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The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors

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The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors


The Yeast of the Pharisees: Spiritual Abuse by Pastors and Counselors was written by Edward J. Cumella, Ph. D. and originally Published in Christian Counseling Today 2005 Vol. 13 No. 1:35)

Spiritual abuse began in the Garden of Eden: Satan manipulated God’s words and convinced our earliest parents to follow him instead of God. This event epitomizes all spiritual abuse. 

Spiritual abuse is more about personality

Spiritual abuse occurs across denominations, in non-denominational churches, and across faiths—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, et al. It usually has little to do with the theologies of major religious groups and more to do with the personality of individual leaders. Spiritual leaders with personality pathology—especially narcissistic, antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, borderline, and histrionic traits—may become spiritually abusive. Because of emotional, relational, and cognitive problems characterizing these personalities, the Bible, theology, and church relationships can be distorted by such leaders to the point of serious harm. 

Christians believe that human beings have a spirit that connects us to God. As such, spiritual abuse consists of actions that distort or sever our relationship with God. Since identity derives from knowing who we are in relation to God, spiritual abuse harms self-concept and self-worth. Spiritual abuse also causes mental and emotional distress, and is therefore a form of mental/emotional abuse. In extreme cases, it includes physical and sexual abuse justified by the abuser as God’s will through the twisting of scriptures.


Spiritual abuse has debilitating effects

Spiritual abuse has debilitating effects and is thus a legitimate focus in counseling or pastoral care. Depending on its manifestation, spiritual abuse may involve actions—such as severe mental/emotional abuse or physical/sexual abuse of children—that professionals are legally required to report to state child protection agencies. When perpetrators of spiritual abuse are licensed or certified counselors/pastors, ethics compel reporting the perpetrator’s behavior to licensing boards or church/denominational oversight authorities.

Spiritual abuse is usually more severe in church than in counseling settings. Pastors are often accorded great respect and authority in critical life domains— marriage, sexuality, relationships, and finances. They lead communities that exert social pressures and offer belonging and fellowship. Abuse in these contexts affects most aspects of life. 


Spiritual abuse occurs on a continuum

Spiritual abuse occurs on a continuum. Some churches are virtually free of it; others are occasionally and mildly abusive; still others abuse frequently and with great intensity. Experiences of spiritual abuse are also unique to the individual. Some—such as those inclined to perfectionism, obsessions, anxiety, or self-derision—are more likely to hear messages as inflexible rules or condemnations. Others in the same environment and exposed to the same messages might not experience trauma. 

Spiritual abuse can arise in counseling offices, but is usually less severe than in churches, for several reasons. Counselors are rigorously trained to be person-centered, to listen, and to respect the beliefs and choices of their clients. Counselors are less commonly accorded the same authority as pastors, nor is counseling typically imbued with the authority of God. Counseling is temporary; counseling is commonly and easily terminated. But church membership can be seen as a lifetime commitment. Leaving counseling does not mean separation from family and friends, but leaving one’s church may.

Scripture addresses spiritual abuse best through Christ’s scathing words to the Pharisees (Matthew 23), who are perfect examples of spiritual abuse.


Spiritual abuse has 12 features

Authoritarianism. Rather than modeling and teaching obedience to God, abusive leaders expect believers to obey them. Councils of elders, deacons, etc., are expected to rubber stamp leaders’ intentions rather than provide accountability.

Coercion. Rather than respecting freedom and conscience, as God does, and offering messages that persuade based on scriptural integrity and reason, abusive leaders use strong-arm tactics to coerce believers into overruling better judgment and following their demands.

Intimidation. Rather than building up the Body in the bonds of love, abusive leaders use threats of punishment, excommunication, and condemnation to force people into submission and continued church membership.

Terrorism. Rather than inviting people to follow Christ with the Gospel of love and forgiveness, abusive leaders intensify believers’ fear, shame, and false guilt, teaching that problems in believers’ lives are due to the believers’ personal sins.

