October is a strange month for me. Why? Because October is “Clergy Appreciation Month.”
It is my understanding that Focus on the Family inaugurated October as Clergy Appreciation Month in 1994. The Scriptural impetuses are 1 Timothy 5:17, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching;” 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. Live in peace with each other;” and Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
On the other hand, as a pastor, I can’t get over the responsibilities and warnings toward pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, topped off with Jesus’ words in Luke 17:10, “When you have done everything you were told to do, you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'”
I wish it were not a thing, this “appreciation” month, because I did not take up this mantle for the sake of accolades. It’s not that I don’t want to be appreciated. It’s just that I’m not sure anyone knows what actually makes me feel appreciated. In pastoral training it was routinely impressed upon us that we were entering a line of work that is guided and performed by the Holy Spirit, thus, “this is not your own doing.” When receiving accolades, therefore, we were taught to give glory to God.
Suffering is intrinsic to the ministry: “Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God …” (2 Timothy 1:8b); “I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of my heart and with many tears …” (2 Corinthians 2:4); “Remember that … I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). So how can one show appreciation for their pastor?
How Can One Show Appreciation?
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:1–4).
St. Paul said his joy would be complete if the church in Philippi acted like the church. Now, add that to the other passages at the top of this article, and you will know how to appreciate your pastor. Live in peace with one another, be one in spirit and purpose, and obey your pastor according to the Word he preaches you [not his word, but The Word], so that his work is a joy and not a burden.
Seeing you listen to the Word of God and gladly keeping it, hearing your sigh of relief after receiving the Sacrament for your forgiveness, praying with you for the needs of all people, that makes my joy complete. That makes me feel appreciated. The job itself, when it’s working right, is its own reward. After all, you don’t go to church because of me, you go to church because of Jesus. And if I can serve Him by serving you, that’s all the thanks I need.
See you in church.
Photo courtesy of Elisa Schulz Photography