If pastors spend so much time caring for others, we need to make sure we are caring for them. Here are some ways we can do that.

Years ago, I remember circling 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 in my Bible and writing beside those verses in the margin, “Love your pastor!”

In this passage, the Apostle Paul shares some encouragement and instruction on how to love and honor those who have been called to lead and shepherd us in the local church. Paul writes, “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves” (CSB).

Loving and honoring your pastor is important, perhaps now more than ever. In our changing cultural landscape, pastors are navigating unique challenges and pressures as they seek to be salt and light in this world while equipping their people to do the same.

Studies and surveys have shown that the events of recent years have taken a serious toll on pastors, and many of the conversations I have with them prove those findings to be true. Many pastors I talk with share with me that they are exhausted and experiencing burnout.

While there is great joy in serving the Lord, ministry can be demanding and draining physically, emotionally and spiritually. In addition to preaching, teaching, casting vision and providing overall leadership to the church, pastors also spend much of their time counseling members, visiting the sick and caring for the needs of others.

If pastors spend so much time caring for others, we need to make sure we are caring for them. Here are some ways we can do that.

Serve and love your pastor and his family.

Serving and loving your pastor begins with praying for him and his family, but it shouldn’t end there. Ask him often how he and his family are doing. Ask him if there’s anything he needs. Be an encouragement to him and his family. Support his leadership.

With so many demands and expectations on him, it’s likely that your pastor will disappoint you at some point. Don’t take it personally because that probably was not his intent. One way you can love and honor your pastor is to assume the best in him, give him the benefit of the doubt and extend the same grace to him that Jesus showed us at the cross.

Serve and love the body of Christ.

There is not a single pastor alive who can carry out all of the ministries in a local church. Nor should he. In fact, it’s not the pastor’s job to do the ministry. His job, according to Ephesians 4:12 is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ” (CSB). 

One of the best ways you can love and honor your pastor is to get involved in the ministry of your local church. You can help ease his burden by simply living out the many “one another” passages found in the New Testament. Here are just a few to consider: care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25); serve one another (Galatians 5:13); bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18); confess your sins to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16).

Serve and love your local community.

If you want to love and honor your pastor, serve and love your local community. One question I like to think about is this: “If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone in your community care?” That’s a sobering question.

Jesus tells us that the primary way a lost and dying world will know that we are His disciples is the way we love one another (John 11:35). Finding ways you can serve your community is a great way to demonstrate and declare the gospel. Whether it’s painting a school, cleaning up a park or serving meals to those in need, you can love your community in Jesus’ name in any number of ways.

And we are giving N.C. Baptists an opportunity to do this through a brand new initiative called ServeNC. We’re asking every N.C. Baptist church to take one week next August to serve your local community. Could you imagine the impact and witness we could have for Christ in our communities if every church took this step? You can learn more and commit to serving at servenc.com.

I hope you will consider these and other ways you and your church can love and honor your pastor as Paul instructs in 1 Thessalonians.

EDITOR’S NOTE – This article originally appeared in the October 2023 edition of the Biblical Recorder magazine.