Condemnation. Rather than refraining from judgment lest they be judged, an abusive leader liberally condemns those who leave his church, outsiders, and those whom he defines as sinners. The message is that believers will join the ranks of the condemned should they deviate from the leader’s teachings or leave his church/denomination. Individual members become the scapegoat when something goes awry in the congregation. 

Classism. Christ was no respecter of persons. Abusive leaders are preoccupied with power, promoting church hierarchy, referring to and treating people according to their titles and roles. Those lower on the hierarchy are taught that their needs don’t matter. 

Conformity. Abusive leaders have the greatest hold over inexperienced, naïve, and dependent individuals who are seeking a strong leader. These individuals suppress their objections to the leaders’ teachings for fear of being shamed or ostracized. Hence, abusive churches often appear unified, but beneath the surface there is discontent, anguish, whispers, rumors, secrets, and a desire among many to leave.

Manipulation. Rather than taking scripture in context, interpreting the Bible with the Bible and according to long-held Christian beliefs, abusive leaders twist scripture to convey their personal opinion rather than God’s intent. 

Irrationality. Because scripture is manipulated, one interpretation may contradict another. Interpretations may contradict reason and obvious reality. This requires suspension of critical thinking. Some abusive leaders claim to receive direct messages from God about their church or individual members, but these messages typically deviate from Scripture and reality. 

Legalism. Rather than treating others with love, grace, and forgiveness, as Christ commanded, abusive leaders offer little grace. They communicate instead that one’s worth and the amount of love one deserves depend on performance and status in their church. Abusive leaders expect believers to make heroic financial, time, and emotional sacrifices for their church and its members.

Isolation. Rather than respecting family ties, community obligations, and friendships, abusive leaders are concerned that such influences will interfere with their control over  believers, so they encourage isolation from family, friends, and the outside world, and wage war against the outside world as a sewer of sin devoid of anything redeeming.

Elitism. Rather than modeling and encouraging humility, abusive leaders beam with false pride and teach the same to believers. An attitude arises of, “We’re it! We’re special! Everyone else is condemned!,” partially compensating for the shame and worthlessness that believers feel because of other experiences in the abusive church. The leader instills that believers must protect the church’s image at any cost. 

Ensnarement. Rather than promoting maturity among believers, abusive leaders inevitably promote self-doubt, guilt, and identity confusion, since believers struggle with the contradiction between what their conscience and reason tell them and what they are being taught. This ambivalence, coupled with fear of condemnation and loss of direction and fellowship, make it difficult and painful for believers to leave abusive churches.

Think about a cult, for at its most severe, a spiritually abusive church is a cult. It has so diverged from solid Biblical teaching and grown so warped in the authoritarian rule of one man, that it has become a place of idolatry where God is no longer worshipped. “Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough… Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees…” (Galatians 5:7-10, Matthew 16:6). 


Assessing religious abuse

Assessment is simpler when clients already define their religious experiences as abusive. When clients do not recognize their possibly abusive experiences, cautions apply: 

Respect adult clients’ religious choices. Labeling religious experiences as abusive may interfere with religious autonomy. However, therapist authenticity, integrity, and responsibility require that possible religious abuse be addressed openly. It may be useful to assist clients in articulating the issues to arrive at their own conclusions about abuse. Remember, not everyone experiences the same events in the same manner; seemingly harsh religious experiences may not traumatize everyone.

Regarding children, utilize an objective standard of abuse. Most authorities agree that religious abuse has definitively occurred when the experience has led to serious and diagnosable behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. Short of this, it is inadvisable to use the word “abuse” to describe religious experiences. 

A psychometrically valid and reliable questionnaire may be useful in this assessment, such as the Remuda Spiritual Assessment Questionnaire (www.remudaranch.com), which contains a factor score measuring spiritual abuse. It is short, easy to use, with either paper and pencil or computerized administration, and free of charge to healthcare professionals.

