#ThirtyThankfuls Day 2: My fellow elders.

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[Okay, jumped the gun in posting this, but since it already went out to my email subscribers, I guess I’ll just release tomorrow’s post now. Here ya go!]

Being an elder/pastor can be a challenging gig (even for a volunteer/lay elder like me). You are responsible for the spiritual care and well-being of a diverse group of believers at varying stages of life, which means you get to be part of their worst moments and hardest struggles. You have the privilege and responsibility of carrying the burdens of several others, often with little or no way to share that with anyone for the sake of the person’s privacy and reputation. You have to make decisions for the good of the entire body that some fraction of the church body won’t understand or agree with, and on any given day, your necessary actions upset one or another segment of the church family. You are sometimes accused or maligned, and you cannot respond in kind. Assumptions are made about you that you sometimes cannot refute without divulging confidences.

The under-shepherd of the flock helps to care for its wounded, chase down its straying, and bear with the biting and kicking of various unruly sheep. We must give an account to the Great Shepherd for how we cared for His sheep. It is a hard and glorious task. I love it and I’m grateful for it, though at times I wonder if I’m really up to it or if I’m doing it well at all.

It’s a hard and often thankless job. That’s why it’s a blessing not to have to do it alone.

I love my brother-elders. They are my dearest friends and confidants. They give encouragement and reproof when I need it. I trust their judgment and I heed their counsel. I have asked them regularly to call me out if I’m speaking or acting in a way inconsistent with my calling. I rely on them to watch my back and challenge me to run the race well. We spur each other on to obedience and good works.

The last 3 years have been a wearying and rewarding journey–one that I couldn’t have done alone. I thank my God for the men who are walking with me, the men with whom I serve and the men I get to help encourage and support as they lead well.

If you are a Christian, and your pastors/elders are leading well, please pray for them and please tell them what they mean to you. I know we’re technically past “Pastor Appreciation Month,” but I can guarantee you that your pastors have already gotten multiple emails this week from congregants telling them what they’re doing wrong or how they aren’t measuring up. It’s a breath of fresh air when a brother or sister reaches out just to say, “Hey, I see you serving well, and I appreciate it.” That’s better than all the coffee cups and bookmarks and other “appreciation” trinkets that pastors receive over the years.

(Though I have to admit, a thank-you note PLUS a sweet treat or some coffee is doubly delightful to a weary pastor.)

#OctTBR2022 Day 4: “On Being A Pastor” by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: Another work about the life of a pastor, but two recent examples of faithful ministry–one living and one recently gone to glory.

Why I’m Reading It: If Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is my favorite past preacher, Alistair Begg may be my favorite living preacher (outside of my own fellow elders). The man’s preaching is a perfect blend of clear doctrinal fidelity and self-deprecating pastoral gentleness and good humor. I’ve heard countless sermons of his but haven’t really read his writing, so this will be a treat.

Have you read this book? If not, is it something you would enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

#OctTBR2022 Day 3: “Lectures To My Students” by Charles Spurgeon

[What is #OctTBR2022? I explain it here.]

What It Is: A series of lectures from the “Prince of Preachers” to young seminarians looking to enter the ministry.

Why I’m Reading It: I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while. I’m most of the way through The Doctor’s excellent work Preachers and Preaching, and it’s only emphasized how much I need to learn about pastoral ministry. (In fact, several of the books you’ll see pop up in this list have to do with the office of pastor/shepherd/teacher.) I’m in my fourth year as a lay elder, but it feels like I still have so much growing to do. Reading good books from faithful ministers will only help that.

Have you read this book? If not, is it something you would enjoy? Let me know in the comments!

What Your Faithful Pastor Needs.

brown and blue house on mountain
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I’ve been an elder for 6 months or so, and it’s been a blessing and a challenge. Although I was warned about the weight of this “mantle of responsibility,” I underestimated how heavy it can be to carry the knowledge of the challenges and pains your flock is enduring–and to know that you have a part to play in ministering the Gospel of grace to those hurts each week.

