What scripture comes to mind when thinking of the heart of a pastor? 1 Corinthians 9:16 might be one, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” You may also think of Romans 10:14-15 which concludes with, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
These verses are both very good and do describe the heart of a pastor, but if you spend any time with a pastor, you will likely find yourself drawn to 2 Corinthians 2:4. Paul wrote to the people in the Corinthian church, “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”
Paul had spent eighteen months in Corinth planting and building the church (Acts 18:1, 11). In addition, 2 Corinthians was Paul’s fourth letter to the Corinthian church. Because of this, he was very close to the people. This letter is perhaps the most personal letter he wrote because in addition to clarifying doctrine and administering church discipline, he had to defend his own apostolic calling. Other “super apostles” – who were teaching false doctrine – had come in and put Paul’s credentials in question (2 Corinthians 12:11-12, see also 2 Corinthians 11:1-12, 12:14-21).
These false teachers caused the church to doubt Paul’s calling and his care for the church. Their lack of trust and had to make Paul feel sad and betrayed because of the love and compassion Paul had shown them. That is why 2 Corinthians 2:4 is so moving. Despite all the pain the church had caused him, Paul’s main concern in this letter was expressing “the abundant love that I have for [them].” It shows that the heart of a pastor is for the people.
Paul could have thrown up his hands and given the church over to the “super apostles”, letting them be deceived, but his pastoral heart drove him to love instead. How many pastors today spend hours in sermon preparation, meetings, visiting hospitals, counselling, and serving in other unseen ways only to be criticized because of an error in a sermon or for forgetting to return a text? These press on and try to serve their people better.
Unfortunately, there are pastors who have exploited their and congregations, and we cannot minimize the damage they have caused. But most pastors are diligent, faithful men serving God and their people. Most will never write a book, be on TV or be known outside of their own congregation. Chances are your pastor falls into this category.
Get to know your pastor. Learn how you can support him. If you do not understand something in his sermon or something he has said, humbly ask him and he will be happy to talk it through with you. Most importantly, learn how you can pray for him and thank God that He has given you a pastor who has abundant love for you.