Treating religious abuse

It is not possible in this overview to detail treatment for spiritual abuse. Detailed treatment resources appear in the bibliography. However, there are some basics. Common issues arising among clients in recovery from spiritual abuse include betrayal of trust, learning anew whom to trust, fallout with and forgiveness of God and family, grief over lost years, and understanding grace and God’s loving nature. Those who have experienced spiritual abuse often evidence the following additional difficulties: 

• Feelings of worthlessness as opposed to dignity and self-respect
• Efforts at control as opposed to an ability to surrender trustingly to God
• Shame vs. self-acceptance
• Guilt about vs. recognition that past sins have been forgiven
• Anxiety about performance and punishment vs. peace
• Moral rigidity vs. grace and unconditional love
• Isolation and secrecy vs. a sense of belonging and ability to be authentic with others
• Addictions/compulsions vs. healthy boundaries and coping skills
• Confusion vs. clear understanding of the Gospel and nature of God
• Hopelessness vs. a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction


Regardless of spiritual abuse history, spiritual interventions are contraindicated when clients don’t want them, are psychotic or delusional. If spiritual interventions are warranted, inform clients at treatment inception that you may use spiritual interventions and obtain informed consent. Spiritual interventions are most effective once trusting therapeutic relationships have developed. However, Christian counselors should express a commonly understood Gospel truth, including Christ’s atoning sacrifice, forgiveness rather than punishment, and God’s unconditional, unmerited grace and love rather than legalism, performance, or the need for perfection.

Primary spiritual interventions include:  teaching spiritual concepts; bibliotherapy; prayer; spiritual imagery and meditation; forgiveness; counsel from pastors or spiritual directors; encouraging involvement in a healthy faith community; cognitive restructuring focusing on the nature of God; a mature understanding of suffering, self hatred and perfectionism as obstacles to receiving God’s love; and an application of clients’ values to their own lives to reduce cognitive dissonance. Self-help groups, such as Christian Recovery International, may be recommended.

It may be necessary to guide clients toward finding a healthy faith community. The four F’s suggest that healthy faith communities offer:

• Food: sound Biblical messages promoting personal growth and maturity
• Fellowship: supportive relationships
• Fit: commonality with other members
• Fruit: service to community and one another


It is a sad commentary about the modern church that abusive Christian leaders are so pervasive that we must write articles like this and give them prominence in order to warn the faithful. Yet it is also true that perverted pastors, false prophets, and evil leaders have always existed in the history of Israel and the Church. And most importantly, if we cling to God and stay vigilant, He promises to make the way straight for us. 

Copyright © 2006 Christian Counseling Today. (Originally Published inChristian Counseling Today2005 Vol. 13 No. 1:35)
Edward J. Cumella, Ph.D., a Licensed Psychologist, is Director of Research and Education at Remuda Ranch Programs for Anorexia and Bulimia, Inc., the nation’s largest inpatient eating disorder facility. He presents frequently at national and international conferences and has published at least 50 papers on mental health topics, including spiritual abuse. 


References


Arterburn, S., Felton, J. (1993). Faith That Hurts/Faith That Heals. (Reissue ed). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Arterburn, S., Felton, J. (2001). Toxic Faith. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press. 
Bawer, B. (1998). Stealing Jesus. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Blue, K. (1993). Healing Spiritual Abuse. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Chrnalogar, M. A., Howey, P. M., Martin, S. D. (2000). Twisted Scriptures. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Enroth, R. M. (1992). Churches that Abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Enroth, R. M. (1994). Recovering from Churches that Abuse. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Johnson, D., VanVonderen, J. (1991). The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers. 
VanVonderen, J. (1989). Tired of Trying to Measure Up. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.
VanVonderen, J. (1995). When God’s People Let You Down/How to Rise Above Hurts That Often Occur. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers.

What does God require of a church leader?

What does God require of a church leader?

