Let me go ahead and say it: Pastors aren’t perfect.
Surely that isn’t new information for anyone, but I can almost hear you saying, “Well thanks for that news flash Captain Obvious.” But let me ask, if we already know that why do we expect different from our pastors?
Ironically, I’m not just talking to the dear brothers and sisters who gather each week in our pews. I’m also talking to the men who stand in the pulpit in front of those pews. Both groups know the truth yet too often live in the world of unmet expectations rather than reality.
I’ve obviously been a member of both the pew and pulpit groups and I know any pastor worth his salt has a high expectation of himself. He wants to serve the Lord and the Lord’s people well. He feels the responsibility of being God’s shepherd. Every pastor wants his church to thrive, grow, love the spiritually lost, and love each other. He wants to lead an evangelistic and financially generous church. Every pastor wants to succeed; no pastor plans to fail.
Unfortunately, that blissful illusion isn’t real.
I’ve struggled with pastoral expectations myself so I wanted to offer a few thoughts for both pastors and church members in pursuit of the perfect pastor.
Pastor own it, you’re not perfect. You are never going to be perfect this side of heaven — you know that — so quit trying to be everywhere, do everything, and please everyone. You’re running yourself ragged and burning yourself out. Worse, you’re going to compromise your health and possibly compromise your family. God never intended for you to sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry, and a drive for perfection sets you up for imminent failure. Kill that idea.
Lean into the One Who is perfect. I recognize I’m again stating the obvious, but I know pastors and we have to fight the distractions that pull us away from a devotional time, which must be separate from sermon prep time. We need to daily sit at the feet of Jesus and just enjoy His presence. He is the One who renews, restores, and reenergizes. You can only serve from the overflow of His grace in your life, so you need to drink often from His refreshing fountain.
Remember your people aren’t perfect either. You may have chuckled at that if you’re a pastor, but let’s be honest, we place expectations on others just like they place expectations on us. Work at grace and mercy. Labor in prayer. You’re their pastor not their Savior so don’t try to be. But try very hard to be the hands and feet of Jesus and shepherd His people well.
There are two sides to every pulpit so here are a few thoughts for those sitting in the pews.
Congregation, own it. Your pastor isn’t perfect. Too often people expect the pastor (and his wife) to be everywhere, do everything, and please everyone. But think about this from your perspective. Could you meet those demands and expectations? Your pastor may miss a hospital visit, forget to return your call, or say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Have you ever done anything similar? Remember your pastor is a man traveling this life’s broken road just like you and trying very hard to live up to the calling God has placed on his life.
Lean into the One Who is perfect. Just like your pastor, you can’t live this life apart from drinking in the grace and mercy that flow from our Lord and Savior. One of the greatest ways you can serve the Lord is to serve your pastor and your fellow church members. Be a person of peace and prayer. There was/is no greater encouragement to me as a pastor than when someone grabs my hand, looks me in the eye and says, “Bro. Randy, I’m praying for you and your family.” That is like a shot of spiritual steroids and often the Lord allows those moments when I’ve needed it the most. Allow the Lord to use you as an encourager to others.
Embrace a Great Commission lifestyle. If you want your pastor to lead well, the greatest way you can help is to “live a life worthy of the calling with which you’ve been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Your pastor was called to “equip the saints for the work of ministry,” not be the church’s only minister. Jesus calls every follower to be on mission in the world around them. I can tell you, with four million people in Tennessee having no relationship to Christ, it is going to take a lot more laborers in the field than just the handful of pastors we have in our state. Any way you slice it, Tennessee is a missions field, and every believer is a missionary.
No one is perfect, so we need to quit expecting more from ourselves and more from others than any of us can deliver. Other people are not our enemies. It takes a boat load (7×70) of forgiveness, from both sides of the pulpit. Let’s live as people of grace, loving one another, and loving the spiritually lost. Let’s help each other finish strong.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.