You may have heard the news of Pastor Jarrid Wilson’s suicide on Monday, September 9th. We mourn with the family and his congregation in the midst of this time of pain. However, as terrible as this situation is, it allows us an opportunity to speak about pastors and the weight of pastoral ministries.
Pastors have a holy, noble calling (1 Timothy 3:1) to serve as the under-shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-3) for the congregation that has called them. Yet, this calling is one that comes with many burdens for these men. In the midst of giving of their hearts and lives to the congregation, pastors often wrestle with:
- The weight of ministering to their family, their congregation, and their personal health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual)
- Complaints from members about minor to important things
- Members leaving, whether quietly or loudly
- Births, weddings, and funerals
- The need to be an expert at evangelism, preaching, counseling, administration, and finances for a congregation depending upon them
- All while knowing that their job depends upon them meeting certain benchmarks (spoken or unspoken) for the congregation
Having experienced these burdens myself, I completely understand why many pastors leave the ministry within 5 years. Pastors carry tremendous weight for their congregations and in many churches, they are treated as hired labor, not a fellow member of the flock. Praise God that it isn’t like this everywhere but each of us reading this is thinking of a pastor who has experienced this.
In light of these burdens, I want to urge congregations to do a few things for their pastors. As your pastor serves the Lord and you, you can serve them by doing these three actions:
(1) Pray for your pastor
This may seem to be an obvious request but I challenge you to examine your prayer life and ask this question: when is the last time you prayed for your pastor? If you’re like me, perhaps you haven’t done it as often as you should. Matthew Henry remarks on Hebrews 13:17-18 “Ministers need the prayers of the people; and the more earnestly the people pray for their ministers the more benefit they may expect to reap from their ministry.” Your pastor desperately needs your prayers. Dr. Chuck Lawless has some suggestions on how to pray for your pastor.
(2) Care for your pastor
Pastors are in a unique role in the church. They are responsible for caring for the congregation amidst many other responsibilities. Unfortunately, in many congregations, the members have forgotten or perhaps not realized that their pastor is a member of the flock too. Pastors need members to care for them, just as they have done for the members. They experience loss and pain, hardships, and other struggles in this fallen world. Perhaps you are the person that God has placed in their lives to shepherd them through this difficult time?
(3) Support your pastor
This point is the most controversial because it’s the most subjective. Hebrews 13:17 calls us to obey our leaders, because they are watching over our souls. This means that they should have the best in mind for us as individual believers and as a congregation. While certainly there are pastors who have abused their authority, most pastors (yes, including yours) simply want people to receive the free gift of salvation from God and grow in their faith during their ministry. Practically, this means you support them in your congregation’s polity (congregational, elder-led, etc.). You speak up for them in private, “members-only” meetings. When you’re confused or concerned about something, you give them the benefit of the doubt and ask them to explain things. Pastors are imperfect people, just like you, and they need you to show grace to them in the midst of this messy journey of life.
Your pastor has a more challenging job than you are perhaps aware of yet they show up each day to serve you, your church, and your community. By committing to the above actions, you are living out not only God’s will for you as a church member but you’re caring for another member of the flock.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2407.