What does God require of a church leader? In the New Testament, God required his offices (deacon and elder) be filled by believer-priests who manifest the right equipment (Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:11, 28; Eph. 4:11f), the right motivation (Phil 2:13; 1 Tim. 3:1), and the right qualities (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Ti. 1:5-9).

Your pastor was a jerk?

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Your pastor was a jerk?  

(An open letter to encourage friends who were mistreated by their pastor).

Dear Friends,

I am so sorry you have to go through yet another injury inflicted on your souls, again by those who are supposed to give aid and comfort.  No doubt it is emotionally painful.  All the more since it comes at a time when you were seeking respite and help for the beatings and bruising you have endured by leadership in a couple previous churches.

There really is no excuse for your pastor-in-law (as opposed to your pastor-in-grace) to have avoided you during your trials, neglected you during your absence, and betrayed you during your move.  I know you were excited to join this new church, shortly after your stressful move.  Yet, there really is no excuse for the pastor of this new church to so quickly reject you.  Without evidence, you can only suspect that a negative report was given about you since the new minister went from a willing and ready spirit to receive you to advising you find another church, all within a couple days.  

Certainly, you haven't been the simple or ideal Christian family who fits the box (whatever that is), who is without any hint of flaws, warts, trials or baggage.  You have had far more than the average share.  Perhaps that is why some families don't have such problems - you apparently got theirs?

Now, lest I come across as yet another self-righteous, judgmental pastor, I can say that I relate to those two ministers.  Looking back in time, I too have avoided, neglected and evidently betrayed people.  The neglect came from trying many times to help but without any ounce of "success," so I gave up.  I admit ignoring a few people who so easily monopolized my life and tried so hard to manipulate me and my family.  Ignoring them was the simple but sinful way of handling them.  I have since learned my lesson.  The ones I have been accused of rejecting or betraying are those to whom I boldly spoke the truth (at least what I believed was truthful) and they took offense.  They've never tried to clarify what was said, never forgave me, and have never been willing to reconcile.  Very sad.  

From a pastor's viewpoint, I understand how easy it is to avoid people who are loaded down with trouble and trials.  It is so much easier not deal with other people's baggage.  I mean, some of them have baggage over the 50-pound limit.  Some of them have lots of heavy bags.  Lots and lots of bags. And I have enough of my own baggage.   So, I can relate to wanting a church filled with holy angels who neatly fit into my image of a perfect, peaceful, problem-free church.

However, the fact of the matter is those of us who are called to minister in the name of Jesus Christ are called to roll up our sleeves and get dirty.  Years ago, a pastor, who was a brilliant, earthy, former blue-collar worker, complained how too many of his fellow pastors never got dirty. No rough hands, tough skin, or dirt under their nails.  Of course, he was also speaking metaphorically.  He was right.  But that's the nature of pastoral work.

We ministers are called to get: 

  • into the trenches like soldiers (Phil 2:25; 2 Tim. 2:3-4),

  • down and dirty like farmers (2 Tim. 2:6),

  • tough and smelly like fishermen,

  • sore and exhausted like athletes (1 Cor. 9:24-25; Phil 3:14; 2 Tim. 2:5; 4:7-8; Heb. 12:1), and

  • humiliated and abused like servants (Matt. 20:27; Jn 10:11, 15; Luke 10:34, 35).

Those are biblical descriptions, and they run contrary to contemporary descriptions and models of ministers (CEOs, coaches, or university professors).  I'm afraid we have adopted worldly portraits and exchanged them for God's models all to the detriment and injury of God's people.

We are called to apply heavenly truth to life's dirty, earthy issues through the means of the good news of Christ.  As pastors, we are called to be gentle (2 Tim. 2:24-26), patient (1 Tim. 3:3), and marked by the fruit of God's Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24; Eph. 5:9), just like Christ.  Think about him - no doubt he was patient with his stubborn, ignorant, at times belligerent, messed up disciples.  He was pure and yet patient and gentle with the lowly scum of the world (the prostitutes, beggars, infirm, and handicapped).  He was kind with those who received so much from him but who were so ungrateful.  He was sympathetic and a great help to those in need.

