It was the omniscient foreknowledge of God speaking to the New Testament church pastor Timothy that enabled the ultimate endorsement of pastoral appreciation to be documented in the Holy Scriptures: “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially who labor in word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out to corn. And the laborer is worthy of his reward” (I Tim. 5:19-20).
As a pastor of 30-plus years of ministry who generally keeps my preaching focused on the flock of believers under my watch care, I rarely treat myself to the privilege of sharing the Word of God outside my congregation(s). I exercised that rare privilege several years ago, before a large congregation of predominately African descent, in a southern church outside my conference. As I engaged them with a selected discourse that I had previously proclaimed to my own flock of believers, their reaction seemed to be relatively the same. I finished without any idea as to the impact my God-inspired message had upon them.
Being conditioned to affirm to myself that God had spoken mightily through me, I stood at the doorway expecting the same casual appreciations, or the lack thereof, to which I was accustomed. To my surprise nearly every member, as if it was rehearsed, gave the same response with a handshake and a smile: “Thank you for the sermon!” I never grew one bit weary of hearing it over and over again. My guess would be that I heard it repeated 500 times.
What a profound expression of pastoral worth and appreciation! To affirm the messenger, whether you affirm the message or not. To give due regard to the laborious investment placed upon the spoken word by the one who spoke it. To place value on its rendering and the one who rendered it. No affirmation or condemnation of the word spoken would find any appropriate place up against such words of appreciation.
“Thank you for the sermon!” is what God meant by the double honor to be placed upon the pastor who serves members faithfully. “Thank you for the sermon!” removes the muzzle from the gospel plower of word and doctrine. “Thank you for the sermon!” rewards the laborer as worthy of appreciation.
During this season of pastoral appreciation I recommend those five encouraging words that I heard 500 times after one Sabbath sermon that atoned for the thousands of prior Sabbath sermons that went void of the same level of appreciation.
“Thank you for the sermon!”
At the time of this writing, Pastor Reuben Roundtree, Jr. served as a pastor in Minnesota and an assistant to the president for Central States Conference.