Mailbag

The Mailbag: Resources for Pastor Appreciation Month

Do you have any suggestions for things my church can do for our pastors during Pastor Appreciation Month?

October is Pastor Appreciation Month (PAM). It always sneaks up on me, so big thank yous to the reader who recently wrote in with a question related to PAM and jogged my terrible memory. We don’t want to forget our wonderful pastors!

Normally, I rerun the articles below every year on separate days near the end of September, but because I didn’t get it in gear this year, you’re getting all of them at once. Sorry about that. But at least you have the whole month of October to implement any of these ideas that would be a fit for your pastors and your church, and most of them require very little planning time.

Top 10 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

I’m so glad somebody thought up the idea of Pastor Appreciation Month and made it a thing. If you’ve never been a pastor (or been married to one), it’s difficult to adequately convey just how simultaneously challenging, joyful, devastating, frustrating, and fulfilling it can be. If you have a good pastor, who rightly divides God’s Word and is a man of godly character, you are very blessed. Here are ten ways you can show your pastors your gratitude, appreciation, and encouragement…

A Word Fitly Spoken: 11 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Are you thankful for your pastor and a church that rightly handles God’s word? Are you telling anybody you’re thankful? Are you telling your pastor? Here are eleven ways you can encourage your pastor…

7 Ways to Encourage Your Minister of Music

The pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t many articles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music…

Is it OK if I print out and copy one (or more) of these articles?

Yes! You are always welcome to print out and make as many copies as you like of any article, Bible study, etc., you find here at the blog. (My article, Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor might make a nice bulletin insert during PAM.) All I ask is that you not change the content of any article, and that you stick my name (Michelle Lesley) and web address (MichelleLesley.com) on there somewhere. I’ve explained the reasons for this as well as tips for printing articles here (3rd section).

Just a few more points about PAM:

All three of these articles make this point, but I want to reiterate it here. If you’re going to do a big hoopla for PAM, please be sure all efforts are coordinated, none of your pastors are left out, and that there isn’t a huge discrepancy in the gifts you present various staff members (e.g. you get the pastor a new car and the minister of music gets a Hallmark card).

My husband was once on staff at a church as minister of music. There were only two other staff members, the pastor and the youth pastor. At the end of worship service one Sunday in October, the congregation as a whole ceremoniously presented the pastor with a gift for PAM. Then some of the youth called the youth pastor up to the front and presented him with a gift for PAM from the youth group and their parents. And nothing was said about, or done for, my husband. It was extremely discouraging to him, not because he didn’t get a gift, but because he felt ignored and unappreciated. Make sure you handle PAM sensitively and appropriately. You don’t want what started out as an act of encouragement to end up discouraging any of your pastors.

If you get your pastor a book or decide to send him to a conference, be sure to vet the author, speakers, and conference organization for sound doctrine first. I would recommend books and materials by any of the men listed at the Recommended Bible Teachers tab at the top of this page. Some super, doctrinally sound conferences you might consider: the G3 ConferenceShepherds’ Conference,Founders Conference, one of Ligonier’s Conferences, or  Cruciform Conference(And if you do decide to send him to a conference, make sure he’s actually able to attend before purchasing anything that’s non-refundable.)

Don’t just encourage and appreciate your pastors during the month of October. They need it all year long! If your church can’t afford to do something big and expensive for PAM (or even if it can) make October the kick-off month for a year full of encouragement for your pastors – have church members commit to pray regularly for your pastors from October 2019 to October 2020 (and then have them re-up next year!), make October the dedicated month for church members to sign up to serve your pastors in some way during each of the next 12 months. (Maybe in 2019-2020 various families sign up to bring each of the pastors a meal a month. In 2020-2021, maybe it’s monthly yard work or babysitting or house cleaning, etc.)

Let’s be sure to appreciate and encourage our pastors during PAM and all year long!


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Alma’s Story

Alma’s Story

Here’s a wonderful story of God’s faithfulness in steering the ladies ministry at my church out of doctrinally weak teachers. I joined my daughter’s Southern Baptist Church about ten months ago to be able to worship with her and my three grandchildren. I met with the pastor a few times and we had wonderful conversations about Reformed theology and the church’s long history. Since I had developed somewhat of a rapport with him I felt comfortable going to him when I found out the ladies ministry leader had chosen, yet again, a not so doctrinally sound study.

Last fall we did Lisa Harper’s Job study which I faithfully attended and early on realized she was not what I needed or wanted in a Bible study. Lisa likes to share a personal story of her life in each of her weekly videos and it soon became burdensome and kind of annoying (I don’t have much patience when it comes to studying the Word). Before Lisa Harper was Lysa TerKeurst, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer, so the church has had a history of fluffy studies.

