I’ve had the privilege of working with pastors from all kinds of tribes and ministry contexts. Though no two pastors are the same, we do share a lot of the same hopes for our churches. We share a lot of the same frustrations too. And while I obviously can’t speak for all pastors, I’ve spoken with enough to know I’m not alone in hoping I never hear these phrases again.
- “Good Sermon”
Can I tell you something about pastors? We didn’t get into this business for the pats on the back. We got into it because we long to see God do in your life what we’ve seen him do in our lives and the lives of so many others.
That’s why we pastor. That’s why we preach.
When someone says “good sermon,” it immediately tells me the sermon was, in fact, not that good. I missed it. I don’t want people thinking about me when it’s over. I want them thinking about the great God who put this all together and who pursues them now in Jesus. You really want to pay us a compliment? Don’t tell us how good our sermon was. Tell us how good God is and how he is moving you to respond to the words you just heard.
- “We’re Church Shopping”
I just threw up in my mouth a little. You’re shopping for a local expression of the body of Christ in the same way you might shop for a new pair of jeans? I wonder, what criteria did you use when making your shopping list? Make, style, brand recognition, getting the most bang for your buck?
Saying you are church shopping is like searching for the right answer by asking the wrong question. We don’t have a fashionable product or a red-tag special to lure you in; just a cause to lay down your life for. The call of Jesus is still to come and die (Mk 8:34-35) and I’m afraid that isn’t very marketable.
So don’t tell us you’re shopping. Tell us the kind of church you’d love to be a part of; one you could see yourself serving others in. We’d love to help you find that church, wherever it might be.
- “You Know What You Should Do… ”
I’m sorry. Did I just shout that?
It’s just that you are the fourth person to enlist me to champion their cause today and I just can’t. If your pastor is like most, he probably can’t either. You see, we pastors have a nasty habit of taking on more than we can handle and it’s our families who pay the price. This is one of the reasons why surveys continue to show most pastors and their spouses are neither happy nor healthy. Those of us who are striving to do better are going to have to say no… a lot.
Not only is this critical for the health of your pastor, but it’s just as important for the health of your church. When pastors try to do all of the ministry themselves, or chase every good idea brought their way, everyone loses. The original twelve quickly realized this (Acts 6:1-7).
The truth is, your pastor’s job isn’t to do the work of the ministry; it is to equip you to do the work of the ministry (Eph 4:11-12). So you see a need? A gap in our church? An area in which we’re dropping the ball? Wonderful! Perhaps the Holy Spirit is nudging you to put those gifts he’s given you to work.
Instead of delegating work to your pastor, ask whether it might be something you could personally step into, something you could help implement or help find a solution to. And if you don’t know, that’s okay. A simple “I’d love to help but I’m not sure how or where” goes a long way. Chances are your pastor would love to help you find a spot where you can begin contributing.
- “We Just Don’t Feel Connected”
Most of us long to feel connected to those in our church. As a pastor, I so badly want that for you too. That said, some of us seem to think connection just sort of happens when we find the right church. It’s natural; easy even. But a quick read through the New Testament reveals something quite different.
If Paul’s letters are any indication, the early church struggled with many of the same things we do: interpersonal conflict, theological differences, conflicting agendas, hard-to-love people, and lots of sin in its various forms. What bonded them together was not some utopian expression of church, but a deep commitment to God and to one another. They ate together, prayed together, gave sacrificially together, studied the apostles teachings together and applied those teachings together. It was messy and it was hard, but they resolved to do it together. What would lead us to believe it should require any less of us?
The bad news is your pastor probably can’t be your personal relationship concierge. The good news is you don’t need a program or permission to begin experiencing the same kind of connectedness the early church enjoyed. Open up your home. Invite people around your table. Share your stories with another. Pray for one another. Begin reading, discussing and applying the scriptures alongside one another. Do that and see what happens.
The truth is community is never easy, natural, or convenient, but it is always worth it. So rather than telling your pastor that connection isn’t happening as quickly or as effortlessly as you’d hoped, ask whom you might invite into your home to initiate connection with. Chances are your pastor has more than a few ideas.
- “I’m Not Being Fed”
“I’m not being fed” is often just a spiritualized way of saying, “Your preaching isn’t doing it for me anymore.” Worse yet, it has the appearance of being holy because it alludes to Jesus’ words in John 21.
However, the statement “I’m not being fed” represents a passive attitude that makes discipleship difficult. It puts an expectation on the sermon that no number of sermons can possibly deliver while ignoring altogether the individual and communal responsibility for spiritual growth outside of what happens in a sermon.
Let me illustrate. We have an eight-month-old son we have to feed constantly. From preparing the food to physically putting the spoon in his mouth, we have to do everything for him. But you know who we don’t have to spoon feed anymore? Our seven-year-old. She has grown to the point where she can now feed herself. And one day she will be able to actually prepare the food and feed others. This is just a part of growing up.
Growing up in Christ is not all that different.
The goal for believers should never be to find a pastor under whom we can saddle up in a high chair for the rest of our lives. The goal should be to become disciples who can feed ourselves from the Source so that one day we can actually feed others and then teach them to do the same.
Let us not forget Jesus’ Great Commission was not just for pastors and missionaries, but for all who would come after Him. This means to be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker. And while your pastor certainly has a role in this, so do you. So if you’re not feeling “fed,” I’d encourage you to ask whether it may be time to pick up the spoon.