“The pastor is there to please God, not the congregation.”
You wouldn’t mind submitting to someone who was intent on serving you. But the husband or pastor who plays the “headship” card (“God put me in charge!”) is seriously out of line and is mistreating the very ones he should be serving.
I heard the notorious pastor of a well-known independent megachurch say once, “Some people tell me, ‘You act like a dictator.’ I tell them, ‘I’m not only a dictator, I’m the only tater!” To their shame, the preachers in the audience applauded this scandalous outrage. The man, not surprisingly, ended his ministry in disgrace.
Paul said, “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5). The pastor is not sent to proclaim his philosophy, his opinions or his politics. He was not sent to preach his pet theories. He is to preach Jesus. He is sent to serve the Lord’s people, true, but “for Jesus’ sake.” That means the pastor does not take orders from God’s people as to how to serve them; he takes orders from the Lord as to how to serve God’s people.
A pastor told me that when he was new at his present church, he received a phone call from a woman in his congregation. “Pastor, I have bought some file cabinets for our association. Would you go get them today and bring them to the associational office?” He said, “No, I won’t be able to do that.” The woman replied, “What do you mean ‘no’?” (That brings to mind the old adage, “What part of ‘no’ do you not understand?”)
The pastor said, “Ma’am, today is my off day. My wife and I are out of town, visiting with friends. My car is not big enough to carry those file cabinets. You bought them for the director of missions; let him come get them. And besides, the associational office is closed today.”
The woman replied, “I didn’t know we had hired us a socialite.”
I smiled at the amazing presumption of the woman, and said, “It was good to let her know from the first that you would not be her errand boy. Did she learn from this?” He said, “No, she kept on making demands. Finally, she moved her membership to another church.”
I said, “Let’s pray for her pastor.”
5. The pastor is there to please God, not the congregation.
“Do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
On one occasion, a small delegation entered my office.
“Pastor, we thought you would like to know that some in the congregation are unhappy with you.”
I said, “Oh?” Pause. And then, “So?”
“Well, I should think that would matter to you.”
I said, “It does. But not much.”
The spokesperson said, “Then we have a misunderstanding. It’s our understanding that a pastor serves at the pleasure of God’s people. And if they are unhappy with him, he’s not doing his job.”
I said, “There is a misunderstanding, but it’s yours, not mine. The pastor is sent, not to make you happy, but to make you holy and healthy. He’s sent to make the Lord Jesus happy.”
I tell you, there are not 10 members of the typical church who know this. In our Southern Baptist denomination, a large portion of our people really do believe the pastor was sent to make them happy and to carry out their plans.
There is no antidote for this heresy other than strong teaching from God’s Word that …
1. Pastors are called by God.
2. Pastors are called by God to be the overseers of his church.
3. Pastors called as overseers who will one day stand before the Lord and give account of their faithfulness.
4. Pastors are to serve the Lord’s people, but not to take orders from them.
5. Pastors are sent, not to make the people happy, but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.
Never stop teaching these truths to your people, shepherd of God. Do this, continue loving them and serving them, and in time, the truth will take root and you will be well on your way to having a healthy congregation.
Joe McKeever spent 42 years pastoring six Southern Baptist churches and has been writing and cartooning for religious publications for more than 40 years. This article was originally published on McKeever’s blog.