HONORING AND PRAYING FOR YOUR PASTOR
BY DALE SCHLAFER
I was in Cincinnati for a conference in which I was playing a significant role, and I was afraid. I had been given a large
responsibility, and I questioned my ability to handle it. I had told my church these feelings on the Sunday prior to my two-week absence. I had pleaded with them for prayer. Now, nine days later, I resumed to my hotel and stopped off at the front desk to see if I had received any mail. I had a telegram, the clerk said; it contained only three words: “We Love You!”
That message was followed by 12 pages of single-spaced, typed names, of people from my church. During the announcements at church the day before, the congregation had been reminded that the upcoming Tuesday was my big day. Anyone who wanted to encourage me was invited to stop in the back and sign up for the telegram. As I read those names, all 12 pages, I felt ten feet tall. I knew they were praying and thinking about me. At that moment, I felt I could have done anything because I was so affirmed and supported.
That evening, one of my best friends (also a pastor) and I went to see the Cincinnati Reds play a baseball game. While we were sitting in the stands, I told him about the telegram. Even years later, as I sit writing this, I can still see his face. He looked me straight in the eyes and, with tears running down his cheeks, said, “Once, just once, I wish somebody in my church would tell me they loved me.”
What I have discovered since that night, and what surveys of pastors show, is that an overwhelming number of ministers share my friend’s sentiment. They feel unloved, unappreciated, and unprayed for.
Promise Keepers is committed to changing this situation by calling men to “honor and pray for their pastors.”
All Christians are called to practice honor. Romans 12:10 says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” God calls us to esteem, respect, and show deference to each other in the Body of Christ. When it comes to pastors, however, the Word of God says something unique. We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, “Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.”
The phrase “Hold them in the highest regard” is unusual in the original Greek of the New Testament in that it takes the adverb and triples its intensity. This verse could read, “Hold them beyond the highest regard in love.” Or it might be rendered, “Honor, honor, honor in love those who work hard among you.” In today’s wording, we might paraphrase it, “Esteem to the max in love those who work hard among you.” What we sense here is the apostle Paul’s struggle–almost being at a loss for words-to adequately express what the Holy Spirit wants to communicate to the church, just how much the people in a congregation are to hold their pastor in super highest regard. Pastors are not to be esteemed for their office, degrees, age, or spiritual gifts, but “because of their work.”
The biblical pattern, then, is for all Christians to show honor to one another, and triple honor to their pastors.
Now, if that’s the case, why are pastors not honored in our day? First, our culture encourages us to not show honor to anyone. We live in a day of egalitarianism that doesn’t allow for differences and appears to treat all people the same. Political and sports cartoonists ridicule those in authority. Comedians poke fun at anyone in a place of prominence. And the average Christian carries that same attitude into the church.
I believe the major reason pastors are not honored, however, is that church members don’t know it’s one of their responsibilities in following Jesus Christ. Some church members simply enjoy tearing down their pastor, but the vast majority fail to honor their pastor just because they are ignorant of God’s Word. One pastor, Steve, with whom I spoke in preparation for writing this chapter brought some men from his church to the Promise Keepers ’93 conference. He told me that since then, things had changed dramatically because his men heard Coach McCartney talk about a man’s responsibility to his pastor. “The men of my church didn’t have bad hearts,” Steve said. “They just needed an external source to explain the truth of God’s Word to them.”
How is it that people in the church don’t know this teaching to honor their pastors? The answer is that it hasn’t been taught. I
searched through the books of sermons in my library, some many years old and others quite contemporary, but I could not find one sermon on this topic. Given our age, it’s obvious why this is the case. Can you imagine your pastor standing in the pulpit next Sunday and stating, no matter how smoothly, “You as a church body are to give me triple honor”? As soon as you entered your car, you would be saying, “What an egotist! I can’t believe the turkey would say something like that. Wow, is he ever full of pride!” Because that’s the way most people would react, pastors shy away from this teaching, and the American church continues in its ignorant disobedience to this clear command of God.
Promise Keepers is committed to seeing that this biblical truth is recaptured in the church. By the grace of God, we are determined to eliminate the neglect and dishonor of our pastors. With fierce determination, Christian men are being called to take the lead in bringing triple honor to our pastors.
What would it look like to honor our pastors? Let’s take a closer look at Steve’s story.
In his own words, Steve was “at a point of depression.” Disheartened with the ministry at his church, he had already written a
letter of resignation. In fact, the letter was signed and on his desk when he and some of his men left for the Promise Keepers conference. As the men listened to Coach Mac, they came under strong conviction for their failure to honor their pastor. And during a sharing time in the worship service the next Sunday, a number of them stood and repented of their sin of not honoring and encouraging their pastor. They also acknowledged their sin of expecting him to do all the ministry while they stood on the sidelines and griped.
