On this last day of Pastor Appreciation Month, I want to say a word of appreciation for the church. I’ve only pastored two churches in the last 34 years. Dayna and I feel that both churches have been better for us than we have been for them. The church has loved us through the birth of children and the death of parents. The church was there for us in profound ways as we dealt with an unexpected crisis in the life of one of our children. They have cared for us through a handful of surgeries. They have always paid us more than we are worth. They have followed my lead and occasionally led me. They have listened to my preaching and taken it seriously—that same not-so-pleasing-to-the-ear voice—for almost 14 years in one place and more than 21 years in the church I currently serve. They have let us be ourselves, never forcing us into some preconceived pastoral mold. They have prayed for us, encouraged us, appreciated us. Not once in all these years have Dayna and I ever had to wonder, “Does the church love us?”—not even once. In both pastorates, I’ve occasionally had to pinch myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. “God, you mean I really get to pastor this church and these people?”
When so many pastors get assigned to difficult churches that make life hard on them and happy ministry a pipedream, I don’t know why God had blessed Dayna and I with the churches we’ve served. My only guess is that we don’t have hearty enough stock to serve in contentious places. So with my appreciation for the churches I’ve served comes a prayer for pastors who serve in churches that don’t appreciate them, love them, listen to them, follow them. May God give those pastors grace to endure with joy, and may God transform those churches into places their pastors love to serve.
Someone once said that the church is a lot like Noah’s ark: if it weren’t for the storm without, you could never stand the smell within. That’s true of plenty of churches, just not the ones I’ve been privileged to serve. More than once this October a few of my pastor friends have asked me, “Did your church do anything for you for Pastor Appreciation month?” And my answer is always the same, “Where I serve every month is Pastor Appreciation Month.”
So as this “appreciation” month draws to a close, let me say it one more time: Church, I appreciate you!