Often, I will post an article on this blog and a few days later, see that some online pastors’ magazine has lifted it (they have our blanket permission) and shared it with 75,000 of their closest friends. That’s when I find out what a bum I am.
Maybe I should not read the comments at the bottom of those articles, but the temptation is just too overpowering. I end up reading things like:
“What kind of idiot would say such a thing as this?” “I thought it was a positive article and could not wait to read it. Imagine my disappointment when I found out what the writer was saying. McKeever is weird.” “This guy is a Christian?”
It’s all I can do not to respond to such comments, and once in a while I will give in and say something like: “How unkind” or “Such anger,” and leave it there.
Mostly, I read it and go away reminding myself that anyone can subscribe to these online magazines, and often does. Just as there are some bizarre churches in the land purporting to be Christian, they are led by pastors who tend to be just as off-center.
The point being, don’t let it upset you, preacher.
Not that I am above criticism. Far from it. In fact, I love it when someone points out a flaw in my thinking with some well-reasoned evidence or some biblical truth I may have not taken into consideration. Often, I’ll go back into that “WordPress” program and correct the article.
There is, of course, a lesson for pastors here. And that’s the point of this piece.
You may expect even your finest sermon to be attacked; you do not have to respond to every criticism.
Not everyone appreciates Picasso or Beethoven, Thomas Kinkade or Bill Gaither, Peter deSeve or Eric Clapton. Or you and me. (Google any of those you don’t recognize. Except the last two,of course.)
Unless your church is one of the few with highly restrictive requirements for membership, chances are you have a wide and varied assortment of people of every background among your congregation.
By its vary nature–I started to write “by its very nature” but think I like this way better!–your membership will contain people who believe everything imaginable. Most will hold to the basics of the Christian faith, otherwise they’d not be in church. But mixed in with the truth, you will find some who believe in their daily horoscope or Tarot or palm-reading, some who believe that believers can lose their salvation and get it back and lose it and get it back ad infinitum, and others who hold that God helps those who help themselves. And that’s just for starters!
That being the case, ministers and other church leaders must take care…
1) to teach sound doctrine.
“Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine….” (2 Timothy 4:2-3).
2) to choose Bible teachers carefully.
“…entrust (these doctrines) to faithful men (and women), who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Be willing to leave a position unfilled (Dr. Bill Taylor calls these “holy vacancies”) until the Lord raises up the right person for that assignment.
3) to monitor what is taught by those teachers.
The church that puts a teacher in place, then never checks back to see what he/she is feeding the students, is running a high-risk enterprise and abandoning its responsibility. The time to make this clear to the teachers (that they will be monitored and asked to take continued training) is when you first enlist them. Many a pastor carries scars from approaching well-entrenched teachers to require that they begin giving account or take more training or subject themselves to scrutiny. So, start with the incoming teachers, pastors.
4) to have regular on-going training for teachers.
Any teacher unwilling to participate in ongoing training at least annually should not be allowed to remain in place. There must be accountability. (Again, in the case of veteran teachers who are doing a good job but who refuse to take the training or attend occasional accountability sessions, it’s probably best to leave them alone.)
5) to choose only the biblically sound and spiritually mature to serve as church leaders even in non-teaching positions.
Away with the notion that only the teaching positions should be filled with the godly and mature in Christ. The finance committee and personnel committe should have the finest and most Christlike among its membership, too. Many a church has dug a hole for itself by putting in key leadership roles people with a business background but no appreciation for faith-ventures or mission enterprises. Check out Acts 6:1-7 to see the spiritual qualifications of these men chosen for nothing more than waiting tables.
6) to expect that the minister will be criticized by people who a) do not know their Bibles, b) hold bizarre non-Christian teachings strongly, or c) are spiritually immature.
If church leaders cannot abide their pastor being criticized, and even more, if a pastor cannot handle criticism, then all bets are off. Pastors have been ousted from churches because some powerful person with unorthodox beliefs would not allow them to continue teaching biblical principles from the pulpit. The Lord will straighten these people out in His own time to be sure, but the congregation should rise up and demand that the faithful pastors receive the full support of God’s people.
7) to have to learn this the hard way again and again.
Leadership rotates and pastors come and go. Eventually, the congregation loses sight of the problems of our wide open doors which welcome everyone but require very little in the way of orthodox beliefs in order to join.
Therefore, church leaders would do well to remind incoming deacons and other leaders to keep the welcome mat out but their guard up.
If a perfect recipe for misery is trying to make everyone happy, neither will churches be able to satisfy all the needs and gripes and whims of their varied membership. Church leaders must be able to go forward knowing that some of their members are unhappy but have been overruled. This might be a good time to teach Ephesians 5:21 about “being in subjection” to one another in Christ. If they are carnal, of course, they will not be able to receive such instruction and you will frequently find these are church drifters, always on the search for a pastor who will take orders from them.
No church should ever take a vote of the congregation to see what the pastor will be preaching or if he will be allowed to deal with certain subjects. The mature leaders must dedicate themselves to protecting the pulpit.
Let the leaders of the Lord’s church–pastors and lay leaders alike– stay in the Word, stay on their knees, and stay the course.
I am a lay person, who enjoys the challenge of teaching in my church. I find the idea of being monitored and further trained interesting. The training I understand and I try hard to keep up on my topics and new ways to teach adults, but I would welcome more formal training. However, I don’t understand how the monitoring would work. Could you explain that idea further? Best, Bob
Hi Bob. I’m not thinking of a particular program, only some kind of periodic method of “sampling” one’s teaching. Perhaps a few substitute teachers could be enlisted for the Sundays they’re not working, to simply visit various classes as a friend. They would report back to the minister in charge of the Bible classes anything they observe, good and otherwise. Would not have to be a formal program, and certainly it would need to “cut both ways,” so that if the observer noticed that the teacher is overworked or needed encouragement or more resources, they could be their advocate. Thanks! –Joe