Guest Posts, Ministry, Prayer

Guest Post: 7 Ways You Might Not Know You Need to Pray for Your Pastor ~ Part 2

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

7 Ways You Might Not Know
You Need to Pray for Your Pastor
Part 2

by Pastor John Chester

This is Part 2 of the article. You can read Part 1 here.

He is affected by counseling

It is a great privilege and joy to counsel God’s people. It is an absolute joy to point them to the cross and the sure hope we have in Christ. It is a wonderful privilege to see people change in response to God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. I love counseling and I’m sure your pastor does too. I don’t want anyone to reach the wrong conclusion that your pastor would be served by your not coming to him or that you can serve him by keeping your trouble to yourself. We need to and should rejoice in bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Yet the fact is it can take a toll. A true shepherd loves the sheep, and he hates to see them hurting. Your pastor knows the pain in your church family in ways you do not. He knows who has trouble in their marriage, who is struggling with a rebellious teen, who is living with acute chronic physical pain, who has a besetting sin, who is on the verge of hopelessness and so much more. And his heart breaks over all of that. I don’t know a single pastor who hasn’t wept after a counseling session, and I don’t know a single pastor who hasn’t had some version of the conversation with their wife where their wife notices right away they are obviously down and sorrowful and asks why and they respond, “It’s a counseling thing, I shouldn’t talk about it.”.

And it can be even harder when he has to rapidly shift gears from weeping with those who weep to rejoicing with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). Counseling is my absolute favorite thing to do in ministry, it brings me great joy, but one hour of counseling wears me out as much as ten hours of studying or four hours of administrative work.

How you can pray for your pastor: Pray for the empowering of the Holy Spirit during counseling sessions, pray that counseling would make him long more intensely for heaven, and pray that he would be able to sleep at night.

He lives on wartime footing

Once, when I was fly fishing at a small hike-in lake in the reassuringly-named Bear Tooth Mountains in Montana, I was having such good luck I fished the entire evening rise. As I packed up my gear in the gloaming for the 3½ mile hike down single track to the trail head and my car, I realized that I smiled like fish, and my wader, wading boots, net, and the rest of the gear I was about to strap to my back smelled like fish too.  So, to any bears that happened to live in the Bear Tooth Mountains, it would smell like a giant trout was walking through the woods.

As I hustled down the two foot hide trail that wound through dense woods, I was hyper-vigilant knowing that an attack could come from the right, left, front, or back, and that if it came it would be sudden and savage. Not only was I an the lookout for the attack to come, I was expecting it. So, as I made my way down the trail yelling, “Hey Bear!” I was thinking about how to respond to the various ways the attack could come.

Thankfully the attack never did come, but the memory of that dark jog through the woods is etched upon my mind. I’ll never forget that feeling. And it is the closest thing to the feeling of being faithfully vigilant in ministry I can think of. Paul told the Ephesian elders that ravenous wolves would rise up from among them and that they needed to be alert and to follow his example of persistent vigilance and purposeful teaching (Acts 20:29-31). Vicious, violent attacks against the church can come from anywhere and at anytime.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, let me tell you that every man I know in the ministry who has served for ten years or more has faced at least one serious existential attack against the church he serves. And truthfully it averages about once every 2.5 years. Let me tell you about the two serious existential threats we have fought off in our five years here at Piedmont Bible Church.

One that I saw coming was that we had a number of families (a large enough number to alter the complexion of our small church) who came with the intention to take directional control of the church and steer it toward the Family Integrated Church movement. I saw this coming because I am friends with a pastor in a neighboring town whose church had been attacked by this group of marauders. I was able to recognize them and drive them off before they could cause any mischief.

One attack took me entirely by surprise. A man who had been vetted for years, who had been examined by the church and appointed to the office of elder, within sixty days of becoming an elder demanded that the church functionally abandon sola scriptura in favor of making the traditions of men binding for the church. He sought to elevate the traditions of the church he grew up in – regarding music, dress, and the exercise of Christian freedom in a myriad of areas – to be on par with the authority of Scripture. He went so far as to say that there were no categories of preference or wisdom in the Christian life or the life of the church and that if you were truly sanctified, the Bible gave you a definitive (yes or no) answer to every question. Although he would angrily say his position was scriptural, he saw things as diverse as VBS, singing Amazing Grace accompanied by any instrument other than the piano, and people wearing the wrong colored shirt when teaching or leading in any capacity in a corporate setting as fitting into the phrase “and things like these” in Galatians 5:19-21.

