4. Church members fail their ministers by sitting in judgment on how well they do their ministries.
The earlier article makes this point from the other standpoint, so we will not belabor it except to point out that somehow or other, we have raised a generation of church members who actually believe that if they can compliment the sermon when they leave church, they have fulfilled their duty as a Christian.
Reading the New Testament, there is not a single word–not one–to lead us to believe the preacher should care a whit whether the congregation likes the sermon or not.
Jesus did not care, I’ll tell you that. Nor did Paul. He did say in II Corinthians that some took issue with his preaching, pointing out he could write powerful letters but his pulpit presence was lacking (II Cor. 10:10), but there is no evidence he took a remedial course in the rabbinical school to correct this deficiency.
We have raised a generation of preaching critics. Some want their ministers to look as sharp as Joel Osteen, be as personable as David Jeremiah, shell the corn like Charles Stanley, and condemn sin like John Hagee.
5. Church members fail their ministers when they are quick to believe the worst about them.
Well, you know what they say: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”
Oh? They say that?
I know a pastor who was falsely accused of molesting children in the church’s day care program. His arrest made the evening news in a metropolitan area. Church members abandoned him, quickly believing the worst without bothering to check. In the trial that followed, it was brought out that the pastor never ever ventured into the area of the church where the children were and that the misleading techniques of so-called experts who questioned the children fed the rumors and fueled the charges. The charges were dismissed, and the pastor was exonerated. But he had lost his ministry, and to many people, he was forever damaged goods.
He wrote a book on his experience, the title of which sums up so much, Guilty until Proven Innocent.
In the most difficult pastorate of my six–the one that lasted only 3 years–as I was in the process of leaving, we learned that a rumor had circulated for one year that I was divorced, that Margaret was my second wife. I approached someone I thought of as a friend and said, “Did you hear this?” He sheepishly admitted he had. I said, “What did you think?” He said, “I didn’t know what to think.” I said, “Did it ever occur to you to ask me?” He said, “I was afraid of what I would find out.”
What he would have found out was that Margaret was 19 and I was 22 when we married. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for divorce. Next April will be our 50th anniversary.
6. Church members fail the pastor when they abandon them to deal with the troublemakers in the congregation.
In an earlier article on this Web site, we recommended the book The Devil in Pew Number Seven, which chronicles the hellish activity of a man dead set on driving a pastor from his church. Eventually, he had the pastor’s wife killed and drove the man of God insane. The author, the preacher’s daughter, does not fault the congregation in any way, but I do. Over and over, she tells how members took the family in, how they brought food, how they prayed. At no point does she describe men from the congregation confronting the monster. He was left to the preacher and the law, and the results were devastating.
At every opportunity, I tell deacons and other leaders of churches that they are sent to obey Ephesians 4:3, keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace. They should be the first to notice threats to the unity of the church and quick to confront troublemakers. If they leave it to the pastor, he is placed in an awkward spot since despots usually direct their diabolical activities toward him. For him to have to oppose them makes him look defensive and self-serving.
Let the lay leadership of the congregation rise up to those causing trouble and hold them accountable.
7. Church members fail the pastor when they major on minor issues.
The pastor preaches magnificent sermons, knows everyone by name, and is always there when families need his ministry. However, church members get upset because he is trying to get the congregation to buy a piece of property which some do not think they need or can afford, he’s wanting to send a mission team to Guatemala, he’s wanting to add a staff member to pastor a mission at the trailer park.
People leave churches over just such foolishness. When asked, they will tell you they love the preacher and that he was there when “mama needed him” or “when our family went through that tragedy.” However, “he’s a dictator,” because they did not agree with the project he was pushing, and they did not get their way.
Submitting to one another in the fear of Christ (Ephesians 5:21).
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls… (Hebrews 13:17).