Friday, October 8, 2010

Appreciating Pastors

Sam moved from Texas to Minnesota to serve as pastor of a church that could not afford to pay him because he believed Jesus had laid upon his heart to shepherd in the Free Methodist Church and bring renewal to broken lives in both Anglo and Hispanic communities. In Wisconsin, Mark works full time as a manager to make ends meet for his family while leading a church to growth and impact in the community with major county-wide initiatives. Alma works time and a half every week to keep up the pace necessary to lead a larger Illinois church, and has worked through issues of sexism and racism to provide a solid, healing presence for a congregation rocked by radical shifts and changes. Kevin forsook a promising career as a teacher to take an appointment with virtually no salary in Iowa seeking to turn around the church and bring Jesus to the community. These are real pastors in your North Central Conference.

The stories of sacrifice, of risking careers and asking wives and children to move from comfort to places of extreme discomfort are common among the pastors of the North Central Conference. The only explanation is the call of God. As the Superintendent of the NCC I am often humbled by the huge and sacrificial hearts, bright and creative minds, and obedience to a call that continually keeps these Christian leaders focused. Focused not on the sacrifices they have made but upon the souls God called them to introduce to Jesus, the believers they shepherd toward greater maturity in faith and comfort in times of despair. They focus on God’s love for you. I want to honor the NCC pastors! They are a tremendous blessing and gift to us all!

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. We invite all people everywhere to bestow honor upon their pastors. “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching” (1Tim.5.17). Respect is earned, honor is bestowed - given as a gift. It is an act of grace to honor your pastor. That act of grace can have profound and positive impact on unifying a church, strengthening the health of the Body of Christ, and either blessing your pastor for what you know he
or she has done, or imparting the gift of belief and confidence in your pastor that will blossom into deeper, more impactful and Spirit-filled leadership.

Yeah, he probably has had a few bad days and lost his temper at times. Sure, she probably doesn’t preach a life-transforming sermon every Sunday. He probably had an idea for ministry you didn’t agree with. Your
pastor is every bit as human as are you.

Still, your pastor is called by God and appointed by the body of Christ to lead the church, preach the word faithfully, seek after the lost, teach and encourage spiritual health, correct and rebuke wrongs. This is your pastor, given to you as a gift from God, and the lessons learned as you interact with each other in a spirit of grace, mutual respect, and honor are instrumental in God’s plan to make you a wiser, stronger, better lover of God and others.

FACTOID: What do FUTURE NCC leaders look like? Currently, 33 Conference Ministerial Candidates will likely be ready for ordination over the next three years. Of these, 24% are women, 45% are Hispanic, African- American or Asian. Nearly half serve in metro regions, a little more than half serve in small or mid-sized towns and a few serve rural communities.

Looking ahead. Did you know that 80% of Bible School/Seminary graduates drop out of ministry within five years (Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership & Development, 2007)? What would happen if these 33 CMCs and other young and emerging leaders in our conference were nurtured by Christ followers who spent more time encouraging them, being patient with their growth curves, and praying for them instead of criticizing their rookie errors, trying to control agendas through power plays, and pining for that good ‘ol pastor of yesteryear who seemed to have done everything right (now that’s a false memory!). W e might possibly be a collection of churches that see young leaders attracted to local ministry, groomed for current and future greatness in the kingdom, and bust through the giant hurdle of long-term congregational stagnation and decline!  Grow NCC, with young leaders!