We are in the midst of Clergy Appreciation Month. It is a time when congregations are encouraged to honor, thank, and celebrate their pastoral staffs. It is an important time because we all know that being a pastor can often become discouraging, disappointing, depressing, and even destructive. Knowing that someone cares, knowing that you are making a difference, and being recognized by the people you love and serve can be a shot in the arm, a rebirth of compassion and commitment, a boost in your soul. I truly pray that your congregation has already done and perhaps is still doing something special, something tangible to let you know how much they value you. (By the way, even if you are not among the fortunate few for whom this is true, do not be disheartened or think that you are not appreciated by your people. You are worthy and loved.)
In the book of Hebrews are words written to a group of people about their pastors: “Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden” (Hebrews 13:17).
I thought a bit about what that phrase really means — “joy, not a burden.” I’m sure it does not mean people are just to be robotic yes-men to their pastors. Rather, they are to honor the divine calling of their pastors and conduct themselves in a way that brings joy to pastoring.
What would make ministry joyful for you? Here are a few thoughts:
- People who continue to show growth in their walk with the Lord.
- People who have a genuine concern for their brothers and sisters in the faith.
- People who do not turn a deaf ear to the lost.
- People who walk by faith and not by sight.
- People who pray rather than faint.
- People who are drawn to peace rather than contention.
- People whose self-image is based on who they are in Christ rather than what they accomplish by themselves.
- People who pass the torch of righteousness to the next generation.
- People who love the church and give themselves to it.
I think each of us has a “joy meter” that registers what gives us joy and how much joy we experience. Please don’t let yours be based on what happens around you more than on your contentment in Christ and the job He has given you to do. Rejoice!
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).
Of course, my colleague, we are all aware that joy and happiness are two completely different things. It seems to me that joy comes from God, while happiness comes from circumstances or others. We can still be joyful even when we are unhappy about something. I pray that, as pastors, you can always claim joy even when everything around you is not perfect.
There was an article several years ago in the Christian Post reporting on a survey conducted by the University of Chicago. The survey found that being in the clergy was the top job for satisfaction among American workers: 87 percent of the pastors surveyed reported they were very satisfied. The exact quote was: “Pastors — perceived to be some of the most under-appreciated and on-demand workers in America — are actually the happiest and most satisfied in their jobs.”
Now, get this! In addition to being the most satisfied, pastors also outranked other American workers as being the happiest (67 percent). It was interesting to note that doctors and lawyers did not make the list of the top 12 most-satisfied or happiest. At the bottom of the “happy” list were garage and service station workers (13 percent) and roofers (14 percent).
What made pastors the happiest workers in the land? Is it still true? Do you think it is based on the same criteria that makes other professions happy, or could it be because we are uniquely called and, in fact, our jobs are really not “jobs” as such? Could it be because we give hope to people and help them find the Lord? And, sometimes, we are humbled when they show their appreciation back for us?
Are you joyful — if so, why? Are you happy — if so, why? Are you satisfied — if so, why? If not, why not?
The dictionary defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment.” Is that how you would define it? Just something to think about.
Happy Clergy Appreciation Month! We love you and treasure what you do for our Lord!
“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).