Okay. I'll stop the sarcasm and melodrama. Obviously, I'm going a bit overboard with this in order to make a point (although, I am a little worried that some one might be really looking for ways to get rid of a pastor) but there's truth behind my joke. I've got pretty thick skin, and so I can fairly easily let a negative criticism role of my back, but over time it does begin to have an effect. I've been in the ministry for thirteen years now, I have never known a season where there's wasn't some form of grumbling going on in the background. What's more is that I know I'm not alone. Almost every friend I have in the ministry shares the same story. Each of us hear whispers and rumors and "he said that she said"'s of things that people don't like and that get's old after awhile. In fact, I watched several dear friends get completely torn up by such issues and leave the ministry all together.
If you are a member of a church, any Bible-believing, Jesus-preaching church, let me tell you a little secret from us pastors. It's not the complaints we can't handle, it's the fact that you won't come and talk to us directly and work together on a solution! The sad fact is, that when a church body gets in the habit of grumbling, instead of coming to the pastor, there will come a time when that leader has had enough, and that will lead to problems.
Think back with me for a moment to the time when the Israelites were wandering in the dessert. What activity does Scripture constantly show them doing? GRUMBLING!!! Over and over again, the Bible records the people as whining and complaining about the tough circumstances they were in. They cried out to go back to Egypt where at least they had food and water (I guess they didn't appreciate God's cooking) and the had home to live in. I laugh when I notice that they never once mentioned in their complaining about how they would be walking back into slavery!
On several occasions, Moses became so frustrated, hurt, angry, and overwhelmed that he lashed out. In fact, his anger would eventually lead to sin, which kept him out of the Promised Land.
However, one particular occasion comes to mind where things happened differently. In Exodus 18, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro comes to the camp. Moses was completely bogged down in the work of leading those complacent, stubborn, and grumbling people. My guess is that Moses was on the verge of a breakdown. Things weren't going well and the number of grumblers was growing. Jethro could have done the easy thing and joined in the complaining and fanned the flames a little bit, nitpicking on every detail that Moses was getting wrong, but instead he chose to do something different. He chose to talk to Moses directly. Read what happens.
13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.” 17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. (Exodus 18:13–18, NIV)
Jethro could see that Moses was doing something wrong, but he was determined to help him see the problem and work in fixing it instead of just complaining to others!
I hope that each of you understand that my intention in writing this is to help foster healthy relationships in your church, especially between you and the ministers in your church. If you really are seeking ways to get rid of your pastor, then let me advise you lovingly but firmly, that you need to find another place of worship. Only God should be the voice in the ear of the man of His choosing to tell him to move somewhere else.
However, if it is your desire to bless your pastor, to encourage him, and make him more effective in his calling, then let's change the title of this article to "The Best Ways to Keep Your Pastor Around" and let me humbly offer a few suggestions.
- The next time you have a complaint or issue with something that is happening in the church, fight back that impulse to share it with someone else and commit to pray on it for at least a couple of days. My experience is that most complaints are over small things that are emotionally driven and with time those issues go away. If you choose to say something to someone else, you're only doing damage and you won't be able to take those words back.
- If the issues that you're having persists even after a time of prayer, then go straight to your pastor's office (just please do not do this on a Sunday!) and express what's on your heart. I know that it may be hard to say a complaint directly to the person who you believe is causing your complaint, but trust me, your pastor will appreciate you for it and it will only cause your relationship to become stronger. There are many times that we as pastors need to hear exactly what you have to say! I'm certainly not perfect and sometimes I need to be made aware of something I'm doing that is causing pain for others. I'm not saying there won't be bumps along they way, and not every issue will get resolved according to your liking, but more often then not, you will walk away with a peace about you that you didn't have before.
- When someone else around you is dong the grumbling, refuse to let it go any further. No matter how much I speak to issues such as this, I am fully aware that there will always be those who complain. However, just because someone else continues to complain doesn't give you permission to chime in with your grumble. Instead, when you hear those negative words coming from someone else, take action! Be bold enough to simply walk away from conversation, or respond with something like, "Let's take a moment to pray for that person instead of complaining about him." I promise you that doing something like that only a few times will keep the complainers away from you!
I pray that as you face issues in your church, as we all do, you take the road less traveled and seek ways to make peace, to put yourself aside and think of others first. Don't be a grumbler and you will see a difference in your life and in your church family.
A quick note to my church members: I want each of you who attend Bono Baptist Church to know a few things about what I've written here. Have I at times felt the hurt of negative criticism that wasn't brought to me while I've been the Pastor of our church? Yes. Am I writing this from a place of being totally overwhelmed, hurt, and on the verge of leaving because of such things? No. I am writing this because it's something that every pastor deals with, struggles with, and wishes they could talk about openly and honestly. I hope that pastors and church members from other congregations find this helpful, but I also hope that each of you will take these words to heart and commit to be a church member that is always willing to come and talk with me no matter what you're facing. I love you all - Bro. Greg