Last week a Facebook friend of mine asked, "...Who provides pastoral care to the pastor and his family when they go for surgery? ...Pastor, train up your congregation to offer pastoral care. Church, who provides pastoral care for your pastor? Pastor, open up and receive that care, let others work out of what they have been gifted and equipped to do."
Recently, in our Wednesday night group, we've been talking about service and how we are each called and equipped to serve the local Body. So often we forget that those who serve us have needs as well. Who is caring for the pastors, the leaders and elders? Have they simply become part of the scenery, like a lamp or hymn book? Do we see our leaders as people who tire, who hurt, who get discouraged? All those verses that talk about loving and encouraging our neighbors apply to our spiritual leaders as well. Do we think that since God called them to ministry, they're somehow removed from the same hurts and hang-ups that we face? If anything, being in ministry creates an isolation from others that can be very lonely and dark.
A very real burden for pastors here in Belize is finances. Very few pastors are able to live off a church salary here, sometimes due to how little their members earn, sometimes due to other factors. It's human nature for people with limited funds to withhold them. Instead of being obedient to God's command to tithe, they may give token offerings instead. There is also a fear that donated funds will be misused, so they don't give their tithe to the church. They may find other good projects and needs to donate to, while their pastors are struggling to keep their families fed and the church doors open. They may figure, if God has called them to ministry, He will meet their needs (it's not my job). The Bible shows clearly that His plan is to meet their needs through the local Body.
1 Timothy 5:17-18
17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.”
1 Corinthians 9:7-12
7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?8 Do I say this merely on human authority? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing?9 For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned?10 Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.11 If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
I Corinthians 9:13-14
13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar?14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
We are supposed to meet our ministers' needs; I'm not talking about extravagant wealth. We are supposed to be faithful in our giving. In God's Kingdom every need is met, every person provided for, and those who serve are to be honored. How have we lost sight of this principle?
As a young child our family attended a large church that was missions-focused. When missionary families came through during their furlough, the church would roll-out the red carpet. They were billeted (housed) with families from the church, taken out to eat, given funds to pick up items they couldn't get overseas, sometimes even lent a vehicle while they were in town. While they were in the field, they had people praying and writing to the missionaries, so they would feel connected and stay encouraged. That church knew how to care for their missionaries. Nowadays I think the same mentality is at work regarding missionaries as pastors; "they signed up for this, God will meet their emotional and financial needs magically- it's not my job."
As a Body, we need to do better. As a Church we need to do better. We are His hands and feet. It is our job.