10/17 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13

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. Be at peace among yourselves.

The role of pastor or elder has been a respected position in the past. We increasingly find that poor examples of humble servant leaders have diminished the respect that Christians should give to this role. Our verse today is an admonition to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.

Having the privilege to associate with many pastors over the years, I could tell you numerous tragic stories of how they were treated by influential members of congregations. The average length of a pastor's ministry to a church is just three-and-a-half years (Lifeway Research), but the most effective time of a pastor's ministry to a congregation begins in their eighth year. In many cases they aren't allowed to stay long enough to be effective. The average length of a career in ministry is just fourteen years (Fuller Institute).

The pressure to deliver a moving message week after week, to be on call 24/7, to have a perfect family, and to oversee all the other affairs of the church can weigh heavily on a pastor. Insurance actuarial tables put the profession near the top of the list for health risks. Paul hints at the reason when he commands the brothers to be at peace with one another. Elders must intervene when there is discord in the church. Entering into personal disputes is almost always bound to end in someone angry with an elder. Yet it must be done.

What can you do? First, as Paul admonished us, respect the elders. You may disagree, but do so cordially and without trying to build a coalition to thwart the leading of the elders. Secondly, esteem them very highly in love because of the unenviable task before them. And finally, be at peace among yourselves. A congregation that loves one another and quickly forgives one another is a blessing to their elders.

Consider: This is pastor appreciation month. Pray for your elders. The most heartwarming appreciation I ever received was not gifts, but cards from the congregation with a personal note of what they appreciated about my ministry to them. Pastors need encouragement, too.