Pray for us, brethren, that the Lord’s message may spread rapidly and be honored…and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not all have faith. (II Thessalonians 3:1-2)
Don’t read this article without the preceding one (10 Ways Pastors Fail Their People). That one led to this one.
What happened was this.
I put this question on Facebook: “What are 10 things you wish pastors would stop doing?”
I was unprepared for the answers. They poured in. Within a few minutes, we had 35 or 40 comments. Most were helpful, but a few showed real pain or even anger.
By the time we had racked up 75 or 80 comments, several pastors who read the contributions sent up white flags, calling for help. One said, “Joe, this really hurts.”
When someone suggested we turn the question around and ask, “How do church members fail their pastors?” the comments multiplied just as quickly.
As several noted, there seems to be a lot of pain out there in the pastor/member relationship. It would be great if we could do something, however small, toward healing that breach and lessening the anger.
Here, then, are my Top 10 Ways Church Members Fail Their Pastors. It’s sent forth not to add kindling to a raging fire, but balm to some sore places.
1. Church members fail their ministers when they do not pray for them.
This is strictly faith work. The believer who lifts his/her pastor to the Father in prayer will not know the difference that intercession made. They will not be in the study when the preacher senses the Spirit opening a passage or enlightening his mind with a great idea or directing him to a supplementary text. They have no way of knowing the way their prayers kept him safe on the highway, blessed him in a witnessing or counseling conversation, or gave him extra energy for the day.
All they will see is the minister when he walks out on Sunday and leads a worship service and brings the sermon. They will have to believe by faith that their prayers were heard of God and answered by Him.
Nothing tells the tale on our faith like whether we pray.
2. Church members fail their pastors when they pray for them, then reject what God sends.
I said those very words to my congregation on one occasion when a few members were criticizing practically everything I did. I told the church it was a puzzle to me how sincere Christians could pray for their pastor–as these individuals professed to me–and then reject and condemn the very sermons that God gave the pastor to deliver to them. What kind of faith is that? What does it say about their belief, their obedience?
The old three-pointer from Philippians 4:6 is a good one: Worry about nothing, Pray about everything, Thank God for anything. That last segment–thanking God for anything–means once we pray for the minister, we should believe that God heard us and that what the man is preaching is what God has sent.
Even if you don’t like it. Even if it offends you. Even if your mind wants to tell you the man is resisting the Lord and that nothing about that sermon is in answer to your prayer. Give thanks to the Lord for that message. Believe that God is at work. After all, He does not finish His reconstruction of a man’s preaching in one fell swoop. It takes time.
3. Church members fail their pastors when they apply standards of perfection to them.
I moderated a church business meeting once when members of the congregation rose to tell how the pastor had failed them on occasions. “Mama was in the hospital, and he never came.” “I needed counseling, and he wasn’t available.” “He didn’t speak to me in the hallway.”
Listening to that sad litany, it occurred to me how marriage is so similar to the relationship of a pastor and church. After a few years, each one has grounds for divorce. If you were trying to convince a judge to grant a divorce decree, each husband or wife could probably present enough slights and putdowns, selfish acts and harsh words, to make their case.
So with church.
And yet, I’ve known church members who expected–no, demanded–that the pastor never ever fail them whenever they called. They were leaders of the church, they were longtime tithers, they had given gifts to the preacher, and now he owed them.
Young ministers should be cautioned repeatedly that just because someone is a member of the church and just because they were elected to high office in the congregation does not mean they are mature or godly. Some can be high-handed, gossips, and self-centered.
The pastor who finds himself surrounded by a corps of leaders who are Christlike and mature should count his blessings and tell them repeatedly how much he blesses God for them.