Does your pastor receive the honor and respect he deserves?

Most don’t.

Do you know how to honor and respect your pastor? Or could you use a little help?

Don't let the pastor's job put him here!
Don’t let the pastor’s job put him here!

The Bible helps us out by giving some simple, clear directions in this regard.

1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (ESV) says this:

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

Respect” comes from a verb (in the New Testament’s original language) that has two basic meanings: (1) knowledge acquired by paying attention and (2) honor due to someone worthy of respect.[1]

Both meanings were probably in Paul’s mind when he wrote this verse. This text about how believers should treat their pastors pushes two ideas:

  1. Recognize our pastors are worthy of honor by being aware of their responsibilities
  2. Publicly acknowledge respect for our pastors

Time to unpack a few things and see what’s in there!

1. Recognize that your pastor is worthy of honor

Consider the fact that you are called on to recognize that your pastor is worthy of honor. For two reasons.

First, he is worthy of that honor because (as verse 12 says) he “labors among you”. This points to the fact that your pastor works hard!

  • Lots of meetings
  • His task list only gets longer as the church grows and enjoys new life.
  • The pain, fear and worry felt by the church’s members weighs her down.
  • The unpleasant tasks of church discipline, meager financial resources, perhaps counseling staff and working around ineffective ministry leaders can’t be avoided.
  • Teaching the Bible accurately.
  • Protecting you and the church from false teachers.
  • Protecting the peace in the church.
  • Prudent financial stewardship.
  • Providing an environment where you can mature as a Christian.
  • Training and motivating you to serve the Lord in the daily mission.
  • Providing pastoral care to those in need
  • Proclaiming the Gospel to unbelievers
  • Oh, and there’re all those meetings!

Be aware of the fact that your pastor works hard for the Lord, for the church and for YOU! Don’t do anything to make it drudgery and wearisome toil!

Second, she is worthy of that honor because she is “over you.” She serves the Lord by leading and guiding the church where Jesus wants it to go. This means that your pastor has some measure of authority to lead, guide and direct the congregation.

Your church’s by-laws determine the extent and exercise of your pastor’s authority. Whatever that leadership role and scope of authority is, know it, recognize that the Head of the Church put your pastor in that pulpit, and resolve honor your pastor for it.

Let your pastor know you know

Okay, so your eyes are open. You’ve noticed just how hard your pastor works. And you are more in tune with pastoral leadership and authority.

Now what?

Try an occasional expression of thanks. A word before a Sunday service, maybe a Thank You card or an appreciative email. Use “magic phrases” to let your pastor know you’re aware of the hard work and the weight of leadership and authority.

  • “Thank you for patiently teaching scripture to me by word and deed. You’ve been most patient with me as I seek by faltering steps to apply its truths to my life.”
  • “I pray God will encourage your heart as you’ve encouraged mine. I know you feel the burden of the responsibility that comes with your call. You are God’s leader for us.”

2. Pay public respect to your pastor

Remember, the word “respect” in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 has two broad meanings. We’ve considered the first (coming to understand your pastor’s great responsibility and honoring him for that).

Now let’s move to that second meaning. You honor your pastor by publicly acknowledging your respect for him or her.

  • Defend your pastor when someone else gossips or complains to anyone but him! Insist on accompanying the gossip to meet with the pastor for an airing of grievances.[2] It is a grave dishonor to let others publicly act and speak in biblically impermissible ways.
    • If this happens in your small group, you as the SG leader must do this.
    • If someone on your ministry team starts griping in a team meeting, the rest of the team needs to grab that one by the ear and pull him or her to the pastor.
    • If this happens in an email with a long cc: list, insist that the offender send an apology to everyone who received that email (the sender dishonors everyone by imagining they would be a party to email gossip, which, by the way, is cowardly).
  • Remember your pastor on holidays and special occasions. At least a card signed by members of the congregation and brief words of encouragement.
  • Thank the Pastor, church staff, the Church Board and the various ministry leaders for their sacrificial service to the Lord and to the church during your business meetings.
  • At every anniversary of your pastor’s call, the church should publicly thank her for another year. Perhaps several folks (those who aren’t afraid to speak in a crowd) could rehearse some of the past year’s highlights. If it has been a trying year marked with setbacks, acknowledge that (we honor our pastors by being honest with them!).
  • During the “major” anniversaries (first year, fifth, tenth, write a newspaper column telling the local community of your pastor’s love and service. Be sure to let the world know that you honor and respect your pastor and why!
  • Two words: SUPERHERO CAPE

Wrap up

You have a responsibility to care for your pastor. This involves at least two elements:

  1. Pay attention to your pastor’s hard work and leadership
  2. Pay public respect to your pastor

Help us out here

What have you seen that works to keep pastors encouraged?

If you’ve been (or are) a pastor, what encouraged you?

Please leave your comments below so that others can follow your thoughts. Not everyone who lands on this page will be able to follow you back to the LinkedIn link, FB page or Tweet that brought you here. And thanks for doing so!

  1. Romans 14:6 uses the word to describe the honor we show the Lord.  â†©
  2. Try this: “I can’t believe you just said that about the Pastor in my/our presence. You know that he is approachable and gracious. Let’s go right now to meet him so that you can tell him your grievance. I’m sure that if he’s in the wrong he’ll gladly confess and ask your forgiveness.”I got this language from a former colleague who adapted it from a book he’d read. I think it was originally from one of Jim Cymbala’s books, but I’m not sure.  â†©