My pastor has this problem. Should I tell him?

“One thing thou lackest.” (Luke 10:42)

Your pastor is a super guy, does a great job in a hundred ways, but he mangles the rules of grammar.

Call it to his attention or not?

Your outstanding pastor violates every standard of dress. Sometimes he looks like a slob and when he dresses up, he seems to have no sense of taste, of what looks good on him.  Should you speak to him? You don’t want to discourage him, but just correct this glaring omission in his total package.

Your pastor’s wife is close to being wonderful. But she has one little problem that is distracting, and could be remedied very easily. She needs to take more care about her personal appearance, or the way she speaks, or her habit of digging people with her teasing, or letting her children run loose in the church building.  Talk to her or let it ride?

Your faithful pastor seems to have a gap in his theological understanding. This is far more important than the color of his tie (or whether he wears one) or how he parts his hair (if he has any).  This is basic stuff.  You could help him. Do you say something, or bite your tongue?

You love your Lord, love your church, and adore a hundred things about your pastor and his family.  You are concerned about one or two small things that are drawing a lot of unneeded attention from critics. Do you give thanks for what you have and let the other things go? Or do you go the second mile in demonstrating your love for his family by telling him (or the wife) that “one more thing” which could make the difference in his succeeding in your church or failing.

Here are a few thoughts on the subject….

1) In most cases, I’d let it go and talk to the Lord about it.  If the pastor is the godly man you say he is, then He and the Lord are in frequent communication and if this is important enough–and you are interceding regarding this–then, the Lord can see that the matter is attended to.

You do believe in prayer for your pastor, don’t you? Good. I thought so.  Then, pray for him.

2) In the matter of clothing, there are good ways to help a pastor who seems clueless without necessarily confronting him about his lack of taste.  Try a gift certificate to an upscale men’s clothing store, and trust that the sales staff will advise him wisely. Or, purchase a great looking dress shirt for him, one more attractive than what he has been wearing.  You might open his eyes to the matter of style.

Is style important? Only to the extent that a lack of it may be distracting from his message and undermining his effectiveness.

3) If you decide you are the one to speak to the pastor about a matter, then pray hard for the Lord to create the opportunity and prepare the way.  Do this in the flesh and nothing good will come from it.

Better to let some minor negative feature go unaddressed than to wound the minister and offend his wife, or injure your relationship with your shepherd.

4) If the matter is of sufficient urgency, and you are the one to speak to the pastor, I suggest that after sufficient prayer for the Father to lead you and prepare him, you consider opening the conversation with Proverbs 27:6. “Pastor, the Bible says ‘faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.’ I’m running a real risk here, of wounding you. But if that happens, please remember they are the wounds of a friend.”

It takes courage to confront. And wisdom as to whether and when to do so. God lead you.

5) I write as one who has been approached by church members over the years for correction.  After it happens a few times, you develop the ability to deal with it and it no longer hurts. The first time, however, it smarts considerably.

The first time, Deacon Carter told me, his kid pastor, that I was using slang in my sermons and it was hurting my effectiveness.  He was right, I quickly realized it, I thanked him, and began to be more careful about my too-casual approach from the pulpit.

Another time, a deacon told me, “Pastor, I know what you mean when you tell people they need to ‘accept God as their Savior.’ But a lot of people believe in God who do not believe in Jesus. Don’t you think you need to tell them to receive Jesus as their Savior?”  He was right, I thanked him, and have appreciated his doing this ever since.

A deacon’s wife called me. “Joe, you were being cute in the sermon last Sunday, but I wonder if it occurred to you how Dixie Lee took that remark about someone looking like ‘a refugee from a polio factory.’ You know, she lives in that wheelchair ever since she had polio as a child, and it just sounded cruel the way you said it.” Whatever I had meant by the dumb expression is lost to history now–if there ever was any meaning to it–but I immediately saw what an idiot I had been, thanked the caller, and phoned Dixie Lee to apologize. She was gracious and no doubt put it out of her mind. But I never forgot.

You don’t need any more of my stories, I suppose.

No one ever reproached me about my English usage, as I used to teach English in high school and have a fairly strong grasp of the subject.  And the few times someone criticized my clothing, it was usually in jest because the suit was checked or striped, but not because I looked like I had just come in from the barn or soccer field.  Once someone criticized my wearing cowboy boots to church on a Wednesday night–this was 25 years ago when people cared about that sort of thing; they don’t now–but I explained that I’d spent the day in the car driving my daughter to college, 6 hours over and 6 hours back, and had not had time to change clothes. It was nitpicking on their part, granted, and I lost no sleep over it.

I once worked alongside a denominational leader who desperately needed to clip his nose hairs. I wanted to tell him so badly, but kept thinking surely someone closer to him should do that. I never did, and every time I saw him, they went unclipped. I still wonder sometimes if I failed him or if I did right by keeping silent on the subject. It’s hard to know.

Mostly, I think we do well by keeping silent unless the issue is of sufficient importance to justify risking offending him.

Be kind at all times, be gentle and Christlike, and in most cases you will not go wrong.


2 thoughts on “My pastor has this problem. Should I tell him?

  1. Thanks for the giggles Joe. I am going to use that “looking like a refugee from a polio factory” next chance I get. Poor Dixie Lee.

    I can’t beat that but I’ll never forget describing Peter as “someone who came into the room teeth first just like a used care salesman” one Sunday morning. Yes, the first time guest who happened to be a used car salesman gave me a piece of his mind as he walked out the door and never returned to First Baptist Marrero.

  2. Great thoughts! I especially appreciate your idea to begin the conversation with Proverbs 27:6.
    Another suggestion could be to read Crucial Conversations, or The Peacemaker. Both are excellent books on handling conflict in healthy ways. They also give insights into how to have these conversations and keep it from becoming a conflict.

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