Christ has redeemed, gifted, and called pastors to be servants to God's people.  Servants filled with the kind of humility that is not self-serving or rewarding (Luke 14:10; Rom. 12:1-3, 10, 16:  1 Cor. 10:31-33; Titus 1:7; Jas. 4:10; 1 Pet. 5:5), just like the Servant Jesus (Phil. 2:3).  And just like Jesus, we are called, gifted and empowered to practice and model true hospitality, which means to be lovers of strangers.  This goes above and beyond loving our neighbors as ourselves (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8, 9; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9).  Our calling is to genuinely love others, especially those of the household of faith (1 Cor. 13; Gal. 5:25; 1 Thess. 2:7-8).  Like it or not we must be gracious, merciful (Matt. 25; 1 Cor. 12:28) and proactively, unquestionably kind (Matt. 11:29; Acts 24:4; 2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2:7).  What's more, God does not give us a choice about who it is with whom we are to be loving, merciful, and kind.

Jesus was lowly, meek and gentle.  All believers in Christ should also be lowly, meek and gentle, but particularly ministers.  As brought out in the book, The Perfect Pastor?,  

"Gentleness, a very important feature in a godly leader, is the quality of being gracious, kind, mild, patient and reasonable.  A gentle person is caring, considerate and has an ability to sympathize (Rom. 15:1; 1 Pet. 4:8).  The gentle one shows carefulness in choosing words and expressions so as not to unnecessarily offend (Gal. 6:1)" (p. 352).

In the book's Appendix F, which is a self-examination of godly character, the potential deacon, elder, pastor, and other church leaders are encouraged to test themselves.  One of the questions probes whether, "I reflect care, affection, and good-will toward others (2 Cor. 10:1; 1 Thess. 2; Eph. 4:2)"  (p. 352)."  The implication from the Bible is that I do so, not only with those who have it all together, or who are apparently absent any challenges or "issues," or only when I feel like it (which admittedly is rare).  I or we are to reflect care, affection, and good-will toward others as gentle leaders - always!  Especially toward those who need it the most!

This is the very nature of the redemptive work of Christ.  He came to save sinners, not saints.  He came for the infirm, not the healthy; the poor, not the self-sustaining rich; the prodigal, not the pious.  His grace is extended to the chief of sinners, for grace abounds more where sin seems to flourish.  As ministers, we must never forget that.  But, dear friends, it appears that some ministers have indeed forgotten just that.

Certainly, when I reflect on what is required of me in character and action, I too fall far short.  However, these are the qualities of godliness and ministry this unique calling requires.  If I or any other person who has taken on the yoke of shepherd ministry, refuses to press toward these high and heavenly goals and refuses to practice them, then we need to step down and step away from the office called the pastorate.  May God daily spare me of my pride and keep me from falling into such pious worldliness.  May the Lord grant to such men the grace of repentance to change and become more like our Master who faithfully served us.

I am saddened your pastor was a jerk and sorry that you have had to endure men in the name of Christ but do not minister in the spirit of Christ.  Frankly, they have failed you.  Their actions, their sins, mostly of omission, say quite a bit about their character and philosophy of ministry.  But in this sense, be encouraged that God has used this "rejection" of you as a grace to spare you from their miserable orthopraxy, horrible hypocrisy, and intolerable misdeeds.  Lick your wounds, run to the Great Shepherd, and find a church where you can heal and ultimately, where you can help others who have suffered the same.

With affection;

Don

 

10 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

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Ten ways to encourage your pastor?  Say what?

In the book, Spurgeon on Leadership, Larry J. Michael writes,

Many Christian leaders become discouraged. The work doesn’t go as one imagines, the church doesn’t grow as one desires, lay leaders won’t cooperate with one’s leadership, people are excessively critical, or finances are down. The list goes on and on. Someone said that discouragement is the occupational hazard of the ministry, and Spurgeon was no exception to this rule. As successful as he was, he still experienced discouragement, and, in his case, it often deteriorated into depression. He became so depressed at times that he could barely function. In his lecture on “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” Spurgeon opened with these words: “As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us….The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.”

