Appreciating Pastors – Dr. James Emery White
October has been designated “Pastor Appreciation Month.” I feel very appreciated every month of the year by the church I have the privilege of serving, so the designation has never stood out much to me. In fact, I doubt hardly anyone at our church even knows the designation exists.
But I know that many pastors are keenly aware of the month’s significance and desperately need whatever appreciation might flow their way as a result.
Leading a church isn’t easy. The quip that it “must be nice to only have to work one day a week” is so ridiculous you hardly know how to respond. The more accurate assessment was made by the late Peter Drucker, the management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the foundations of the modern business corporation:
“… over the years I have made a career out of studying the most challenging management roles out there. After all of that I am now convinced the two most difficult jobs in the world are these – one, to be President of the United States, and two, to be the leader of a church… where you… lead it to serve others in greatness… the most difficult job is being one of those kinds of pastors.”
And so, so many pastors – most, I would argue – are just those kinds of leaders.
So, since appreciation for what you, my fellow pastors, do should not be limited to one month a year, but rather to every month of the year, let me list 12 reasons why I so appreciate you:
- You do not work one day a week, but seven. No pastor really has even a single day off. They are always “on.” Thank you.
- You serve in answer to a call, not a paycheck. And you are, on average, severely underpaid. I’m truly sorry about that. Yet you remain at your post. Thank you.
- In a day when “celebrity pastors” and moral failures are causing people to paint all church leaders with a broad brush, you are sincere in your faith, faithful in your duties, care more about the fame of Jesus than your own, and lead a life above reproach. Thank you.
- The vast majority of what you do – prayers, visits, calls, counseling, sermon prep, hospitals, coffees – is never seen. It’s the glue that holds the world together. Thank you.
- I know that when you say you are going to pray for someone, you do. Thank you.
- It’s been said that the three qualifications of a pastor are: 1) the mind of a scholar, 2) the heart of a child, and 3) the hide of a rhinoceros. Even though I know the “hide” part gets tough, you manifest all three. Thank you.
- You are there for the high highs, such as a wedding or the dedication of a baby, and the low lows, such as a hospital visit or funeral. The point is that you are there. Thank you.
- No matter what you teach, it’s so clear that you don’t want anything from me, but only something for me. Thank you.
- There are some things that you have to teach, even though you dread the reactions. Stands you must take, even though you know they won’t be popular. But they are biblical, and you are faithful to the Bible. So you bring the message. Thank you.
- Because of your role, you carry the weight of the lives of so many going through distress, illness, the repercussions of sinful behavior, grief, and more. Most of the time it is, by necessity, a silent and solitary bearing of that weight. Thank you.
- You’ve worked hard to balance your responsibilities as a pastor with your responsibilities to your family. As a result, you’re a better pastor. Thank you.
- No one filled a tougher role during all things COVID. You were in the crosshairs, and no matter what decision you made – on being open or closed, masked or unmasked, pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine – you were going to create anger. Throw in the death of George Floyd, Critical Race Theory, the storming of the capitol, QAnon, and you are still in the saddle. Bruised but not broken, discouraged but not defeated. While so many engaged in the “great resignation,” you did not. Thank you.
I know, it may seem self-serving to write an open appreciation letter to pastors when I serve as one.
Trust me, it’s not written with myself in mind.
I remember, many years ago, meeting a pastor serving in a small town in Nevada. The population was around 5,000. He was bi-vocational, meaning he worked a full-time job and then served, with all the remaining hours he could muster, as the pastor of that church. I believe they were running around 100 in attendance at the time.
Think about it: He was reaching a full 2% of his town. If I were to be as effective, with Charlotte’s metro area running around 2.7 million, Meck would have to be running at least 54,000 a week.
And he was doing it bi-vocationally!
He was hoping to serve that little church and that small town for the rest of his life.
I wrote this with him in mind.
He may very well be the greatest pastor I’ve ever met. And when I get to heaven, I’ll never even see him. He will be so close to the throne of God that people like me will never even get a glimpse.
So it’s not me who should be appreciated. It’s people like him.
In other words,
… your pastor.
James Emery White
Steve Sjogren, “Tea with Drucker,” Church Planting, April 14, 2011, read online.
“Peter Drucker,” Wikipedia, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president.
His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast.
Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.