If there was one word I would use to describe my adolescence, it is this: lost. When I was younger, I just felt so lost all the time. In life, both from the inside and the outside, I did not know where I was, how I got there, or why I was still wandering aimlessly. But wander I did. Lost. It is a word often used in Christian lingo, but one that rarely gets true consideration to its implication. Yet, I think there is no better word to describe the feeling one has before Christ. Just like the prophet Isaiah tells the people of Israel, I too like a sheep had strayed away—leaving God’s path to follow my own (Isaiah 53:6).
But then God sent someone to lead me back into the fold. That someone was a pastor. Over the years, many would play the role of pastor in my life. But it was my youth pastor who would first teach me how to stop wandering and to start following. Two decades later, I can still hear his voice encouraging me, telling me, “Finley, God loves you, and He has a purpose for your life. Trust and follow Him because He will never lead you astray. He will lead you home.”
Shepherding the Lost
What is a pastor if not someone who helps lead lost sheep back to God’s pastures? The title, pastor, itself comes from a Latin word from which we derive the word pasture. The word alludes to the role of a shepherd. It evokes the idea of a spiritual guide, literally a shepherd of souls. A pastor is one who leads others to pasture — to feed, tend, guard and protect. I would be remiss not to point out that one of the most popular passages in all of Scripture is about a shepherd writing of the Great Shepherd:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23 NLT).
That is the picture of a true shepherd, the picture of a pastor. Read through the Psalm again; carefully, slowly. A pastor leads a congregation to lush fields and restful waters. A pastor strengthens and encourages the people by walking side by side with them. A pastor protects, comforts, feeds and blesses. A pastor is a steward of the Lord’s house and the Lord’s people.
Now a pastor is not perfect. But that is a good thing because God does not use perfect people. He uses broken and humble people. One of the last things that Christ commanded His disciple Peter to do was to “take care of My sheep” (John 21). Peter was probably feeling pretty useless at this time as he had just been reminded of his betrayal in denying Jesus three times. But instead of condemning Peter, Jesus lovingly and graciously restores Peter and commissions the disciple to become the first formal pastor of His new church.
Pastor Appreciation Month
Being a pastor is not easy, and the role is often underappreciated. But the work of a pastor is truly divine and eternally significant. So, for all that pastors are and do, let us show our gratitude. Here are five simple ways to show your appreciation this month:
- Write an encouraging letter or email – Pastors get a lot of negative criticism. Their inboxes are flooded with anonymous hate mail. Please do not be one of those people. Instead, write an encouraging message to your pastor. This may be a testimonial of how their pastoring has had an impact, or it may just be a simple thank you letter.
- Give a small gift – Nothing crazy here, but sometimes just a small gift can go a long way in showing someone that you are thinking about them and appreciate them. An idea: pastors love books, especially a good exegetical commentary!
- Treat your pastor to a meal – Maybe you can afford to take the pastor’s entire family out for dinner, or maybe you can only go as far as a cup of coffee. Either way, nothing says gratitude like the taste buds do.
- Offer to volunteer – Pastors love to see their community serving because so much of their role is about equipping and training others to be disciple-makers. If you cannot commit to serving once a week at the church, perhaps you could offer to babysit one weekend to free up the pastor and his wife for a much-needed date night.
- Just say thanks! – Don’t be shy! Just walk up to your pastor next Sunday morning and say thank you for being used by God. Then watch their face light up. You may even offer to pray for them right then and there. It’s easy to forget, but pastors need prayer too!
God used my youth pastor to radically change my life and my eternity. So, for Pastor Appreciation Month, I would like to say, “Thank you!” Thank you to all the faithful pastors who have continued to be led by God so that they may lead others to green meadows and peaceful streams.
“Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds” (Proverbs 27:23).
Finley W. Walker is a doctoral student researching Organizational Leadership. He can be reached at: [email protected]