PKs answer: How should we pray for pastors?

by Sophia Lee

Posted on Wednesday, June 3, 2015, at 12:38 pm

My parents visited me recently in Los Angeles. Being in LA, we inevitably spent half our time stuck in traffic. And being a pastor’s family, inevitably, most of our conversations in the car revolved around our church.

Within the nine months I last saw my parents, fresh wrinkles had deepened around my father’s eyes, and I pulled a lot more white hairs from my mother’s head. They had both lost some weight. I knew then that the church was going through a rough season. I caught from glimpses of my mother’s expressions and remarks that some church issues are weighing on their hearts and minds.

It pained me to see them weary from such never-ending burdens, when most couples their age should be looking forward to a cozy retirement. They haven’t had a proper vacation in 15 years and don’t have a single property to their name. I wished them rest, to enjoy life, to not bear other people’s problems for once. Instead, I opened my mouth.

I started passionately laying out all the steps my father should take to make church “better.” My father listened quietly, and I got even more frustrated that he wasn’t responding enthusiastically to what I saw as obviously brilliant ideas. By the time I sent them back to Virginia, I saw more wrinkles and white hairs. As I drove back home from the airport, the Spirit convicted me that I had failed in my duty as a daughter and as a member of a church body. Instead of uplifting my parents, I had crushed them with criticisms and negativity. Instead of praying for them, instead of seeing and rejoicing together in how God is working in the church, I had tried to change them with my humanistic zeal and intellect.

Even as a pastor’s kid—or perhaps because I am one—it’s easy for me to heap discouragement and unsolicited advice on the pastor rather than encouragement and prayers. No pastor is perfect, but it’s tempting to focus more on his shortcomings than his strengths. A pastor who’s a terrific preacher, for example, might not be as gifted in personal counseling. Or a pastor who is tender and compassionate might not wield strong leadership. The pastor’s responsibilities and expectations are great, but no pastor has it all—and that’s why pastors need the church’s unceasing, spirit-led prayers, encouragement, and love.

It was this incident that inspired me to write “The Family Business” in the current issue of WORLD Magazine. During my interviews with fellow PKs, I asked them for suggestions on how the church can best encourage and pray for our pastors. Here’s what they had to say:

Allen Baker in Tulsa, Okla.: “Pray for your pastor’s unwavering strength, that they will not go weary in preaching about the Almighty God. Pastoring is not just doing works of mercy and ministry, but unabashedly preaching Christ at the pulpit. That’s where it begins—it begins at the pulpit. You’re going to face more persecution when you’re preaching Christ. And after he preaches a good sermon, tell him. Tell him, ‘You did a good job. That really ministered to me.’”

Young Lee in Los Angeles: “Please pray that we [PK families] continually see Christ’s infinite value, treasure Christ, and love Christ more than we love our ministry or ourselves. If Christ is our everything, He will be the one to sustain us in the storms. But if Christ is not our everything, we will not turn to Him when ministry gets tough. It’s too easy to crumble when Christ is not our solid foundation.”

Rob Litzinger in Santa Maria, Calif.: “If you want to help your church, then gird up your pastor. If your pastor has problems—and there are a lot of pastors out there with issues—instead of attacking him, get him help, demand help. I know so many pastors who are cratering right now, but no one knows. People need to see what’s actually going on—it’s not about them; it’s about this war in the world. This is not just an organization, but little armies of God that are all in this one great battle. The church’s job is to tithe, to support the pastor and the vision of the house. Make things happen. Find the heart and soul of the church—that’s the only thing that last, that really makes eternal impact.

Cindy Litzinger in Santa Maria, Calif.: “Love on your PKs. Pray for them, which is the greatest thing you can do, but also take an interest in them, speak to them as individuals, ask what interests them, speak words of encouragement to them. Obviously prayer is most important, but any active service of love goes a long way. When our church members say, ‘We’re praying for your kids,’ that just means so much to us as parents.”

Barnabas Piper in Nashville, Tenn.: “In the American church, we have a habit of setting our pastors up on pedestals that is unbiblical. Somewhere along the way we got the impression that being called to pastoral ministry means somebody is closer to Jesus. We set them up on pedestals, so we’re harder on them when they fall, and when they fall, they fall a long way.

“Do your best to stop viewing pastors as special. They need all the same care and encouragement and prayer that you as a church member do. Their souls are not healthier because they’re pastor. They’re pastors because they’re called by God, but their soul needs the same filling up and teaching and healing that everybody else does. They feel pain as everybody else, except they also bear the burden of the church, so in some ways they carry more pain. Instead, view the pastor in your shoes, so that you can give him how much growing you have to do, how much sin you have to overcome, how weak you are, how much you depend on God, and think, ‘The pastor is exactly the same as me, except he also has to care for hundreds and thousands of other people.’ If you do it that way, it evens out some of the expectations.”

Joel Ascol in Cape Coral, Fla.: “I think the best way a church member can encourage and strengthen their pastor is by having an attitude that realizes what it takes to be a pastor. Understand the immense weight on pastors every day, the weight of responsibility to family, to spouse, to God—and do all of those three well, not just two of them or one, but all of them. If church members had that in their mind, there wouldn’t be as many fights, or quick accusations.”

Sarah Ascol in Cape Coral, Fla.: “Love the church. Be real churchmen and -women. That is what a pastor labors for and longs for: For church members to love the church and seek to serve the church by serving, worshipping, and studying God’s Word on their own. It’s incredibly encouraging to see the church being the church. It’s incredibly encouraging to my dad to see people engaged in service, to hear reports of people meeting to disciple each other outside of Sunday morning, to see people taking care of the kids, or lead worship, or sing and be really engaged in corporate worship.”

Kathryn Gage in Tyler, Texas: “I think the best way church members can care for their pastors is to really show them appreciation. In my experience, the best things are unexpected gifts. The gifts can be small, such as fresh baked bread, a gift card, or a “Thank you, we love you” note. Currently, we have a wonderful lady who sends my father a note nearly every week. Once, a church member mowed our lawn for free. He saved my dad a lot of work. Sometimes, when my siblings and I were smaller, church members would offer to babysit us and let my parents go out for a date.

“Telling the pastor you love him is easy and it is appreciated. Tell him when you liked his sermon. Tell the family the kids are beautiful and loved. And always, always, pray. Even if you can’t help in another way, you can always pray. Pray for rest and peace and strength for the pastor. Pray for their spouse and children. Pray for love and peace in their home. Pray for their needs to be met. Pray for God to reveal to you how you can serve, if that’s what you feel the need to pray for. No matter what you pray for, church, it is appreciated. Your prayers shield us from the forces that would seek to harm and destroy us.” 

Sophia Lee

Sophia is a features reporter for WORLD Magazine. She graduated from the University of Southern California with degrees in print journalism and East Asian language and culture. She lives in Los Angeles with her cat, Shalom. Follow Sophia on Twitter @SophiaLeeHyun.

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