As you read this week’s column, I encourage you to give thought to it in a personal way. Reflect upon what is written as it applies to the circumstance in your faith walk. For more than 25 years, the second Sunday in October has been designated as Pastor (or Clergy) Appreciation Day. I challenge you to reflect on all of the ways your pastor impacts your life, the lives of the people who attend your church, and the impact he/she has on the greater community. And while you’re thinking about that, consider all of the sacrifices made by the pastor’s spouse and family.

Those who are called to lead a church body, it is a powerful calling on their lives. They certainly don’t do it for the pay, the work schedule, or the recognition — it is a calling. They respond to this calling as an act of obedience for the One to whom they have chosen to surrender. 1 Samuel 15:22 (KJV) reads, “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” To obey is better than sacrifice.

Sometimes our obedience requires a sacrifice. And for those that accept this calling on their lives, they sacrifice a lot. I know many of us with tongue planted firmly in cheek have made jokes about the brevity of a pastor’s work schedule. Where else could you be adored by many and only have to work one hour a week? I mean everyone loves everything the pastor does all of the time. And, as long as the pastor shows up on Sunday and preaches a message to tell us everything is going to be alright — that we can live any old way we want to live and just ask for forgiveness, we will be just fine. It sounds pretty easy to us, doesn’t it?

Reality check!

If we have a church we call home (even if we don’t attend regularly) who is one the first people we reach out to when we get into trouble? The pastor. The trouble could be manifest in a legal situation, financial concern, health matter, marital situation, we call on the pastor. Pray for me, pastor. Intercede for me, pastor. We might even say that our pastors are our spiritual first responders. Multiply this type of outreach times the number of people that are in the church body.

Certainly, we look for the pastor to be prepared for any message that is delivered. But the pastor doesn’t have a responsibility to deliver a sugar-coated message that is easy for us to swallow during the service. The pastor must be led by the Holy Spirit and share a message that the church body needs to hear. Oftentimes it is a message meant to encourage each of us on our faith walks. But sometimes it is a message that pierces our heart and convicts our spirits. It might even cause a harsh feeling. The pastor has a special accountability for what is done in the pulpit. The pastor will be judged for what is preached (and not preached) to God’s people from the pulpit.

Many of us will call out to the pastor to officiate over ceremonies and special services. We will look to the pastor to be a part of our celebrations and remembrances. Oftentimes these events don’t occur when it is at the pastor’s convenience (or the convenience of the pastor’s family). A sacrifice is made on their behalf to accommodate us.

Our pastors routinely have to rally the church to engage in community outreach efforts. You see, it is our responsibility as a church family to reach outside of the four walls of the church building to those that are lost and do not know the saving grace of the One who came for all.

As you finish reading this column, speak a prayer on behalf of your pastor and family. Write a note of appreciation to your pastor and deliver it this Sunday. Let your pastor know of the love you have for him or her.

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