Let the pastor respect his people.

“We being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5).

Has the Lord ever spoken to you through your own words?

One morning recently, I posted the following on Facebook: Pastors, do not ever say that your people do not like change.  There are no 1947 Packards on your church parking lot. Even your seniors drive late-model cars, own flat-screen televisions, and are on the computer.  They do not mind change, so long as it’s not abrupt, not all at once, and not forced on them.  Pastor, respect your people and they may surprise you.

Where did that last sentence come from, I wondered as it flew off my fingers through the keyboard onto the screen.

That was a new thought.

“Pastors, respect your people.”

There is–let us reluctantly admit–a lot of disrespect of church members among the clergy.  Congregations feel it and rarely voice it.  Colleagues in the ministry see it among their peers and rarely mention it. But it’s there.

(Note: Those who read this blog regularly know that a frequent concern of ours is the disrespect church members show toward pastors.  But sadly, the opposite is true also, and needs to be addressed.)

1) When a pastor speaks disparagingly of his people to others, he disrespects them.

Can you imagine a man running down his wife or his children to complete strangers?  Yet, some pastors will say mean-spirited things about their members to other ministers.  They know other pastors will understand and that they are safe to speak their minds in this setting. But this betrays an unloving spirit and is unworthy of a servant called of God to serve His people.

If the Lord’s disciples are known by their love for one another–that’s John 13:34-35 and it’s still in force–it should go without saying that pastors should lead the way in loving and showing that love.

2) When a pastor forces his will on a congregation, he disrespects them.

New pastors are often guilty of instituting wholesale changes in worship services, staff makeup, church ministries, and congregational directions, without asking the members for input.  Few things show a blatant disrespect for God’s people more than the pastor insisting on his way, whether the members support it or not.

3) When the pastor does not seek the input of the congregation on major issues and is inflexible in his proposals, he disrespects them.

No pastor would say “My way or the highway,” but far too many have said, “If you don’t like it, there is the door.”  The pastor who is unwilling to abide–and love and minister to!–members who disagree with him is not a shepherd, but a tyrant.

4) When the pastor expects more from the church members than he does from himself, he disrespects them. 

Unable to discipline himself and control his own mouth, he nevertheless expects them to stifle their dissent and follow his lead.

I keep remembering a time when I was just finishing college and went with Margaret to a football game at the local Baptist school.  We sat behind two preacher boys from that school who spent the entire game discussing their small (and no doubt first) pastorates.  Each seemed to try to outdo the other in describing how dumb or obstinate or backward or ignorant their people were.  I was amazed, and more than a little angry.  (I have no memory of what happened on the football field that Saturday afternoon, but will never forget those two men.)  At the time, I was hoping to pastor a church–some church, somewhere! Any church. And here these two characters were, given the opportunity to shepherd the Lord’s people and were dissing them big time.

5) When a pastor plays the “I am in charge” card, he disrespects the Lord’s body and insults the Lord.

A deacon told me his pastor tries to stifle dissent by insisting, “God put the pastor in charge of the church.  Mine is the only vote that counts.”

Such a view is completely unbiblical and harmful to the body of Christ.

While Scripture does indeed say the Holy Spirit made the pastors the “overseers” of the church–without defining the term or establishing the parameters–it also makes clear that the pastors are to serve the congregation, not dominate them. (See I Peter 5:2ff and 2 Corinthians 4:5 for starters.)

Let the pastors respect their people.

A pastor demonstrates love and respect for his congregation in a thousand ways.  Here are some of them….

1) He prays for his people in private.

I strongly suggest that in most cases, the person praying for someone not tell them “I prayed for you today.”  The hard fact is that some of us spend more time telling people we pray for them than we do actually praying.  The best evidence that I believe in the power of prayer is to a) do it and b) not tell you I’m doing it, but simply trust the Lord to hear and answer.

A pastor friend of mine used to have his church members on a rolodex (remember those?) so he could pray for certain ones each day and move the card file along for the next day.  However we do it, we should.

2) He speaks of his members to others with respect.

