Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. | Hebrews 13:17
In the sermon Sunday, I spent some time going over the 3 roles the NT identifies for the church (overseer, deacon, and saint) and how these roles work together to create JOY. I said, coming from the above verse in Hebrews 13: it would be of no advantage to relate to your pastor in a way that does not make leadership a joy. It always seem self-serving for a pastor to enter into this territory , as it seems like an attempt to get people in line and to make the job easier. I want to make sure that when you hear joy, you don’t think ease. Pastor’s don’t want comfort, they want conviction (good ones anyway). They aren’t looking for a people who are peaceful in the modern notion (without disturbance), but who strive for the peace (shalom) of God, which is going to cause some friction. When the Bible uses a word like obey, it is not calling for a people who look to their pastors for all answers or who are willing to follow them without question. Instead, it is calling for a people who commit themselves to the cause of Christ and to the leadership of flawed pastors. What does this look like? How can you be your pastor’s joy?
ENGAGE | be part of the life of the church
We have become so accustomed to being consumers that this word means nothing to us anymore. Everything we enter into, be it a store, job, hospital, or church, we are reading it through the lens of a consumer. How does this benefit me? At a church, this usually means asking this question about how the organization serves your assessment of your needs. I need friends, does this provide that for me? I am looking to grow in Christ, will this accomplish that? I want to be used, is there a place for me here? The church as an organization is measured by how it accomplishes your felt needs.
The problem with this is that the church does not function as a supply and demand entity; it does not exist to give you what you are looking for. The church is a body that functions with each part playing its role and mutually serving one another…with Jesus as the head, directing the outcomes. What this means is, you should approach church with an excited optimism, waiting to see how God will use you in the lives of others (and them in your life). The first step in being a joy to your pastor is: TO SHOW UP. This means regularly being at church. This means attending the Bible studies and events. Not because you have weighed the value of them and found the profitable, but because you trust that your leaders are providing these things as opportunities for the church to function as a body. One of the most demoralizing things to a pastor is to work hard to provide the church with places to be the body, only to see them fall short of their potential due to the body not showing up.
SERVE | find your place in the family
They say that showing up is 80% of life; for the other 20% you actually have to do something. In the church, that something is serving one another. I preached on this a few weeks ago, so I will not belabor it here, but I do want to add one thing: your pastor’s joy is wrapped up in how you serve one another.
I often have people ask me what they can do for my family or for the other pastors of our church. While I am appreciative of the many ways that the church shows love to my family and I, most of the time, I would rather the effort and energy be directed toward someone else. We are well taken care of, but I look out into our congregation and I see lonely people. I see people who feel worthless. I see people beat up by life. I see people who need a friend. I want to help them all, but I am limited. My greatest joy comes when I hear that people in my church have taken the initiative to be joy to one another.
GROW | practice spiritual disciplines
While caring for people is integral to the mission of the church, it is not done for humanistic reasons alone. The ‘one another’ acts of scripture are meant to draw you (and others) into a deeper relationship with God. In Hebrews 13, the weight of responsibility is on your leaders, as those: keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Your leaders will have to answer for your spiritual maturity. This becomes a groaning task when the pastor is expected to do all of the work and has to drag you, kicking and screaming, through the process of sanctification. What makes this a joyful burden is when people are concerned for the spiritual health, and take advantage of the means of grace that God has given to them.
It is a joy for pastors to walk beside people as they grow in Christ. This means that you should bring your burdens to them. You should ask your pastors for prayer. You should seek them for counsel. This is where joy is nothing close to ease; your pastor is most joyful when they seek the work of God in the lives of their people and when their work is both hard and fruitful.
PRAY | recognize your pastor’s weakness
Prayer is not just asking God for things, but recognizing a lack that only God can fill. When you pray for your pastors, you are acknowledging that they are unable to do the work that they set their lives to; they are called, as sinful people, into a divine task. This means that they must be continually pressing into Jesus for the strength and faith to keep going. I believe that the main reason pastors burn out and fail morally is because they and/or their people forget this.
Prayer doesn’t let us forget it. As we approach the throne of grace and are put face to face with our God and Savior, we can do nothing but be humbled. The beauty of God’s humbling of us is that it leads us to joy. As we grow in our appreciation for God’s immense otherness, we are also reminded that we are invited in. We have been loved by Him and adopted into His family; we have been filled with His Spirit and sent on His mission. In prayer, you commit yourself to this mission and support your pastor’s part in it.
If you want to be your pastor’s JOY, simply be a faithful Christian in their flock. These four practices will help you toward this.