Well, it’s official! Our church voted by 96.5% margin to call Pastor Josh Smith as the EHCC Senior Pastor and he said “yes!” So, there is about to be a change of pastors!
As the TSP (transitional senior pastor) of East Hills, I have a few more things to do before I end my ministry this week. One of them is to tell you how to take care of your new pastor. Sadly. many churches don’t know this! So, just in case, I need to cover this.
One of my mentors, Roy Kraft, used to say: “It is true that good pastors make good churches. But it is even more true that good churches make good pastors.” So, I need to tell you how to be make Pastor Josh a good pastor for EHCC. That’s why I want to talk to you about “The Proper Care and Feeding of a Pastor.” Here are 10 principles on how to treat your new pastor:
1. Follow the Lord. If a pastor is leading a carnal corral of bucking broncos, your new pastor will get hurt and will not be here for very long. It is very hard to minister to people who do not put God first. The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians (2:2); “Make my joy complete.” If you want to make a pastor’s heart sing, live the Christian faith. Read the Bible, pray, and let Christ take over your life. Let the Holy Spirit sweeten your behavior with the fruit of the Spirit and the fragrance of Christ. Let your heart be broken and submissive to God. If you as an individual and every other person who calls this church their home will follow the Lord, your new pastor will have great joy in serving here.
2. Encourage the pastor. Look for positive things. By virtue of the job, the pastor hears about sick people, dying people, crumbling marriages, wayward kids, and personal problems. Pastors carry the weight of the world sometimes. If he hears mostly hard stuff, negative stuff, and critical stuff, he will falter under the load. Pastors love to hear things that are encouraging and uplifting. If you really want to get the guy encouraged, tell him something that the church is doing right! Tell him what you are learning from his sermons. If you tell a pastor that you are becoming a better Christian through his teaching, it is like water to a plant!
3. Follow the pastor’s leadership. Now that doesn’t mean you drink Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid, but it does mean that you let your new pastor lead the church. Sure, you can and should ask questions because no pastor is infallible. But your new pastor will be leading you into the world of change. One of the great things about Pastor Josh is that he knows how to reach the younger generation. So, that will mean changes from the way we old folks do things. Change is how churches grow. Another of my Plattitudes says: “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” So, be open to the leading of God as your new pastor leads you through change. Just because Pastor Mark or some previous pastor did it one way doesn’t mean that it can’t be done differently. Remember the 7 last words of the church are: “We’ve never done it that way before.” Let the new pastor be himself. If he tries to be like a former pastor, he will be a phony. Let him lead how God wired him and follow his leadership. Hebrews 13:17 says: “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
4. Volunteer! Serve! Remember the old tale about the Little Red Hen? She got no help to plant, water, harvest, mill, kneed, or bake the grain to make it become bread. But there were plenty who were willing to eat that warm bread with melting butter on it. For years, I have thought that fable is the church of Jesus Christ with people who want to enjoy a church but never are part of the work. Pastors get really discouraged when 20% of the people do 80% of the work. If you don’t have a ministry or a job in the ministry of our church, volunteer. In the future, we will need more ushers, greeters, musicians, child care workers, youth advisors, Bible study leaders, small group leaders, disciplers, and so much more. We need every person telling their friends, neighbors, relatives and business acquaintances about the Lord and about our church. 1 Peter 4:10 says: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” And that word “each” means every one of us! Get a job and a ministry!
5. Tithe if you love Jesus! There is nothing more disheartened than to see God’s work lacking for support. Money is the mother’s milk of a growing church. Money is God’s tool to advertise and entice people to come on this campus. Money is how we pay staff so they can serve the Lord full-time. Money is how we heat, air-condition, paint, carpet, and keep the place in tip-top shape. Money is how we support God’s work around the world. Money is one of the key ways we honor God. Psalm 96:8 says: “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; bring an offering and come into his courts.” If you really love Christ, let it show in your financial investments to God’s work! It will encourage your new pastor and expand God’s Kingdom!!
6. Resist the need to critique. It’s not that pastors are generally thin-skinned. It’s just that getting 30 complaints, 3 nasty emails, and “helpful suggestions” a week can overwhelm and discourage anybody. Sometimes it is like drinking from a fire hose! In the Old Testament, even God couldn’t take the murmuring and complaining of the Israelites. Some people think they helping, but they are latent ways to criticize. Worse yet, many of these “suggestions” are double-binds like this “don’t talk so much about money” but then when the church can’t pay its bills, they say “why didn’t you tell us sooner.” Quite often, the pastor hears two conflicting complaints too hot/too cold; too much music/too little; too much/too little of something at the same time. It is hard to please all the people all the time. Remember this old Plattitude: “When you get things off your chest, it usually weighs on someone else’s heart.” If you do see something that needs fixing, then, be nice, be kind, and listen to the pastor’s response. Most pastors are very intentional. There may be a very good reason it is done this way. Perhaps the pastor might know something you don’t. Don’t assume you are God’s voice to advise him. Give your new pastor a break from your criticism!
7. Pray for your pastor. And old adage says that “poor preaching is God’s punishment on a prayerless congregation.” Your pastor’s unction, zeal, and enthusiasm flow from the Holy Spirit. If you are beseeching God and asking Him to use His Word to speak to your pastor’s heart, God will do it. Pray for him in your home, Bible study, and in the services. Pray for your new pastor daily and by name. Pray for his family. Enumerate before God what you believe his needs are. One of the key ways that Satan destroys pastors is through their families, so ask God to protect his family. Your pastor prays for you so you should pray for him!
8. Care and Empathize. Your new pastor has a marriage, family, bills, and needs. Someday, he might have kids. Most pastors have a temper, moods, doubts, a fragile self-esteem, and misbehaving kids. Pastors are not celebrities. Pastors are not perfect. Pastors are not without problems, hurts, hang-ups, and discouragement. How do I know this? I know this because I have just described myself. Sometimes a pastor needs a listening ear, a caring person, or a kind word just like anybody else. So, empathize. Be sensitive. Love him and love his family.
9. Be sensitive with his time. He only has 168 hours in the week just like you do. But he has lots of people to serve, staff to lead, appointments, emails, phone calls, pressures, counseling, weddings, funerals, and lots of study to do. You would not believe the energy and time necessary to lead, love, and preach in a church of any size! And then when it is a church under 200 people, it can be especially daunting. So, give your new pastor grace and some space. Let him get away regularly for renewal, refreshment, and rest. He is gonna need it!
10. Pay him a living wage. Some churches I have known have lived by the adage: “Lord, you keep him humble and we’ll keep him poor.” The Apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy (5:18) that a "worker deserves his wages." In fact, in the previous verse, Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote: “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” If we took that verse literally, it would mean that we would pay the pastor twice what the average person in our church makes! Give your pastor (and incidentally your pastoral staff too) a paycheck that says we respect you, we love you, and we honor God!
Pastor Roger Martin once told me how a church should treat their pastor. He said: “Pray him up! Prop him up! Puff him up! And pay him up!” That’s good advice!
Thanks for being so nice to me this past year. Most of you are already practicing these 10 things. In fact, that’s how I came up with this list. And I praise the Lord for you! Now please do these things for the next pastor. If you want to bless the Lord, bless this church, and bless me, please put these 10 things into practice with Pastor Josh and Jamie. If you do, I believe some incredible days are ahead for this church, if the Lord Jesus delays His return a while longer.
I have loved being your Pastor