“Overnight there was a change in my church,” Steve said. “The entire dynamic of our church is changing. They have freed me to do what I was called to do. Beyond that, they have started a Monday morning prayer time where a part of the time is devoted to prayer for me.” With great delight, Steve ripped up his letter of resignation, and he and his church are now working together as a team. Why? Part of the answer has to be that the men came to see the biblical necessity of honoring their pastor. As a result of their obedience, God is now free to pour out His blessing.
Perhaps you’re thinking at this point, Could this honoring thin” go too far? Could this feed an ego problem? Might this cause jealousy? Undoubtedly, those concerns are possibilities. If I were writing to pastors, I would digress at this point to deal with the sins of pride and arrogance with which pastors might be tempted. But right now, at this point in the history of the American church, those sins are not the problem. The hurt, the neglect, the dishonoring have gone on for so long, and with such intensity, that large numbers of pastors are turning in their resignations because they feel so alone and unsupported. One recent poll revealed that 80 percent of the pastors responding had thought about quitting in the last three months. Yes, in some immature men, triple honoring might cause a problem. But for the vast majority of godly pastors, honoring and lifting them up will cause them to be more motivated and even harder workers. They will be encouraged, and their churches will be blessed.
As a pastor, I, too, stood on the floor of the football stadium at Promise Keepers ’93. I reveled in the prolonged standing ovation the more than 50,000 gathered men gave to all the pastors who were there. In the providence of God, I stood next to a pastor I didn’t know. He said, “This will be enough for me to be able to put up with all the _ I’ll take at my church for the next six months!” Honoring him in this manner had put a new resolve and a new desire in his heart to go back and pastor his church in what was obviously a tough situation. Now, if the men of that church honored and encouraged him regularly, what effect would it have?
What would happen if you regularly honored and encouraged your pastor? I believe your church would begin to receive blessing as never before. Why? Because the blessing of God comes when we obey His Word.
Promise Keepers are also committed to praying for their pastors. The concept of praying for all Christians is clearly spelled out in the Bible: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).
When it comes to praying for our pastors, we have a special responsibility.
Paul, an apostle and pastor, said, “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my
struggle by praying to God for me” (Rom. 15:30). In another place, he reminded his readers that they could help him and his ministry team “by your prayers” (2 Cor. 1:11). In other words, pastors especially are in need of prayer.
Why is that the case? Satan’s desire is to destroy the work of Christ in the world. One of his most effective ways of doing that is to
destroy pastors. If Satan can bring them down, causing disgrace and ridicule to taint the work of Christ, the non-believing world will not be attracted to Jesus. We have all seen the carnage left around us as pastors have failed morally or have simply left the ministry because of disillusionment.
Several years ago, a pastor in Denver told his congregation the following true story. A lady from his church was flying back to Denver, and as the meal was served, she noticed the woman sitting next to her did not take a meal. To make conversation, the Christian woman asked, “Are you on a diet?”
“No,” came the reply, “I am a member of the church of Satan, and we are fasting for the destruction of the families of pastors and Christian leaders.”
Pastors are at risk because they are the church’s leaders. If Satan can get them, the church of Jesus Christ will be crippled.
In no way am I trying to excuse the pastors who have fallen or bailed out of the ministry in recent years, but I do have a question.
How many of those pastors had men in their churches who daily brought them before the Lord in prayer? I wonder how many men’s groups gathered to pray for them? I am not surprised by the number of pastors who have fallen. To be truthful, I’m surprised the number is not larger. The job of being a pastor is enormously difficult and is made even more so because the men of the church are not praying.
Pastors need prayer especially for their preaching and teaching of the Word. Again I ask, why are pastors not preaching what they really believe is the word of God for their congregations? The answer is, I believe, that they are afraid–afraid the people of their
churches will not accept the kind of preaching that clearly and powerfully confronts sin and sinners. Afraid they will be fired and lose their financial security. As a result, in many cases, God’s purposes are thwarted and our churches remain weak and sick.
The apostle Paul regularly asked for prayer so that “boldness might be given.” Pastors need to know their men are with them and are praying for them so they can be emboldened to share the whole council of God and not cower in the face of opposition within or without the church.
E.M. Bounds said it this way:
The men in the pew given to praying for the pastor are like poles which hold up the wires along which the electric current runs. They are not the power, neither are they the specific agents in making the Word of the Lord effective. But they hold up the wires upon which the divine power runs to the hearts of men…. They make conditions favorable for the preaching of the Gospel. (A Treasury of Prayer–The Best of E. M. Bounds Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1961], pp. 172-73)
I don’t understand it all; I just know that when the men of the church start praying for the pastor, something happens.
Dr. Wilbur Chapman often told of going to Philadelphia to become the pastor of the Wanamaker Church. After his first sermon, an older gentleman met him in front of the pulpit and said, “You are pretty young to be the pastor of this great church. We have always had older pastors. I am afraid you won’t succeed. But you preach the gospel, and I am going to help you all I can.”
