Brothers, pray for us (1 Thess. 5:25, ESV).
In June, our pastor resigned at the request of the elders. At the teary, angry "family meeting" when the announcement was presented, the chairman of the elder board confessed his sin against the body. He said he let his friendship with the pastor get in the way of his responsibility as elder so that he ignored the issues involved until this was the only remedy. He confessed pride and laziness in his duties as elder to have allowed conflicts to progress so far.
In the pew I confessed my own sin in not taking seriously enough my duty to pray for our elders, pastors, deacons, and staff. Since then they have held a place on my written prayer list and I have lifted them to the Lord more often: alas, not daily, not as often as my family and close friends, but more than I had been.
In addition, I have been praying for the pastor and deacons at my parents' church, which we attended regularly when I was first trying to resume church attendance last fall but not yet ready for the longer drive and service involved at our own usual church. Their warm welcome when we visited and proximity to our home still felt like a bond of sorts. Even though it was not the best fit for our family, I wholeheartedly support their dedication to missions in our city, the nation, and around the world.
Last weekend the senior pastor of that neighborhood church lost his prolonged private battle with bipolar disorder and took his own life. His congregation is still stunned, having had no reason to expect anything wrong. They had recently celebrated the successful completion of an education building and the baptism of 5 converts to Christ from another major world religion.
There has been so much to think through in response to the grievous news, but two matters rise to the top most frequently:
- There but for the grace of God go I. There is no valor in having resisted a temptation I never faced, so far be it from me to pass judgment on this man who was suffering intense personal anguish. It is God's mercy and not our own virtue which has kept suicide out of my own family to this point.
- Even my repentance needs repenting of. Even my renewed prayers for the pastors closest to me mainly addressed their church office. I was praying for their faithfulness to the Gospel, their financial and ethical integrity, and God's guidance in their shepherding of their churches, all of which are good and needful prayers. My prayers, however, had neglected to consider them as persons. Pastors share all the struggles we face, in addition to the burden of their responsibility to us, in addition to intensified spiritual attack in many cases. The enemy of Christ's church knows that if he strikes the shepherd, the sheep may scatter.
Today is the last day of October, which someone has designated Pastor Appreciation Month. By all means, let us send notes, gifts, and gift cards. Our pastors need encouragement and special surprises just as we all do. Most of all, though, let us pray for them and renew our commitment to do so not only this month but continually. Let us pray for their faithfulness in the stewardship God has given them; let us also pray for them as our brothers in Christ, asking the same sorts of things that we do for our friends and family (which they are). Let us first and foremost pray that they would experience for themselves the boundless grace and love of God which they proclaim to others.
Recommended Resources: 31 Days of Praying for Your Pastor, from Revive Our Hearts
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or severe mood swings, please seek professional medical help or tell someone who can help you to the help you need. If you are actively considering doing yourself harm, I urge you please to call 911 or your local emergency number. There is no shame in seeking help; Jesus welcomes all of us just as we are.
Quietly lifting heart and hands in thanks to the unchanging Father of lights, whose ways transcend our understanding--
For faithful pastors who serve a single congregation for decades,
For God's work through mortal men continuing even beyond their earthly lives,
For Christian love and community that withstands sin, death, and grief,
For God's grace, bigger than each and every sin, even mine,
For God's ability to use even the worst, hardest eucharisteos for good,
For the unity of the invisible body of Christ,
For the steadfast government of the Chief Shepherd of the church,
For the steadfast government of the Chief Shepherd of the church,
For promises of comfort to all who mourn,
For promises that the Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes one day,
For wisdom available to us in our various needs of guidance,
For sunshine and showers all jumbled together in a week,
For yarn running out before the pattern does,
For working Saturdays,
For muddy paws (again) and cat patrol,
For stabilizing pain and better sleep,
For opportunity to celebrate with a friend how God has worked through her year with breast cancer, for her courage in not waiting until the battle is over to praise
(from the gratitude journal, still counting, #2017-2032)
Wow. I'm so moved by this post, Christina. I pray for the family of that pastor and for the church families there. What a difficult loss.ReplyDelete
Your statement here particularly grabs me:
"There is no valor in having resisted a temptation I never faced."
Oh, but that we all could remember that when we're prone to judge others and feel pride in ourselves.
I pray you have a blessed day, friend.
Lisa, thank you for your kind words and prayers for the bereaved. The church is still in shock, as you can imagine.ReplyDelete
May you also find blessing in this beautiful Monday, friend.
"For sunshine and showers all jumbled together in a week" --on many levels...love it! thanks for sharing your gratitude and admonishing us to pray.ReplyDelete
Amen. We do pray for our pastor most evenings, but when I've seen statistics and hear stories like these, or remember stories from my own past experiences, I'm compelled all the more. Such a good reminder here. Thank you. Better sleep for you. . . such a blessing and help, I'm sure.ReplyDelete
Such an important reminder. Thank you so much.ReplyDelete
You're welcome! Thanks for your kind words and visit. Grace to you in Jesus!ReplyDelete
That's such a gift to your pastor (and to yourselves on the rebound). You're welcome. Yes, sleep makes such a difference; I took it for granted for so many years but don't now. I hope you have breathing room this week but still joyous times with friends.ReplyDelete
You're welcome. Maybe I'm the primary one who needed it, but writing helped me process my thoughts. Grace to you in Jesus, dear Anne.ReplyDelete
Dear friend, I will be praying for you and lifting up that family in prayer.ReplyDelete
i never mind when in your posts you write about much discussed themes: you have a gift for putting old things in a new light, and deepening our appreciation of the familiar. but it's very useful in a different way when you address issues we may never have thought about, as you do here. i found the suggestions very helpful, and i especially loved the idea of praying for the welfare of our shepherds, and not just for successful shepherding on the part of our shepherds!ReplyDelete
Thank you for the reminder to pray for our Pastor and those who are leaders in the church (and also in our Nation) There are heavy burdens that they carry and they are under attack for the enemy. Our prayers help lift them up above all that.ReplyDelete
This post strikes a cord with me for many reasons. I am a pastor's daughter, so my family has been in ministry together for most of my life. And, oh, how we need the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ to carry us through the hard work of loving and serving on a constant basis! Our current ministry is focused on those who suffer from mental illness (bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline personality, etc.), so this tragedy you speak of hits close to home and I am grieving along with you. Having fought my own battle with severe depression for more than a decade, I know for certain it is only the Grace of God that kept me from taking my own life during those years. Thank you for your honesty here and deep desire to uphold your pastors in prayer. May His Grace overflow in all of you through this painful time.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your prayers. My dad, as chair of the deacon board, carries substantial responsibility as the church moves forward. Prayers for him and the other leaders would be much appreciated. God is moving among this congregation. Love to you, friend!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. "The welfare of our shepherds" - yes, absolutely!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your honest, heartfelt comment. I'm so sorry you've faced such a long battle with severe depression. If I could send you a hug over the Internet, I would. Your family's ministry is sorely needed. Mental illness still carries a stigma among some churches, perhaps many. Offering grace and help instead of shame and judgment is a powerful offering. May the Lord continue to protect and sustain you and bring forth much lasting fruit from your afflictions.ReplyDelete