Pastors are not strangers to the expectations of church members. But are the expectations of church members Biblical mandates from God? Or are there certain expectations that we, as pastors and churches, have believed to be signs of a healthy church?
What does the Bible require of a pastor? Paul’s famous charge to young Timothy is a good place to start:
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
This is the expectation of God to the pastor. Along with being gentle (2 Timothy 2:25) and all the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-4.
But there are two WRONG expectations that churches have come to believe are the responsibility of the pastor. Likewise, pastors have even placed these expectations on themselves.
1. The Pastor has to make everyone happy.
“People are not happy.”
How many times have we heard this? This is presented like it is a lot of people in the church, but it is often just one person or group. If people are not happy, then the pastor must be a poor leader. After all, the pastor is in the people business.
Hard feelings can begin to build between the pastor and the people. The few or group may be related, friends, or at least involved in the same ministry. Usually conversations have happened and sides have been taken long before the pastor is even aware of the unhappy people.
Some pastors handle this better than others. They know that their decision was the right one and that people were going to be upset. But it’s not always that simple.
Many times pastors have been left in the dark because the pastor is often an outsider to the community. The situation becomes tense if someone doesn’t yield.
The problem with making decisions based on “making people happy” is there will always be someone who is unhappy. Deacons (leaders in the church) have believed that unity and happiness are the same thing. So they try to be the problem listener instead of solver.
Too often the leadership fails to line up behind the leader. Then the conflict only gets bigger.
Consider this statement from Pastoral Care Inc.: The #1 reason pastors leave the ministry—Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction, but the people are not willing to follow or change.
Therefore, people are not happy.
2. The Pastor is responsible for the growth of the church.
You may argue that a healthy church is a growing church, but let’s be honest: How many of our churches are healthy? Or Growing?
Consider these statistics:
- 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
- Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
- Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month , many without cause.
- Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
We are not healthy.
Maybe your church is. Amen! But the overwhelming majority of our churches are declining.
I am Southern Baptist. A recent stat for convention is we lost 200,000 people last year.
At best, most of our churches are keeping the people we have. That is why we have placed the expectation on ourselves of making everyone happy.
We don’t want to lose anyone.
When people are unhappy and the church isn’t growing, murmuring starts. Then problems and division are next.
We have to get serious about this wrong expectation. People are not flocking to our churches. People are not even thinking about spiritual needs anymore. How then can a pastor be solely responsible for the numerical growth of the church?
Pastor, please hear what Paul went on to say in the famous mandate to Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
We are called to be clean before the Lord, other people, and to preach the Word. But ultimately church growth is in God’s hands. If God’s people don’t get right with Him, growth isn’t going to happen.
Please don’t let WRONG expectations stop you from doing what God has put in your heart.
God Bless Your Ministry!
– Pastor Rodney
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(Photo Credit: Creation Swap)