“I don’t like you,” the church member said to me with absolutely no expression on her face. “Why?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she answered. “I haven’t liked you from the moment you arrived at our church.”
This was an actual conversation I had with a lady once when I was still a local church pastor. I’ve known a few people through the years who felt the freedom to express their lack of appreciation for me, both as their pastor and as a human being. That’s a tough spot for pastors because it leaves them with no recourse. How is a pastor to respond to that kind of statement? “I don’t like you either?” Or, “I’m so sorry. I’ll try to be more likeable?”
Do you like your pastor? One newsletter had some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for church members unhappy with their pastor: “Simply send a copy of this letter to six other churches who are tired of their ministers. Then bundle up your pastor and send him to the church at the top of the list. Add your name to the bottom of the list. In one week you will receive 16,436 ministers, and one of them should be a dandy. Have faith in this letter. One man broke the chain and got his old minister back.”
Sometimes people don’t like their pastor because they have put unrealistic expectations on him and are frustrated because he doesn’t line up to them. Their perception of him is that his DNA is somehow different from there own. Are you under the impression that your pastor is some sort of super-saint who is wired differently from other human beings? He isn’t. At times he argues with his wife. He loses his temper with his children. He worries about his kids. Just as some at church don’t like him, he may not particularly like everybody there either. Is that right? Maybe not, but it’s human.
Regardless of appearances that might indicate otherwise, your pastor is a regular guy. Don’t think that what you see in the pulpit on Sunday is all there is to him. He doesn’t speak King James English at home. He may watch football or David Letterman or Everybody Loves Raymond. He might even know who was voted off Survivor last week.
Don’t impose a persona on him that demands perfection. He’s not a Super-Hero without flaws. If you’re looking for a perfect pastor, you aren’t going to find him – not in any church. When you see his weaknesses, pray for him.
Show grace to your pastor. You don’t know what may be going on in his own life at any given moment. He may be dealing with personal problems that you don’t know about. One pastor I knew took great criticism from people in his church for not being at his best at the same time he and his wife were caring for her brother, who was dying of the A.I.D.S. virus.
Consider the following inside look at the lives of pastors.
— 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.
— 80% believed that pastoral ministry affected their families negatively.
— 33% said that being in ministry was an outright hazard to their family.
— 75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
— 50% felt unable to meet the needs of the job.
— 90% felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
— 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they started out.
— 40% reported a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
(Taken from Pastors At Risk, H. B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman, Victor Books.)
Pastors have emotional ups and downs, just like everybody else. Allow your pastor the freedom to deal with personal struggles. If he has consistently ministered to you, ask yourself how you can minister to him. Pastors sometimes burn out for the simply reason that they continuously give without ever receiving ministry from others.
Why not pray right now and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can minister to your pastor – then do it. Bless him with acts of kindness. Pray for him. Then watch how the Lord changes you both.