And here is the remarkable thing, when I confided in a mentor that in the midst of this crisis I was so stressed and worn out that I hadn’t slept in weeks and that I had been vomiting blood, he didn’t say that was the worst thing he had ever heard (as I expected), he said, “Welcome to ministry. You need to learn to take care of yourself.” It’s not that he was unsympathetic or compassionate – without his advice, comfort, compassion, and actual practical help I don’t know if I would have made it through – it was that out of love he wanted me to know that this is what it is like. Ministry is a battle. It is no accident that Paul uses so much military language and imagery when he wrote to Timothy and Titus.

The kicker is that while this conflict was raging I worked hard to protect the church from it and from the knowledge of it. Although the battle raged for eight months, until the final week of the conflict (by which time other pastors and counselors were deeply involved), no one in the church outside of leadership knew that this battle for the life of the church was going on. A good shepherd doesn’t alarm the sheep, he protects them. If you have been at your church for five years and you have never heard of anything like this happening, it is more likely that you have a very good shepherd than a church that has never come under attack.

Additionally, pastors (and their wives) are often subjected to personal attacks. I’ve been told angrily that I am a liar who is disqualified from ministry because I turned over a cushion without telling anyone. I’ve been told I dress too nice/not nice enough for a pastor. And I’ve been led away from the church in handcuffs for removing political signs placed on church property without permission.

Every day when pastors go to work they are in a fight. It’s not hyperbole and there is no other way to put it. That in no way eliminates or even dampens the joy of pastoral ministry, but it is true. And living that way can take a toll. One of the risks is exhaustion, fatigue, and burnout. Find someone who boxed growing up and also played a sport in college and then ask them, “What took more out of you, three minutes of fighting or sixty minutes of lacrosse/football/hockey/basketball or whatever sport you played?”. They will all say the three minutes of fighting. Fighting and being ready to fight just takes a lot out of you.

And it can make you cynical. There is a fine line between learning to have a thick skin and building up callouses. After my battle with the false elder, my wife said to me, “Well, you learned a lot.”  I replied, “I learned that I’ll never again trust a man who didn’t play Little League.” I was only half kidding (probably down to 12% by now).

[Special note: It is always enormously sad when a pastor fails morally.  I am convinced that many more are casualties of war, than double agents who were exposed. A pastor who falls into sexual sin is permanently disqualified (Proverbs 6:32-33), but he should be treated according to Galatians 6:1.]

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that the Lord would protect him as he protects you. Pray that he would not become jaded and would love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Pray that no matter what is going on that his time of study would be a refuge and a refreshment to him.

He gets discouraged

If there is one thing I can say with 100% certainty of all pastors it is that they are all human. And because they are human sometimes they get discouraged. Some are more prone to discouragement than others, and it is not a weakness or a flaw. God uses all kinds of men. Spurgeon famously called his depressive, discouraged mood “the black dog” and said sometime he was on the verge of tears for no apparent reason.

While some pastors are more prone to melancholy moods that others, every pastor I know has experienced this acutely, sharply and often enough to talk about it. In fact, there is a kind of gallows humor among pastors about how bad Mondays are and how you should never resign on a Monday.  

Most faithful pastors I know are estranged from at least some of their extended family because of ministry and fidelity to Scripture. My wife once overheard my older brother (who I looked up to and adored growing up) say he wouldn’t come to a family gathering if I was there because he couldn’t take my “Jesus ‘stuff’” (he didn’t say “stuff”). I know a man whose parents won’t speak to him because he left a lucrative, high prestige career to become a pastor. I know another who is told to just stay in the basement after dinner on holidays by his wife’s family.

Every faithful pastor has known the pain and disappointment of having someone he has poured into, discipled, and taught walk away from the faith (or at least the church), not to mention the pain that comes when people you love, have invested in, and count on as key contributors to the ministry of the church simply move away. The day after he was confirmed into the office of elder, our first elder as a new church plant was downsized and had to move away. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t find that discouraging.

Every faithful pastor has been deeply wounded by someone he thought of as a friend and ally. In fact, this is so common that a proverbial saying among seminary professors that all seminary students roll their eyes at is, “The man who brought you in will be the man who tries to take you out.” While that may not always be true, it is true often enough that no pastor five years in would roll his eyes.

Add to all of that how in pastoral ministry you can do everything “right” and not be “successful.” No other vocation that I have experienced is like that in any way. There is a popular preacher and conference speaker who often says to pastors (and those training for the ministry) that if you take care of the depth of your ministry, God will take care of he breadth. But what no one says is that sometimes the breadth is 40 people. The median size of an evangelical church in the U.S. is 184 but more than half have less than 75 regular attenders. The very best pastor I know has been faithfully preaching, teaching, and discipling for over thirty years at a Reformed Baptist church that has never cracked the 100 member mark. He has missed probably 500 weeks’ pay over that time as he always allowed his salary to be cut out of the budget when there wasn’t enough financial support to do the work of the ministry.

