Here’s part one in a two-part series of posts called Seven Things Pastors Should Never Say. In full disclosure, many of these things were learned the hard way, because I said many of these things. So with that apology out in the open, here’s the list:
1. We’re not here to reach churched people. Yes, Jesus said he came to earth to seek and save the lost. But that was not the ONLY thing he did. He also spent significant time teaching a small group of followers, who He said would go on to do greater things. I understand he heart behind reaching the lost, and I understand tailoring certain environments to accomplish that person. But in your zeal to reach the lost, don’t discount the comprehensive mission of the church – to go into all the world and make disciples.
When you say “we’re here to reach unchurched people…there are plenty of churches for Christians” you alienate people of faith and communicate that they have no real place of ministry in your church. You insult the 65-year-old grandmother who has served Jesus and children for 40 years. Whether you mean to or not, you foster a spirit of competition among area churches over who is more evangelistic and who is more missional and who is more Bible-based.
Say, “We care about reaching the lost,” but don’t say you don’t care about church for Christians.
2. Our people are just different. Yes, there is a difference between rural people and urban city-dwellers. There is a difference between small churches and mega-churches. But don’t use this excuse. When you can’t raise money for that project, don’t say, “my people are just different…they don’t make as much money as the people in other churches.” When your leaders don’t show up for a meeting, don’t say, “Our area is just different because people are busier here.”
People have been the same since the Garden of Eden – they are broken by sin and in need of grace. There are nuances that should mark your ministry, but people are people.
Don’t let a love for your city turn into arrogant thinking. Just because you’ve spent six years ministering in downtown Chicago doesn’t mean that everyone from the south has no idea how to reach people living in cities. Just because pastor an 80-member church in rural America doesn’t mean materials created in Nashville or a mentor from Atlanta can’t teach you a thing or two about ministry.
There are parts of your ministry that are unique to you community. And there is a human nature that’s the same everywhere.
3. I don’t counsel people. This kind of statement insulates you from the congregation, and while you might think you need to do that in order to go to the next level, bragging about your refusal to engage hurting people isn’t going to do you any good. You might not to be the primary counselor, especially if you’re not trained to handle specific situations. But you should counsel someone. You should stay connected at some level, because it’s helpful, and because you’ll stay connected to a hurting group of people who look to you for advice.
If you pastor a large or rapidly growing church, you may not visit everyone in the hospital, but you should visit someone, and you should create a system that does provide personal pastoral ministry to everyone. “I don’t visit people in the hospital, so if I show up, you know it’s bad,” might sound funny from the stage, but it’s a condescending position that attempts to maximize your visible value to the church. But mostly, it makes people feel unimportant.
Refusing to engage people, even if it’s a small group of people, on a personal level isn’t good leadership – it’s ministry arrogance. I was guilty of this in the past, and I was wrong.
4. If I talk about money, people will leave. Apologetically preaching on money won’t do you good in the long run. Unchurched people aren’t stupid – they know it takes money to run a church. Don’t be held hostage by fear, either of offending the unchurched or running off a key donor. Develop a holistic approach and a systematic plan for taking about one of the most important subjects facing 21st century America.
The reality is this: when you talk about money the right way, people are helped and they grow closer to Jesus. Tearing down the idol of greed is an important part of the discipleship process, and it should not be avoided or done in secret. Christians need to understand that it’s not feeling generous but acting generous that means their generous. They need to understand the Biblical principle of stewardship. People who are not Christ-followers still feel burdened by debt and out-of-control spending, and they crave helpful advice on the subject.
So pastor, don’t apologize for talking about money. Don’t introduce a sermon or a series on money with an apology or a 5-minute disclaimer. Preach the whole counsel of God’s Word with boldness.
5. Pastoring a church is so hard and so different from every other job. I’ve written about this before, but as pastors, it’s time to stop whining about how hard you have it. Publicly discussing the holy hangover, the emotional Monday morning effect that comes from preaching multiple times on Sunday might earn you sympathy points with other pastors, but most regular church members think it’s silly. In their minds (and remember, perception feels like reality), you stood in front of people for an hour and talked – something they would love to do on a regular basis instead of working the night shift or meeting a sales quota.
Other pastors understand the spiritual battle and the emotionally draining reality of leading a church, but trying to convince your congregation of this will make you seem out of touch. And in some ways, full-time pastors who set much of their own schedules, have work meetings over Starbucks or lunch, and speak to large groups of people for a living have things much better off than the salesman who has to meet a quota or the teacher who has to create lesson plans and IEPs.
Check back tomorrow for the final two things.