In late December of last year the announcement was made that we would be doing Priscilla Shirer’s new study One in a Million. I was disappointed to say the least as I’m not a fan of Shirer.

I prayed a lot about how to approach my pastor about this because the woman in charge of selecting our studies is a friend and fellow Sunday School attendee. Since I’m so new to the church I decided to find out who was in charge of overseeing the ladies’ ministry. I assumed it was a deacon but soon found out that wasn’t the case. The head of the deacons told me it was our Discipleship Minister. So I contacted him and he confirmed that he oversees the men’s and ladies’ ministry and when I asked if he oversees the Bible study selection he said that’s left up to the ladies’ ministry leader.

So I decided it was time to talk to my pastor. I did my due diligence and researched the problems and concerns with Shirer and sent him links to Michelle’s critique and also pastors who have written about her to warn the women in their churches.

One of the comments my pastor made in his defense was he assumed if a teacher is promoted by LifeWay, they must be good. I was surprised he didn’t know about LifeWay and all the heretical authors and books they have on their shelves.

I also shared with him the problems and concerns with other studies the church has done in the past. He listened, reviewed the links I sent him and decided he needed to call a meeting with the Discipleship Minister and ladies’ ministry leader to discuss this matter. That meeting hasn’t happened yet (he promised it would be soon) but I’m praying for all to come to the right decision going forward. And, the ladies’ ministry leader recently announced that we will be using a Jen Wilkin book for our next study. I give all glory to God for giving my pastor eyes to see and ears to hear.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Encouragement, Suffering

Five Words of Encouragement for Spiritual Warfare’s Battle-Weary Soldiers

Anybody who tells you the Christian life is all lollipops and unicorns is selling something. No reasonable person who is the slightest bit familiar with the New Testament or church history could honestly believe that. The New Testament church was born and baptized in blood – first the blood of Christ, and the blood of His martyred disciples ever since.

In the spirit, God blesses us with joy unspeakable and full of glory, the peace that passes all understanding, and the comfort of “Lo, I am with you always.” And that is much to be thankful for, because life in the robe of flesh would be unbearable without those blessings.

But as we walk this real, tangible, eat your veggies and brush your teeth phase of existence, Jesus isn’t just a pretty pink purse we pick up along the way to complement our life’s wardrobe. To put on Christ is to volunteer to wear a target on your back. And your front, come to think of it. Because when you unapologetically stand for Christ and the truth of His Word, you will not only face a full frontal attack from the world, you’ll also risk being stabbed in the back by those you thought were comrades in arms.

Dealing with and responding to those attacks – that’s what spiritual warfare is. Not this modern, ridiculous, NAR-inspired version of “binding” Satan and bellowing commands into the air as though you have the power and the authority to boss the devil around (Even Michael the archangel wouldn’t go there.). We’re called to be good soldiers of Christ Jesus, not the Commander.

As good soldiers in the Lord’s army (yes sir!) real, biblical spiritual warfare is being protected and prepared in the spirit to righteously and courageously walk out biblical truth on the battlefield of whatever tangible circumstances God has placed you in. It’s understanding that those attacking you are not your real enemy – not the ones calling the shots. They’re soldiers, just like you. They’re either lost and ensnared by the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will (kind of a spiritual Stockholm Syndrome), or it’s friendly fire from someone in your unit who’s saved, but has somehow, momentarily mistaken you for the enemy.

But the wounds of warfare are painful and debilitating no matter who’s wielding the weapon. So for all of you ladies who have been persecuted by the world, attacked by family, abused by fellow church members, and abandoned by friends simply for holding fast to Christ and His Word and refusing to compromise, let these words of encouragement from the very One you cling to salve your soul…

1.
Jesus knows how you feel

There will never be a moment when we can cry out to Jesus from the depths of our desperation, “You have no idea what this is like – how badly it hurts!”. Yes, He does. Not just because He’s omniscient. Not just because He knitted you together in your mother’s womb and knows all the secrets of your heart. But because He walked that lonely and painful road Himself, as a man in the flesh, just like you.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not…
…we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…
…He was oppressed, and he was afflicted…
…By oppression and judgment he was taken away…
…And they made his grave with the wicked…although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
From Isaiah 53

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
Psalm 22:6-8

Many of them said, “[Jesus] has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?”
John 10:20

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me [Jesus] before it hated you.
John 15:18

and coming to his hometown [Jesus] taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?…And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.”
Matthew 13:54,57

Jesus knows how you feel, Dear One. He knows.

