For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.Galatians 1:10 (ESV)
Hey, Pastor! Pastor Appreciation Month is over, so right now you’re either feeling appreciated or taken for granted. Some of your congregations went all out letting you know they appreciate you. Some of your congregations had no idea it was even Pastor Appreciation Month.
Whichever side you happen to fall on, I know the truth. They’ll never be able to appreciate you enough. Mostly, that is because what you do is largely unseen. The work you’re called to do is partially very public but largely very private. The people you serve only see the public portion and just guess at the private portion.
That sermon you preached on Sunday came after years of study and shaping. It came after hours of God speaking to your heart and directing your mind. It wasn’t just X hours of study last week (which is likely considerably more time than anyone knows you put in); it was likely months and even years in the making. You’re planting new seeds this week, cultivating seeds planted weeks or months ago, and reaping the harvest planted years ago. You’re ministering across multiple age groups, life stages, spiritual maturities, and individual struggles. God has been leading you, and that sermon you preached was a reflection of that leading. God has been leading them through you, and that sermon was an extension of that leading.
They don’t know how many hours you prayed last week for that sermon. You prayed for it to fall on receptive hearts. You prayed that the Spirit would use the words to draw His people closer in. You prayed that it would fall on your heart and draw you in. You prayed against the snares that would pop up throughout the week trying try to get them to miss being present for the word God laid on your heart for them. You prayed for those that don’t really show up that often— not because you need to preach at them, but because you’re sitting at the fountain and they are so thirsty!
They don’t know how many times you prayed for them last week, last month, last year. They don’t know that you’ve been bringing them before the throne of Heaven regularly, asking God to pour Himself out on them and shape and bless their lives. They don’t know that, even when they don’t tell you what is going on in their lives, you’re still there praying for them. They don’t know you’re still praying for the ones who have left. You bear them all in your heart and soul, and that can get heavy.
They don’t know that when you woke up this morning, you didn’t immediately run through your day— you ran through theirs. You knew who had job interviews, and you were praying for them before the water in the shower even got hot. You knew who was seeing the doctor today, and you were praying for their healing. You knew who was heading out of town for work, and you prayed for their safety and their family while they’re away. They don’t know how much you bear them in your heart and soul. They don’t see how you’re rooting for them and their family. They don’t see how fervently you pray to Jesus for the best for them and their family.
They don’t know about that person you’ve been meeting with for counseling who is in a difficult place in life. They don’t know about that family you’ve been helping find resources for their wayward child. They don’t know just how many meetings you’ve had this month with someone over a cup of coffee because they just need to talk to someone who is rooting for them. They don’t know how many couples you’re in conversations with to help build and strengthen their marriage. They don’t know how many hospital calls you’ve had this month or visits with the sick. They may not even know how many death beds you’ve sat beside or how many grieving hands you’ve held. They don’t know how many people have come to you needing food, needing help paying the water bill, or even needing a place to stay.
They don’t know any of those things because you’re doing your job well. You’re bearing your people well. You’re being the hands, feet, and ears of Jesus well. They don’t see it, but they don’t need to. Jesus sees. He knows. Let’s be honest: If you were in this for the praise, you’d pick a new career. And while I hope your congregation sees the work you do and appreciates your willingness to follow Jesus and be the pastor He called you to be, they’ll never see all of it. They’ll never really know. But that’s okay. Because, while your work is to them, it is for Him. Keep your hands to the plow. Keep working and toiling and bearing His people. You’re where He called you to be, doing what He called you to do. And while they’ll never be able to fully appreciate the work you do, you’re working for something bigger than a month of appreciation. You’re working for the King who is building His Kingdom, and He is using you to do it.