Book Review: Fight for Your Pastor, by Peter Orr
Peter Orr, Fight for Your Pastor. Crossway, 2022. 122 Pages.
It is too easy to say a book should be read by all Christians. Having said that, let me quickly affirm that every member of every church with a pastor should read Fight for Your Pastor by Peter Orr. Sadly, they probably won’t. Why? Because pastors are too concerned about the appearance of being self-serving. Therefore, they will hesitate to recommend a book that could be enormously healthy for pastor and congregant alike. This is just such a book.
Orr is a lecturer in New Testament from that highly appreciated stable of authors at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Fight for Your Pastor was born from an article of the same name published by The Gospel Coalition Australia. Orr’s many years of experience in training people for ministry have given him unique insight into the spiritual and practical needs of their calling.
Orr’s purpose is to “help us as Christian people, as congregation members, to understand some of the pressures our pastors are under, and to encourage us to be more intentional and loving in how we relate to them” (94). He does this through seven chapters with simple titles that offer a church member’s biblical duty toward his or her pastor: “Fight!” (pray for him); “Encourage!”; “Listen!”; “Give!“; “Forgive!”; “Submit!”; and “Check!”
One of the best features of the book are the sidebars entitled “A Pastor Writes,” written by a variety of pastors. These appear throughout the book and offer insights into the world of shepherding. I found myself continually being challenged and humbled by what these pastors—often hurting—shared.
HOW TO FIGHT
In the introduction and first chapter “Fight!,” Orr addresses a unique pressure upon pastors, evidenced in Paul’s confession, “Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28). Given this pressure, Orr prescribes “fighting for” your pastor in prayer; he points to Paul’s plea, “You also must help us by prayer” (2 Cor. 1:11).
Orr holds out the double benefit of praying for your pastor, both for him and for you. First, you are asking God to work in his life. Second, having him on your heart and mind in prayer means you’re less likely to be negative toward him.
In my decades of pastoral experience, I know what it means to have the assurance that people—specific people—were praying for me. On many an occasion, while traveling and facing temptations, the thought would come to me, “I can’t do that because Phyllis is praying for me.” That fight on her part lifted me up and protected me. (And Phyllis certainly wasn’t the only one.)
Orr moves to one of the most neglected and yet most needful aspects of the pastor’s life: encouragement. As Paul said to the Philippians, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (2:14). Too often, church folk have the twisted notion that pastors don’t need encouragement, lest they become proud. But most pastors are probably the opposite of puffed up. They desperately need to be built up. As one pastor puts it, “Small, simple, and regular expressions of care and concern go much further than big gestures” (31). This should be standard in churches of the Lord Jesus: “normal church life should overflow with generous encouragement” (32).
I greatly appreciated Orr’s inclusion of listening as a way to support your pastor. I have prayed at the beginning of almost every sermon I’ve ever preached, “Lord, give us ears to hear!” He rightly points to the danger of listening to the “great” preachers on the Internet and comparing our pastor to them. That media personality is not your pastor. God wants you to listen carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully to your pastor. “Half-hearted listening to your pastor’s preaching signifies a half-hearted Christian faith” (50).
Orr gives gentle but straight-forward instruction about giving to support your pastor’s needs (chapter 4). He says pointedly, “The New Testament does not lay down a pay scale. But it does speak about generosity” (54). He encourages churches to be as generous as they can to their pastors. He then follows with a strong plea for having a forgiving attitude toward them (chapter 5). Every pastor will disappoint us at some point, he notes. After all, they are human. But the pre-determined, instinctive disposition of Christian hearts should be to forgive.
Chapter 6, “Submit!”, may be the most difficult for some to read and accept. But this should not be the case. As Orr points out, submission within the church to its leaders is, first, biblical; secondly, it requires humility; and, thirdly, it affects the whole life of the church. “Submission is a matter of the heart as we willingly yield to another person” (75).
The final chapter, “Check!”, is like a roadblock where a bridge has washed out with a huge warning sign, “Proceed with caution.” Carefully check the facts to the best of your ability anytime someone brings an accusation against your pastor. Orr’s wise counsel is not to “prejudge a case, but . . . love and support both parties until the matter is resolved” (88).
If you find yourself in a church where accusations have been made against the pastor, cautiously and prayerfully navigate without prejudging. Trust God to bring about his ends.
Orr has written a short, easily readable, wonderfully biblical, and deeply challenging word for church members of all times in a humble and engaging way. His insights into the needs of pastors are on the mark, and his solutions are from God’s Word.
Pastors, find someone in your church who could encourage the whole congregation to read this book. It will be for your own—and the whole church’s—best interest.