Who estimates your value?
After all, that is what the word “appreciation” means. It’s a good thing to think about since this is “Pastor Appreciation Month.” Appreciation is “the act of estimating the qualities of things (in this case, pastors) and giving them their proper value.”
So, are your qualities being given their proper value? In fact, Paul wrote to Timothy that “those who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor.” (I.5.17) Are you appreciated at least “proper,” let alone “double?”
Am I the only one conflicted about receiving appreciation?
There is a part of me that is so uncomfortable with it. When I retired, the dear leaders wanted to make something special about it. I held out as long as I could. I could only think of the people I had offended, the sermons I preached without the necessary preparation, the pride I struggle with when my people think I am humble, the times I neglected my family unnecessarily, especially in light of the cost Jesus paid in His ministry.
Yet another part of me can really feel unappreciated. “Do they know how hard I’m working? Do they realize the hours I put in? They can’t make the meeting I’m at because they have family matters?” Other pastors were given two-week skiing vacations or a swimming pool in the back yard. One even got a new car. “What about…?”
So I agreed to the farewell. It was slightly threatening to sit there and have all those people say what they appreciated about Ren. Yet I felt the warmth of their sincerity and love. I guess I did serve Jesus well. They even named the church cafeteria after me! St. Paul’s Cathedral; St. Peter’s Square; Ren’s Café!
Early on, the dear Holy Spirit helped me better anchor my feelings about appreciation. Jesus had sent out 36 two-man teams to expand His ministry. (Luke 10) They came back wildly enthusiastic about their success. (Like Jesus would be surprised!) Jesus didn’t thank them.
He listened for a while, and then He said, “Your work for Me is great. But don’t focus on your results. Instead, keep in mind that My Father, God Almighty, is personally taking note of what you are doing, and will always remember it.”
THAT is appreciation. “Appreciation Month” could be a sort of Hallmark moment. God’s appreciation is His never-ending record of our efforts. Appreciation is built in our call to work with our Lord. “He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)
Will Divine appreciation pierce our daily schedules?
In “weary ways and golden days?” When, like John Bunyan, our own family misunderstands us? When you finally recognize that you’ll never have the ability of Dr. _______ across town? Accepting the “loneliness of leadership?” The hourly, sometime repetitious, sometime lonely discipline required because we are in a marathon and not a dash? Your envy of those with Staff—or without!? Having too much month left at the end of your money, as my wife used to say?
What Jesus said helps me re-orient in another way. When I get up every morning and remember I have God’s appreciation, then ministry is no longer about them appreciating me. Do I appreciate them? It’s no longer about their commitment. What is my commitment level? It’s no longer about them loving me. Do I sincerely love them? And actually like them? Jesus frees us from counting our money while sitting at the table. We soldier on because we know we have God’s un-losable appreciation. Our people aren’t always sure they are appreciated. What if we live an unannounced but quietly applied “member/guest/Staff appreciation life?”
We’ve even made Google
Check out “pastors leaving ministry.” A sorrowful number of us often consider leaving the ministry. Many of us actually do within five years. A high number of us feels excess pressure, as do our families. The Fuller Institute and George Barna say that the No. 1—the No.1! —reason we leave the ministry is because people “are not willing to go the same direction and goal” as we are. That can get to be so discouraging that we leave. But if the people under our care “are not willing to go the same direction” that God has placed in our heart, isn’t that why the Bible describes us as “Pastors/Teachers?” (Ephesians 4:11) The average length of a Pastor’s stay is four years. Our call to teach our dear people how to see God’s “direction and goal” might take longer than that.
Take a prayerful moment to re-think. Check that you haven’t “overlooked an orchid while searching for a rose.” If you feel your “qualities” aren’t right now being “given their proper value,” what about your wife and family hanging in there with you? What about your faithful volunteers? They don’t have to be there. Think of those people you see who are out there when you lead worship and meetings. Oftentimes the fact of a Christmas card says more than the words on them. Plates of cookies, a banana bread, a tee shirt from someone’s trip; recognize the appreciation behind them. An accountability friend can be a great listener.
Can you identify right now what it would take to keep you from being a Google statistic?
Nearly fifty years ago…
I mentioned in a sermon that this wretch’s favorite word in the Bible is “grace.” That week when I came back from lunch, there was a finely-wrought, stainless-steel cross on my desk, with the word “grace” stamped into the crossbar. A note from the factory worker who had made it thanked me. I see it every day. Talk about appreciation!
Bert’s cross constantly reminds me of that wooden cross. Just when the qualities of our Pastor/Teacher were being estimated at tragically less than their value—even His Father was withholding His appreciation—Jesus completed His earthly ministry, not with a whimper but with a tremendous shout of victory: “I HAVE FINISHED IT!” And when our time comes, we will join in with His final breath, “Father, my eternal existence in Your hands.” Finishing with true appreciation.
Fellow Pastors, called to teach, let’s not rejoice because various evil spirits submit to us. Rejoice—and stay with joy—because our Heavenly Father is appreciatively keeping the record of our work with Him and for Him in His Book of Everlasting Life.
More information about Pastor Appreciation Month
October is Pastor Appreciation Month. It’s a special time that congregations set aside each year to honor their pastors and pastoral families for the hard work, sacrificial dedication, and multiple blessings provided by these special people. For more information, go to FocusonTheFamily.com/pastorappreciation and TheFocusedPastor.org.