Pastoring a church family is hard work. It has no set hours and the burdens often go with the pastor all through the day and night. It is a serious calling which we heed with a sense of awe. There is a theological call and a congregational call which compels those of us in ministry. The demands of time, heart and body are weighty. No complaints, we love what we do and who we do it for.

In Ashland County we have about 106 churches, most of which have their own pastor. Some with multiple pulpits and extended responsibilities. All in all, a healthy community of pastors exist in our county. I have the privilege of working with many of them annually during the Ashland Community Prayer Breakfast.

October is ‘Pastor Appreciation Month’ where our local churches honor their shepherds. I wanted to honor the family of pastors and ministry leaders we have in our county. They are the best. Many of them are my personal friends and I deeply respect their devotion and their comradery. It is an honor to serve beside these men and women in their respected roles.

To stretch both the reader and the pastor who is reading this article, I ask your attention to the following texts. Hear the words of 1 Peter 5:2,3 (ESV) 2 Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. The concept of shepherding is further evidenced in Acts 20:28, (ESV) 28 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.

As an extension of our responsibilities, there is a principle here worth considering. As much as we are called to shepherd our local churches, should we not also be considered a shepherd of our community? A community shepherd can serve those not associated with our churches and we can work together to deliver the message of Jesus Christ. To encourage those who are not a part of the church to consider participation in the body and to work at reaching those who are seeking answers and purpose for their lives.

This is the hard work of the shepherd, to enter the business, political, financial, social and education communities to bring light and truth. To build relationships with people for the purpose of extending the church into their lives. The sooner we bring the church to the community, then the community will see the value of the church. People need the message of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for their own forgiveness. The best representatives of the church are people who are genuine and authentic.

Pastors and Christian ministry leaders, you are appreciated. We thank you for your service, your faithfulness to your calling and the significance of your local church. You are a valued member of the team. It is an honor to be counted among you. You are prayed for regularly.

The Rev. John A. Bouquet is the senior  pastor at Bethel Baptist Church.