A pastor’s visits one week included these two. The first was to a home where all was well. Ryan and Steph were prosperous; the home was pleasant; a good car sat on the driveway; the children were being educated in expensive schools; their manners were good; talent abounded.
The second was to a single mum. Nicole had been abandoned some years before by an abusive husband; she was bringing up Dan and Jim, two very difficult boys, alone; and she herself struggled with serious and persistent health troubles.
The pastor went away downcast and discouraged after one visit, thrilled and energised after the other. But which was which?
That pastor was me (although I have changed the names). Which visit cheered me more? I remember well. I came home from the first—where everything was “fine”—deeply depressed; and from the second walking on air. How come?
Ryan and Steph conformed outwardly to Christian beliefs, but showed no sense of deep heart work, no feeling that they really wanted to be wholehearted disciples of Jesus—in a word, no evidence of genuine repentance and lively faith. But, in the second, although the problems were crushing—and I did feel the pain of them—in Nicole’s heart there was a joy in the Lord Jesus, a quiet determination to walk with him through whatever life had in store, and a gritty and very real trust.
The very best thing you can do for your pastor, and I for mine, is to repent daily of sin and trust afresh daily in Jesus. To be honest, if you and I do this—together with our committed belonging—even if we are terrible at looking after our pastors in other ways, they will probably keep on pastoring year after year.
Walking in the truth
In the short letters we call 2 John and 3 John, the elderly apostle John writes twice about the joy that comes to a pastor’s heart when they hear this kind of news:
“It has given me great joy to find some of your children [that is, members of your church] walking in the truth.” 2 John v 4
“It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children [men and women under my pastoral care] are walking in the truth.” 3 John v 3-4
To “walk in the truth” means much the same as to “walk in the light” (1 John 1 v 7). This does not, of course, mean achieving sinless perfection. Rather, it means a regular confession of sin and repentance, so that the direction of our lives keeps turning back towards God’s law and God’s ways. And it means a clear and fresh trust that Jesus saves us from our sins.
The very best thing you can do for your pastor is to repent daily of sin and trust afresh daily in Jesus.
John makes all this clear in 1 John 1:5-2:2. This gives a pastor joy because it’s the reason they came into pastoral ministry. Whatever work they may have left behind them, they became a pastor because they dream and yearn and long that men and women should bring honor to God by walking in the truth, by following Jesus with fresh faith and honest repentance, as they themselves seek to do. If men and women are doing this under their ministry, they can wake up in the morning and get out of bed with a spring in their step. Nothing so drains a pastor of vital energy as having to preach to, having to go on praying for, having to try to lead and care for men and women who are impervious to the good news of God’s grace. Hardness of heart is the great pastor-killer.