They are unavoidable. We all have heroes and we always will. You tend to admire people in your own profession. Celebrity pastors will always be with us. While smaller churches seem to provide the type of community life we desire, megachurches will always be here with all their attractions. Whether the great cathedral or the former theatre, these churches and their grandiose budgets and their next new building will be a part of the evangelical ethos for a long time.
But instead of criticizing mega-ness and celebrity pastors, we should build instead a positive theology of the local pastor down the road. The fellow who spent his years in seminary longing for his first pastorate, eager to serve God’s people. The guy who loves Jesus, but may not have all the rhetorical gifts nor the wardrobe of the other guy down the road who on his first week in his new church plant had 500 in attendance. What about that little guy who is simply happy in providing for his family and caring for his flock, but whose church may never peak beyond 100?
What then should we do about them? It seems like we spend much time criticizing the big pastor and we spend little time encouraging the pastors who most need encouragement.
Here then are five ways to encourage the pastor of that small church, perhaps your own pastor:
First, thank God for that pastor. Thank God that He placed a man who loves Jesus more than anything else to minister to you week after week. He spends his mornings engaging the text seeking for wisdom to provide for his little flock. He prays to God that he would use every word to speak truth into the heart of sinful man and renew the heart of the afflicted.
Secondly, engage his sermons on Sunday morning. Tell him how thankful you are for the connection he made or for that fresh insight he offered, or for his faithfulness to the text. Be specific. Generic praises are much too common. Engage with his text. It will make his 15-20 hours he pours each week into the sermon that more desirable the next week.
Thirdly, find ways to show him appreciation. I am sure that at times he is highly discouraged because the church has not grown, or because they may have lost two families in the last three weeks, or because of the pressures put on him to perform in a way that is not congruent with his own abilities, the pressures for him to do just one more thing on top of the dozens of demands he has on a regular basis. Show him appreciation. Send him a note of gratitude.
Fourthly, avoid as a parishioner the celebrity trap. You return from a conference where the lights were just right, the speakers were engaging, their quotes were just perfect, their suits fit just right, their jokes were hilarious, and their persuasive gifts were so evident while at the same time the AC barely works in your little buildng, the microphone offers its normal hiccup and your little church pastor is doing his best to communicate to you the first verse of Jeremiah 21. Love your pastor’s exposition of Jeremiah 21. Make Jeremiah your priority throughout the week. Meditate. Talk about Jeremiah. Follow your pastor’s lectionary rather than the latest celebrity series. Tell your children how grateful you are to sit under the preaching of a pastor who cares enough about the Bible to preach on obscure texts.
Finally, I am aware that small churches would grow with a little more enthusiasm, a little more charisma, a little more of this and that, and perhaps it should. But your pastor may simply be that guy who is not very engaging, but longs to be. He may not have the greatest rhetorical gifts, but you know without a shadow of the doubt that when he opens his Bible each week he is there prepared for the task ahead. That guy is worth gold. Treasure him. Let him know how your family has been renewed by his weekly labor of love.
Do you want the celebrity culture to stop affecting the way you think church ought to be? Then begin by doing the obvious. Begin by loving your little community and the shepherd who guides it each week.