He is proud of his people.  I keep thinking of Solomon’s prayer as he assumed the leadership of the nation. “Lord, who am I to lead so great a people?”  (See I Kings 3:9.  One wishes this son of David had retained that humility and appreciation for the privilege of leading instead of seeing the throne as his right and abusing the opportunities.)

The pastor does not refer to his members as “my bunch” or “that group” or “those people.”  They are the Lord’s disciples, imperfect, yes, but the Lord’s nevertheless.

3) He does not demand that his people follow him, but earns their trust by serving them.

Few tests will reveal more about a pastor’s true character than how he behaves when the congregation votes down a project dear to his heart.  At this point, you are about to learn whether he is a mature and godly servant or a spoiled brat.

4) When the lay leadership balks at something he is proposing, a pastor who loves his people will take that to heart and back up, to listen, to reconsider, and to revise his plans.

I fear for the pastor who never gets a comeuppance from a balking congregation.  It feels awful but in the long run, this can be one of the finest gifts a people can give a maturing pastor.

5) A pastor respects his congregation when he treats the lowliest and poorest as though he/she were the greatest, the most powerful, the most deserving.

You and I serve a Lord who said, “When you give a dinner, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” (Luke 14:13).

If you ever catch your pastor in an unguarded moment when he thinks no one is watching and you see him showing kindness to the panhandler on the corner or giving a hug and a prayer to the poor elderly widow in the congregation, you have just learned a thousand things about your pastor.

And all of them good.

6) The pastor respects his people when he celebrates the achievements and victories of the children, the youth, the elderly, etc., in the same way he does the key leadership.

The pastor learns that one of his members is receiving a farewell send-off for his retirement.  That member sits on the back row in church and would be surprised to know the preacher even knows he’s there. To his amazement, the pastor shows up at his retirement party.  For the rest of his life, he remembers that.  It took a half-hour from the pastor’s day, but one person was encouraged forever.

There are so many ways we show our respect for the people to whom God has sent us.  In doing so, we honor the Lord and strengthen the church.  We set a great example for God’s people, and we blacken the eye of the devil.

Anytime you can do all those things in one day, you’ve had a great day.

Pastor, when we pray for ourselves each day, let us pray this also, that we will honor these precious souls who have been entrusted to our keeping.  After all, we will some day stand before the Great Shepherd of the sheep and give account for how we treated them.

“(Leaders must) watch out for your souls, as those who must give account….” (Hebrews 13:17). 


8 thoughts on “Let the pastor respect his people.

  1. Did you send a personal copy of this article to each pastor in the LBC?
    Will you? There is no clear probability that they will ever read it otherwise.

  2. Bravo! I work as a mediator/peacemaker in church conflict from time to time. I’ve hear the statement in #3 almost weekly, “If you don’t like, there’s the door…” or something to that effect. I’ve always looked at like this, “They were there when I got there, will most likely will be when I leave.”

    In the broader sense, it is Christ’s church. In the practical sense, it is their church. They’re part of that local body who’s been through growth, joy, failure, sadness, etc…

    You’d be surprised how asking permission to change something will work for you. Something as simple as, “Do you think we could try… for awhile. It’s worked for me really well in the past and I think you’d like it….” Works much better than, “I can’t believe you’ve been doing…like this all this time. Well, that’s going to change as of right now.”

    Seems obvious, but…

    • I agree with that approach. The problem is the pastor who cuts you off because he is in charge and knows better than anyone else.

  3. I would like to ask the question of why the pastor sometimes does not respect some of the people. I saw pastors who were invited to speak in chapel when I was an undergrad at a Christian university. However, their talk/sermon seemed to be directed towards either the faculty or older guests. Even worse was that some of them railed against the students. I cringed and thought that their words would do more to run people off from Christianity than help anyone. I am not sure if those who spoke were trying to score points with someone or some group or were showing how well the toed the line.

    • Mark, I grieve at pastors who do such a thing. But you have analyzed it correctly I think. Pastors who speak at a university and address the “adults” (professors, administration, etc) are too much in awe of their surroundings and more intent on protecting themselves from being scoffed at a few hours later. Meanwhile, the student body sits there bored out of their heads. Great opportunity missed.

