Summary: Four ways to honor our spiritual leaders.
Leadership Journal did a survey of the typical work week of a pastor. They found that the typical pastor works about 55 hours a week, and spends four nights out of his home a week engaged in ministry related activities. That seems a bit too much to me.
But I can understand the drive to put in more hours. When you love what you do, you tend to focus all of your energy and attention on it. I take my work home with me all the time, and it’s not uncommon for me to be reading a commentary on a passage I’m preaching on that week, reading a book on church leadership, or working on my sermon at the kitchen table. I truly enjoy what I do, and I feel it’s a privilege to be paid to do what I love. But I’ve got to be careful, to make sure I’m not sacrificing my health or my family in the name of ministry. My wife sometimes jokes with me that ministry can become a mistress, and she’s right. This is why my Friday day off is sacred, only broken in cases of emergency. This is why I’m preaching a little less since we started the Saturday night service in October, because for me, serving as one of your pastors is a marathon for the long haul.
God wants us to honor the spiritual leaders in our lives. We do that by supporting them financially, by treating them fairly, by expecting them to act with integrity, and encouraging them to live a healthy lifestyle. Now again, this has been an uncomfortable topic for me to talk about, and I encourage you to study this text yourself, to check everything I’ve said against what the text itself says.
When I was in seminary I was introduced to a guy named Bobby Clinton, who teaches at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. Dr. Clinton has devoted his life to studying Christian leaders: pastors, missionaries, lay leaders, conference speakers, teachers, all kinds of Christian leaders. As Dr. Clinton has studied Christian leaders for the last thirty years or so, he’s discovered a troubling trend. Most Christian leaders start strong but few leaders finish well. Most Christian leaders eventually quit, disqualify themselves from ministry, lose their vision, or simply give up. Few Christian leaders reach a point in their lives Paul reached, when he looked back on his life in ministry and said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim 4:7).
How can we help Christian leaders finish well? Part of the answer is for congregations to honor their spiritual leaders. Honoring leaders is only part of the answer, but its something the congregation can do. May God help us as a church honor those who lead us, to honor them financially, to honor them with fair treatment, to honor them with our expectations, and to honor them with encouragement to healthy living.
Marshall, I. H. The Pastoral Epistles. International Critical Commentary. T. & T. Clark, 1999.
Barna, George. Today’s Pastor. Regal Books, 1992.