All of us, I’m sure, have heard comments something like this:
“Oh, our pastor is a very good man, BUT . . . .”
“Our minister is an excellent Bible teacher, BUT . . . .”
“Our preacher has a wonderful personality, BUT . . . .”
It seems, in spite of his many commendable virtues, there’s always that something else about him they don’t like. “He’s a capable expositor of the Word,” they’ll say, “but such an ineffective evangelist.” “He is a powerful preacher, but such a poor pastor.” “He works well with older folks,” they’ll acknowledge, “but the young people just don’t seem to like him.” And on and on they go.
Yes, in almost every church there seems to be at least one group who, although making favorable comments about the pastor, cannot refrain from also publicly pointing out his shortcomings. Because of this, many of God’s servants are waging a difficult and discouraging battle. They are doing their best, but because of dissension, dissatisfaction, and opposition from those within the church, the work of the Lord is suffering. Now the reason for this, in many instances, is due to a misunderstanding of the nature and work of the pastor. So it’s my prayer that this booklet, with its special emphasis on the minister and his people, will be used of God to give us a new insight into the proper relationship between the pastor and his congregation. This should foster harmony and love in the local church.
In all of our lessons on the subject Your Pastor And You, we are using three verses in the gospel of John as the basis for our study. We read:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light (Jn. 1:6-8).
JOHN THE BAPTIST
In these verses, three things are mentioned about John the Baptist.
First, he was a man. John was no angel or supernatural creature. Rather, he was a human being just like we are. Verse 6 begins with the words, “There was a man.”
Second, he was a man “sent from God.” He was distinguished from other people in that he was a specially chosen vessel. He was a God-sent one.
And third, he was a man sent from God to “bear witness of the Light.” He was sent to testify about Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of sinners.
Remember, then, these three facts about John the Baptist:
1. He had human limitations—he was “a man.”
2. He had divine authorization—he was “sent from God.”
3. He had a heavenly commission—he came “to bear witness of the Light.”
These same characteristics mark every God-sent pastor today.
THE MAN OF GOD
Let’s think, first of all, about the fact that all ministers are men. They are restricted and hampered by the very same human limitations as everyone else. The gospel writer in John 1:6, referring to John the Baptist, told us that “there was a man.” And in this short phrase we have a description of all servants of the Lord. God has so ordained that men, in spite of all their faults and shortcomings, should be the channels through whom the Word should be proclaimed to others.
I marvel at God’s choice. I never cease to wonder why He should select me, a faltering, stumbling, and unworthy vessel, to bear the good news of the gospel. From the purely human standpoint, He might better have sent angels to minister the Word, or created some special emissaries to proclaim His message. They could have done a perfect job and then no one could complain or criticize. No one could say, “Oh, he’s all right, BUT . . . .” And yet God saw fit to choose men!
The Lord takes those who themselves were in need of a Savior and places them in a position of privilege to proclaim the glorious message of redemption to others. The apostle Paul commanded his young friend Timothy:
The things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2).
The fact that our pastors are but men with all the imperfections and characteristics of other human beings should certainly be evident to everyone. This truth, however, seems to be so easily forgotten when making our demands on their lives and ministry. As a result, too many people in our churches are expecting too much and continually criticizing their preachers with comments like: “Oh, our pastor is a wonderful person, BUT . . . .” “He’s a good preacher, but he just doesn’t know how to handle people.” “Our pastor is a deep student of the Word, but he’s such a poor administrator.”
One woman told me, “Our pastor is a real man of God all right. He practices what he preaches. His life is above reproach. But it just seems you can’t get close to him. You know what I mean, he’s the kind of person that—well, you just don’t feel free to call him by his first name.” This woman might just as well have said, “I believe he’s a consecrated, dedicated student of the Word, an outstanding servant of God; but I just don’t like his personality.”
This woman was supposedly a fine Christian leader. Although she must have known better, she failed to recognize that her pastor, in spite of his divine call and wonderful, spiritual qualifications, was nevertheless a man, a human being like everyone else, and for that reason he could not possibly conform to the perfect pattern she had cut out for him. And she’s not alone. Because of this, when a man is called to pastor a church, he’s expected to have almost superhuman qualifications:
• He must a good speaker.
• He must be a deep Bible student.
• He must be a spirited evangelist.
• He must be a compassionate pastor.
• He must have the wisdom of Solomon.
• He must have a pleasing personality and good looks.
• He must be an astute businessman and an effective and efficient administrator.
• He must be creative and original.
And the list goes on. Pity the poor preacher who fails to live up to all of these requirements. Of him it will be said, “Oh, he has his good points, BUT . . . .”
Some time ago I came across an article titled, “Qualifications Of A Good Pastor,” and it further underscores the unreasonable demands often placed on God’s servants. It reads as follows: “A good pastor must have:
the strength of an ox,
the tenacity of a bulldog,
the daring of a lion,
the wisdom of an owl,
the harmlessness of a dove,
the industry of a beaver,
the gentleness of a sheep,
the versatility of a chameleon.
the vision of an eagle,
the hide of a rhinoceros,
the perspective of a giraffe,
the endurance of a camel,
the bounce of a kangaroo,
the stomach of a horse,
the disposition of an angel,
the loyalty of an apostle,
the faithfulness of a prophet,
the tenderness of a shepherd,
the fervency of an evangelist,
the devotion of a mother,
—and still he could not please everybody!”
There would be those who say, “Oh, he’s all right, BUT . . . .” Remember, the Bible says, “There was a man.” And as a man, your pastor can’t possibly be proficient in all things, nor can he do everything to perfection. He’s going to have his failings and shortcomings simply because God sees fit to use a man, and in many cases He chooses the weakest of men. The apostle Paul declared:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
So don’t expect your preacher to be perfect or to excel in every area of the ministry. And try not to act so shocked when you discover that he’s not a combination of outstanding Bible teacher, spirited and effective evangelist, compassionate pastor, inspirational preacher, able administrator, and shrewd businessman all wrapped up in one person. The Lord Himself doesn’t demand that much. The apostle Paul wrote:
Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Cor. 9:26-27).
With all of these things in mind, then, I would encourage you to pray for your pastor, but don’t criticize him. If, however, you just can’t keep it to yourself and you must talk to someone about him, talk to God. And while you’re at it, pray for him. If anyone needs the prayers of God’s people today, it’s the man who labors in the pastorate. I don’t know of many other occupations that can be so demanding and yet so discouraging. And I can think of very few professions that offer so many opportunities for failure.
The pastor not only faces the temptations of his own sinful nature and the world but also the criticism of unsanctified church members and the hatred of sinners. Because of this, he is a special target of Satan’s fiery darts. So pray for him and encourage him. How long has it been since you took your pastor’s hand and, with a firm handshake, expressed your gratitude for his ministry? You’d be surprised, even shocked, if you knew how many pastors go on for weeks and months with very little, if any, encouragement. Somehow people get the idea that the preacher doesn’t need a good word like others do. But just as you appreciate a “pat on the back” for a job well done, so also your pastor welcomes the expression of your thanks and the assurance of your moral support—not praise that would inflate his ego but a word of sincere gratitude for his faithful ministry of the Word.
I hope you’ll remember the lesson suggested by those four words in John 1:6, “There was a man.”
God uses men with all their shortcomings and failures “to bear witness of the Light.” They need your prayers. They need your encouragement. And they need your help. Is your pastor getting that kind of backing from you? If he’s born again, called of God, and faithfully preaching the Word, he deserves your loyalty and cooperation. So think about these things. And then be what you should be to your pastor.