Leith Anderson is president emeritus of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor emeritus of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. He served as NAE president from 2007–2019, after twice serving as interim president. He served as senior pastor of Wooddale Church for 35 years before retiring in 2011. He has been published in many periodicals and has written over 20 books. Anderson has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute, Bradley University and Denver Seminary.
Hope. People come to church looking for hope. Most have experienced challenges and discouragement over the past six days. Many feel beat up by the circumstances of their lives. They don’t come to church to be beat up for the seventh day in a row. They come looking for hope. Hope gives them the strength to leave last week behind and launch into the new week ahead. Hope dreams of a better tomorrow. The central core of our Christian faith is good news. Jesus is all about salvation and good news. Jesus is all about hope.
Pastors are primary agents of Jesus and the gospel in America’s 350,000 churches. But, what if the pastor runs low on hope? The pastor who is tired, stressed, broke and discouraged may be like the car running on empty that can’t make it all the way home. Pastors need hope to give hope.
Shepherding people, leading churches and preaching is a difficult but wonderful calling. Pastors know more about people’s problems than just about anyone. Pastors pray for children in the hospital, celebrate couples at their weddings, introduce sinners to salvation and teach the truths of Scripture week after week. Many wouldn’t trade their job even on the most difficult days.
The problem is that this wonderful and difficult calling often comes with debt and financial stress. Too many pastors are not paid enough to raise a family, keep health insurance, make the rent or mortgage payment and repay student loans. They are reluctant to share their needs with their congregations as credit card balances grow and family stresses multiply. Solutions like finding a second job, skimping on food or not making payments can make everything worse.
Besides the pressures on pastors and their families, our church shepherds start to run low on hope. They can’t see a way forward. They are weary from work. They worry about their marriages and children. They are discouraged. When they run low on hope they stumble trying to give hope to others. And, when the whole church starts to run low on hope a downward spin can accelerate.
What to do? It takes a team to share the challenges, develop a plan, support the pastor and fill the congregation with hope. It’s seldom easy to do all this, but it can be empowering, exciting and transforming. Pastors and churches who fully bless and support one another become the best of all that it means to be the family of God.
What does the Bible say? 1 Timothy 5:17-18 is financially clear — even suggesting the doubling of the pastor’s pay.
This article originally appeared in Evangelicals magazine.