Too often there are many things said to pastors that really shouldn’t be said. This has occurred to me since I have been in ministry now for twenty-nine years. This of course is not the easiest of articles to write either, but I think something needs to be said for the many of us who prepare sermons and preach them on a weekly basis. After all, we are brothers in Christ, called of God to the task of pastoring, teaching and preaching, and we pour our hearts and souls into what we do–at least we ought to be pouring our hearts and souls into it. We are not the “head” of the church; that position belongs to our King, Jesus Christ. We are actually part of the body of believers, undershepherds to our Great Shepherd. So here is what not to say to your pastor:
- You stepped on my toes today, preacher. Now I know that sounds like a compliment, something that some preachers like to hear, and perhaps so. But it is not the intention of pastors to step on anyone’s toes. Nevertheless, when God’s Word is being preached it will inevitably step on someone’s toes and make them feel uncomfortable. This means that you should start examining yourself to see if there is something sinful in you. The psalmist said it like this: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24). Rather than saying that the pastor stepped on your toes, tell him of the conviction that God has placed upon your heart and mind because of the moving of the Holy Spirit through the message preached so he can pray with you and and minister to you in the Lord.
- I disagree with your message. You’re not expected to agree with absolutely everything that the preacher preaches. I get it. Every preacher gets it. We don’t have the corner market on complete absolute truth. But have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “Knowing that the pastor has studied all week-long for his sermon today, could it be that he actually knows more about this subject than I?” If the answer is ‘no,’ then maybe you need to consider what Paul the apostle said: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Notice that the ‘Scriptures’ are what is necessary for correction, not your interpretation of a passage or your disagreement or whatever else you may be thinking. A pastor needs gentle correction from the Word of God just as much as you do. Consider how you may do this showing him the kindness and love that he needs. Remember this rule? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Consider this better still, “Say unto others what you would have them say to you.”
- I really wish you would’ve said this in your message today. Have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps the pastor thought about saying that very thing but the Lord told him not to? There are always issues in the church that need to be addressed, but that doesn’t mean that they need to necessarily be addressed from the pulpit. Moreover, timing on certain things is of utmost importance. Perhaps the pastor knows that he needs to wait to say what it is that you think he needs to say at a different time in a different way than what you might be thinking. Micaiah the prophet said: As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak (1 Kings 22:14). Stop and consider the time and preparation that your pastor puts into his sermons and lessons. His main goal is to say that which the Lord has said to him. We as pastors don’t want to say anymore or any less than what our Lord Jesus Christ desires. This means that you don’t have to tell him what he should and should not have said in his message. Moreover, it may be that you missed what the Lord was saying because you focused so much on what you thought he should’ve said.
- I don’t think that you should’ve preach that message here. Really? Refer to #3 above.
- Are you busy? I don’t mean to interrupt you. It’s a simple question. Most of the time the answer is just as simple: “Yes.” The pastor is always busy. He’s either preparing sermons or he’s visiting with people. He’s either driving to meet someone for lunch or he’s sharing the Good News of King Jesus to someone he just met. Or he’s actually takes a day off to be with his family and he needs that time as much as you do when you have your day off of work. And by the way, just be honest enough to say that you mean to interrupt him. It’s alright to be forthright with him. But by all means, don’t interrupt him after a service if he’s ministering to someone else. Either wait your turn, send him a text or email sometime that day or week, or call him when you know that he’s available. Give him a chance to think through what it is that you’re saying to him or what you’re asking of him. Moreover, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t have the time right then to answer. That’s what voicemail is for which means you don’t have to call, hangup, call again, hangup, and then call again and finally leave a message. Leave a message the first time. You might just be interrupting a witnessing opportunity or his prayer or study time. Don’t expect for him to have all the answers for you either. His main goal is this: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head–Christ–from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16). The pastor wants you to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ; and if he can be of help to you in this regard, he wants to be the one to help. Nevertheless, just be mindful of his time. He realizes that your time is just as valuable to you.
Now don’t mistake this post. This is not a gripe session or a complaint. It’s something for you to think about. It’s something for pastors and congregants to think about.
So here’s your assignment: 1) If you’re a pastor, what else do you think congregants shouldn’t say to pastors? Explain the reason(s) you think what your answer is. 2) If you’re a congregant, how can you encourage your pastor today or this week? Explain the reason(s) you think what your answer is.
There will be a forthcoming post on what pastors ought not say to their congregants.