2.
Jesus loves you

There may be times when you feel like everyone is against you. It’s hard to be hated. But hold on to this truth and don’t let go of it: Jesus loves you. He delights in you. He will never turn His face away from you.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:3b

All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
Psalm 25.10

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul,
Psalm 31:7

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:5

3.
Jesus will sustain you

Jesus isn’t a lifeline that only reaches halfway across the rushing river. He is our rock. Our fortress. Strength. Sustenance. Stability. What He brings you to, He will bring you through, as the old saying goes. He’s not going to abandon you in the middle of your troubles or fail to provide grace and help when you need it. You can trust Him.

you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:9-10

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
Psalm 54:4

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:6

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55:22

our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 1:7b-8

4.
Jesus will honor you

In the world’s eyes, voluntarily suffering for the name of Christ is shameful, pitiable, foolish, and worthy of derision. In God’s economy, sharing in Christ’s sufferings is an honor and worthy of reward.

and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
Acts 5:40-41

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:10-12

[Moses] choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.
Hebrews 11:25-26

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
1 Peter 4:13-14,16

5.
Jesus will vindicate you

Perhaps one of the greatest comforts in the midst of the battle fatigue of spiritual warfare is God’s omniscience and justice. Not a single insult will be hurled at you that escapes His notice. None of the flak you’ve taken for Him will slip through the cracks and be forgotten. One day, whether here or hereafter, God will set everything right.

Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.
Isaiah 41:11-12

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.
Psalm 135:14

You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord; judge my cause. You have seen all their vengeance, all their plots against me. You have heard their taunts, O Lord, all their plots against me. The lips and thoughts of my assailants are against me all the day long. Behold their sitting and their rising; I am the object of their taunts.

You will repay them, O Lord, according to the work of their hands. You will give them dullness of heart; your curse will be on them. You will pursue them in anger and destroy them from under your heavens, O Lord.
Lamentations 3:59-66

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Revelation 6:9-10

As you suffer for the Name above all names and do battle for His cause, strengthen your hands for combat with His great and precious promises, which can never be broken. Rest in Jesus’ love for you. Know that He understands your pain and anguish. Trust Him to sustain you. Believe that He will honor and vindicate you. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Which promises do you cling to in the midst of spiritual warfare?

Encouragement, Pop Theology

God created you to do amazing things?

Image may contain: text that says 'God created you to do amaging things! -Ephesians 2:10'

 

A while back, I saw this meme posted by a woman who is in a significant position of leadership in a Christian organization.

Ladies – especially those of us who lead, teach, and minister to women – we ought not be posting or teaching things like this.

First of all, it’s misleading. This is not what Ephesians 2:10 says. Ephesians 2:10 says:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Someone has taken it upon herself to summarize the verse in her own words and created a meme which makes it look like Ephesians 2:10 is being quoted. And her summary is incorrect – a mishandling of God’s Word.

Which brings me to point number two. This is not what Ephesians 2:10 means.

The “good works” God has prepared for us to walk in are seldom amazing – at least not in the way we usually define the word “amazing”. Changing diapers, doing the laundry, breaking up fights between siblings, dealing with unreasonable bosses and annoying co-workers, and scrubbing toilets can all be “good works” God has ordained for us to perform to His glory, but most people wouldn’t call those things “amazing”. They’re mundane. Ordinary. Everyday life types of things.

And that’s OK!

First Thessalonians 4:10b-12 puts it like this:

But we urge you, brothers…to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

God has called us to serve Him and one another, and that is usually plain, unglamorous, non-prestigious, hard work. Forget “amazing” – often, no one will notice or thank us for our good works, or if they do notice, they might criticize the job we’ve done.

Finally, cotton candy “theology” like this ends up being discouraging in the long run:

“God created me to to amazing things, huh? This morning I ironed, cleaned dog vomit off the rug, and spent an hour ferrying kids to various activities. That doesn’t feel very amazing. When does this ‘amazing’ thing kick in? How long do I have to wait?”

Or:

“I’m a single mom with a full time job and three kids. I barely make it to church every week and struggle to get six hours of sleep a night with all I have to do. I’m exhausted. And now you’re telling me I have to do something ‘amazing’ on top of that?”

Or:

“I’m just an ordinary woman. God hasn’t really given me anything ‘amazing’ to do. Maybe He doesn’t love me. Maybe I don’t have enough faith, or I’m not praying hard enough, or there’s some secret sin in my life that I’m not aware of. Maybe I’m not even saved. What a failure I am.”

Ladies, ideas like the one in this meme do more harm than good. If we want to encourage each other, we need to do it biblically – with what God’s word actually says and with what God’s word actually means – with good, sound theology.

Encouragement, Ministry

Throwback Thursday ~ 7 Ways to Encourage Your Minister of Music

October is Pastor Appreciation Month!
Show your minister of music some appreciation by encouraging him.

