America’s Pastor, H.B. London, joins us today to give us an update as to what he’s been doing since he left Focus on the Family, what he sees in terms of where the church could do better and how we can move forward in honoring our pastors and church leaders who serve the body of Christ week in and week out. Let’s dive right in.
1. Can you tell us what you’ve been doing since you left Focus on the Family?
Since 2011 I’ve been serving as pastor of Friendship Church in Sun City Palm Desert, California. It’s been an absolute delight. In addition, I have served clergy couples when the opportunity has arisen. I’ve also enjoyed some extra time with Beverley, my beloved wife of 61 years.
2. Why did you create Clergy Appreciate Month? What was the goal?
Pastoring is a calling but it’s also difficult work. Most people think a pastor just works on Sunday, but the reality is quite the opposite. Pastors have to be available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. It can be physically, emotionally and even spiritually exhausting. Our goal was to put an arm around pastors and let them know they were loved and appreciated. In addition, we hoped that the people of our country would recognize the value of each clergy family.
3. What do you see as a major deficit in the church today when it comes to honoring pastors?
I think the average church member is just so busy that it’s easy to forget that the pastor in the pulpit is fighting a daily battle just like you are. There is a lot of contention in the local church and most churches are either in decline or struggling financially. As a result, it’s difficult for pastor and people to make the progress they need to make.
4. How does the local church impact what happens in the family?
The local church can play a critical role in the health and well-being of the family. Depending upon a family’s circumstances and background, the church is often the vehicle the Lord uses to introduce people to the saving, transformational power of Jesus Christ. In a best case scenario, a church will complement and affirm what is being taught and preached in the home. I think the church becomes the spiritual anchor for the family and is there for the family in good times and bad.
5. How can a pastor do both ministry and family well, without neglecting one or the other?
It can be a constant challenge, especially for Type A personalities. It’s been my experience that “balance” is somewhat of a misnomer for pastors, especially those in smaller churches. Nevertheless, pastors need to be very deliberate and not neglect their first priorities at home. Pray about it. Set some goals. Establish your priorities. And then invite the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your steps. Balance is really not a good word to describe the pastor’s work in a community. Management is a much better word. If a pastor doesn’t learn to manage his home and ministry he will always be frustrated.
6. Are pastors adequately equipped to address the radical shift culture is taking away from the nuclear family?
I think some are – and some are not. I strongly encourage pastors to utilize the many resources available at Focus on the Family that are designed to help moms and dads (and pastors!) navigate the constantly evolving cultural landscape. It is vital that a pastor prepare himself for the various conditions of our society because society and its practices are becoming less Christian and less moral all the time.
7. How can pastors build stronger, more engaged families in the local church?
Encourage their congregations to listen to Focus on the Family! A healthy church is made up of healthy families, so when you’re planning your sermons, Sunday school classes and regular events, make sure you’re thinking about how these outreaches will be received by the typical family in your church. In addition, the church can provide materials for families to use when there are decisions at home or for parents to use when they are struggling with a difficult child. A disoriented family can create great problems in one’s marriage and must be guarded against.
8. What is your advice for the young pastor who recently graduated seminary and is trying to build a family at the same time shepherding a small church?
I always tried to treat every church assignment like it was the only church I was ever going to pastor. Dig in, roll up your sleeves, love on your people and let the Lord take care of the rest. Again, you have got to do the best with what you’ve got and if your plate is always full of church and full of family you are going to experience an emotional disaster. You must learn to manage well.
9. What is your advice for the seasoned pastor who is having a hard time handing over the reins to a younger generation of leaders?
Are you planning on living forever? I realize that it can be difficult, but part of your job is to help find your successor. Don’t be threatened. Embrace the season of life you’re in and remember all the people who invested in you as a young pastor. It’s time to give back and share your wisdom with others. Just make sure that you don’t cruise to the end of your ministry. Be aware and productive to its conclusion.
10. As you consider the 60+ years of ministry you’ve accomplished, what one nugget of truth do you wish to instill to those in the trenches of pastoral ministry?
Trust me. It goes fast! I always liked to remind my people that the Lord loves them as if they were the only person to love. All ministry is 1:1. Love is the greatest power and force in the world and a pastor and his ministry must be punctuated by a love for his people. I have always found it to be true – if you love people they will love you back.