Encourage Your Pastor


There are books that tell you how to take care of your children, your spouse, your house, or your dog. There appears to be no end of books that tell you how to look after yourself. There are books to aid teachers in helping students, lawyers in defending clients, or pastors in caring for church members.

But where do we find the books that tell us how to look after those who look after us? How to help your mother train you in godliness. Six steps to your doctor’s happiness. Looking after your teacher. Loving your lawyer. I’m not confident we would benefit from all these titles, but one book I can’t find that I’m certain would be useful is something on how to encourage your pastor.


Perhaps the book can’t be found because it’s never been written. But it would be a book worth writing—and for all of us, worth reading. After all, Scripture reminds us to honor elders that rule well, but especially to honor “those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17). Such honor can take many forms: respect, encouragement, affection, and obedience (2 Cor. 6:11–13).

Paul goes on to say that honor also includes financial care for preachers and teachers. The minister who provides spiritual food is to be treated at least as well as the ox that grinds grain. To the degree we are able, we need to ensure that pastors are fed (1 Tim. 5:18).

Paying pastors a living wage is necessary, but I suspect that Paul would want to do more than honor our pastors with pay. We should want to give them relief from their labour. It’s not hard to give a pastor an extra week of vacation, or a couple weeks of study leave—which is not the same as vacation. If even that stretches the budget, permitting a half-dozen weeks per year where pastors are enabled to swap pulpits can give them extra time to catch up on work, or to do the praying and reading that they need for their own souls.


An even better way to encourage our pastors is to pray for them. If we pause for a moment to think of all that pastors are called to be, we’ll see just how much they need our prayers. Even if we skip over the five vices Paul says a minister must avoid, this is clear by the seven character traits they must display (Tit. 1:7–9b). Consider hospitality, the necessity to extend oneself because of the needs of others, and not because it is convenient to ourselves. Or consider what it takes to “love what is good”—not seeing how close he can get to sin without sinning, but how close he can get to heaven without dying. Pastors need our prayers to continue living this way.

But that’s just the beginning. Pastors must also be self-controlled and upright, not swayed unjustly by large numbers or powerful personalities (does your church have any of those?). He is to be holy. Without personal holiness, everything else is a sham. And yet it’s so easy for your pastor to care most about the duties that everyone sees and neglect the ones that only his Lord sees. Pray for them about this.

Finally, your pastor is to be devoted to the trustworthy message as it has been taught. The church needs men who love the gospel of the Triune God. There is a theological aspect to eldership. There are godly people who are still too ignorant about God’s message in the Old Testament and the New Testament. They shouldn’t be pastors until they grow in their knowledge of the truth, and then cling to that truth.

I said “finally,” but of course we only glanced at a line or two in the New Testament, and there is so much more. If he is to be an under-shepherd of the Great Shepherd (Ps. 23 and 1 Pet. 5) and an intern under the great Physician (Mk 2:17), your pastor will need to feature largely in your prayers. If he is to live out the maxim of John the Baptist—that Christ must increase and he must decrease—then he will need your prayers (Jn 3:30). If he is to perform his good works not for your fleeting praise, but for our Father in heaven, then you know from hard experience just how much he will need your prayers (Mat. 6:1, 4, 6, 18).


Apart from paying them and praying for them, we can also encourage our pastors by heeding the message that they bring to us as ambassadors of Christ. Surely if God calls them to “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2), then he is calling us to hear that Word. If he calls them to be leaders, then we must follow wherever the Word of God takes us.

As a visiting preacher once asked a congregation, speaking about their pastors, “Shall they beg mercy for you, and will you reject it? Shall they tender grace unto you, and you will resist it? Shall they open for you the door of life, and will you shut it against yourselves?” Or, to paraphrase his most important question, “Will Christ through them plead with you, and you refuse him?” [1] Heed your pastor’s ministry. Nothing will encourage him more.

[1] Edward Reynolds, The Pastoral Office (London, 1663), 46-47.

Chad Van Dixhoorn

Rev. Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn (PhD, Cambridge University) is professor of church history and director of the Craig Center for the study of the Westminster Standards at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also serves as an honorary research fellow at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. Van Dixhoorn has held a number of additional teaching positions and has also served as associate pastor at Cambridge Presbyterian Church (UK) and also at Grace Presbyterian Church (Vienna, VA) for nine years. Van Dixhoorn is happily married to Emily Van Dixhoorn and they have five children and a dog.

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