Oh, and everything that is common to believers and can drive them to discouragement, pastors also experience. They get sick and injured, they get flat tires, they experience the loss of loved ones, they have unexpected financial expenses, their dogs die. And they sin too. Even Paul was overcome at this, saying that he didn’t do the good he wanted to, that he did the wrong he despised, and called himself wretched (Romans 7:15-24).

You hear a lot about pastoral burnout, depression and how few ordained men actually retire from or die in pastoral ministry, but I don’t think it is really a matter of burnout or depression. More often than not I think it is profound, prolonged and unaddressed discouragement. Even in churches that are great at the “one anothers”, the pastor(s) are often viewed as “other”, not “another”. No one thinks to encourage them (other than in preaching), and their burdens are not borne (Galatians 6:2).

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would see enough of the Lord working that he would be encouraged that the Lord is at work through his ministry. Pray that the Lord’s grace would always be sufficient for him. Pray that the Lord would guard his heart from discouragement and pastoral jealousy. Pray that the Lord would strengthen him when he is weak and lift him up when he is down.

When Michelle asked me to write this post some months ago she said I could write it and she could publish it anonymously. I appreciated that. But the more I thought about it, the less attractive that option was. Here is why: I want everyone to know this isn’t a list of gripes written by someone who regrets being in ministry. I love pastoral ministry I love preaching, I love teaching, I love counseling, I love praying for the people of the church, and all of these things are absolutely true. Pastors are immensely blessed and privileged to do what we do, but we all (even your favorite radio preacher and your pastor) have feet of clay. And we are part of the body of Christ, just like you. But pastors have a unique role in the body, and by pulling back the curtain I hope I made it a little easier to understand and pray for your pastor.

And if you think of it say a prayer for me too. I need it.


John Chester is the pastor of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket, Virginia. Prior to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. He hails from The City of Champions: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra. Read John’s blog articles at ParkingSpace23, and read more of John’s excellent posts for Michelle Lesley here.


Pastors and pastor’s wives-
What would you add to this list of things that church members
may not know to pray for their pastors about?

Guest Posts, Ministry, Prayer

Guest Post: 7 Ways You Might Not Know You Need to Pray for Your Pastor ~ Part 1

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

7 Ways You Might Not Know
You Need to Pray for Your Pastor
Part 1

by Pastor John Chester

Being a pastor is odd. There is no other way to put it. It is entirely unique. No other profession or vocation or calling is like pastoral ministry. That is not to say it is better or more noble. It isn’t, it’s just different. Really different. (And it is certainly not to say that I am somehow superior, better, more valuable to the Kingdom, or holier. As one of my favorite seminary professors said to a class of future pastors, “You know why God calls men like you to pastoral ministry? Because you were the worst available.”)  

But pastoral ministry is unique, it is a unique job, it is a unique calling, and it is a unique lifestyle. And every pastor needs prayer, desperately. Most believers pray for their pastors (Thank you!). One of the questions I am often asked is, “How can I pray for you?” I am always happy to answer, but frankly I don’t think I have ever thought to ask for prayer related to the uniqueness of pastoral ministry. I know that you want to pray effectively and specifically for your pastor, so I am going to let you in on some inside baseball. Here are seven things you may not know about pastoral ministry and your pastor.

He is often under deep conviction

You know that sermon on that hard text that had you squirming in your seat about eight minutes in because the Word of God was so clear and strong in saying that you are in sin? Well your pastor has lived in that passage all week and has probably been thinking about it for weeks or even months. I remember after I had preached James 3:1-12 a dear saint coming up to me after the worship service and saying how hard it was to sit through that message because of how convicting it, and that text was. I said something along the lines of, “I know, we all fail to control our tongue as we should,” but what I was thinking was, “I know and if you think it was hard to listen to for 45 minutes, imagine studying for 45 hours for those 45 minutes.”

Don’t get me wrong, it is a great blessing to spend so much time and to be able to spend so much time studying God’s Word, even and especially the deeply convicting passage. Full stop. Yet is also true that it is emotionally draining to spend so much time in those passages. A few years ago I received an angry email from a visitor to the church (the time stamp on the email indicated that he must have written it on his phone in the parking lot), and his complaint was he didn’t feel uplifted by the sermon. Of course he didn’t feel uplifted by the sermon, no one did. Like everyone else, he was deeply convicted by it, the text was Mark 9:42-50, where Jesus says if your hand causes you to sin cut it off. I was preaching that sermon to myself when I was walking the dog on Thursday morning. Of the many things that I didn’t expect in pastoral ministry this is probably the most significant one.

