Helping Your Church Win by Helping Your Pastor Win

In a recent interview with Leith Anderson, a pastoral colleague and current President of the National Association of Evangelicals, he made a statement to me that I’ve not been able to shake.  He said, “Churches do more to help pastors succeed than pastors do to help churches succeed.” 

In our American culture, which tends to idolize the ideal of the dynamic “type A” leader, it seems we’ve lost our way as it relates to the proper relationship between shepherds and sheep. 

Much could be said about the responsibilities of shepherds.  The call to integrity must sound loud today in a society that defines “leaders” by their appearance, smile, hair style, and entertainment quotient.  The passion for sacrifice must be cultivated anew in the face of many temptations to use the people in the name of God rather then be used of God for the good of the people. 

But this devotional is focused on the sheep.  The sheep that sometimes bite.  The flock that sometimes misbehaves.  The sheep that keep shepherds so distracted with their wanderings that the shepherd loses the energy to care for himself, let alone the other many legitimate needs of the flock.

In a recent gathering with leaders at a local church where I was conducting a weekend of ministry, the question was asked, “What can people do to support their leaders?”  With no script or outline, I simply answered from my heart with three ideas.  Maybe they will help you as well.

Stop the comparisons! – I often say that comparison is an ugly game that no one ever wins.  If you are compared favorably, it results in pride.  If you are compared unfavorably, it causes self-doubt, even pity.  Current pastors are often compared to previous pastors – and to other “successful” clergy across town. 

In the same interview, Leith Anderson noted, “Fifty years ago, the only way someone would compare their pastor with another is when they went on vacation. Today, because of radio teachers, TV preachers, and celebrity authors,  pastors are compared everyday to an unrealistic and unfair standard.” 

It is true yet so unnecessary, unhealthy, and debilitating.  Discontented sheep are made by unrealistic standards and unfair comparisons.  Yet, if God is sovereign (and He is) and your pastor is a man of integrity and dedication (and he probably is), then he deserves your support for who he is, knowing that God, in His goodness and wisdom, called him to your church.  He did not call Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Joel Osteen, Max Lucado, Tony Evans, Andy Stanley, or John MacArthur to be your pastor.  He could have – but He didn’t.  So be grateful for the gift of your God-assigned spiritual leader.

Guard your tongues! – The tongue is a fire.  In some cases it is a flame thrower and in other cases an initiating spark.  In every case – a destructive blaze. 

Many years ago, I sat with Al Broom, former Executive Pastor of First Baptist Church of Modesto, CA.  He offered profound insight when he stated, “The number one problem of the local church is the toleration of known sin.”  He then added, “The number one sin of the church is a critical spirit.” A critical spirit is at the source of caustic and condemning speech.  When it is targeted at pastors, it is especially damaging to the health of a congregation.

Hit your knees! – Of course, it is near impossible to be an intercessor and a critic at the same time.  Prayer can stop a negative tongue and unleash a positive movement of support.  The Apostle Paul was bold in his requests for supportive prayer (2 Corinthians 1:8-11; Ephesians 6:18-19; Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).  I like to remind Christians that if they are not happy with their pastor, don’t fire him at a business meeting; instead, fire him up in a prayer meeting. 

You’ve probably heard Rick Warren speak of the extensive survey he did of successful churches prior to launching Saddleback.   After much travel and many conversations he discovered profound differences between the congregations.  The primary positive common denominator among all was that the pastor of each church had been there a long time.

Saints who think the pastor is supposed to make the church succeed, but who are not entirely determined to make their pastor succeed, suffer from myopia and strategic confusion.  No church can succeed without stable leadership.  No leader can succeed without determined and supportive people.  If the leaders fail, the church will eventually fail.  But if the leader thrives, everyone wins.

Help your church win by overtly and enthusiastically helping your pastors win.  The kingdom will advance, the community will be blessed, and Christ will be honored.

Copyright © 2013 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.