The Vital Churches Committee of the RPCNA reminds the synod each year in its report “one of the most important keys to church renewal is a renewed pastor.” What brings refreshment and renewal to a pastor?
Ultimately, if refreshment is to come, the Lord himself must bring it; he does this by his word and Spirit and through his people. How can people in the pew refresh their pastor? Various good answers are given: pray for your pastor, provide for your pastor, befriend him and his family, send your pastor to a conference on pastoral refreshment, give him a sabbatical, or promote other forms of personal development.
In my own pastoral experience, I am most refreshed and stimulated to renewal when people seek the Lord and eagerly join in the ministry of the church. The Apostle Paul expressed his own joy and renewal over the service and love of people who rolled up their sleeves and jumped into service with Paul.
Stephanas’ long-haul devotion to service, with his household, rejuvenated Paul’s spirit as he recounted to the Corinthians:
Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have made up for your absence, for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such people (1 Corinthians 16:15-18).
Paul’s heart overflowed with thanksgiving, joy, and comfort because Philemon, Apphia, and Archippus had refreshed the hearts of the saints around them:
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you (Philemon v.4-7).
Look at how the Onesiphorus and his household sent Paul’s soul soaring because of his love for Paul and the service the man had rendered at Ephesus:
May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus (2 Timothy 1:16-18).
The Lord uses the zeal of his people to recharge the hearts of his preachers!
Further, such zeal advances opportunity for pastoral refreshment. How? Consider the woman discouraged because she is weary from doing so much laundry in her house. Taking a rest from doing the laundry for several days will fail to refresh her if she knows that her break is only causing the mountain of laundry to grow!
A pastor’s heart, if he’s worth his salt, longs to see God glorified through the fulfillment of gospel ministry where he serves. He will scarcely be refreshed and will be more discouraged by his break if he knows that the ministry is flagging at home. But, his refreshment can multiply away from home on vacations, at conferences, and on sabbaticals, if he knows that back home:
- A guest preacher will clearly proclaim good news from the pulpit
- Children will be joyfully taught in Bible school classes
- Adult Bible school classes will instruct people in God’s word and stir lively discussion
- A developing leader will facilitate the mid-week Bible study
- Brothers and sisters will meet to personally study Scripture together through the week
- Visitors will be greeted at weekly services and followed up on with love
- Members will be calling on one another for friendship and encouragement
- Prayer groups will continue to meet
- Discipleship groups will progress to the next chapter of their material
- Bible studies will be led over lunch-hour in the workplace
- Problems that arise will be soberly addressed with maturity
- The missions training team will tackle the next sections of their reading
- The hospitality committee will be planning and implementing fun and meaningful fellowship activities
- Families will be gathering in their homes to read, sing, and pray on a daily basis
- Hospitality will be offered around tables
- Neighbors and friends will hear the gospel daily
Thus, pastors and elder must make it a priority to train, equip, and enable members for ministry as appropriate. Members who want to refresh the hearts of their pastors should engage in such ministries as they serve the Lord and make requests to their leaders to be trained to serve.