I’ve said some of these things before, and when I’ve said them I’ve been wrong. But here is a list of six things pastors shouldn’t say.
1. Pastoring a church is so hard and so different from every other job.
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 is reality for most people), 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 and have work meetings over Starbucks or lunch, have things much more manageable schedule than the cashier who stands on her feet for ten hours or the teacher who has to create lesson plans and IEPs.
2. We’re here to reach the lost, not churched people.
Jesus said he came to earth to seek and save the lost. But He also spent significant time teaching a small group of followers. 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. God loves everyone, even Christians.
3. I don’t counsel people.
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. I made this mistake. You might not to be the primary counselor, especially if you’re not trained to handle specific situations. But 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.
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. Can I get a pastor discount?
There are many underpaid pastors in the world, including Lead Pastors, Youth Pastors, and missionaries. I remember my first job in ministry when I asked for a raise and was told “We’ve always wanted to get you UP to the level of a public school teacher but it’s going to take many years.” I could write about this for a really long time, but that’s not my point today.
Good stewardship is a good thing, but poor-mouthing brings dishonor to the profession and calling of pastor. I know a pastor who asked for a “pastor discount” at Home Depot – apparently, new kitchen cabinets can be used for the Lord’s Work. I really do understand the financial limitations of most pastors and churches, but in my humble opinion, constantly asking for discounts seems to cheapen the importance of what pastors do.
I’m not advocating extravagant spending, either from the church or the leader, but a cheap mentality is deadly. It leads to broke thinking, and that hurts the church.