Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NLT)
There have been numerous news articles, TV shows, blogs, vlogs, and a ton of other media about how long Christian Seventh-day Adventists live. It seems that taking Sabbath as a day to worship, serve, and rest actually can extend our lives. Additionally, the belief in taking care of our bodies, etc., means that we can, on average, expect to live quite long lives. Of course, SDAs are not alone. There are other cultures who have extended life expectancies. The media, and even the medical communities, have dubbed these areas of the world as “Blue Zones.” These zones have a high concentration of people that are not only living well into their 90s and hundreds, but actually thriving in old age. (Check out this article to get a bit more information on Blue Zones at NBC News.)
With this in mind, a sobering statistic was shared among a group of SDA pastors a while back. Though the church membership of the SDA church, for the most part, live long lives, the people who pastor them generally do not. (Of course, there are always exceptions). In fact, the statistics show that retired pastors have been dying at a faster rate than expected for at least the last five years. (The statistical table which was shared with us only covered that long.) Key indicators of why this may be include: long work hours, not enough sleep, continual spiritual warfare, regular conflict in their churches, dealing with critical people, and basically just feeling overloaded the majority of the time pastoring for decades. Another study showed that the vast majority of pastors experience burnout or depression on a regular basis. In other words, pastors were stressed out for far too long and their bodies deteriorated as a result.
The apostle Paul realized that the spiritual leaders God planted in the churches were people who also needed supporting. Our verse today can be summed up as such, “Stop beating on your pastors. Show them respect. Be nice. Love them. Support them.” Essentially, he is telling the church to, you know, live biblically. Encouragement doesn’t just matter to church members. It matters a great deal to the pastors as well.
So, though this may sound self-serving (since I’m a pastor), today, and whenever you get the chance, give your pastor(s) encouragement and love. You may literally extend their life.