As a general rule, Americans and American media spend considerable time, financial resources, and attention on a few select people who hold significant positions of authority and influence.
Consider: Back in 2020, nearly $6 billion was spent on a presidential campaign that elected one man. An additional $8 billion was raised and spent to elect 435 members of the House of Representatives and 33 members of the United States Senate.
The current presidential and congressional races for 2024 have only just gotten started, but we can expect similar financial expenditures – and probably even more dollars pumped into the economy given inflation and public interest.
The current debate raging in the House of Representatives over the election of a new Speaker puts all eyes on just one seat, albeit a significant and highly influential one.
History has long lauded and highlighted the power of one: One leader who rallies the troops, one idea that gives rise to a revolutionary movement, and one vote that determines the outcome of one piece of legislation that impacts everyone.
The foundation of our Christian faith is built upon the power of one: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Lately, though, we might ask the question: Outside of necessary attention on our one true Lord, is the focus on the other “ones” disproportionate when considered how little attention is paid to other all-too-often ignored leaders in America?
I’m referring to the tens of thousands (and most likely more) pastors in the United States.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 53,180 pastors in America, but that number is grossly undercounted. That’s because the National Congregational Study Survey reports there are 380,000 churches. Baptist churches account for 47,000 of them.
But regardless of the total number of Christian clergy members, suffice to say the army is mighty – and mighty influential.
Our pastors play an oversized role in our culture. They don’t simply teach and preach, but they also console, counsel, and celebrate with us. They sit with us in hospital rooms, talk with us on the phone in the dark of night, and visit the widows and those unable to come to church.
Pastors help us make sense of the senseless. They provide perspective about this life and the life to come.
One of my favorite pastors is a Presbyterian minister in the twilight of his life, immobile and being cared for by Catholic nuns. There was a day when he was the one visiting the elderly and dying – but now the tables are turned. Always the servant, I think he struggles with all the attention, but accepts it gracefully and graciously.
Americans elect their political leaders and expend a lot of energy on the process – but far fewer elect their pastors, and even fewer care as much.
That’s a mistake. A big mistake.
Pastors aren’t just doing incredible good in the world – they also possess the power to do even more.
Pastors who effectively preach and teach the right mixture of truth and grace can positively influence our culture. We need brave, bold, blunt, courageous, and loving ministers in our pulpits. They can be difference makers – and culture shapers, shakers, and changers.
It’s a classic leadership adage to catch your employees doing something right – and applaud them for doing it.
The same might be said of our pastors.
As we celebrate Pastor Appreciation Month throughout the month of October, look for opportunities to applaud your minister. They get a lot of grief – and little compensation. Be generous with your praise and careful with your criticism. It’s easy to be a critic but cheer them on and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well they respond – and how much energy and enthusiasm your accolades will produce.
Photo from Shutterstock.