“The first step toward running a pastor off in search of a better church is rejecting the one you have.”
“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” —1 Tim. 5:17
The first step toward running a pastor off in search of a better preacher is rejecting the one you have.
I have some pointers on how to do that.
Not that some people need a recipe for finding shortcomings with God’s shepherds. Fault-finders will always find a way. But just in case anyone out there in churchland has been wondering how he or she could justify rejecting their pastors (to themselves at least), I have the blueprint.
1. Expect the pastor to read your mind.
“You know we always have our meeting on the first Tuesday of September, Pastor. Why did you schedule the revival then?”
“It’s true I didn’t tell you when I was going into the hospital, but you’re the pastor of the church. You ought to know these things!”
When I hear people rejecting their pastor because “he should have known” something that he did not know, I try to calm my anger before saying as gently and firmly as possible, “What planet do you live on, Friend? If you think he ought to know something, tell him! Otherwise, grow up.”
If you want the pastor to know something, tell him.
2. Expect the pastor to meet your needs.
“We used to go to that church, but we weren’t having our needs met.”
“I’m just not getting all out of the sermon I should. And if you’re not, whose fault is that? The preacher’s, of course.”
When I hear people saying their pastor did not meet their needs, I tell them, “One of the biggest mistakes church people make is expecting the pastor to be to them what only Jesus Christ can be. Only Jesus can meet your needs.”
Loosen up and cut him or her some slack.
3. Expect the pastor to please everyone in the congregation.
“Preacher, a lot of people in the church are unhappy with your leadership.”
“Who are they?”
“Oh, just a lot of people. I’m not at liberty to name names. But you have disappointed them and have not been what they needed in a shepherd.”
When I hear the preacher slammed because some groups in the church are unhappy with him or her, I answer, “The pastor is not supposed to make you happy. God sent him or her to make you holy and healthy and to make God happy!”
If the Lord uses the pastor to preach the whole truth, you will be in the crosshairs of the preaching often. Take that as a sign the Lord loves you, since “he chastens those he loves” (Prov. 3:12).
4. Expect the pastor to always be there for you.
“We had a crisis in our family and the pastor was in the Holy Land. We will never get over not having our pastor with us during our time of grief.”
“Can you believe she missed my retirement party to attend her child’s baseball game? There will be plenty of games she can attend, but I will retire only one time in my life.”
When I hear people criticize the pastor because “He or she wasn’t there for me,” my response is, “Get real, Friend. This is the kingdom of God, not the Jerry Springer Show!”
Again, cut your pastor some slack. He’s only one person.
5. Expect the pastor to be different from normal people.
“I know you’re tired this Sunday afternoon, Pastor, and I didn’t want to bother you with this, but then I thought, you’re the pastor. God gives you extra strength to handle things like this.”
“Our committee decided you don’t need a new car, pastor, so we’re cutting your automobile expense for the next year. No one cares what your old car looks like, least of all someone godly like you. Right?”
When I hear people say they expect the pastor to be superhuman, my response is, “And where did you find that in Scripture?”
Underneath the Clark Kent persona, the pastor is still Clark Kent. Sorry if that disappoints you.
6. Expect the pastor to be sinless.
“I was shocked the way he told that deacon off! All Mr. Crenshaw was doing was venting his frustrations about the church budget, the way he does every year about this time. But you should have heard what the pastor said to him. Shocking! I didn’t know men and women of God had tempers.”
“We left that church when the pastor actually said in a sermon that he was tempted to look lustfully at some women. That did it for me, and my wife was shocked. She was never able to look at him the same way again after that.”
When I hear people criticize their pastor for not being without sin, my response is, “Oh good. Then he’s normal.” And I show them Psalm 103:14.
Give thanks your pastor understands what you struggle with, since chances are he or she does, too. (Or has, at one time.)
7. Expect the pastor to do nothing without the approval of the congregation.
“Who told you to turn the fellowship hall into a distribution center for the community?”
A pastor friend of mine had rallied his members following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to minister to hundreds of displaced and hurting people in their community. The fellowship hall was stacked high with emergency supplies received from churches across America. When an irate member demanded to know when the congregation voted to do this, the pastor smiled and said, “No one told me. It’s a no-brainer,” and went on about his business.
When I hear people criticize the pastor for doing something not voted on by the church, my response is, “Show me in the Scripture where the ‘overseer of the church’—that’s in Acts 20:28—is supposed to ask the congregation every time he needs to go to the bathroom.”
A great rule for a church is: Select good leaders and then get out of their way and let them do their jobs.
8. Expect the pastor to live within the income the church provides, no matter how small.
“You should set the example for the membership, Pastor. There is so much greed and worldliness in our culture. People would be upset to know their pastor is not above that.”
“We knew your wife wouldn’t mind if we diverted the money we allocated to renovate the kitchen in the pastor’s home to the new beds in the church nursery. First things first, you know.”
When I hear the church does not want to pay the pastor a living wage, my response is: “Could you live on what the church pays the pastor?”
We honor the Lord when we take good care of the servants he sends us.
9. Expect the pastor to be a perfect fit for your congregation.
“The youth haven’t been able to connect with the pastor’s sermons. And she doesn’t seem to be able to talk to the old people.”
“He’s too country for our people. I know he has those degrees, but he has that country flair in his speech and he drives a pickup truck. Our people are more sophisticated than that.”
When I hear someone complain that the pastor is not a good match for their church, my response is: “Maybe the Lord is trying to change you.”
Usually the criticism that “the pastor is not a good fit for us” means simply that someone in power within the congregation is unhappy with him or her. The leadership should stand up for their pastor.
10. Expect the pastor to be on call 24/7.
“I could not believe that the pastor did not answer his phone, but let it go to the answering machine! I needed him then, not at 8 o’clock the next day.”
“I know we have these other ministers on staff, but when I am sick I want to see my pastor, not one of her flunkies!”
When I hear someone rebuking their pastor because he or she expected to have a normal home life and get a full night’s rest, I go away shaking my head. There is little hope for that kind of person.
I love hearing that my pastor takes his off days and guards them as a time with his wife. But that only works when the leadership and congregation agrees with it. (They do, I’m glad to report.)
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.