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  • Writer's picturePastor Hans Fiene

Matins Devotion: August 10, 2023

Every October is pastoral appreciation month, at least that’s what the internet tells me. And during that month, many Christians often wonder how best to recognize it. Do they write their pastors cards? Do they give them gifts or take them out to dinner? What’s the best way to show your pastor that he matters? Well, let me give you the rather paradoxical answer: The best way to show your pastor that he matters is by showing him that he doesn’t matter. I’ll explain.

Yesterday, in 1 Corinthians 3, we saw how treating the pastoral office as a cult of personality is destructive to the sheep, how it corrupts their understanding of the Gospel and drives them to either pride or despair. And today, in 1 Corinthians 4, we see how that same cult of personality harms the shepherds, how it dehumanizes them by treating them like beggars having to sing for their supper.

Paul is a steward of the mysteries of God. He’s been called by almighty God to give God’s people the gifts of salvation that have clothed them in unfathomable riches. But the Corinthians are more interested in status than salvation. They’d rather treat Paul and Apollos, men united by the same calling and the same Lord, as leaders of rival cliques that, in their mind, confer different levels of honor. And so they end up treating this man who handed them priceless treasures like he’s worthless. They’ve treated their father in the faith like something to be scraped off their shoes. That’s what Paul means when he says that he has become like scum of the world. He’s quoting the prophet Jeremiah who used that language to describe how God was treating His people to drive them to repentance for their vile unbelief. And so we see the destructive and tragic power of the cult of personality. What’s the result of treating pastors like men who are competing for honor? They receive the opposite of honor. The one who comes armed with the glorious gospel of salvation is treated like an unbeliever by those he called out of unbelief.

And so, getting back to the idea of pastoral appreciation month, how do you show your pastor that he matters? You don’t do it by telling him “I’ve had a lot of pastors in my life, but you’re the one who understood me best” or “I’ve never had anyone make me feel as close to God as you have.” You don’t do it by telling your pastor “congratulations, you past the ‘are you worthy of my attention' test,” no matter how well intended those words may be. Rather, you appreciate and honor your pastor by seeing him as a steward of the mysteries of God, the man sent by God to give you the gifts of salvation. If he’s kind or affable or funny or a good listener or any of those things, well and good. But what really matters is that his personality doesn’t matter. His calling matters. And, of course, the best way you can show that is by devouring the word of salvation he’s been called to proclaim. So when it comes to pastoral appreciation month, cards and gifts are nice and well-appreciated. But the greatest gift you can give your pastor is to love the word he proclaims, to confess your sins and receive absolution, to come to church every week and joyfully receive the gifts he’s been sent to give you and to keep doing all of this long after he’s gone and long after the world has forgotten him.

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