Every pastor will tell you that ministry is hard work. Here is an encouraging word from "Experiencing God Day By Day" by Henry Blackaby.
"For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground" Isaiah 53:2a.
The coming of Jesus was like a tender plant in the midst of a parched ground. Parched ground offers little hope for survival; it is dry and too hardened to allow most plants to penetrate its crust. Yet Jesus was prophesied as a tender plant that would break through the hostile soil and overcome the dry and lifeless environment in order to bring life.
When Jesus was born, His people were hardened to God’s Word. There is no written record of God’s having spoken to His people for four hundred years. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had studied and memorized the Scriptures, but the words were lifeless to them. So hostile had they become to the truth that when God’s Son came to them, they killed Him. Nevertheless, despite the enmity of the people, Jesus brought life to all who believed in Him.
Jesus is capable of bringing life to any person, society, or culture no matter how hardened or hostile they have become to the gospel. Even the most calloused sinner will discover that Jesus knows how to penetrate the heart and bring life where there was only bitterness. The work of Jesus in a person’s life may seem fragile at first, but like the mustard seed, it will eventually grow into something strong.
As you pray for someone you care about, don’t be discouraged if this person has not responded to Jesus. Just as a tender plant finds a way to grow in a hard and unreceptive environment, so the love of Jesus has the ability to emerge in a life that seems completely unresponsive.
"He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out" (John 10:3).
Have you ever met someone and five seconds into the conversation you've already forgotten their name? You're not alone! On average, the human brain can only remember about 150 names and faces without prompt. Memorizing the names and faces of an entire church congregation can be quite the challenge! Here are five ways to get to know your flock.
1. Learn their names and use their name in conversation. It takes effort to learn a lot of names and faces in a short period of time. While sitting in our first deacons meeting (at FBC Mount Sterling), I wrote down the names of each deacon as they introduced themselves. As each one spoke during the meeting, I looked back at their name to associate the person with their name. By the end of the meeting I was able to identify all of the deacons by their first name without using my notes. It's hard work, but worth the effort.
2. Listen to their prayer requests. People share prayer requests about the things that are most important to them. When people fill out a prayer request card, share a request after the worship service, or share during Wednesday night's prayer time... it is important to listen to their requests. Pray for them the next day. At your next opportunity, follow up with them by asking about their request.
3. Look at them in their eyes. The people in your flock deserve your undivided attention. It can be difficult to focus on the person you're talking to when others are walking past, waving, and whispering "good sermon" as they pass by. Without intending to do so, we can look over the shoulder of the person we are talking with and miss what they are sharing. Do your best to shut out the distractions around you and focus your attention on the person in need of your attention. Those who made the effort to seek you out and speak with you deserve your undivided attention.
4. Laugh with them. Be authentic with others and laugh. It's always good to have a funny ice-breaker when getting to know others. A friend of mine uses the ice-breaker, "What was the worst job you ever had?" This gives you an opportunity to learn about the person and laugh with them. You might want to invite them into your home to create this opportunity. We've done this through "Dessert for 10" and "Christmas Open House" at our home.
5. Locate common ground. Identify areas of interest of those in your flock. If they have an interest in hunting, cooking, photography, painting, under-water-basket-weaving, etc., ask questions and listen to their interests. Take an interest in the person through their interests.
Here's the key: lather, rinse, and repeat. These five ways to get to know your flock are only the beginning. Relationships are built over time. Your flock really needs to know that you care about them and they want to be known. Just remember the shepherd "calls his own sheep by name and leads them."
This blog post is the follow-up to "5 Ways to Get to Know Your Pastor."
It saddens me each time I hear of another pastor who has lost his ministry. Sometimes they leave ministry due to burnout. Sometimes they have been hurt so deeply by the church they cannot continue. Sometimes they love the things of the world too much. Whatever their reason, they have abandoned their post. Scripture offers us a great contrast between two men in ministry... Demas and Mark.
Demas is only mentioned three times in the Bible. The first mention identifies him as a "fellow laborer" with the Apostle Paul (cf. Philemon 1:24). The second occurrence only mentions his greeting to the church at Colosse (cf. Col. 4:14). His third and final mention indicates he has abandoned the ministry (cf. 2 Tim. 4:9-11). My conclusion... don't be a Demas. ;)
Paul doesn't provide the details as to why Demas has abandoned the ministry. Perhaps a moral failure, the persecution was too great, or some other reason. Paul simply says that Demas' desires were a worldly focus.
The same passage that indicates Demas' abandonment (i.e. 2 Timothy 4:9-11) also indicates a desire for Mark to join Paul in his work, "for he is useful to me for ministry." There is a great contrast here between Demas and Mark. Mark abandoned Paul on his first missionary journey, but found redemption and ended strong. Demas began strong with the Apostle Paul but abandoned him for the things of the world. My conclusion... be more like Mark.
Ministry is hard work and your pastors need your prayers! Pray that God will protect them from moral failure. Pray that God will protect them from persecution. Pray that the church will actually be an encouragement to their ministry as opposed to a discouragement. If you don't want a "Demas" for a pastor, pray for him.
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in vocational ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."