By Joe McKeever, pastor, cartoonist and retired DOM BAGNO
The most common complaint denominational people and guest preachers hear when they call on local churches is, “I’m unhappy with our pastor.” Invariably, it’s some lay leader of the church speaking.
[img_assist|nid=6106|title=Joe McKeever Pastor, cartoonist and retired DOM BAGNO|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=75]Let’s state the obvious here: some pastors we ought to be unhappy with. I’m thinking of one preacher who was known to curse, tell shady stories, gamble, and drink. When he was forced out of the pulpit, no one shed a tear.
But what about all those other situations where some church members are unhappy with their preacher? Let’s see if we can do some good on this subject.
One: It’s always something.
If the pastor is effective at all, someone is always going to be unhappy with him. Mark it down. It’s par for the course.
The pastor who takes a stand on issues will find some disagreeing with him. When he preaches on a controversial doctrine or calls for purity in the personal lives of leaders, some will be unhappy.
Ninety-percent of a pastor’s headaches in ministry do not come from the unbelieving world but from within the church. Zechariah wrote, “And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’”
Church leaders and deacons in particular do well to understand that it’s normal for the occasional church member to be unhappy with the pastor. If it’s the same complaints all the time but from different people or if the malaise is widespread throughout the membership, leaders may need to look into matters. But if it’s isolated complaints, in most cases leaders should ignore it and not burden the pastor with it.
Two: Preachers are all different.
No pastor can be all things to all people. Unless he has unusual administrative skills and has organized his staff to meet all pastoral needs of the congregation, some people who need ministering to are going to be missed from time to time.
No sermon can please all in the congregation. Put yourself in the pastor’s place. Imagine having to bring a message that will meet the needs of every age group, both sexes, at every educational level, believers or not, mature or carnal. Good luck with that.
Not all pastors have the same warm engaging personality. Some are strong in the pulpit and rather stand-offish individually. Some are better pastors than they are preachers and some are the opposite.
No preacher can remember everyone’s name. And if he happens to be one who can, I guarantee you there’s something else he cannot do that “normal” preachers do easily and regularly.
Three: Preachers grow, too.
My pastor, tells how in the early years of his ministry, he was too hard and fast on minor issues. He has grown in those areas.
However, he adds, “It makes me wonder what I’m doing now which I’ll grow out of in a few years and look back on in embarrassment.”
Any pastor who keeps growing – and we all aspire to that – will get stronger in areas where he’s weak now. He will also learn more of the Bible.
He will improve his preaching delivery and his counseling techniques. He will become a stronger, more effective leader and a better delegator.
He will become more in love with Jesus, more at peace within himself, and more devoted to the Lord’s people.
Four: Cut him some slack.
When a new pastor comes to a church, church members should be prepared for the fact that he will be different from any pastor they’ve ever had. He will take some getting used to.
Bear in mind, he’s having to go through the same process as he adapts to you the congregation.
Give each other room to be yourselves. Give yourselves time to become better acquainted. In other words, do not “need” to be thrilled with him from the start.
Do not give in to the need to “be his best friend.” Pastors learn to be wary of members who work hard to worm their way inside their lives early on.
Do not need him to be known in the community as the envy of all the other churches.
Let him be himself while you bear up under your dissatisfaction for a while.
See what happens.
Five: One of the finest gifts you can give your church is this: The next time you hear someone griping about the preacher on some minor aspect of ministry, call them down on it.
Don’t be mean about it, but be prompt.”Get your eyes off the man and onto the Lord,” you could say. “No preacher can be all things to all people.”
Anything you do that blesses your church will encourage your pastor. But more than that, it will honor your Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church.
After all, it’s His happiness we should be seeking and not our own.