  4. It is my second year as chairperson of the Staff Parish Relations Committee in our Local Church. A lay member of our committee related to me yesterday that she heard and saw from a distance inside the church school office scolding our Associate Pastor saying: “Pastor! when I am talking, do not talk!” infront of a newly baptized lay youth. later, the Asso Pastor relayed to the senior Pastor his experience with the lay leader. Last summer I told our Senior Pastor, that I am planning to resign, coz, can’t help mend relationships coz I also feel that other elected officers don’t seem to believe in what I can. I I happen to share good insights, at first it is appreciated towards the end of the discussion they would raise a question implying it won’t work(it looks like downsizing my credibility). what would you suggest?

  5. My pastor doesn’t have as much Bible education as I do. So he puts me down in front of other people and doesn’t recognize me as he does others who have less or no Bible education. This has trickled down to other members. I have to leave the Church now but I can’t because I am at this time poor and disabled. Until I get back to work and save up for a car I am stranded at this Church. I pray daily that The Lord will help me endure the disrespect I get from this Church. I have been going there for years and it’s a shame that I have to leave this Church but can’t do it at this time. It takes a while to get acclimated in a Church. Please pray for me. Thank you.

  6. This all boils down to the command Christ gave to love one another and later in Paul’s writings. When it talkes about love, it’s the Agape kind that comes from Christ and is mentioned in Revelation in the letter to the Ephesian church. That kind of love will be respectful irrespective of the other person’s lack of social standing. I have a pastor who to me has said on occasions to do a project e.g. a magazine and that with help say from the office items would be collated. Then nothing happens, not even something from the pastor who is a trained journalist. So nothing can be published. After a little while there suddenly is an announcement in e.g. a prayer meeting that SoandSo is doing a more professional magazine (that person has never done one nor knows how to, whilst I’ve done several and know my way around software). This guy Does get the support.
    Another time it’s creation of a new website. I have asked for some putting heads together as to what to include, exclude, hirarchaeical access, some elders profiles to give a human touch etc. When I send an email (I don’t send many) they never or very rarely get acknowledged or answered. Then a young lady wants to do the website and I am told to give it up. On a recent conference the point was made that it’s all the youth. (I love the youth but the scripture is never ageist and always talks in terms of body and together, to encourage each other, bear one anothers burden and to look not just on your thing but also that of others. (unfortunately more often than not it’s a case of wanting another persons ministry and, especially if the other person is wealthy or has accalades that is encouraged. If a person with a ministry just the once wasn’t able to attend a leadership meeting no respect is shown to the person who does that ministry. It should really be a case of “this is Jacks ministry” and to respect that, rather than to grab it quickly.
    Another one is favouritism where a person is in charge of something but is awkward and unhelpful; he and his family won’t work with anybody but being pastor and elders pet (especially where elders don’t function as checks and balances as well as support to the pastor), that kind of behaviour is sanctioned. Other ministries might suffer because an ingredient necessary to their ministry is not forthcoming.
    The working together as a body, small or large with people able to relax what they are doing will bring glory to God (by this shall all men know that you are my disciples because you love one another) and may well be a vehicle to open up conversations that advance individual participants in that group in their walk with God.
    There is hardly ever any preaching on inetrrelational aspects the Bible majors on, but rather, if someone is disappointed or upset, the first thing that kicks in is spiritoanalisys in how secure they are in Christ.
    If God generated love is not evident it then causes unnecessary stress, earache (clanging cymbals – God’s word might even be wasted), heartache, bellyache (anger and discent) and a dismembered and therefore disfunctional body. As we are to be Christ to one another, being each others servant. If the image of Christ towards some members of the body is portrayed distorted, it won’t serve to attract each other towards Christ but to repel each other. If love doesn’t work in the body first and foremost, don’t bother with any activities towards the world, while loyal members feel compelled to resign, quit and to give up.
    It might be worth remembering that as God asked Cain where his brother Able was; if we forget that the Lord is coming back and start to beat our fellow servants who are btw as far as Christ is concerned, His brothers, an answer will be required as to who we killed off!

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