“I looked at him,” said Dr. Chapman, “and said to myself: ‘Here’s a crank.’ But the old gentleman continued: ‘I am going to pray for you that you may have the Holy Spirit’s power upon you, and two others have covenanted to join me.’ ” Then Dr. Chapman related the outcome:
I did not feel so bad when I learned he was going to pray for me. The three became ten, the ten became twenty, the twenty became fifty, the fifty became two hundred who met before the service to pray that the Holy Spirit might come upon me. In another room, eighteen elders knelt so close around me to pray for me that I could put out my hands and touch them on all sides. I always went into the pulpit feeling that I would have the anointing in answer to the prayers of two hundred and nineteen men. It was easy to preach, a very joy. Anybody could preach with such conditions. And what was the result? We received 1,100 into our church by conversion in three years, 600 of which were men. I do not see how the average preacher under average conditions preaches at
all. Church members have much more to do than go to church as curious, idle spectators, to be amused and entertained. It is their business to pray mightily that the Holy Ghost will clothe the preacher and make his words like dynamite. (John Maxwell, in a letter to church leaders, quoting A.M. Hills in Pentecostal Light)
Imagine what would happen if you and the other men from your church determined to pray for your pastor. The whole dynamic and atmosphere of your church would be different.
What would it look like to start such a prayer ministry? In the church I serve, men are asked once a year to sign up to be prayer
partners with me. At least one man is assigned to pray for me each day of the month. When that list is drawn up, I pray for the man who is praying for me on that day as well. To further assist my prayer partners, I regularly send them a letter to keep them current on answers to their prayers and new things for which they can be praying.
The entire group that signed up is also divided into four teams. Each team is assigned one Sunday a month to come to the church to pray for me. (Fifth Sundays are left unassigned, and any team member can come. Usually, the meetings are packed!) The men arrive at 8:15 A.M., as our first service is at 9:00. They disperse throughout the entire church facility. Some stay in the worship center, praying for the worship team and others participating in the service, as well as for those who will attend the services. Others move through the classrooms, praying for teachers by name. Still others walk in the parking lot, asking God to keep things organized and friendly, and that the sweet Spirit of Jesus will be sensed by folks as they pull into the lot. At 8:30, we all gather in my office, and they pray for me. I tell them what I think God wants me to do that day, plus how I am feeling both physically and spiritually. Then I kneel and the men gather around, lay hands on me, and begin to pray.
The results have been dramatic. I have sensed a new power and authority in my preaching. The men who pray have a sense of personal ownership of Sunday mornings. They know their prayers are essential if anything of eternal significance is to take place. Further, the Lord has built a wonderful sense of teamwork through this prayer partnership. Sometimes as I’m preaching, I catch the eye of one of them, and he’ll wink or give me the thumbs-up sign. When that occurs, I know they are praying and are for me, and then I really “go to preachin’!”
Let me suggest that you go to your pastor and tell him you want to organize a team of men who will pray for him every day. Tell him you and this group of men, wish to meet with him on Sundays before services to pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit to come upon him. If you do this, it will be one of the greatest joys your pastor has ever had in his ministry.
Why do I know that’s true? Because the overwhelming majority of pastors feel unprayed for and isolated in their ministries. One pastor said to me not long ago, “Nobody in my church cares about me or the ministry of this church.” Suppose the men of his church came around him and asked to pray for him. What do you think would happen? That church would never be the same again.
Promise Keepers is seeking nothing less than a paradigm shift in the life of America’s churches. Until now, in the vast majority of
situations, pastors have not been honored, loved, esteemed, or prayed for. By God’s grace, however, that is going to change as Promise Keepers in every church see it as their personal responsibility to support the pastor. That’s why I say we want a paradigm shift. A paradigm is a model, or pattern, for understanding and interpreting reality.
When there’s a paradigm shift, everything gets changed. As Promise Keepers begin to honor and pray for their pastors, a new life
and vitality will start to grow in congregations. A new teamwork will blossom between pastor and people. A new sense of call will dominate the pastors of this land. A new holiness will spring forth because of changed preaching. And we will find ourselves in the middle of revival.
At Promise Keepers ’93, Coach McCartney said the following:
I see us going home to our churches and asking our pastors for permission, praying fervently for the favor of God, to stand before the congregation and say: “Things are going to change around here. We’re going to start to lift up our pastor. We are going to start to stand in the gap for our preacher. We’re going to pray around the clock! We’re going to build this man up. We’re going to take him where he has never been before.” I see us exploding in our churches.
Indeed! That is our goal–to see revival spread across our country. How will that occur? Revival will come as churches are
revived. The churches will be revived as the pastors are revived. And part of what God will use to revive them will be Promise Keepers, men who keep their word to honor and pray for their pastors.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SEVEN PROMISES OF A PROMISE KEEPER, AND PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PUBLISHING, 1994, PAGES 133-140.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.