When my oldest son came home from a summer youth camp and told me that he had been called to be a pastor, I gotta’ confess, I wasn’t pleased with God. Having been brought up in a pastor’s home and having been in ministry my entire adult life, I knew the inner turmoil that often accompanies leading a congregation. I also knew that statements made by sincerely concerned congregants, seriously confused spiritually immature or carnal Christians, or sanctimonious serial complainers eats away at, and in the end, deadens many passionate pastor’s hearts.
It seems that there are 9 comments pastors often are blindsided by that, if they can discipline themselves to ignore, they may have a whole lot fewer sleepless nights. Those statements are…
- “Your preaching isn’t deep enough.” – I’ve learned that, for the most part, people who make this statement either, 1) don’t spend time in God’s Word daily themselves, 2) have read an article about preaching trends, been to a conference where the keynote preacher mentioned the lack of theologically weighty sermons (By the way, I can almost assure you, the keynoter hears the comment, “Your preaching isn’t deep enough,” at their church too.), or talked with a friend who made this statement so, they jumped on the, judge your pastor’s sermon, bandwagon, 3) had Bible classes, or went to a Bible college or seminary and is either frustrated they’re not getting preaching time or are called to pastor but stepped out of church leadership to do something else. These types are frustrated, not due to the depth of the sermons they’re hearing you preach, rather due to their own need and/or calling to preach.
- “You’re the best preacher I’ve ever heard.” – It’s important to ignore this statement because, 1) It will, in many instances, ultimately cause a pastor to be puffed up with pride, and/or 2) This statement is almost always made by new congregants, church members who may be complaining about the sermons a few years later. Bottom line on the second statement, “Never cling tightly to statements made by church members that are infatuated with you. Most new church members are infatuated with you at first but, in time, infatuation wears off.”
- “You’re too young to be an effective senior pastor.” – Paul’s words to young pastor Timothy… 12 Let no one despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you; it was given to you through prophecy, with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. 15 Practice these things; be committed to them, so that your progress may be evident to all. 16 Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4: 12 – 16) Nuff said!
- “You’re too old to be an effective senior pastor.” In a previous blog post I spoke of biblical leaders of age and that churches are hesitant to hire them due to their age. I think this paragraph from that blog post speaks for itself. This is what I said, “I’m so glad that some of the present decision makers didn’t make the call on some of the most important people in biblical history. Think about it… 80 year old Moses wouldn’t have made the first cut. Neither would Joshua. Joshua was given charge of the conquest of Canaan the last thirty years of his life and he was 110 when he died. Daniel served God from the days of his youth, for over 70 years. Most believe he was over 80 when he was one of the governors over the kingdom of Babylon, was thrown into the lion’s den, prospered during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus, and received visions that are still important to us to this day. Had he had those visions in today’s church culture, he may not have been respected enough to get them published. Even Paul, the most important church planter of all time, the chosen man of God who took the gospel to non-Jews couldn’t get a position in many of today’s churches. In Philemon 9 he refers to himself as, “Paul, an old man…”. Yet we know that during his later years he was still writing, traveling, visiting and encouraging churches, and endured the life of a prisoner on behalf of the Gospel.”
- “You should be preaching expository sermons.” – This statement normally comes from someone who follows church trends and the current trend is expository preaching. If God has called you to or you have found topical preaching to be the most effective way to make the power of the gospel and the love of Jesus known in your culture, go for it and rest easy knowing that no one knows your situation better than you do. Click here for a great blog post on topical preaching.
- “You should be preaching topical sermons.” – This statement normally comes from someone who is struggling with a particular life issue and, because the sermons are expository and oftentimes focused on getting theological and doctrinal understandings into hearts and minds, rather than giving people practical guidance for daily living, this person is crying out for hope and help. If you’re an expository preacher you shouldn’t change your preaching style. You should direct them to get wise counsel from their small group or small group leader or direct them to a biblically sound book on the issue they’re struggling with.
- “You don’t spend enough time in the office.” – People who make this statement seldom understand a pastor’s primary role. These types believe the senior pastor’s job is to counsel and console those who attend church regularly. Senior pastor, keep this in mind… You can’t meet and take the gospel to unbelievers if you’re sitting in your office counseling and consoling all day everyday.
- “You’re too hard to get to.” – Acts 6 reminds pastors that you should devote yourselves to, “prayer and to the preaching ministry.” (vs. 4). Protect your prayer and study time by blocking out set times for such and making your assistant aware that you’re not to be interrupted unless there’s a true emergency. Prayer and preaching is what God called you to do and you should NEVER feel badly about that, no matter what anyone says to you.
- “God told me I’m suppose to start a ________________ ministry for our church.” – Almost every church I know of that is flourishing in disciple making is a simple church, a church focused on a few things rather than doing a multitude of things. You will be approached by people who want to start a women’s ministry, a jail ministry, a prayer ministry, etc… In most instances these people’s hearts are as pure as gold but, if your philosophy of ministry is that you will do few things passionately and wholeheartedly, learn to graciously say no and sleep well at night knowing you’re protecting your churches disciple making strategy.