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“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwrack, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. ” (2 Corinthians 11:23–28 KJV)
Paul speaks to the Corinthian church of the fact that he is indeed an apostle to whom they should listen. He reminds them that those who come to them have not had the experience in the ministry that he has had. In fact, they are self-serving people who are seeking to exalt themselves, while he is one who has suffered for Christ and His church. This is why they should listen to Paul.
After Paul mentions all of his sufferings he speaks of the care that he has for the churches. The ESV translates it in this manner:
“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. ” (2 Corinthians 11:28)
Yes, Paul has great care for the churches. He is anxious for their well-being. He is pressured with care for them in their tribulations, troubles, strife, and wanderings from Jesus.
Caring for the church is the job of those whom God has placed over them. Whether they are called elders, bishops, pastors, or shepherds, their job is to care for the church. This is why Paul would say, “ if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God? ” (1 Timothy 3:5 KJV) It is my aim in this post to examine a few things that the average person in the pew does not consider. This is not a complaint: it is simply the way life is for many of us. We are thankful for the opportunity to preach God’s Word and minister to His flock, yet we wish for those to whom we minister to understand how great our burden truly is.
Too often members of the body of Christ forget what a job it is for a caring pastor to minister to them. Being a shepherd to God’s flock is not an eight-to-five job. As John Piper would say, “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals!” No, we are more than professionals. Our profession is usually our life. The work of a pastor is with him when he goes to bed and when he arises. A true pastor cares for the churches, agonizes over their sins, and rejoices in her triumphs.
Few people know the amount of time that it takes to prepare a sermon. Few people know how much time is put into studying in general. Even fewer realize the amount of money a pastor often spends out of his own pocket to pay for books that he might learn more of God’s Word and how better he might serve Christ’s church.
There are few who know the loneliness that a pastor experiences. He is lonely because few understand his job, and few take the time to empathize. He is lonely because he must carry the knowledge of people’s personal lives in his mind and heart while saying nothing to betray their trust in him.
Even fewer know the personal struggles that a pastor may have. Whether is is monetary in nature, family problems, or depression. Though his heart is breaking, the pastor is expected to come in with a smile and lift everyone else up. Through the tears, agony, and heartaches of life, the preacher is expected to be strong for himself and everyone else. He is to bear the burdens and the criticisms of others while dealing with his own agonies.
Sadly, too few understand the responsibility that is inherent in being a shepherd who is faithful to God and His Word. Too many people wish to hear their pet doctrines. Too many people are conniessuers of preaching instead of consumers of God’s Word. They do not understand that preaching is not to entertain them, but to change them. They do not understand that the man of God often agonizes over the messages that he preaches because he knows that they will contradict some belief or practice that is greatly treasured by some to whom he speaks. He must do so, however, because faithfulness to God is his calling.
Too many times the pastor is subjected to harsh criticisms because of the stand that he takes. Gossip and slander are not uncommon realities for the shepherd of God’s flock. He must hear it, endure it, and continue to love the people who falsely accuse him. This pastor at various times has experienced loss, heartache, depression, and monetary struggles while remaining quiet about those things. It seems that there are often the times that the unrighteous criticisms are the most intense. While struggling with loss and grief, I’ve been accused of plagiarism and mocked for my preaching style. All the while, I am commanded to love those who do these things and seek to minister to their good. This is often very difficult.
I’m grateful for all those who actually support their pastor. A little love and concern go very far. A simple “I’m praying for you” means far more than anyone could ever know. A word of encouragement and appreciation can be such a great blessing. Please do not forget to share those things with your pastor.
Finally, don’t forget to listen to what he says, and obey God’s Word as it is carefully expounded. That is why God has given you a pastor. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. ” (Hebrews 13:17) Your pastor will give an account to God, not only for his work as a pastor, but for you. How did you respond? Did you accept or reject God’s Word? He will testify to God of you. Will he do it joyfully, because you loved him and you loved God’s Word; or will he do it with grief because you criticized, condemned, and refused to love Jesus? This is a great care that your pastor has. It is a heavy burden. It is made lighter for him now, and for you later, when you love God’s Word enough to walk in faithful obedience to Christ.
As you assemble to hear God’s Word this next Lord’s Day, consider how you might encourage the one who speaks to you and cares for you.