My pastor friend told me this.
“From time to time, members of my old church–the one where I came to know the Lord and was baptized, was ordained as a deacon and later to the ministry–will tell me they want me to be their new pastor. That is, they do, just as soon as they get rid of the one they’ve got.”
He said, “I will confess that I’ve thought from time to time maybe the Lord might send me back there to pastor. It’s just a thought, you understand.”
“But when people say that to me, I tell them, ‘Okay, here is the only way I would want to become your pastor. Go see your present pastor. Tell him that you are going to support him 100 percent, that you are going to pray for him every day and be his biggest encourager. Then, if and when the Lord leads him away, if God tells me to become your pastor, I would be honored.'”
“Invariably, though, they say to me, ‘But he’s not giving good leadership. The church is suffering under him. He needs to go.'”
“I tell them, ‘Maybe he would if you would love him and encourage him and pray for him. If you would go out of your way to assure him you are supporting him and that he can count on you a hundred percent. You’d be amazed what that does to a pastor.'”
“Frankly,” my friend admitted, “That is not what they want to hear.”
Maybe not. But it’s the wisest counsel possible to God’s people in that circumstance.
Students of the Word will recall when David was running for his life from King Saul. He knew beyond all doubt that God had called him as the next king, and that Saul’s days were numbered due to his disobedience to God. And yet, David honored the king. Furthermore, he insisted that everyone around him honor King Saul also.
I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed. (I Samuel 24:10)
David was one shrewd man.
He knew that if he encouraged the people to disrespect Saul and overthrow him, he was setting the standard so low that the next generation would treat him the same way. So, by raising the bar–by insisting that the king was God’s man, the Lord’s anointed, and thus not to be trifled with–he was insuring that his position as ruler would be more secure.
One wonders about preachers who encourage their buddies in a church to oust the pastor so they themselves can be “called” to that position. Does that preacher think he can do this without a) incurring the wrath of God, b) insulting the office of the pastor, c) disturbing the future health of the congregation, d) creating a scandal which the outside world observes, and e) having the same thing happen to him down the road?
Here are some reasons for preachers to leave the present pastor alone and not encourage members to fire him and hire them.
It is a truism worth remembering that however a church treats the present pastor, they will treat you too if you become the next one.
My friend Jim took a pastorate in the Florida Panhandle. He was certain God was leading in this assignment even though, he told me, that church had run off the previous several preachers after no more than a couple of years each. Call it faith, naivete’, something. Jim would be the exception.
Sure enough, after two years–two glorious years of growth and ministry–they did it. Someone trumped up charges against Jim and the deacons blew it all out of proportion. Soon, Jim was looking for a job.
In fact, the chairman of deacons was so offended by what his group did, he resigned and moved to another church, presumably a healthier one.
It’s like in the wildlife, when an animal gets the taste of blood for the first time.
Let a church terminate a pastor for no good reason and you have just sent a message to the membership: If we have trouble with the next pastors, we can always fire them.
Nothing good comes from this. Nothing. Nada.
Here are two scriptures which ought to be cut in stone and made prominent at every church in the land.
To the ministers: Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…. (Acts 20:28)
To the congregation: Obey those who rule over you and be submissive, for they watch over your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)
I did not say these are easy scriptures to take, that the pastors are God-appointed as the church’s overseers and that the congregations are to submit to their leadership. But there they are.
Someone always asks, “But what if the pastor does something wrong? Unbiblical, unethical, immoral, illegal?”
The answer is: Every church must have a body of lay leaders–call it what you will–who can step into the breach and take action at those times. But it should happen rarely. And definitely not because you (ahem) “think the church needs new leadership,” “find the present pastor’s sermons uninspiring,” or “are ready for a new generation of leaders.”
Support the pastor. Pray for him. Encourage him. It’s a tough job and often a thankless one, except from the Father.