Want to get rid of your pastor? Maybe not, but there could be people unwittingly doing things within your church who are sending messages to your preacher that they want him gone. Yesterday.
During my five-year ministry to fallen pastors, I talk to former ministers, active ministers, retired pastors, directors of missions, and missionaries. The problems I list below come from years of talking to frustrated ministers.
Unfortunately, for most of them, there are certain types of attitudes that pop up in churches that do much harm to ministers. I wrote a blog post a while back called “3 Ways You Can Prevent Pastoral Adultery.” It wasn’t very popular (probably the title). It was about how church members and leaders can help their pastors thrive in the pulpit.
So, I’m taking a different approach today. They are things that most pastors think and encounter but would never share with their own congregation. It’s a bit tongue in cheek, slightly snarky, but unfortunately, through my research of talking to hundreds of fellow ministers, here are 6 popular ways to run off your pastor. (I might add, don’t do any of these things. In fact, do the opposite.)
1. Leave Him Passive Aggressive Notes
Don’t like something about church? Don’t like the hymns or how long the pastor is preaching? Don’t like the new music style or how the young people are acting? Well, there’s a time-honored solution for that. Leave the pastor a passive aggressive note. Preferably anonymous. Pastors just love anonymous notes left on their desks, windshields or in the offering plate.
You know with messages like, “Your messages were much more enjoyable when they were five minutes shorter,” or “You look more professional when you wear a tie” or “The sermon was fine, but you quoted 1 John 1:2 when I think you meant John 1:2.” That’s the kind of stuff that helps the pastor focus on what’s really important.
2. Show Remarkable Imbalance as Church Leaders
When there’s a huge church crisis or disagreement looming and the pastor needs wisdom, input and support from his leadership, don’t say a word. Let him figure that stuff out on his own. Heck, that’s what all those seminary classes are for, right? But when he orders a $25 box of personalized pens with the church’s name on them without prior authorization? Give him heck at the next business meeting!
We have a tendency to treat the pastor as a “hired hand” instead of as a fellow member of the community of faith.
3. Say Insulting Things About His Less Than Perfect Wife
Did you know that a lot of pastor’s wives didn’t marry a pastor? A lot of men get the call to ministry after they are married, so it’s always good to cut them a little slack. That being said, pastor’s wives are often the target of a lot of trash talk.
For some reason a lot of people have an unrealistic model of what the perfect pastor’s wife should look and act like. I guess she’s supposed to be the Proverbs 31 woman, head of the nursery, teaching three kids Sunday School classes, head of AWANAs, always smiling, remembering everyone’s birthday and anniversary, and never have a hair or opinion out-of-place.
Well, sorry to say, that’s not reality. God made all pastor’s wives different and with unique personalities and gifts. Some are outspoken, some are quiet, some make friends easily, some keep to themselves, some like to cook 15 dishes for the potluck and some will bring a premade cake from Kroger.
Unfortunately, some churchgoers feel the need to pick at the pastor’s wife whether through gossip, low voices in the pews, or even Facebook. “Why does she always look so miserable?” “Why doesn’t she relate to people better?” “Why is she so outspoken?” “Why doesn’t she teach a Sunday School class?” “She didn’t say hello to me today.” “Why does she always seem so distant?” Hmmmm. Maybe it’s because she’s wondering why everyone is always staring at her with inquisitive looks on their faces.
4. Join a Few Others Who Think It’s Time For The Pastor “To Go” For Arbitrary Reasons
Now, it’s true a pastor can outlast his welcome by messing things up or by being a poor leader. No doubt about that. There are reasons to fire a guy or suggest he move on. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about when people get it in their head that they just need a new pastor every 3-10 years and find ridiculous reasons for it.
“He’s just a better preacher than a pastor.” “He preaches too much about evangelism.” “I just don’t like the version of the Lord’s Prayer he uses.” “Seems like he’s been here too long.”
Have we ever thought that maybe our problems with our pastor say more about us than they do about him? Let’s dig a little deeper. Maybe our problems with the person in the pulpit have more to do with our what’s lacking in our own relationship with God than they do with any church leader.
5. Argue and Disagree With Any Idea He Has For Kingdom Growth
Who would have a problem with church growth? I can answer that one, actually. I was awake the day they taught that in seminary. On the surface, most people love church growth. But when the church grows, it inevitably changes. And well, we all know how most people feel about change. We don’t like it too much. That’s why we try to use words like “adapt” instead.
So when the pastor has an idea for growth or a plan for evangelism or anything that has to do with outreach, there will be some who will grumble. It just doesn’t fit into their own personal model of how things are or how things should be.
“Well, pastor, we’ve tried that before.” “That’s not for us.” “That plan you’re suggesting sounds a little bit *gasp* liberal.” That’ll stop that plan for growth in its tracks.
6. Final Step: Simply Decide He’s Not The Right Man For “The Job”
When a group of people has decided they’ve had enough of the pastor, they can sway others pretty well. Lies can be told – “I hear he gets his sermons right off the Internet!” “He doesn’t spend enough time to justify what we’re paying him.”
When this happens, it’s unfortunate. It’s something I’ve pointed out since I wrote my book. We have a tendency to treat the pastor as a “hired hand” instead of as a fellow member of the community of faith. When we look at him, we see a guy we hired, can fire, and find a new one. We see an investment for our local church instead of a human being with a calling from God.
What we should be seeing is a minister gifted by God, called to our local fellowship, to be transparent, open, and part of us. We walk together, fall together, forgive together, and love one another.
Let’s not be in a hurry to run anyone off from our churches. Let’s invest the love of Christ in anyone who joins our local fellowship, loving them as we love ourselves.
Looking for more? Thom Rainer of Lifeway is the king of articles like this. I love his posts about pastors and church. I recommend these:
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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