Over this past year, I have ciphered a lot about the calling and ministry of being a pastor, and at the same time I have been burdened for pastors in general. I have always had a heart for pastors, way before God ever placed the calling on my life. I know that is a direct result of my dad.
Not only is Donnie Wilkes my dad, he was my pastor. Even now, although I have been pastoring over 24 years myself, my dad is still the pastor in my life.
This being Pastor Appreciation Month, I thought I would just take a moment and share about my dad, my pastor. My brother Mark and I grew up in a pastor’s home but no matter what you have heard or maybe even think you know about being a PK (pastor’s kid), I would not take anything for the life we had growing up.
I never felt left out, never felt neglected, and I do not feel scarred about having to go to church when others didn’t. My dad did set the standard that we would be in church and taught us to live for Jesus. But, he also allowed us to be boys, be teenagers and gave us incredible freedom to be who we were as individuals. He never once said to us, “don’t do that, you will hurt me as a pastor.” I will forever be grateful for how he raised us as a dad and as a pastor.
I am also so thankful that I was able to get a front row seat on how a pastor loves Jesus, loves his family and at the same time, loves his church. I was interested in what he did in ministry. I would go with him to visit folks, go with him to hospital, and go to revival with him and Jesse Savage. I would not take anything for those times.
When God called me to be a pastor, it was the lessons that I took away from those moments that impacted the way I have tried to pastor. Again, I have fallen way short of the standard my dad lived before our family and the church he pastored, but it is not as a result of not knowing what a true pastor’s heart looks like.
My dad was a man of the Bible and prayer. He would go to his prayer ground early in the morning and always have his Bible on his lap in the evening. I watched him stand strong as a lion as a pastor when he needed to and be gentle as a dove when it called for it.
He preached with the anointing of God and always sought to live out in front of us what he was preaching on Sundays. He would work all day and then stay at the hospital all night, go when his people called and walked with them in the valleys and on the mountains of life. My dad has a pastor’s heart.
Here’s what I mean when I say a “pastor’s heart.” Heb. 13:17 says that as pastors we are called by God to “watch over your souls.” This is a word picture of a shepherd caring for a hurting sheep, seeking to nurse it back to health. My dad and men of his generation would call this a burden for the people God has called you shepherd.
Paul says, “there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches.” The word “pressure” Paul uses speaks of the inward anxiety and concern for the church and its people. It is used in another place to describe a mob rushing in on a person. The pressure can be overwhelming.
Pastors love their people, but a pastor’s heart goes deeper. Paul was speaking of a burden from within to see the people in the church you are pastoring reach their God given potential. Your people never leave your heart. Even if you are with them every day, they are daily on your heart. Pastors feel everything their people feel and more.
For instance, a pastor will seek to be strong for that family who just had a loved one pass away then get in their car and cry all the way home because they also feel the loss as a pastor.
Pastors also know what it is to rejoice with their people. Seeing lives changed by the power of the Gospel and seeing God work in the lives of His people brings joy to a pastor’s soul. Pastors enjoy doing life with their people. I know this was true not just of my dad but men like Sewell Nix who would not only preach God’s word but would play red light green light with all of us kids after revival. That my friend is a true pastor, someone who has a heart for every person in the flock!
I know my dad had his tough moments as well. He did not talk about it. My dad never acted superhuman and was not afraid to admit he was also human. This is something that pastors and church members must also remember. There is a calling on our life, but we still make mistakes, and we don’t always get it right.
But for most pastors I know and what I learned growing up under my dad, it is not a matter of not having a heart for Jesus and His people, it is a matter of being human. We fall short just like anybody else. However, what makes my dad my hero is his faithfulness. He has been faithful to the Lord, our family and to the churches he has pastored. He has stayed the course. It encourages me to do the same. Can I encourage you, dear pastor friend, stay the course!
Pastors are my heroes. I mean that with all my heart. That is why my dad, is not just my dad and my pastor; he is my hero.
This is an abbreviated version of Wilkes’ post, which originally appeared on his blog.