worth it…
“…for at the proper time we will reap a harvest…” (Galatians 6:9b)
Paul used an agricultural metaphor to encourage patience and perseverance in ministry. He promised there would be a harvest, someday—a future reward for our present ministry. After thirty years of pastoral ministry, I’ve transitioned to teaching pastoral theology. I’m enjoying this season of life. But I especially enjoy seeing the harvest of sowing God’s Word into people’s lives.
Recently, I sat in church and noticed a lady diligently listening to the sermon. I was her pastor for several years, and I know about some of her life’s struggles. And I also know Jesus has profoundly transformed her life. As I watched her, the Holy Spirit’s satisfaction filled my soul. I realized she was a part of the promised harvest.
Pastoral ministry is worth it.
…if you don’t quit.
“…if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9c).
The promise of an abundant harvest has a stipulation—don’t quit! The attrition rate among the clergy is high. But Paul promises there will be a harvest “if we do not give up.”
In February of 1994, I had been a full-time pastor for two years and eleven months. And I was ready to quit! But graciously, God intervened! God used Eugene Peterson’s book, Under the Unpredictable Plant. While reading it, a subheading practically leaped off the page and landed in my soul. It read, “Stay where you are.”2 After reading that section, I took a vow of stability. I promised God I would stay as their pastor until He released me. And I did for another ten years! I’m thankful I didn’t quit.
So, during this Pastor Appreciation Month, my affirmation to pastors is simply: Pastoral ministry can be wearisome, but it’s worth it if you don’t quit!
2 Eugene Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 18.