Someone once said, “An encouraging word makes all the difference in carrying a burden.” Another says, “A burden shared is a burden halved.” This is especially true of those who carry pastoral leadership in today’s environment. A young pastor shared the results of a national survey a few years ago. It reflected that the demanding role of pastoral leadership was in the top three with the CEOs of large corporations and leaders of nations! We might debate those results, but the reality is that the many and varied tasks that confront the pastor on a 24/7 basis do equate with the all-absorbing nature of those secular roles.
Heb. 13:17 gives some inspired counsel that I want us to think about as we affirm the pastors in our territories: “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” (NIV). This implies that we are in the work of ministry for the Master together—leaders and people—and that it is an advantage to all of us for it to be a joyful experience. More than that, it is an honor to God that we fulfill well our respective roles in the church. As the family of God prays the various challenges through together, there will be rejoicing in the victories the Lord provides. It means that an encouraging word from time to time to our pastors and their spouses is a very helpful, meaningful part of the life of the church.
It has been my privilege recently to get acquainted with the pastoral team in the Dakota Conference. I have been reminded again of the impact of a “servant’s heart.” I have already seen and heard expressions of servant leadership by many of the pastors. They emulate the ministry of Jesus whose selfless service for humanity is inherent in the pastoral calling. The apostle Peter commends this spirit in God’s counsel to our spiritual leaders: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples of the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” 1 Pet. 5:2-4 (NIV).
Until then let us give our pastors and their families our ongoing support as together we serve to build up the kingdom of God in these challenging times.
Bryce Pascoe is ministerial director for the Dakota Conference.