Did you know that pastors share something in common with others who work in other people-serving positions, such as nurses, doctors, counselors, social workers, etc.? They share a high rate of distress and discouragement, and oddly enough tend towards more frequent and serious bouts of depression and higher incidences of suicide. You wouldn’t think that would be the case, but it is.

This is nothing new. Even pastors in ages gone by struggled with discouragement and depression. Consider some of what these men went through:

John Calvin – Calvin received so much opposition in his first ministry at Geneva that the year before his expulsion from Geneva he went through great discouragement and depression. Writing about this year in his life he said “Were I to tell you only the littlest things of the misfortune – what am I saying – of the adversity which virtually crushed us during the course of one year, you would hardly believe me. I am convinced that not a day passed in which I did not long for death ten times…”

Andrew Bonar – Writing to his close friend McCheyne said, “I was very melancholy, I may say, on Saturday evening. The old scenes reminded me of my ministry, and this was accompanied with such regret for past failures.” Andrew Bonar also wrote, “My ministry has appeared to me to be wanting in so many ways that I can only say of it, indescribably inadequate.”

Charles Spurgeon – At the zenith of his ministry, Spurgeon said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”

Campbell Morgan – At the height of his ministry, Morgan astounded his congregation by telling them that he was a failure. As he thought over his ministry, he said, “During these ten years, I have known more of vision fading into mirages, or purposes failing of fulfillment, of things of strength crumbling away in weakness than ever in my life.”

(Original source for this could not be found. Sorry.)

These are only a handful of illustrations. There were others, many others, such as Martin Luther, John Knox, John Wesley, Arthur Pink, A. W. Tozer and Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. Perhaps you would be surprised by how many present-day pastors find themselves very discouraged and depressed (statistically, more than 70%); even popular and famous Christian ministers.

The point of this post is not to talk about discouragement or ways to discourage those whose main work is to serve as Christ’s undershepherds, faithfully ministering the Word and work of Jesus to you. If you really want to know how to discourage your pastor(s) check out an old article I wrote  101 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor. Instead, this post is to provide at least ten ways you can encourage our own pastors and to provoke you to find other creative ways to do this.

 

Ten Ways to Encourage the Pastor:

1. Live with him in the love of Christ, loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and might and loving the pastor as you love yourself.

(Matthew 22:37-39)

 

2. Love him in the Lord.

 

3. Pray for him all the time.

 

4. Let him rest.

Give him opportunities for personal and familial rest. Be proactive to make sure he is getting spiritual, emotional, mental and physical rejuvenation. Encourage him to take off for times of prayer, meditation and reflection. Leave him alone during his day or days off, unless of course, it is an emergency. Don’t rely on him to solve all your problems, so don’t keep on going to him relentlessly. Maybe even raise some funds and send him and his family on a cruise or a study leave.

Craig Brian Larson wrote,

“Someone has said, ‘Fatigue makes cowards of us all.’ Let me rephrase that in more general terms: Physical exhaustion alters my emotional state. What I could handle when fresh I no longer feel up to. Difficulties that I first faced like a problem-solver full of faith now cause me to buckle at the knees. The challenges that once energized me now terrify me. While the presenting symptom on such occasions is emotional – depression and weakness – the real problem is physical: low energy” (Staying Power; pp. 55-56).

Jane Rubietta in her How to Keep the Pastor You Love, states,

One day a week scarcely suffices for clergy or anyone to recharge emotionally, physically and spiritually; keep one’s home in order and in repair; and have quality and quantity family time. Ministers do not move from glory to glory but from crisis to crisis. Even if they took their one allotted day off, it is not enough to keep them from becoming one of those untimely funerals  (p. 54).

