A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. –Proverbs 18:24
When someone told me she belonged to the First Baptist Church in a certain city, I said, “I know your pastor very well. Great guy.”
That’s what started it.
“Great guy? I guess so. Yes, I’m sure he is,” said the new friend. “However…”
I did not like the way this was going. This pastor is pure gold, I was certain, and surely there were no glaring negatives.
“However, he’s not very friendly.”
I said, “What do you mean? I always thought he was.”
“I’m sure he is to you and other preachers. But he is reluctant to walk up to someone and greet them, never seems to know anyone’s name, and will sometimes pass you on the street without speaking.”
Oh my. Not good.
She did not ask for me to do anything, so I didn’t. We left the matter there.
I can sympathize with the friend about her pastor. This is not how things should be. A pastor of all people should be warm and friendly, particularly when on his own home turf, the church! The question then becomes “Why isn’t he?” and then “What to do about it?”
Why isn’t the pastor friendly?
–He’s shy. That’s his personality. Always was, is now.
–He’s an introvert. Which is probably the same thing as shy. Not outgoing, somewhat withdrawn.
–Terms like “shy” and “introvert” leave the impression that “he’s just that way” in the same way he is five feet ten inches and has black hair, that nothing is to be done about it.
I think that’s wrong. Bad wrong.
A little online research on the roots of shyness suggests some reasons for it:
- Low self-esteem
- Fear of rejection
Show me a pastor afflicted with any one of those and I’ll show you someone who needs to get over himself. Spiritual maturity should take care of that. Anyone growing in Christ will manifest what Scripture calls “the fruit of the Spirit”–love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. The combination of that will make a person like Jesus and surely will compensate for any tendency to low-self-esteem, self-preoccupation, and fear of rejection.
What to do about it? That is, what should a member do when they realize the pastor’s lack of friendliness is undermining his ministry’s effectiveness?
–In some cases, a gentle word to the pastor is sufficient. But that depends on the pastor, on the one speaking to him, and a lot of other things. Normally, I would not advise this.
–The danger in bringing this to his attention is that he may be wounded, may see it as a deal-breaker for his ministry (“correct this or you’re out of a job”), and may over-react. You don’t want that. You would prefer he go forward as he is now than to become even more self-conscious and to become defensive or reactive.
–I’m going to suggest something that would ordinarily seem strange. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever recommended this to anyone. But here goes…
Send him this article anonymously.
Let me tell you a story….
Some years ago I attended a meeting of the neighbors in a subdivision where we had moved. I knew very few of the people. There must have been fifty in the room. And one lady was upset.
It turned out that her house sat on the corner where my street intersected with the main street. People pulled up to the stop sign, looked both ways, and went forward. However, a huge plant on the corner of her lot blocked their view. And someone had called the law enforcement people. She had no idea who had done the deed.
“A deputy came to my house and ordered me to cut that plant down,” she cried. “I was never so humiliated in my life. Imagine–the police ordering me to do that, like I was a common criminal or something.” She wiped the tears and continued.
“Had you called me on the phone, I would have done it. You didn’t have to report me to the sheriff’s office. That was so unneighborly!”
I had no idea who had called the authorities, but I knew why they had.
Suppose I had called that lady to tell her the plant was blocking my view, that it made the intersection dangerous, and suggested she cut it down. She would have argued with me and probably gotten mad. Even if she had removed the plant, our relationship would have been permanently fractured as a result.
Better that her anger be diffused over the entire neighborhood than lasered on one person!
And so with the pastor. Better that he not know who sent him the article, only that someone cared enough to make a helpful suggestion. After all, Scripture says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
To the pastor I would say:
- We all have an innate shyness, if the truth were known.
- No one is suggesting you become anyone other than who you are.
- Everyone can overcome the feelings of shyness that cause us to neglect to speak to people.
- It’s simply a matter of thinking of them and not of yourself. And that is a conscious decision you make in advance.
- At first, you will have to work at it and make yourself do this. Practice it a few times. Then, before long, it will become second nature to you.
- I used to have a stuttering problem that was so severe I could not answer the phone. In church visitation, I would walk up to the house and not be able to get a word out. Talk about embarrassing!
- It all went away when I made a conscious effort to think of others and not of myself. “I want to bless this person.”
God bless you. Thank you for your faithful service to our Father. Hebrews 6:10 has your name all over it.