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FIRST-PERSON: Churches, pray for your pastors

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JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) – One key way to be involved in the advance of the Kingdom of God is to pray for pastors. This is always the case, but it is even more significant at this time. As the last six months or so have disrupted life for all of us, a host of challenges have arisen for pastors.

How do you continue to provide worship and preaching when you cannot meet together? How do you do that with a limited budget for technology or in places where internet connection is spotty or unavailable? How do you help people stay in contact? How do you care for shut-ins or the sick when you are not allowed to visit them or fear your visit might bring them harm? How and when do you restart services, Sunday School, nursery and other functions? With what restrictions, procedures or requirements?

There have been a host of articles just in the last few months on the rise of pastoral depression and burnout. As I have interacted with pastors across Tennessee, across the country and in South Africa and other countries, the common thread has been frustration and often very deep discouragement. Pastors very often feel like their efforts at addressing these issues are futile, and they grapple with whether or not they are serving their people well.

It is difficult to preach to a screen and not to be able to read the faces to see if you are connecting. If you didn’t care, it wouldn’t be difficult, but when you yearn for the well-being of the people God has entrusted to you for the care of their souls, this is challenging. I hear faithful, diligent men contemplating leaving the ministry, struggling deep in their souls.

Added to this, many (perhaps most) pastors say they have people in their church mad at them either for being too cautious in re-opening services or for moving too quickly in re-opening. Often, the same pastor has people mad at him from both sides. We all know you can’t please everyone with the temperature in the sanctuary, so we sure can’t please everyone when figuring out how best to navigate these new waters. Then, for whatever reason – perhaps because many of us just aren’t at our best in these times – some people feel free to unload on their pastors in graceless ways over these disagreements.

Church, let’s talk. We need our pastors, and we need to be the church. We may disagree in many ways, but if you have a faithful pastor who is laboring to preach the Word for you and to care for your soul, you owe him your care and your prayers. (We owe him more than that [Hebrews 13:17], but that’s a topic for another time).

Pray for your pastor and let him know you are praying. You cherish his prayers in your difficulties, and he will appreciate yours. One of Paul’s regular requests of the churches was, “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “I appeal to you, brothers, … to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Romans 15:30; see also 2 Corinthians 1:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:1).

You may say, “Well, our pastor is no apostle Paul!” That just means he needs even more prayer.

If you love Jesus; if you love His Church; if you want to see people saved; if you want to see the Kingdom advance, pray for your pastor. And then, let him know you’re praying for him.

Ray Van Neste is dean of the School of Theology & Missions at Union University.

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  • Ray Van Neste