 

5. Honor, appreciate and esteem the pastor.

The Bible gives a rather rigorous list of requirements the pastor is to do and spells out specifically the roles the pastor is to play in the local church.  Yet, the Bible is equally clear about what your responsibility is in relationship to the pastor(s) and elders (Phil. 2:29; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13 cp. Acts 28:9-10, 2 Cor. 7:15).

One is to honor  the minister. That means to place a high value, price, or put in a place of great respect. It is giving glory to one deserving of respect, attention and obedience.  God directs Christians to honor the local church pastor(s) and elders (1 Tim. 5:17).

A second way is to show appreciation. To appreciate means to give deserved recognition for the position he has and the work that he does. To appreciate is to respect and have positive regard for.  The New King James uses the word, recognize in 1 Thessalonians 5:12, but it means the same.  One example can be found in the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth regarding Timothy, when he said, Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do. Therefore let no one despise him (1 Cor. 16:10-11).

The third way is to esteem the pastor (1 Thess. 5:13).   To esteem is “to think highly of him; to have great regard; to consider valuable, very precious, or distinguished.”

Why should you esteem the elders or pastor?

                        (1)       Because of their work, which is the effective ministry of God’s Word.

(2)       Because of their office, because they rule over you in the Lord (1 Cor. 16:16).

(3)       Because they admonish you (Heb. 13:7).

How should you/we Christians esteem their elders or pastor?

                        (1)      Very highly and in love (1 Thess. 5:13 cp. 1 Cor. 7:15)!

(2)       By showing respect for their needs (Acts 28:9-10).

       (3)       And, here’s a odd one to consider: by treating their position with fear and trembling                                                 (Acts 17; Matt. 16; Matt. 18; 2 Cor. 7:15).

 

6. Do everything you can to pump life into his soul.

Build him up, encourage him, and communicate to him in the many ways there are just how much his service means to you. Lift him up, inspire him, and bless him in Christ. You will reap the residual effects for it. Lift him and his family up to the Lord in frequent prayer. Show love and kindness. Be a conduit of grace, hope and love to build up your pastor.

Greenfield in The Wounded Minister, wrote, A minister’s peace of mind is very important to the quality of his productivity in ministry. It is very difficult to be loving, gentle, and kind toward people when a small group of nitpickers are constantly at him about trivial matters that have little to do with the overall purpose of the church. It is even more difficult to be the gentle pastor, meek and mild, when the accusations leveled at him are contrived and totally false (p. 104).

 

7. Be loyal to him in Christ

Trust him when he is trustworthy. Treat him for who he is and for the office he holds.

 

8. Give to him as he gives to you.

Give, not merely monetary support, but give service to him and his family. Be imaginative and think of ways you can serve your pastor: give him genuine and valuable feedback; give him moral support; give him time and prayer. Above all give him love and affection!

 

9. Speak the truth in love.

Do all you can to safeguard his name and reputation, but more than that, build up his name so that it becomes a name of honor. Certainly, the pastor must maintain his own reputation and integrity in Christ. This is not an admonition for you to pretend he is honorable if he has clearly sinned and defamed the name of the Lord. However, if he has a character beyond reproach, then uphold it, maintain it, and promote it.

 

10. Don’t covet to have your pastor be just like a pastor you admire or idolize.

He’s the pastor God has placed in the church and in your life at this time. God is the one who has given the pastor the personal talents, the spiritual gifts, and the call to the church; not the former pastor, the famous pastor, or any other admirable person. It is quite okay to enjoy and celebrate the qualities of those men while at the same time celebrating and enjoying your current minister.

 

These are ten, simple and practical suggestions for encouraging your pastor(s). Nice to know, eh? Now, let me encourage, in fact, urge you to do two things:

First, find tangible ways to put these suggestions into practice.

Second, talk with two or more other people in the church and conspire to do at least one encouraging thing together for the pastor(s). Preferably, it would be good to spread out these blessings over the course of a year.


The Perfect Pastor?
By D. Thomas Owsley
How to Keep the Pastor You Love
By Jane A. Rubietta