Holding Up The Pastor’s Arms

Published 6:23 am Monday, October 30, 2023

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By Dr. Michael Brooks

A distraught parishioner stood at the doorway after a Sunday morning service. The pastor had just tendered his resignation, effective in 30 days, and he tried to comfort her.

“Now, now, Gladys, God will take care of you and this church,” he said. “I’m sure the Lord will send you a pastor who is much better than me.”

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“Oh, no,” Gladys said. “That’s what they all say, but they get worse every time!”

Studies suggest pastoral tenure is increasing. At one time in my denomination, we were told pastors served 18-24 months; now the typical pastor will serve at least five years. And research also suggests the pastor’s most effective ministry often only begins after five years.

However long the pastor serves, it’s true that every pastor is fallible and needs help. He (or she) will say something inartful or forget a promise made. The pastor needs forgiveness. But the pastor also needs support as he leads the church in outreach and ministry.

It’s a great story in Exodus when the narrator focuses on the time between the Red Sea and Mt. Sinai. The Hebrews once again complained to the Lord about their thirst (Exodus 15-17 could be called The Chronicles of Complaint!). The Lord determined to bring water from a rock and commanded Moses to take the tribal elders with him. The elders didn’t participate in the miracle, but they witnessed it, and their standing with Moses was a symbol of solidarity. As we would say today, they “had his back.”

The same chapter tells the story of an attack from the Amalekites. Joshua appears for the first time in the Old Testament as Moses’ general who directed the battle. Moses determined to take the rod of God—the same rod he’d held over the Red Sea—and hold it above the battlefield to inspire his soldiers. But his hands grew weary.

Most of us know that our arms get heavy after a minute or so in the air, even when we’re holding them up to praise God!

Two men, Aaron, Moses’ brother, and Hur, whom we don’t know, upheld the arms of Moses to inspire the Hebrews to win the battle.

We sometimes credit the general for winning the battle, whether the general is Washington or Wellington or Patton. But in this case, four men shared necessary leadership to bring victory.

Both stories teach us the proper role of lay people. The pastoral leader cannot do it all himself. He needs understanding and help and encouragement.

Pastor Appreciation Month is a good time for us to recommit upholding the pastor’s arms as he feeds the flock with God’s truth and leads the flock with wisdom and humility.