Secret Thoughts of a Pastor

Pastor Thinking

I know a secret. Having pastored for several years, I have made several close friends with other pastors and church leaders. I have talked with them on the phone for hours. We have met in offices and over lunches to discuss our hopes for our churches and the inner struggles we face. The more I walk the pastor’s road, the more I have come to notice a pattern. I know something about your pastor that you may not know. He may not appreciate me telling you about this inner part of his life, but I will tell you.

Here is the secret. Your pastor wants to be appreciated and he wants it done in a particular way. Within every pastor is the normal human desire for affirmation. Every sports coach knows the value of building positive encouragement in the players. We all like to hear, “Good job” or “Way to go.” Your pastor is just human enough to enjoy and respond to positive encouragement. But that is not the real appreciation he wants.

October is Pastor Appreciation month. My church family is wonderful at showing their love and appreciation. Many congregations will find ways to show appreciation to pastors. Some will send a thoughtful card, take the pastor and his family to dinner, or give a kind gift. I can promise you this is a very positive encouragement to your pastor. I want you to do all of the above and more. The pastors in our generation face new trials and temptations. The counseling of the flock is more intense and more demanding. The preaching of the Bible is a labor intensive task and too often many pastors just run out of time to prepare for Sunday. Add to these personal issues of health and family and you have a man that soaks up encouragement like a dry sponge. Encourage your pastor with cards and gifts; it will be a blessing.  But that is not the real appreciation he wants.

When a pastor walks out of the church on Sunday evening, locks the door, and heads for home his mind is filled with the day’s events of preaching the best he could, leading meetings with committees, and handling confrontation with a church complainer. (Every church has at least one.) What is it that brings encouragement to your pastor when he has given his all? What gives him lasting joy? What puts a smile on his face and a spring in his step?

Here is the secret. This is how to appreciate your pastor in the way he may never tell you. Live the rest of your life in joyful service to Jesus as King. Your faithful life is what makes the heart of your Pastor jump and flip like an Olympic gymnast. The Godly pastor feels the hand of appreciation when the message he preaches is quietly practiced by the sheep he loves. There is no greater joy than to see a lost soul respond to the gospel message or to see the believer live for the Lord we love.

The best gift of appreciation for your pastor actually has little to do with him and more to do with you. Godly pastors serve churches from a call by God. Their heart and soul is poured into the lives of other people and they are honored by your appreciation. Bless your pastor with a gift. Appreciate him with a card. But, if you want to see his heart dance for joy, live your life for Jesus Christ without waver and with full faith. That really is the appreciation every pastor wants, to see God’s people living for His glory and in obedience to His Word. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”  (3Jn 1:4 KJV)


Being Both


“You can’t have both,” he said. “He’s a great preacher, but he’s not a good pastor. He can preach the Bible, but he is not a people person.” The rest of the Pastor Search Committee watched the Chairman as he explained, “You can’t have both. Either you will find a good preacher, or a good pastor, but not both.” The idea that men and ministry are divided by either the ability to communicate or the ability to minister is a crushing idea to true gospel ministry.

I am unsure where I first heard this statement, but it surprised me immediately and has followed me throughout my ministry. It is one of those statements that you quickly want to defend, jumping up and down in disagreement. It is a statement that has haunting consequences for the church and one I believe is dangerous to the pastor and his ministry. 


 Pastors, this lie will hurt you, your church, and your ministry. If you allow it into your thinking and philosophy of ministry, it will slowly reduce you to one or the other. I am convinced from the Scripture that God calls only one kind of pastor and he is to be both a good preacher and a good shepherd to the people of God.


“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  (2Ti 4:1-2 ESV)

 Preaching is not just a good idea. It is not just a great method for getting information out. It is God’s idea and His design for His Bride, the church. “For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe.” (1Co 1:21 ASV) Preaching in the local church is the serious calling from heaven by God to a man on earth. If God has placed on a man the charge to preach, it is a charge to preach well.

Preachers are under constant pressure from the One Who called us to do better in academic preparation and in spiritual application. The preacher is to be prepared in season and out (all times) to make a public declaration of the Biblical message of salvation.  The pastor is primarily a preacher of Scripture and secondly a shepherd of sheep, but he is both.


The New Testament uses the word pictures of the Old Testament to describe the relationship of the pastor to the church; shepherd and sheep. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28 ESV) As an overseer of a flock, we serve, love, and encourage Christians as they walk through the wicked world around. The great tool of the shepherd is the preaching and teaching of the Word. However, that tool is most effective when the sheep lovingly trusts the shepherd.


What does pastoral oversight look like in the modern evangelical church? I am regulated to my context of the American southern church. In that context pastors are driving to the hospital to pray with a sheep before surgery. Why? Because they are fearful of pain, death, or just being put to sleep and pastors pray for the peace of God to overtake any human fear. Overseeing includes administrative tasks at the church; bulletins, budgets, and buildings. Another area of oversight is in the area of counsel. Pastors will have office counseling sessions and home counseling sessions. We even have counseling sessions while traveling to a meeting, standing in a corn field, or at a local coffee house. You must be both pastor and preacher and you must do it well in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit. 


This is His church; bought with His blood. We are His servants and as servants we serve at His pleasure. We love the sheep and become frustrated by the sheep, but they are His sheep and we are to care for them in pastoral ministry.


Pastors are called to preach the greatest message in the universe; Jesus saves. We should be the best communicator of that message we can possible be. Pastors are also called to love and care for sheep; that will take prayer and a humble spirit. Sheep will kick back and hurt the very one caring for them. One of my members has great southern insight in describing such sheep, “They are as crazy as a run over dog. They will bite you when you try to help them.” I have tried to help such sheep and taken the bite.Ewe_sheep_black_and_white


I wish I could say that I have achieved the balance between preaching and shepherding. The truth is I shepherd, I care for the sheep that bite, I structure budgets, and I even type the bulletins just so they will let me preach. I enjoy preaching more, but preaching without shepherding is only half fulfilling your call. Sheep are more apt to follow the shepherd that loves them than the one who remains in the confines of his office each week locked away from the sheep. Never doubt that they know the difference.


Pastors, we have a calling. Preach with the power of the Holy Spirit. Shepherd the flock with the compassion of Jesus Christ. Our calling does not allow us to neglect either preaching or pastoring. Our Savior empowers us to be both.