Appreciate the Pastor

When the elders hid my Bible with its sermon notes, I should have known this Sabbath would be different. They didn’t want me to preach that day. What was happening? Pastoral Appreciation Sabbath.

Grateful church members across America among many denominations set aside the month of October to honor their pastors. So it was for me that memorable Sabbath in 1997 with New Hope Church in Maryland. Our elders wanted my sermon time for themselves, taking turns sharing their testimony of what they had learned from my sermons that year. How affirming!

Following church services, Darlene and I were ushered with our associate pastor and his wife into the fellowship hall, decorated with extravagant gold ribbons. After a delicious lunch, expressions of love continued from members lining up at the mic.

Suddenly somebody rudely interrupted with news that two cars were parked on the front lawn of the church. New cars, in fact — one for my associate and the other for myself. How nice! Neighbors wondered what was going on — all these Adventists so excited on their Sabbath.

I’m not suggesting that every Northwest Adventist congregation should buy their pastors new cars this month. Maybe your congregation can only afford tickets to Hawaii for their pastoral couple (round-trip, please!). Still too expensive? No problem. Try an Olive Garden card for the pastoral couple’s date night and a yellow Subway card for your pastor’s quick nutritious lunch during a busy week.

The Lord will understand if you go a little overboard supporting your pastor. It’s biblical: “Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching” (1 Tim. 5:17, The Message). Such largess should include lay elders who teach and preach along with the pastor.

Why is it so important for us to support our local church leaders? Because local congregations are the heart of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church. Global councils and constituencies vote this or that policy, which only matters in terms how it benefits local churches. Everything the denominational hierarchy does (let’s call it what it is) has value only to the extent that local churches are blessed.

Why? Because the local church is where the action is. It’s where people get dedicated as babies, baptized as youth, mentored as teens, married as adults and finally, at the end of the day, have their funeral. It’s where members and their guests hear and discuss God’s Word Sabbath after Sabbath. Church administrative offices, bookstores and media centers all shut down on the Lord’s Day so employees can worship in local congregations. There everybody gathers to get energized and equipped to disperse once again into the marketplace and classrooms of the community.

What about our schools? Adventist education is worth every cent needed to fund its institutions — if and only if they support and nurture local churches. Indeed, our dedicated teachers are facilitating that throughout the Northwest. Students and teachers interact with the larger church family, both in Sabbath worship and in community outreach. Church members are supportive grandparents, aunts and uncles to the students. There is a deep affection, an inspiring synergy between church and school, that can’t be fully described; it must be experienced.

This is also true for Adventist academies. Teens are being mentored for ministry in local churches. That’s the purpose of Christian education — not primarily to keep our kids from becoming evolutionists and drug addicts, but to help them find their place in the body of Christ. We can be proud of our academies because they do their part to build up local congregations. So does our flagship educational institution, Walla Walla University.

All Seventh-day Adventist institutions and administrative offices have value only for building up the local church. Otherwise they don’t deserve to exist.

I know firsthand that North Pacific Union headquarters and our six local conference offices do everything possible to enrich local churches. You are receiving this magazine from our Northwest regional office. Under the leadership of my friend, editor Steve Vistaunet, your Gleaner exists to collaborate with local conferences in building up their local churches with mission news and inspiration.

Please don’t send the editor stories about somebody’s 100th birthday dinner unless she has served as a centurion in the Lord’s army, building up her local church. Don’t clutter his inbox with photos of smart kids winning scholarship awards unless they use their skills right now to build up the body of Christ. That’s how the work of God will finally get finished around this world — through all of us, young and old, in local churches.

Political pundits remind us that “all politics is local.” That’s likewise true for Adventism. It’s all about the local church — led by dedicated pastors worthy of your highest respect and warmest affection.

October 07, 2015 / Perspective
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