One of my pastoral heroes taught me this: celebrate the church you’re privileged to pastor. Stand up on Sunday and communicate, genuinely, that it is the privilege of your life to be their pastor. Tell them that you’ve been waiting all week, and you can’t believe that you get to be with them.
A pastor who believes this can’t help but love that congregation. That love will probably be enough to transform that church, at least a little.
It’s true, too: every pastor is privileged to be entrusted with that charge. Paul’s words are true for all of us: “ I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service” (1 Timothy 1:12), even though he had every reason to pass us over. Pastoring is a privilege we don’t deserve.
Enjoy Your Imperfect Church Now
We miss out on enjoying the church we get to enjoy because we long for more. As Ecclesiastes reminds us, we spend a lot of energy striving for more. Sometimes we even get it, only to discover that what we’ve grasped is like a vapor.
Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)
The Preacher reminds us: enjoy God’s gifts now. Don’t wait until you get a better church. Find enjoyment in your work as a pastor right now, in your present circumstances. Accept your lot, and rejoice in the work he’s given you. Don’t wait until COVID is gone or your church improves. Enjoy your church now.
Life is hard and short, the Preacher says, but God can still keep you occupied with joy. Don’t let the imperfections of your church, or the hard things you experience, rob you of the privilege of enjoying the people God has given you to love. Look for the good and celebrate it. Don’t forget to enjoy what God has given you.
Let Them Know It
Paul sets a high bar of gratitude. He keeps telling churches how thankful he is for them. “I give thanks to my God always for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4). “I do not cease to give thanks for you” (Ephesians 1:16). “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Philippians 1:3). “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (Colossians 1:3). “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
Something happens when a church knows that its pastor loves them and is thankful for them. You can’t fake it. But when it’s real and communicated, the culture of the church starts to change.
I used to think that critiquing would help my church. Find what’s wrong, and let them know about it. I’ve learned that the best thing a pastor can do is to realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the church, and then major in loving that church and letting them know what a privilege it is to pastor them. Work on the weaknesses when appropriate, but always in the context of love.
We’re in a tough season. Many of us are weary. Some of us want to give up. Don’t miss out on the blessings that God is giving us even in this tough season. Gratitude in the middle of hardship, even for imperfect churches, may be exactly what we need. What a privilege we have to love and shepherd people who matter so much to our Lord.