Sometimes a preposition makes all the difference. We do not need to look far to find examples of Christians who fight with their pastor. If you speak to just about any one of them I expect he will be able to tell you of people who have fought him tooth and nail over some peeve, some cause, some perceived slight. But much rarer are those who fight for their pastor, those who honor him and his position by battling for his success, for his joy, for his encouragement.
A couple of weeks ago I shared a review of Michael Kruger’s Bully Pulpit, a book that addresses the problem of heavy-handed leadership or spiritual abuse. And while that issue has received a lot of attention of late, it is important to acknowledge that the great majority of pastors are leading in love and serving their churches well. Hence, I wanted to draw your attention to Peter Orr’s new book Fight for Your Pastor—a book that encourages you to do exactly what the title indicates.
While it has always been difficult to be a pastor, it seems that there are some unique challenges today. “Think of the difference between climate and weather,” says Orr. “The ‘climate’ for pastoral ministry is constant. The world, the flesh, and the devil are long-term climate factors that remain between Christ’s first and second coming. But it feels as if—in the West, at least—there’s been a change in the ‘weather.’ There is now a general weather front of apostasy, secularism, unbelief, and so on that is making the life of a pastor—particularly a conservative, complementarian, and evangelical one—more difficult. Whether on matters of sexual ethics, gender, or the uniqueness of Christ, a faithful pastor who proclaims and stands for the word of God faces rising hostility from the world.”
That kind of pressure comes from outside the church but there is also pressure from within—pressure related to a rising awareness of spiritual abuse, pressure related to having to lead through a time of pandemic, pressure related to being commonly and often unfavorably compared to pastors whose ministries are so easy to see through the internet. Hence, “this short book is written as a call to more actively love and support our pastors. If you are reading this book, I am sure you love your pastor, but I want to nudge you to love him more intentionally. I invite you to pause and think about how you can support him more. In short, I am calling you to fight for your pastor.”
Orr structures the book around seven imperatives:
- Fight! for your pastor by praying for him, acknowledging that “the person who is under more satanic attack than anyone else you know is your pastor. The person whose faith Satan wants to derail the most is your pastor. The person whose marriage Satan would most like to wreck, whose kids he most wants to cause to rebel, whom he most wants to discourage is your pastor. You need to fight in prayer for your pastor.”
- Encourage! your pastor by deliberately acknowledging the blessing he is and intentionally building him up. “Sometimes we think that people have to earn our respect and admiration. They have to prove themselves. God’s economy differs: the pastor he has placed over us is, from the beginning, worthy of a respect and esteem that needs to translate into how we speak about and to him. We need to intentionally encourage him.”
- Listen! to your pastor as he teaches you from God’s Word.
- Give! to the church to ensure that your pastor has his financial needs met and is able to dedicate himself to his ministry.
- Forgive! your pastor for his sins and failures, for he will at times let you down. “As evangelicals, we take sins seriously, know that repentance is critical, and understand that Jesus had to die for our sins. But there is a place for overlooking and not confronting every sin. Every good marriage operates on that principle, as does any healthy friendship, including our relationship with our pastor.”
- Submit! to your pastor. “Submission may be the most countercultural thing that we can do. But the Bible commands it, our church’s health requires it, and our identity in Christ must reflect it.”
- Check! if accusations against your pastor are actually true rather than believing all that people may say about him.
These are good and necessary exhortations and, if we all obey them, our pastors will be better equipped to lead us in ways that are beneficial to our lives and faith. “In the end, this book sounds a call to abandon a passive, consumerist model of church. It calls us to abandon the notion that the pastor performs the ministry, which we evaluate according to how it benefits us. It is a call to reject the error that he is our once-a-week religious entertainment provider. It is a call to abandon the idea that he is our spiritual guru, who will drop everything any time we need him. It is a call for us all to be devoted to the work of the Lord. It is a call for us to love and support our pastor. It is a call to fight for him!” It is a call I hope many Christians will hear, accept, and obey.