Every year as Pastor Appreciation month rolls around, I struggle with how to express my appreciation for you. I hope it is apparent throughout the year. I hope that each time I stand when you are preaching, you feel it. I hope each time I call your name in prayer your spirit is refreshed and your hands feel a little lighter in the battle. I hope you see my desire to hold up your arms as appreciation for all the times you held me up in prayer, picked me up through your preaching, and lifted me up after a fall.
Still, everyday appreciation doesn’t go quite far enough; some things must be said, not just shown. So I decided to put my thoughts on paper this year. I recently read this verse in Philippians and began to think of all the things I’ve learned from you. The apostle Paul said in the preceding verse to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of a good report. Then he added “which you have heard and seen me do.” The five things I’ve learned from my pastor are:
How to Walk with Jesus
I can say without a doubt that this is your style of ministry: follow me as I follow Christ. In walking with you, I learned to walk with Him. I’ve listened to you talk with Him, and that’s how I learned to pray. I’ve learned to preach by watching and listening to you preach. I’ve learned to lead by seeing you lead in service, prayer, and worship. I’ve witnessed firsthand you really living for God, and therefore I didn’t have to figure it out on my own; all I had to do was follow.Everyday appreciation doesn’t go quite far enough; some things must be said, not just shown. Click To Tweet
How to Receive Godly Guidance
I know I have benefited greatly from all I have learned, but I’m also grateful for the things I have received. Received in this verse means to join oneself as an associate or companion. I believe God has blessed me with an indescribable amount of godly guidance. You invited me into your home and into your family time, and I observed the way a spiritual man can be faithful and fun at the same time. Around your table and sitting in your living room I learned that living for God can be done—and can be fun . . . even funny. From watching you, I gleaned insights on how to be a godly husband and a dedicated father. I really cannot imagine where I’d be if God hadn’t sent you to Texarkana, and I don’t know what or who I’d be today if you hadn’t given me a front-row seat to your life and ministry.
How to Be a Mentor
I also learned how to be a mentor by being mentored. I can remember driving away from many 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. mentoring sessions and thinking, I hope I get to do this the rest of my life. I can also remember you telling me that one day we will look back on these times as great memories. You were right! Now that I’m exhausted and going to bed by 10:30 or 11:00 each night, I realize what a sacrifice you were making for me. It is that kind of thing that makes showing my appreciation seem impossible. How do you thank someone for investing everything they had in you? Whatever else happens in my life, any new blessings or benefits will ultimately point back to those long drives to ride mountain bikes and those longer conversations over music in your living room, because without those I wouldn’t be in position to receive anything good.
How Preaching Speaks into My Life
It is incredible that I learned all the above without mentioning a specific message you’ve preached. Yet the countless words you have spoken to me through your preaching are a literal treasure to me. For over sixteen years I have listened as you rightly divided the Word of truth with a love for God and a love for souls. How many messages turned me back to God? How many messages shaped my personal walk with God? How many messages provoked me unto love and good works? How many messages taught me to contend for and defend the faith? How many messages persuaded me to believe revival is real? How many messages convinced me to press, to push, and to strive? I don’t know the answer, but I know that it happened weekly. Your preaching has been the single greatest influence in my life.
I’ve learned and received and heard . . . and I’ve seen. I’ve watched when you weren’t watching and didn’t know I was watching. I’ve seen things in you that I hope one day I will find in me. The reason I say “find” is that these things aren’t the product of study; some things are only revealed in adversity. I have seen strengths in you that only show up in struggle.
How I Learned by Example
I have seen you “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” I know that through the ups and downs of life and ministry, that doesn’t “just happen.” Steadfastness demands a lot of you when you feel like sitting back, letting up, or letting down. I appreciate your persistence in standing even when it seemed there is nothing left to hold on to. I’m praying God will give me a determination and patience like yours that will not deteriorate. You have taught me to wait on God, but there’s something special about watching someone up close actually do it. You have taught me to trust Him, but it is even more impactful to see it.
Thank you for living what you preach . . . and for preaching what you live. I appreciate you.
Your son in the faith,
(A version of this article was published in Pentecostal Life.)