I have a special affection for pastors and other church staff. Perhaps my sentiments are closely tied to my former ministry as a pastor of four different churches. Perhaps it is related to over twenty years of church consultation where I listened to the dreams, hopes, and cries of pastors and church staff members. And perhaps it is explained by my current position at LifeWay Christian Resources, where I hear from these persons on a regular basis.
Whatever the explanation, I have a love and respect for these God-called individuals who serve in the local church.
Listening to the Cries
Not everything I hear from pastors and staff is negative. To the contrary, most of them speak with great love and affection for the churches they serve.
Still, there’s a lot of hurt among these church leaders. Unfortunately, I’ve heard those cries too many times. And over the course of three decades of ministry, I’ve heard some consistent concerns. I classify these concerns as “Things I Wish My Church Members Knew (Though I’m Reticent to Tell Them).”
The Top Four Concerns
As I have listened to ministers over the years, I’ve heard a number of hopes, dreams, and hurts. But there are four concerns that seemed to arise repeatedly related to the members of the church. The four are not listed in any particular order or priority. I chose to speak on behalf of the pastors and staff by speaking in the first person.
Please don’t ask me to do something or respond to something right before I preach. After spending hours preparing for and praying about this sermon, I am focused. Please don’t criticize me right now. Let it wait a day. Please don’t ask me to make any announcements. And please ask someone else to get toilet tissue for the restroom.
Please don’t criticize me until you have prayed and thought through your criticism. Do you know I receive three or four criticisms a week? That’s around 200 a year. Those verbal jabs take their toll on me. I know I make mistakes and I’m not above criticisms. But please be prayerful before you’re critical.
Please don’t expect me to be everywhere. Many people in our church have a priority about where I should be: meetings, dinners, church events, hospital visits, home visits, and many more. The problem is that everyone has a different priority. And sometimes church members forget that I have my own family. Please understand my limitations on being in so many places.
Please don’t treat my family members like church employees. My family already lives in a glass house. The expectations on them are already high. My wife and children will be faithful to the ministries of the congregation, but they have activities outside the church. Please don’t tell me that they should be every place I am at the church.
The Spiritual Warfare Pastors Experience
Pastors and other staff members are on the front line of ministry. They are subject to the attacks of Satan and his emissaries in the battles of spiritual warfare. Unfortunately, some of the most painful wounds come from friendly fire, though the friendly part is subject to debate.
Perhaps our churches in this country are struggling because they have leaders who have to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with issues that take the focus off the main tasks to which God has called them. In my very first blog on this site, I called for more prayer warriors for pastors and church staff. I am convinced more than ever that the need is great and the timing is urgent.
Let us hear the cries of these pastors and respond with love, with encouragement and, above all, with prayer.