By Matt Mouser
The following thoughts will come across more as a letter of appreciation than a theological essay regarding doctrine. Despite that fact, my hope is that the biblical truths found below will encourage church members to lift up the men that God has placed within their congregations to serve alongside them.
In November of 2020, I arrived at First Free Will Baptist Church of Columbus, GA with an eagerness “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ”. I told one friend before leaving Virginia that I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it on my own. His response was sobering: “No, you won’t be able to pastor on your own.” The brother was pointing to a necessary reliance of the power of God in pastoral ministry but I have found that aid from church family falls into this category as well. Ministry does not take place by the pastor alone.
While my experience has not been perfect, I am still daily blown away by the fortunate situation that I have found myself in. While there are many other observations, here are four wonderful ways that the church I serve has treated me during the infancy of my ministry.
Grant Them Great Patience
From my very first Sunday, it was understood that I did not pretend to have the role of pastor figured out. And the people, for the most part, have treated me as such. One particular interaction communicates the patience that I have experienced. On a Wednesday evening, a deacon came to me and asked if I had made a call or visited an elderly couple in the church. This family’s attendance had become less frequent because of illness and I had not made the necessary attempt to contact these well-loved members.
Rather than sitting back and thinking, “Well, he ought to know this needs to happen. Let’s see if he does it,” this brother came to me and encouraged me to reach out quickly. This interaction was of great encouragement to me in both the content as well as the manner with which it was carried out. He had every right to say, “What is wrong with you?! This is what we’re paying you for.” Instead, he communicated a care for this family as well as me in coming to me in love.
There are countless other instances where my church family has shown me and my family the patience mentioned in Galatians 5. Regarding the preaching of God’s word, there have without a doubt been sermons that left those in attendance desiring more. But I was asked to serve with the understanding that the pastor is always learning on the job. On my wall is a note from one member:
Your preaching gets better and better. Tonight was one of your best! Keep up the good work.
I love you Brother.
To pass along such a note is to recognize that progress is being made and that there is effort. I’m self-aware enough to know there are duds but one small note was encouragement enough to keep pushing forward. It was an interaction I will always cherish.
Churches, be patient with your pastors. There are few weights heavier than communicating the gospel week in and week out. Yet, there is great reward just when the Word of God is communicated. The second experience I have encountered has to do with preaching as well.
Immerse Yourself in the Preaching of God’s Word
As I noted above, the preacher faces immense pressure while preparing for and executing the preaching of the Bible. But there is an added energy provided when just seeing a person nodding their head in agreement or verbally providing an “Amen”. There will always be comments following a sermon along the lines of enjoying the message but the responses from a repentant heart sparks a gospel joy that surpasses the obligatory approval.
There are other subtle things that I have noticed that bring a smile to my face such as worship attendees arriving with a bible in one hand and notebook in the other. The sermon has become more than just a spectator’s event when the people of God engage with the text. Interacting with what is heard by taking notes communicates a desire to retain the information that has been communicated. But don’t do this for the approval of the preacher. Do this for your own soul! Review the notes you made throughout the week and meditate on them. Allow the Word of God to penetrate your heart and coat your hands as you live.
A final instance of engaging with the preached word is those who serve during the worship service and are unable to be in service watch the message on their own time
It has been a privilege to see several individuals fall in love with God’s Word over time. It does this pastor’s heart good and fuels the fire to faithfully preach the Bible.
Be Honest With Your Feedback
One significant issue in churches today is grumbling behind the scenes. However, there are several that have been honest with me regarding feedback on what is going on with Christ’s church, while I am sure there are plenty of private frustrations which never see the light. One sister has been an open book with me from day one. Whether it is a concern communicated or a word of praise, she is quick to bring whatever she has to the one it has to do with instead of sowing discord privately.
Believe it or not, your pastor desires encouraging feedback as well as points of improvement. Even if only the negative comments are made, I have found it better to know the true situation rather than being left to wonder what people are thinking. Of course, sharing these comments with a gentle demeanor and in love goes a long way but the reminder that there are people who care and desire to see an increase of the Kingdom of God encourages your pastor.
Bring Them in as Your Own
The New Testament Church is marked, along with other attributes, by its hospitality. From the very beginning of our time in Columbus, my family has been welcomed into the homes of several families in the church. Even when holidays are concerned, we have celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with our church family because we were unable to travel for the holiday. I cannot imagine having moved to a new town and surviving without the love that our family has been shown. It has been overwhelming, at times, when I ponder the open arms that have embraced my wife and children. Rather than feeling like we have been on an island, my family feels as though we are working alongside these dear brothers and sisters in Kingdom efforts.
To the church member, embrace your pastor and his family from day one. Afterall, they are now a part of your local body. Such an action will have a lasting effect on his pastoral care and pulpit ministry.
There are many other experiences that have impacted my ministries in just two short years but these are the things that have had the greatest impact on me and my family. I pray that what I’ve shared will urge you to support your pastor as he works to support you! For the experienced and tenured pastor, these are values that can and should be instilled in the people you serve right now. The sobering reality is that there will be an end of your time as pastor but the church of Christ will still remain and the next man will step in where you left off. If you love your people, you will want this new gospel partnership to start off on the right foot.