Invite Your Pastors into Your Life
What’s your relationship like with your pastors? Non-existent? Distant? Cordial? Warm? Now, a follow-up question: who do you think is responsible for improving or investing in that relationship?
I know how a lot of church members would respond to that question: “Of course it’s their job!”
Some church members expect their pastors to do all the pursuing and all the follow-up. They’re instinctively supposed to know what’s going on with everyone at all times. But one-way relationships are draining; they’re frustrating. We should aim for something better.
The point of this article is simple: church members should pursue their pastors. And by “pastors,” plural, I mean to suggest that church members should not simply pursue meaningful spiritual contact with their senior pastor or lead pastor, but with the pastors or elders in general (the NT uses the terms interchangeably). To that end, what follows works best in a church where a plurality of elders exists, where multiple men share the load in shepherding the flock. My suggestion is that you prayerfully open up your life to at least one of them, for both your and their spiritual good.
I’ll offer two reasons why members should invite their pastors into their life, and then close with a rapid-fire list of suggestions for how to do it effectively.
1. You need your pastors.
Christians often suffer from two common misconceptions.
Some Christians think, “All I need is Jesus.” At face value, this sentiment seems to exalt the sufficiency of Christ to care for and strengthen his people. But Christians sometimes use this phrase to reject any pastoral prying. Maybe they shoo their pastors away to keep hiding a secret sin. Maybe the messiness of their problems embarrasses them, so they stiff-arm their shepherds and share their hardships with Jesus and Jesus alone.
When Christians do this, they neglect one of the primary means that Christ established to care for and strengthen them—their church and their elders. Remember, Jesus designed the church to be a people who testify of him and who help each other properly reflect him (Matt. 16:16–18; 18:15–18). But that’s not all. Jesus also gave the church pastors to edify, equip, and encourage the church (Eph. 4:11–12). Pastors are God’s gifts to God’s people to help them grow in godliness. Why would you want to keep such a gift at arm’s length?
On the other hand, some Christians think just any pastor will do. In our age of podcasted and live-streamed preachers, it’s easy—almost effortless, really—to seek guidance from every pastor but your own. In that way, you might acknowledge the fact that you need a pastor. But if that’s you, know this: you don’t just need a pastor, you need your pastor.
How do I know? Because the sovereign God who determines our times and places (Acts 17:26) put you in your church led by those men. God knew that you’d be wrestling with this or that theological issue, marital struggle, sexual temptation, or relational conflict, and he made sure to have you in this church led by these pastors that he’s raised up to help you.
So brothers and sisters, tap into this rich resource. Reach out to your pastors and invite them into your life. You need them.
2. Your pastors need you.
A pastor should be tied to the people the Lord has given him to lead. That’s why Peter says, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Pet 5:2). Pastors are to be among their people, involved in their lives, engaged in their experiences.
What does that mean for you? It means that you help your pastors faithfully do their job by inviting them into your life—to weep with you in pain, to rejoice with you through progress, to pray with you in distress, to plead with you when drifting.
These moments remind pastors that God expects them to shepherd sheep throughout the week, not simply pump out sermons on Sundays. But they do more than that. They also encourage your pastors to keep going in ministry, as they see firsthand that their labor is not in vain.
Finally, recent scandals involving various ministry leaders highlight the danger of living a secret life. I can’t help but wonder how things might have happened differently if these men had spent real time getting to know their people. Who knows? Perhaps your transparency before your pastors would model for them how they ought to live. Perhaps it might even convict them of their lack of transparency and help them live with integrity before you and others.
So brothers and sisters, don’t let your pastors live on a ministry island. Let them get to know you, and the Lord’s love for them through you. They need you.
21 RAPID-FIRE IDEAS
Let me close by offering 21 brief ideas to build a relationship with your pastors. These certainly aren’t exhaustive, and aren’t meant to be prescriptive, but they will get you started. The point is not to use this list as a sure-fire way to get more of your pastors’ attention or time. Elders are busy pastoring the entire congregation, let alone caring for their own families and souls. In other words, temper your expectations. Don’t demand more of them, rather swing open the door of your life that they might know more of you. So as you invite a pastor or multiple pastors into your life, here are some suggestions:
- Share prayer requests with him weekly.
- Text or email him questions during the week that you may have on the text he will be preaching.
- Ask follow-up questions from the sermon, or note specific things from the sermon you were encouraged or challenged by.
- Invite him and his wife to breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or coffee.
- Make him one of your first calls when tragedy hits.
- Share with him that you prayed for him that morning.
- Share something encouraging from your quiet time.
- Confess sins to him.
- Call him in the midst of temptation.
- Ask him if he wants to go for a run or play ball.
- Ask if you can hang out and read in his office while he works.
- Invite your friends to church and introduce them to him.
- Ask his counsel on major decisions—if you’re thinking about moving, switching jobs, visiting another church, pursuing a spouse, etc.
- Tell him about the movies and shows you watch, and the songs you listen to.
- Tell him what you’re reading.
- Share one of your hobbies with him and ask if he’d be interested in trying it.
- Tell him when your birthday is.
- Tell him something of your family background.
- Be super elaborate in your membership interview about your testimony and upbringing. Let him know a lot about you upfront.
- Share how you’re processing events in the news or in the community.
- Send him funny gifs and memes!
Brothers and sisters, it really is that simple: invite your pastors into your life.