Originally published November 18, 2014

7 encourage MoM

Numerous articles have been written about how you, as a church member, can be an encouragement to your pastor- how you can constructively praise his sermon, pray for him, get him a great gift for Pastor Appreciation Month, etc. These are good things. Please be sure to support your pastor. Being a pastor is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs out there, and if you’ve read the statistics you know pastors need and deserve all the encouragement they can get.

But the pastor isn’t the only person on your church’s staff who needs your support. So does your minister of music. And, having been married to one for over twenty years, I can tell you there aren’t many articles out there letting you know how church members can encourage their ministers of music. Ready to show some love? Here are seven ways you can be an encouragement to your minister of music.

1. Make practice a priority.

Before you join the choir or praise team or volunteer to play an instrument, find out how much of a time commitment it will be, and consider whether or not you can diligently keep that commitment. Once you’ve joined or volunteered, attend rehearsals, worship services, and performances faithfully, and be sure to arrive on time. You have no idea how much it means to your minister of music that he can count on you.

2. Get to the church on time.

Think about how you would feel if you planned a dinner party, worked hard all week cooking and cleaning, and then one of the couples you invited carelessly showed up halfway through the meal. You’d probably think that was kind of rude and feel somewhat discouraged. That’s sort of the way a minister of music can feel when people (especially the same people every week) habitually arrive late to church for non-emergency reasons. Not only that, but it’s a distraction to others when you come in late, plus you’re missing out on praising God and getting your heart prepared to receive His word during the sermon. Being on time and ready for worship benefits everybody!

3. Sing.

If you were in a meeting at work or in a college class, would you pick up your knitting, clip your nails, walk around the room chatting with friends, or bury your nose in your phone the whole time? Probably not, yet, over the years I have seen church members do all these and more during the music portion of the worship service. It’s disrespectful to the God we’re supposed to be worshiping and to the minister of music who is trying to do the work God has called him to. On the other hand, I love it when we get in the car after church and my husband says, with a smile on his face, “Wow, they were really singing today!” We have an incredible Savior who has given us the privilege of praising Him, so let’s take Him up on it. Sing out! You can worship and be an encourager all at the same time.

4. Smile!

It’s pretty disheartening for a minister of music to stand up front, giving it all he’s got, and then look out over the congregation and see a bunch of people looking like they’d rather be at the dentist. Think about Who you’re singing to and all the reasons why you’re singing to Him, and I challenge you to keep a frown on your face! Just the simple act of smiling while you’re singing will do wonders for your minister of music (and for you!).

5. Think before you complain.

Has your minister of music said or done something that’s clearly a sin or false doctrine? If so, you have a biblical obligation  to go to him -kindly and in love- and talk to him about it directly.

Is your complaint a matter of personal preference- style of music, whether or not he wears a tie, etc.? Give it 24 hours. Does it still seem just as important? Could you possibly be a servant to him (and others in the congregation whose opinion is the opposite of yours) by overlooking an offense and not complaining?

If you do feel the need to voice your concern (and there are valid concerns that aren’t sin-related), approach your minister of music the way you would want to be approached. Instead of, “Turn that dadgum volume DOWN!” how about, “I was wondering if it would be possible to ask the sound tech to lower the volume in the house speakers a little? My baby’s ears are very sensitive and she gets fussy when it’s that loud. I hate missing worship when I have to take her out to the lobby.” Instead of, “Hymns are so boring. I don’t see why we have to sing them half the time,” how about, “I really loved those two worship songs we sang this morning! Do you think we might be able to sing more songs like that soon?” Christ wants us to be kind to one another, so show your minister of music a little “Golden Rule” love.

6. Speak encouraging words often.

It’s been our experience, and seems to be the general consensus among ministers of music, that the most common kind of feedback they get is negative feedback. People are much quicker to complain than affirm. Buck the trend. Did he choose one of your favorite songs for the service? Did a certain song help you to understand one of God’s attributes better? Did the choir do a nice job on their anthem? Are you praying for him? Tell him. He appreciates it more than you know.

7. Show tangible appreciation.

It is amazing what even the smallest gift can do to lift my husband’s spirits. A card of appreciation (I have come across cards that he has saved for years), something related to one of his hobbies, a church member buying him lunch at a fast food place. They might be small items monetarily speaking, but their message is, “I care about you, and I appreciate your hard work.” And that’s priceless.

 

We have been blessed over the last two decades to serve at several churches that had members who were very good at encouraging their minister of music. Their love and support made my husband’s ministry a joy. What are some ways you can think of to encourage the minister of music at your church and spread that same kind of joy?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.