Acts 20:28 reminds us that pastors have an extraordinary responsibility. Read these 33 words slowly and let them sink in deeply:
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
Did you catch that? We shepherds have a responsibility to “all the flock,” that congregation “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,” and we are to “care for the church of God.” Why is His church so important? Because Jesus “obtained it with His own blood.”
Pastors and staff members are responsible for ministering to the sheep they shepherd — that is, to give care when care is needed or to make sure care is given through the church body. Surprisingly, this is especially true during the Christmas season.
My first few years in ministry, I remember being blindsided with counseling conversations throughout the Christmas season. This amazed me. I had anticipated everyone would be so busy celebrating that negativity would be off the table. I hadn’t considered the following…
1. Many who are single again are dealing with the anger and disappointment of a spouse who has divorced them since the prior Christmas. These people are in need of a listening ear. They need a compassionate pastor, staff member, Sunday school teacher or small group leader to lend an ear and remind them that God will never leave them or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6).
2. Many spouses are alone for the first time due to the death of a husband or wife. These people are in need of a Sunday school class or small group to take them under their wing and journey alongside them as they continue to grieve. They need shoulders to cry on and ears willing to listen to them. They need to be reminded that, if their spouse was a believer, they do not grieve as one who will never see their spouse again (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
3. Many people work in retail and their lives are busier than ever during the Christmas season. They feel guilty that they cannot spend more time with their family because of their work schedule. These folks need to be reminded that they are doing something vital and honorable by bringing home a paycheck (1 Timothy 5:8).
4. Many households are financially strapped and unable to give their children what they long to give them and what they believe their children deserve. Sermons need to be seasoned with the truth. The truth is, things don’t bring happiness, and God is honored when we give our children our hearts and time and verbalize the three words that depict how we feel about them, “I love you.” These people need to be reminded that God’s presence in their family is more precious than money (Hebrews 13:5).
5. Many people are reminded that they are estranged from their parents and/or siblings and struggle with the guilt of unforgiveness. It would be wise to remind them of Romans 12:18 which states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” They need to be reminded that, if they’ve done all they can to make amends and the other party is unwilling, they have no reason to hold to guilty feelings.
Pastor, I would suggest that you make your staff, Sunday school teachers and small group leaders aware of this list. Suggest that they quickly run through the list of those they teach and lead and determine who might be struggling during this Christmas season. This will allow these church leaders to pray for those who may be struggling and to strategically spend some time with them. This will also allow the staff, Sunday school teacher or small group leader to mentally prepare in case a class member seeks counsel from them or needs a listening ear.
Rick Howerton is south central regional consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.