Mickey Crane, pastor of a thriving Free Will Baptist Church in Walker County, Alabama, was telling a group something they needed to hear.
The churches in the area were having a community meeting at a ballfield. I attended with my mother and sister and wrote down his statement:
“I understand people who don’t like the preacher. I don’t much like him either and I know him better than you! That’s why I can love and minister to people who don’t like me. I understand.”
How refreshing is that!
And how rare is it. Listen to some of us preachers poor-mouth about church members who do not like us and you’d think it was our right to receive adulation from the world.
Readers of this website know how pro-pastor I am. And, from all I read in Scripture, the Lord Jesus is pro-pastor also. In fact, He said things like this….
–“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives Him who sent me” (Matthew 10:40).
–“The one who listens to you, listens to me; and the one who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects the One who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
Pretty strong stuff. (Granted, He was not talking about pastors as such–a designation that did not exist yet–but the apostles. For my thinking, it’s the same difference.)
But there is another side to it. (And I’m not talking about unfaithful preachers unworthy of the respect and support of their congregations.)
On the one hand, we have (above) how Jesus feels about people supporting the pastor and how He takes it personally when they don’t. To receive the messenger is to receive the One who sent him.
But on the other hand, the minister himself should take a lesson from Pastor MIckey Crane and laugh it off when people are suspicious, hesitant, or even negative. After all, as Brother Mickey said, when you stop and think about it….
–You know some things about yourself which you don’t care for either.
–You could tell your detractors some things about you which would confirm their low opinion of you.
Somewhere I heard of a preacher telling an admirer, “If you knew all there is to know about me, you would spit in my face!”
–Therefore, the disliked preacher should be able to love and minister to his detractors better since he can appreciate their point of view.
I suggest three things…
1) From time to time, tell the congregation the same thing Mickey Crane told his people. Your supporters will appreciate it and smile, and your detractors will find it disarming. That you would agree with them is the last thing they anticipated. But instead of fueling their anger and feeding their hostility, your statement undermines it and ends up drawing people to you.
2) Now, don’t tell them too often lest they start believing you’re hiding something serious and begin looking for it! However, don’t be afraid to tell them again from time to time that you understand the people who do not love you, that you have a hard time loving yourself too. I suggest you find various ways to express this so it doesn’t sound like a canned speech.
3) Get acquainted with Psalm 103:14 and never let it out of your mind. Why? I need to tell you a story….
Recently, a man wrote to tell of a crime he committed some years back for which he was convicted and served a sentence. The guilt he lives under to this day is enormous, and isn’t helped by the lack of encouragement he gets from some of God’s people, he said. One day he told the Lord in prayer how ashamed he was for letting Him down that way. This time, God spoke back to him.
The Lord said, “Do you believe that I am the great I AM? And that I am omniscient?” He assured the Lord he did.
Then, God said, “When a person disappoints another person, it’s because he failed to live up to his expectations. But I am God. I already knew what you were going to do.”
The friend found that liberating and healing. He said, “I no longer carry a pocketful of rocks.”
In my response, after affirming him for this, I called his attention to Psalm 103:14. “For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”
“My brother, God is under no illusion about any of us. He knows us better than anyone could ever possibly know us. Therefore, He knew He was getting no bargain when He saved us. When we sin, the only one surprised is us.”
This allows us to discard the unbearable expectation of perfection which we (and occasionally others) place on our shoulders.
This frees us from the guilt which would torment us day and night, reminding us of our failures and hounding us about our untrustworthiness.
This enables us to appreciate the people with a dim view of us since we know that “we are but dust.” We have come short of the glory of God–like everyone else–and we who are in this body do groan, earnestly awaiting the day of redemption.
Therefore, as my friend Mickey Crane says, we can love our detractors and minister to them since we don’t much like that preacher fellow either!
I recall something Dr. Bill Day told a group of ministers meeting in his church one day. “When I pastored in Florida, there was a fellow who gave me trouble from day one. He fought me on everything I tried to do. When I proposed an idea, he called attention to all the things that could go wrong. When I said ‘yes,’ he said ‘no.'”
“To make matters worse, when we moved to New Orleans, that fellow followed. He’s a member of my church. No deacon gives me half the trouble as this guy. He is my biggest headache.”
Bill paused a moment, then said, “I am that guy. I am my biggest headache, my greatest troublemaker.”
Pray for your pastor. And yes, love him too. Just because the pastor learns to love and minister to his detractors does not mean he doesn’t appreciate someone who supports and prays for him faithfully.