october is “pastor appreciation month.” this seems to be a very big deal…at least to those who sell christian stuff. and to pastors.
to be candid, i am very uncomfortable with the concept. first, because my people are compelled to appreciate me and i do painfully little for which to be appreciated. and secondly, because i consistently assert that no one in the church is more important than anyone else. if we have a “pastor appreciation month,” then we are obligated to celebrate “janitor appreciation month” and “the person who makes coffee on sunday morning appreciation month” (although i draw the line at “the person who complains about everything but never lifts a finger to improve anything appreciation month”).
we are currently doing an expository study of 1 corinthians, and paul affirmed this concept pretty clearly in his letter to the believers at corinth:
Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful…The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. (1 corinthians 12:11, 25-26 the message)
a couple of years ago my whole church family showed up at my house early on a saturday morning. the men brought a new cedar privacy fence (it must have cost a thousand dollars!) which they put up after tearing down and hauling off my old, falling down fence (which had faithfully served to humiliate me daily in the eyes of my neighbors). the women brought all kinds of beautiful plants and flowers and began attacking my lifeless, colorless flower beds with gusto. i spent the morning pouring iced tea and thanking everybody profusely for their kindness toward me. as i was mowing my lawn this week, i was reminded of that day and the love i felt. i will never forget it.
i will also never deserve it.
i know pastors who reek of entitlement and take almost any gesture of goodwill for granted. but i’m sure i speak for the majority of church leaders who say that our reward is in the fulfillment of our calling. sure we work long hours, and, yes, there are pressures and burdens and heartaches that most people cannot imagine. but when we see a life changed, when we see a spark of hope come into the eyes of someone who has only known fear and darkness, we are abundantly repaid. and when we are served by the people we are called to serve, we are overwhelmed by something much heavier than gratitude–humility.
so in recognition of pastor appreciation month, i say “thank you” to the immeasurably special people who call me their pastor. i am humbled by your affection. jaycene and i are privileged to serve you. the one gift i wish for is a greater vocabulary to be able to tell you how much we love you.