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that when he is under powerful conviction of his own sinfulness the Lord would use it to conform him to the image of Christ, that he would feel the power and weight of forgiveness in Christ and that the Lord would bring passages like Colossians 2:13-15 and Psalm 103:10-13 to his mind.

He works a lot

I’ll not beat around the bush, I don’t know a single pastor that works less than 55 hours a week. Most of them work 60+ hours a week. Most church member know their pastor works a lot, but here is what you might not realize – the smaller the church, as a rule, the more hours the pastor works. It is very easy to think (or not to think about it at all) that your pastor doesn’t have the workload and responsibility of that famous pastor with a huge church, but he does, and probably much more to boot. It goes without saying that small church pastors spend as much time laboring in prayer and study as pastors with big churches (at least they should).

But small church pastors do something (often everything) else too; they are often the chief maintenance man, the church secretary, the webmaster, the youth pastor, the counseling pastor, the director of Christian education, etc., as well as the preaching pastor. Maybe you think, “Sure, but our church has three staff pastors and a secretary.”. To put that into perspective, the large church associated with my seminary has 14 staff pastors, staff elders who oversee non-pastoral areas of responsibility, and a veritable army of support staff and compensated interns. And that is in no way a criticism of that church. I rejoice that there are so many hands to make the work lighter, but the thing is that huge church has no more kinds of ministry going on that your small church. Your church probably doesn’t have a thousand kids in Sunday School, but it has Sunday School. Your church may not have hundreds of people in counseling at a time, but your pastors counsel people. You get the idea.

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would find refreshment in his work, that the Lord would move in the hearts of the saints to motivate them to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12), that the Lord would provide him with the rest and respite he needs (remember everyone is different), and the Lord would protect him from the deleterious health effects of overwork.(Bonus tip: encourage him to take actual vacations and days off and respect them.)

He is a man apart

I don’t mean that pastors are somehow different or better than other Christians, what I mean is that other Christians as well as non-Christians act like it. One of the strangest things to me when I moved from seminary to ministry – a move that entailed a cross country move to a place where no one knew me – was that everyone acted as if my first name was “pastor.” And the first 7,367,489 times someone called me “pastor” in conversation, I said, “Call me John.” But as the years have gone by I’ve learned to stop saying that, not because I’ve come to think of my self as different, but because no one has listened. And I get it. I never thought of my pastor, especially before I went to seminary, as just “Ron,” and, truth be told, I still think of him more as “Pastor Ron” than “Ron.” I think it is good for people to love and esteem their pastor – after all they are worthy of double honor (1 Tim 5:17) – but it is strange to be that person.

And if it’s odd being treated that way in the church it is even stranger being treated as a man apart outside of the church. I’ve had a handyman (who I learned was Hindu) sent by my landlord to paint an outside railing tell me he was going to do an extra good job because I was a holy man. My neighbors all are very stiff and formal with me. When I went to a gym in the smaller town I drove through on the way to the church, a hush would fall over the locker-room whenever I walked in because word had gotten around the gym that I was a pastor. The pharmacy tech at the drug store (who is also Hindu) asks me for marital advice, and I could go on.

Putting it all together it adds up to, functionally, a man apart, and that can be tough. (And this applies to your pastor’s wife too. A dear saint in the church one introduced my wife to one of her friends as “the First Lady of the church.” Often pastor’s wives experience profound loneliness. Don’t forget to pray for them too.)

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would be satisfied in the Lord, that his marriage would be a sweet friendship (Proverbs 5:18), that the Lord would bless him with friendships with local likeminded pastors, and that he would maintain the friendships he forged before pastoral ministry.

He is not always hungry

This one may seem trivial, but trust me it is important, especially if you love your pastor. Ask yourself this, when was the last time your pastor visited that you didn’t offer him something (probably a baked good) to eat.  I can count on one finger the times I’ve been in someone’s house when someone hasn’t offered me something to eat. And every time it is offered I accept, because I know it has been prepared with love and the last thing I would want to do is make someone feel unloved or rejected because I refused what they had prepared for me. Yet, often, I eat it knowing I shouldn’t. I love desert – one look at me would confirm it – but I really don’t need it on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. It can really be an act of love not to offer it.