Here’s the thing, though: your pastor, your elders–they do it because they love it. And they love it because they love you.

Pastoral ministry is heavy and it’s hard, but your pastors love serving you in this way. You may not like when the way they serve you is through exhortation, challenge, or even discipline. But this is how they love you. This is how they care for your soul.

So going into this weekend, Christian, I wanted to encourage you briefly with a reminder of what your faithful shepherds need, so that you can be a blessing to them.

  • Pray for them. Pray for their hearts, as they carry the responsibility of leadership and ministry. Pray for their marriages and families, that God would guard them against the attacks of the Enemy. Pray that God would keep them humble and hungry for Him and His Word. Pray that God would guard their witness in ministry. If you know of struggles they are facing, lift them up before the Lord.
  • Encourage them. Tell them that you prayed for them. Thank them for teaching or serving or administrating. Let them know how their work is bearing fruit in your life. There can be stretches where all an elder hears from his congregation is hurt and critique and doubt, and in those moments a gentle word of encouragement is a refreshing drink of water that squares the shoulders and straightens the spine.
  • Show them respect. By this, I don’t mean that you should give them undue deference or any sort of silly “anointed” and untouchable status–far from it. Pastors and elders are exhorted throughout Scripture to live as examples before the congregation; this is a high standard. What I mean is this: recognize that your pastors and elders are not only under-shepherds entrusted with the care of the flock, but they also your brothers in Christ. They are (hopefully) your friends; by that I mean, you treat them in a friendly and brotherly manner. So if you have concerns or even critiques, you don’t put them on blast as the world does, or trash them on social media or in snarky conversations with others. Rather, you should seek to discern the best time and the best way to address those issues lovingly, as a brother or sister in Christ.
  • Buy them coffee. Okay, this last point is from me, not the Lord, but I too believe I have the Holy Spirit. 🙂 This may sound self-serving, and I admit it may be so, but a small token of appreciation for a pastor who labors faithfully can make a huge impact. October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I would encourage you to plan on blessing your elders and pastors in some small but meaningful way.

Most importantly of all, follow the example of your pastors and elders this weekend by being in the Lord’s house with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day.

Have a great weekend, friends. See you next week.

#30ThankYous Day 14: Dr. John MacArthur

Dr. MacArthur,

It’s hard to express how much your ministry has meant to me. I have been challenged by your preaching, aided by your commentaries, chastened by your books, and emboldened by your public comments. Your history of ministry faithfulness stands in stark contrast to generations of younger pastors who have shipwrecked their ministries in personal sin, public foolishness, or prosperity-gospel sell-outs.

If I were to consider the two or three theologians and pastors of the last century whose work has done the most good for the church, your name would be in that list. Your stalwart position during “lordship salvation” controversy would alone be enough for that honor. Beyond that, you have given the church dozens of books and commentaries that have been and will continue to be a blessing and a light for pastors and teachers (like myself) seeking to preach the Word faithfully and cut it straight.

Looking to the future, as the Christian church faces threats from within and without, books like The Truth War and Strange Fire will grow more and more relevant, as post-modern spiritualism and charismatic mysticism continue to spread. With each passing year, the people of God need pastors and teachers and writers to call them back to the Book, again and again. This is the hallmark of your ministry, and we praise God for you.

May God continue to bless you and guard you, so that you may finish strong. And by the grace of God, may you have many more years of faithful ministry before you step down from the pulpit for the last time. When that day comes, one fact will be undeniable: the church of Jesus Christ has been helped beyond reckoning by your work, and God will have used you mightily in the lives of thousands, if not millions. of believers. There is an entire generation of pastors who have been prepared to proclaim the Gospel boldly as they ought, because of your witness–following your example, as you follow Christ.

God bless you, Dr. MacArthur. Thank you so, so much for your faithfulness to our Savior.

–Dave Mitchell