October is Pastor Appreciation Month. Our expressions of appreciation are not only in this month but especially in this month!

I want to begin with a shout out from my wife, Jan, and me to our two pastors and the pastoral teams who serve alongside them — Scott Rhyno is our Indiana pastor and Kevin Smith is our Michigan pastor. You may think it is because we need twice the shepherding most require — and that could be true — but the reality of our two-location lifestyle is our double-blessing of wonderful pastors.

Speaking of wonderful pastors, I began the month of October in the home of Pastor Randy and Cindy Garner. I was in Toana, Virginia, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Christ Community Church, which they planted and pastored until Randy passed the leadership baton to Pastor Joshua and Sarah Householder.

Pastor Randy is a multiplier (investing in other churches and ZIP codes), an evangelist, a shepherd and a prayer warrior. Even migraines don’t stand in the way! He is a constant encourager to so many, including me. You can probably tell he is one of my pastoral heroes, a reflection of my New Testament hero Barnabas. Like Barnabas and so many Wesleyan pastors, the heart of an encourager leads to a generosity in going the extra mile to provide pastoral care, being supportive of other local churches and church plants, wisely preparing a congregation for succession in leadership, and finishing strong in a way that leaves a legacy of ministry integrity that inspires those who follow.

The women and men who lead and serve Wesleyan churches embrace a sacrificial calling. For almost all, the compensation it provides or recognition it brings is a small portion of what motivates them. Pastor Kathy Resler-Chambliss is passionate about leading her multiethnic congregation in an increasingly diverse community in west Michigan. Pastor Jervie Windom in south Texas invests his entrepreneurial energy in fresh expressions of disciple-making there. Pastor Hannah Klopfenstein in Seattle is creative and adaptive in finding ways to connect with urban populations. Pastor Carlos Moya in New York City strengthens his own local church while encouraging other congregations. A significant portion of Wesleyan pastors are bi-vocational, at times significantly stretched but often grateful for the ministry opportunities within the walls of the church and afforded by their marketplace roles.

What external expression of appreciation, combined with their internal motivation, might be most encouraging to your pastor: a) a note, b) a gift, c) a surprise d) all three?

In addition to these expressions, may I suggest two BIG gifts you can give that are especially timely and would be particularly meaningful in this season? They are gifts that keep on giving … not only in October but throughout this coming year. You may already be giving them — and I believe in such a time as this we need to be even more intentional and extravagant!

The gift of ENCOURAGEMENT! When you find ways to encourage your pastor, you are partnering with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who gives eternal encouragement to all followers of Christ. I love the blessing the Apostle Paul offers in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV), “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

God’s love for us and his grace offered to us have resulted in “eternal encouragement” — an encouragement coupled with good hope that’s available 24/7, 365 days a year, never exhausted and everlasting in its impact in our lives. It is given to encourage our hearts (that’s deep down) and to provide the strength we need in every ministry of deed and word.

The gift of UNITY! Let’s add to our generosity the gift of our unity — like the Apostle Paul, it may make their joy complete — “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”  Philippians 2:1-2.

I talked recently with a colleague leading another denomination. We reflected on the fact that neither of us would have anticipated that such minor things have caused major divisions in local churches and even more broadly. We also are so thankful for everyday heroes in our local churches who acknowledge differences but choose unity over division. As Andy Stanley writes in his book, “Not in it to win it,” “Difference is inevitable. Division is a choice.” When we choose unity, we’re answering the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17 … and we become one that the world may know the sent One of God, Jesus Christ.

In one of his blogs, author Tim Keller captured my attention by writing, “The biggest danger in receiving criticism is not to your reputation, but to your heart.” If that’s the negative impact of criticism, think of the positive impact of simple and consistent acts of encouragement and unity protecting and nurturing the hearts of those we love, including our pastors.

Gifts from the heart for the heart — that build up our pastors, our churches and glorify God. Now that’s appreciation!

Wayne Schmidt is General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church of North America.


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