A few weeks ago was the one time I was in someone’s home where they didn’t offer me something to eat. This family was relatively new to the church and wanted to talk about how they could serve, so we set a time for me to come over. And make no mistake, this is the kind of home visit every pastor loves and looks forward to. But I try to eat clean, and I was dreading the pastry I was sure was going to be offered. When I came over and it was suggested that we sit at the dining room table, I was sure that there was going to be a coffee cake on it, but there wasn’t.  I was grateful and greatly blessed when I was simply offered something to drink. I don’t think it is a coincidence that both the husband and wife had long personal histories of formal ministry in local churches.

And as a corollary let me say this (and I realize I am about to step on some toes), your pastor may not like Chik-Fil-A.  I would estimate that at least 75% of the time someone asks me to meet them for lunch they suggest CFA. I know that it is approaching heresy to say it, but CFA is just fast food, it is not an especially spiritual place to eat. If your pastor is not someone who eats at Taco Bell or Wendy’s regularly, he probably is not someone who wants to eat at CFA all the time.

How to pray for your pastor: Pray that he would eat a healthy diet and get adequate exercise.


John Chester is the pastor of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket, Virginia. Prior to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. He hails from The City of Champions: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra. Read John’s blog articles at ParkingSpace23, and read more of John’s excellent posts for Michelle Lesley here.


This concludes part 1 of John’s article.
Be sure to come back next Tuesday for Part 2.


Pastors and pastor’s wives-
What would you add to this list of things that church members
may not know to pray for their pastors about?

Discernment

Fighting Off the Wolves

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I love pastors. I really do. As a minister of music’s wife, church member, and through involvement in other ministries, I’ve known a lot of them. They have a tough job that most of us wouldn’t take on in a million years. I pray for and encourage my own pastor and my pastor buddies regularly, and try to remind y’all to do the same from time to time. All this to say, I’m not a preacher-basher. Far from it.

But sometimes there’s a bit of a veering in a dangerous direction, like a vehicle heading towards the center line, among (some, not all) pastors who are momentarily distracted and might need a friendly “Hey, did you see that truck we’re about to crash into?” from their terrified, front seat passenger.

Color me terrified.

There are pastors out there who treat false teachers with kid gloves. They refuse to label anyone as a false teacher, or only vaguely allude to certain false teachers without naming names. I’d like to encourage those pastors to pull the steering wheel to the right and call a spade a spade. Yes, they need to use the label of false teacher soberly, sadly, and only after making sure, with hard evidence, that it is warranted, but enough with grown men of God pussyfooting around under the guise of “we don’t know what’s in that person’s heart” or “I’m afraid to be painted with the ‘mean old discernment blogger’ brush.”

The Bible doesn’t say anywhere that a pastor shouldn’t call someone a false teacher and warn the flock about him just because the pastor doesn’t know for sure what’s in the person’s heart or because he’s afraid of what others might think. We are all to look at their words and their behavior and judge (that’s right, I said “judge“) whether or not they are teaching what accords with sound doctrine. And if they’re not, they need to be denounced. Not in a wild-eyed, foaming at the mouth, wingnut way, but certainly loudly and decisively as a mature man of God.

We never see Paul or Jesus or Peter or Jude or any other godly man in the Bible being over-cautious about firmly calling out those who had proved themselves to be false teachers.

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” – Jesus, Matthew 16:11

“Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites…blind guides…fools…serpents…brood of vipers.” – Jesus, Matthew 23

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” – Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” – Jude, Jude 4

“They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.” – Peter, 2 Peter 2:13b-15a

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
Paul, Galatians 1:8-9

Would pastors today be wise to use this same kind of verbiage? Maybe. Maybe not. These godly men spoke and wrote in a way that was appropriate for their time, culture, and context. Our time, culture, and context are different and may call for a different approach. But the point is, none of them were afraid to speak the truth boldly about false teachers in order to protect the sheep God had entrusted to them. And we sheep today desperately need courageous shepherds who will do the same.

Pastors, if you speak out against false teachers, there are people who will get mad at you. It’s unavoidable. But there are others who know the truth and will be cheering you on and supporting you. And there are still others you will turn back from false doctrine who will learn the truth of God’s word and love you for warning them. And their souls are worth any risk or trial.

Be encouraged, dear pastors. Be strong in the Lord. Be faithful to Him. You can do this!

Remember the words of your brother and fellow laborer Paul, who, after condemning false teachers in Galatians 1:6-9, may have anticipated the same backlash you might receive:

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10


Photo and quote courtesy of The Patriot. ©2000, Columbia Pictures, INc.