Pleasing God or Pleasing People

Overcoming the drive toward people-pleasing as a pastor

For 10 years I loved serving on the same team with a worship pastor who was always reminding a terrific choir and orchestra and soloists and the whole church that when all of us worship we should worry about—you have heard it before—an audience of one: Our Lord.

You know the drill. And it is the same with our ministry and church work, in one sense. But fact is, our Lord wants us to love and edify and serve our people also. So what do we do when there is tension in our minds about pleasing God or the church boss, or a group that is lobbying us a certain way, or others on staff?

How do we decide?

Let’s talk about this—it is not always clear.

Knute, with Jeff and Jim

Read the conversation here or download the PDF »

How much should we please our people?

Jeff Bogue

We shouldn’t. We should hear them, listen to them, love them, and empathize with them, but we should only seek to please the Lord.

Jim Brown

Ultimately the goal in our lives is to please God.

No one can keep all people happy at once. Trying to accomplish this will lead to the death of your church and the mission of God.

Knute Larson

As much as possible, as long as what we are doing does not differ from our pleasing God or obeying his Word! We cannot make this our main goal, as one of the main qualities of a leader is that he or she is able to stand alone.

Are surveys helpful?

Jeff Bogue

• Sometimes for really big reasons, like The Reveal Survey.

• Usually surveys communicate a lack of leadership and vision and, by nature, they are divisive; and so there has to be a loser when you’re getting opinions like that.

Jim Brown

From Outreach Magazine  Beyond Our Family Feud

• We have rarely used surveys.

• Godly vision sets the direction of your church; surveys often stall forward movement.

• They can often lead to a complaint center!

• Instead of a survey, get the right people around the table to determine the information you are seeking.

Knute Larson

• No, not when you are making a decision that the leadership of the church should make. A number of churches faced divisive issues because they took a survey about practices during the COVID pandemic, and once people fill in a survey they want you to do what they filled in.

• Helpful, yes, when trying to figure out needs in the church or times of services or where people are on an important belief. A survey of many of our people almost 30 years ago got me into explaining the cross and faith in Jesus Christ in every sermon since (for 60 seconds sometimes, but always).

What are the dangers of leading all alone, not caring what others think?

Jeff Bogue

• You get tunnel vision and you can become unbiblical because you don’t have a multitude of counselors.

• You can also bowl people over and not read the culture that’s around you.

Jim Brown

• Control by one person and lack of accountability will destroy the church.

• There is wisdom in gleaning wisdom from other people.

• If left to our own, we become out of touch with people and ultimately lose touch with our community.

• Pride leaves no room to hear from the Lord.

• You become a dictator instead of a loving leader.

Knute Larson

• Psalm 36:1–4 answers this for me. We are really selfish. I believe in salvation/transformation, but also that enough selfishness abides in us to say that we need teamwork and wise counsel and people around us who will “tag us out,” as the expression goes. There is wisdom in “a multitude of counselors” (Prov. 11:14; 15:22).

• How many headlines (in city newspapers, not just church sources) about abusive leadership in Christian ministries must there be before all of us insist ministry leaders have a board of overseers who clearly set policies and approve goals and “culture” and standards of the ministry?

What are some subjects where we cannot yield to popular demand?

Jeff Bogue

From Outreach Magazine  How to Rise Above the Outrage of Our Culture

• High-level vision

• Biblical truth

• Staff decisions (like voting on the pastor every two years)

• Leadership demands

Jim Brown

• Salvation

• The essentials of the faith

• Politics

• Cultural trends

• Leadership vision decisions

Knute Larson

All subjects where God has revealed an opinion or direction for us. When he has spoken in his Word, and it is clear for us, we must obey.
But in areas where God is silent, like the parking lot needs or snow issues or building needs or the times of worship services, popular demand or opinion is huge!

Watch more videos from Pastorpedia »

Jeff Bogue, of Grace Church, in several locations in the Bath-Norton-Medina areas of Ohio; Jim Brown, of Grace Community Church in Goshen, Indiana, a church known for its strong growth, family and men’s ministries, and community response teams; and Knute Larson, a coach of pastors, who previously led The Chapel in Akron for 26 years.

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