I was drinking my coffee, walking toward the room I was about to teach in, when all of a sudden I tripped and spilled coffee down the front of my shirt. I thought, “Great. Now I’m going to look like a moron when I teach these people about union with Christ.”
A couple of weeks later, I was teaching about the Abrahamic covenant and made a reference to Tindr that made it sound like I had used the questionable “hook-up app.” I hadn’t, but found myself in a situation where the more I said, “I’ve never been on Tindr,” the more it sounded like I had.
On a more serious note, my wife and I recently realized we were exhausted. Cynicism and fear had invaded our hearts, and we found ourselves in front of our Home Group, confessing and crying. We had been running hard, ignoring the God-given limitations of 24-hour days and the need for rest. Our Home Group listened, testified of the Lord’s faithfulness and prayed over us.
There can be the temptation to see your pastors and ministers as men and women who have reached a different level in their relationship with the Lord. But pastors are people—people who spill coffee on their shirts, who send angry emails, who accidentally say dumb things, who find themselves afraid to cry in front of their friends. When the humanity of your leaders is exposed, it can provide a clear vision of four truths that will shape the way you interact with leaders in the church.
1. Your pastors know the struggles of being human.
All of us, including pastors, are vulnerable, woundable and touchable. Pastors have hopes that have been dashed, loves that have been crushed and sorrows that fill their beds with tears. They have family members battling cancer, bodies wrecked by sin and hearts that settle for lesser things.
Your pastors know the painful methods God employs to tenderize us. They will rarely have the answer you want, but they will be faithful to hold your hand and lead you to a Savior who is acquainted with the full range of our sorrow.
2. Your pastors love you.
They love hearing your concerns. They love praying for you. The Apostles Paul and John often refer to the churches they write to as “little children.” Yet, the leaders in your church don’t view you as naive and ignorant. They long to care for you like a mother and father long to provide, protect and pursue the hearts of their own sons and daughters. Your pastors delight in serving you; they want to know when you are sick, when you are broken and when need arises.
When crisis strikes, when sin surfaces or when the damage is done, it may seem like the last people who could relate to where you find yourself are the pastors and ministers that shepherd you. But these men and women have been set apart in order to rejoice with you in your celebrating and weep with you in your mourning. They are desperate for grace, just like you.
3. Your pastors are going to make mistakes.
Showing up in coffee-stained shirts to stumble through sermons, your pastors are not always “on.” Often, they show up to work just like you: bleary-eyed from long nights with crying children, walking into the office after a prayerless morning, frustrated by the traffic on I-35.
Your pastors delight in serving you, but their service might sometimes seem feeble and frail. Truly, they are undershepherds who are waiting for the appearance of the “chief shepherd,” as 1 Peter 5:1-11 reminds us. When pastors fail, be gracious to them. They are human, like you, and they are trying their best to serve you well.
4. Your pastors need encouragement.
Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” I tell people, “Encouragement is better than a gold bar for the pastors and ministers at your church.”
The delight of your pastors is to see you flourish in Christ. The men and women I serve with take joy in celebrating what God is doing to conform you to the image of His Son by the power of the Spirit. They are diligent in prayer, asking the Lord to bless and keep you.
At times your pastors may stumble into the room, they may walk right past the question you asked, or they may seem confused and tired. But they love you. They can’t help it. God has called them, for as long as they are here, to hold forth Christ to the people of God in this church in this city. The hands of your undershepherds, by the power of the Holy Spirit, are faithful but feeble. But, it is our hope that you might lean on us as we walk together toward our Savior.