It's pastor appreciation month, but you should also be appreciative of the good things at your church, including members of your congregation.
It's pastor appreciation month, but you should also be appreciative of the good things at your church, including members of your congregation. (Flickr )

October is pastor appreciation month. It is wonderful for pastors to know that their churches appreciate them.

I'm grateful for every encouraging comment, card and acknowledgement. But pastors are not alone in their need to be appreciated. Pastors should take the time and energy to appreciate their churches and church members.

I'm certainly aware that pastoring and leading people can be challenging. I know that churches have difficult members, and I also know that some churches have difficult pastors. In fact, my father was asked to resign one of his churches for no cause whatsoever.

As a pastor's son, I watched the unfairness of that situation affect my father's ministry and family life. As a pastor today, I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to see his example of forgiveness and continued ministry. Regardless of the challenges pastors may face, we have many important reasons for showing appreciation to our churches:

1. We should appreciate our church's heritage. Our churches existed before us and will exist after we're gone. While some churches can become chained to the past, pastors cannot afford to neglect their church's heritage. Past influence and successes provide the framework for future growth and ministry. Heritage doesn't have to be a hindrance to church growth, rather it can become a springboard. By publicly acknowledging elements of church heritage, pastors cultivate healthy connections between the past and the present.

2. We should appreciate the giftedness of our members. Many church members use their spiritual gifts and talents regularly. Thanking congregants publicly and privately who use their gifts in the church builds a culture of gratitude. As the body of Christ, churches need more than professional staff. The body needs every member, and those who use their gifts faithfully should be thanked regularly.

3. We should appreciate the attendance, involvement and giving of our church members. Being a pastor is a calling and mandate to study, preach, minister and lead weekly. Our congregants give hours on the weekends (that is not a part of their jobs) to attend, to serve and to be involved. We should not take the involvement of our members for granted. We can acknowledge and appreciate the attendance and involvement of our congregants by faithfully preparing sermons, carefully articulating God's Word and genuinely ministering to our congregation regularly.

4. We should appreciate the difficulties many of our church members face. Disease, financial challenges, personal struggles, death and other significant situations permeate our congregations. Some of those challenges bleed into how church members interact with us and other congregants. I'm not suggesting we excuse poor behavior. Rather, we need to minister with consideration, gentleness and kindness to all our congregants.

5. We should appreciate our churches because we are the bride of Christ. Jesus bled, suffered and died for His church, His bride. Jesus loves His church more than we could possibly imagine. Think about how important it is for you to appreciate and acknowledge your spouse. Think about how hurt and upset you might become if someone took your spouse for granted or treated her/him poorly. As pastors, we are responsible to shepherd, love and care for someone else's bride—the bride of Jesus Christ. Our churches are really His church, and our appreciation and service to them is a reflection of our service to Him.

On a personal note, I'm deeply grateful for Wilkesboro Baptist Church. God blessed me with the privilege of serving a gifted congregation with a glorious heritage full of members who love Jesus and serve others. To the members of Wilkesboro Baptist, thank you for the honor of being your pastor.

Chris Hefner serves as the senior pastor at Wilkesboro Baptist Church in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Chris has a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and also teaches at Fruitland Baptist Bible College.

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