The things that stop a pastor from speaking his mind are not usually any fear of taking a stand for truth or conscience. That should come with the territory. It’s usually got to do with things that relate to him or his family personally. There’s just no way to say some things out loud without it sounding like you’re trying to “feather your own nest”.
A few quick disclaimers before I give you the list: (1) Another pastor might write this list a little differently. It comes out of my own experience and friendships with other pastors. (2) You may read these things and think “Wow. Phil has issues!” Let me assure you that I’m not sitting around dwelling on these things all day, and I’m not slipping into depression either. It’s just a list. A list of things that recur from time to time, and aren’t unique to me. (3) Please excuse the gender exclusive language. No offense intended (and no ecclesiological fights being picked), it’s just easier to write this way.
Here they are. Things a pastor would sometimes like to get off his chest:
1. The Biggest Sacrifices Are Made By His Family
Of course there are sacrifices that the pastor himself makes in the ministry, but his wife and children make those sacrifices along with him and very often without the kind of affirmation that he receives from appreciative people. People generally do love the pastor’s family, but because he is the one up front, they are more likely to express that love to him. If you want to bless your pastor sometime, thank his wife.
2. He Doesn’t Mind Being Complimented
Some people have the idea that the pastor will naturally shun compliments because that would somehow be a grievous sin; God alone should be receiving the glory. But the truth is that false modesty is usually thinly veiled conceit. The fact is that God gives gifts and grace to men and women to serve him. Recognizing those gifts in people IS honoring to the Lord. A pastor should be able to receive such without being puffed up with pride. He is also eager to know that his preaching, counseling or leadership is hitting the mark.
“Flattery” can be something a little different, if it is just insincere or exaggerated praise. If you are going to encourage your pastor, try making it as specific as you can. Instead of just telling him his sermon was excellent, mention something that particularly challenged or motivated you. Want to really bowl your pastor over? Tell him about the decision that you made as a result of hearing the preaching.
3. No One Ever Sees the Shots in the Dark
There are very few truly contentious people in church life, but the ones who are can be relentless. They have a way of being able to take their jabs at the pastor and his family so that nobody around sees it happening. But should the pastor finally crack and give a reaction, you can be absolutely sure that everyone will know about it. Then he looks like the bully.
Pastoral confidentiality is very important, so your pastor often doesn’t get to defend himself by revealing all the details of a story. Proverbs 18:17 says,
“The first one to plead his cause seems right, Until his neighbor comes and examines him.”
Or in other words, when someone tells you their story, you can be sure there’s always another side to it. Your pastor, however, is unlikely to tell you his side, so you might take that into consideration before you just believe the criticism being leveled at him.
4. Your Great Idea Probably WON’T Fix The Church and Start a Revival
People are very sincere in their belief that if the pastor would just listen to their solution and change something or add a new program, then the church would explode with new life and growth. The problem is that there may be twenty people giving him twenty-one contrary pieces of advice like that. Usually they are overly simplistic. He can’t do them all.
Your pastor is most likely praying and thinking over every aspect of the church continuously. He sincerely does want to hear your thoughts, but if he doesn’t act on them don’t be offended. He sits in lots of meetings and has the benefit of listening to many different viewpoints. He has a vantage point that you don’t.
5. It Does Hurt When People Leave
People leave churches all the time for good and understandable reasons. They move away from the area, or they marry someone from another congregation and naturally want to attend church together. And then there are people who would just be better able to support the vision of another church. Every pastor knows that it’s sometimes very necessary to lose someone; if they stayed there would be friction and even division.
But whatever the reason, understandable or not, every time someone leaves it hurts your pastor. He’s a human being and it is only natural to see someone leaving as a rejection or failure. He also is left with other church members wondering where and why a family went.
If you’re going to leave a church, do it right. Talk to your pastor, assure him of your love and best wishes and explain your reasons. Then do your best to exit quietly without causing disruption in the church, and without public criticism.
6. He Really Does Love His Job
Well, okay, he probably can say this one out loud, but he might not very often. He wouldn’t want people thinking he’s got it too easy!
Pastors like the ministry most of the time. It’s their calling, not their “career”. Most pastors I know feel very grateful to have the privilege of teaching God’s Word week by week, and investing in the lives of people God is calling to Himself. It’s a long and mostly unglamorous road, punctuated by moments of intense stress. But every time there is a fresh evidence of God’s grace at work, it makes it worth it all.
So, there we have it. 6 things that could have been 60, but maybe they’ll give a little insight.
To my pastor friends … feel free to wade in with a comment and add something you think I missed.