How Do You Talk About Your Pastor?

How Do You Talk About Your Pastor?

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When I had planned to write about encouraging our pastors for week 5 of the ROCK THE BODY challenge, and specifically about how we talk about our pastors in public, I had no idea how applicable the topic would be. This past weekend the pastor of my church, who had served for 12 years, put in his resignation. He’s been sensing for a while that God was moving him into the next phase of his ministry by spending more time writing and speaking. Even though it wasn’t entirely unexpected, it’s still something the congregation will have to adjust to. So of course, people started talking.

Including me. Over soup at Panera with my friends, our usual Sunday church tradition, we processed the news. I talked about it with a co-worker the next day. I asked a friend who was out of town and missed the service what her reaction was to the news. But as I talked with people, this blog assignment was heavy on my mind. I didn’t want to speculate or spread rumors about why he was leaving or what was or wasn’t said about the situation.

Just as it’s easy to speculate about why a pastor leaves, it’s easy to complain about the pastor’s last sermon or why we didn’t like that version of the Chris Tomlin song or how our church doesn’t have a singles ministry that meets our needs. But do we spend equal time talking about which part of the sermon we found personally convicting or how talented the volunteer worship team members are? Complaining might be easier, but is it helpful? Usually not.

What if we made a commitment to encourage our pastor and church leaders by only speaking well about them publicly? What if instead of complaining about all the problems with the church (and every church has them) we looked for solutions? What if instead of speculating about the decisions the pastoral team makes, we committed to praying for them?

Here are a few verses we can pray over our pastors and church leaders instead:

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18).

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:14-19).

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  • --Pryaing for your pastors and elders is generally a good thing to do. They tend to have thankless jobs that don't pay as well as the management positions they could get in corporate America.

    Wouldn't the suggestion of not complaining about the pastor publicly be a specific case of the general prohibition on gossip? It is a good example of how gossip can be destructive.

  • --I try really hard not to complain about or criticize my pastor in public.  This includes talking about him with close friends, even those who don't go to the same church.  No, he's not perfect, and I do have some concerns about the direction that he is taking the church, but I think he's truly doing the best he can, and I think he is trying to follow God's leading.  

    One thing that really forces me to be careful about how I talk about my pastor is the fact that his wife participates in my small-group at church...she's a delightful person and I would never want to hurt her by thoughtlessly speaking ill of her husband.  If I ever have to leave that church for some reason, she will probably be one of the first to know, and I will do my best to ensure that there are no hard feelings.

    And here's a question for you wise folks: Do you feel that getting to know your pastor (and/or his family) on a personal level helps, or harms, your ability to support him?  I do realize that there may always be a certain level of "distance" that is kept between a pastor (and his family) and the "normal" church members, so "personal level" may be relative to the situation!

  • --MissC1,

    "I do realize that there may always be a certain level of "distance" that is kept between a pastor (and his family) and the "normal" church members"

    Why? I know it is that way in some churches but I would see it as a negative thing... I don't think I could be part of a church where I wasn't able to get to know the pastor on a personal level.

  • --I try to be respectful of my pastor when i speak of him--if i speak in disagreement to someone for whatever reason, I try to focus on what I disagreed with, but not speak of him personally in a negative fashion.  And even then I try to weigh very carefully whether I SHOULD be disagreeing and speaking to anyone else about it. Pastors need our support and encouragement, absolutely. It's easy to criticize, much harder to lead.

    Well, I went to a church for awhile where there was a kept a level of distance between the pastor/pastor's family and the everyday person in the church. It ended up with the his family being slightly cliquish and his grown kids not really reaching out in friendship to others their age in the church because they were so entwined with their own family. And I feel like alot of people slipped through the cracks in the church because of the lack of personal friendship with the pastor and his family. I'm not putting him and his family down, just saying to me, being in a church means you build community with EVERYONE there, pastors and their families included. The pastors I most respect are the ones who are perfectly fine becoming frirends with their congregants. I know not everyone will have the same friendship with the pastor, just as not everyone will have the same friendship with everyone else--we all click with different people in different ways--but on the whole, being part of the body of Christ means anyone and everyone in it has the potential at least to become you friend, however deep the friendship actually goes. Just my 0.2% :-)

  • --Coming from the other side of things, I'm a PK and still go to my father's church. Can I just say from personal experience how much it hurts when people gossip about their pastor? Even if you think you're just sharing with a friend or are concerned about issues, talk to him first before you start to speculate. Please. You have no idea how painful it can be to his whole family or how damaging to the ministry.

  • --Good post

    I think the scriptures listed, and committing to pray for one's pastor, are great ideas.    

  • --"I do realize that there may always be a certain level of "distance" that is kept between a pastor (and his family) and the "normal" church members, so "personal level" may be relative to the situation!"

    There may be, but I don't think that should be the case. I love when I can spend relaxed downtime with my pastor, and other people in church leadership. The cult of the pastor is one of the big problems that American churches face, and sometimes it's good to remember that my pastor is another person who has a messy house, and occasionally yells at his kids, and gets tired and frustrated just like the rest of us. Underneath that alb is one more human being.

  • --Thanks to those of you who have responded to my question!  To answer it myself, I think that I'm much more likely to respect my pastor if I know him and his family on a more personal level.  I've certainly been part of churches where the pastor wouldn't mingle with the average church members, a member sought him out...and then, there were umpteen secretaries one had to go through in order to get an "audience" with that pastor.  Fortunately, that's not the case in the church I'm at now!  

  • "I've certainly been part of churches where the pastor wouldn't mingle with the average church members, a member sought him out...and then, there were umpteen secretaries one had to go through in order to get an "audience" with that pastor. "

    I've been in a lot of churches like that, and they made me crazy. In a situation like that, the next thing that naturally follows is a hierarchy of members who do and don't have access to the pastor, increasing competition to improve one's rank, and a "cult of the pastor" that has everyone tripping over themselves to get to a person they barely know. It's like middle school all over again, but with more money.

    In my church anyone can access the priest, because almost everyone knows everyone (and it helps that it's pretty small.) Right after I joined, my priest invited me out to coffee to discuss any questions I might have. We wound up spending four hours in the basement of one of the local coffee shops discussing church history and theology. I've done the same thing with our deaconess. She and her deacon husband (a Priscilla and Aquilla team if ever there was one) have the church over for caroling and a party every Christmas. When our music director's son was going through chemo, I brought them a meal, and they kept me for dinner and games.

    None of that would be out of place if those people were average lay members of the church. But since they're leadership, there's an impression that we have to wade through a security clearance and get a background check before we can even speak to our pastors. I think we've lost track of what leadership means, especially the Christian version of servant leadership. I serve my priest, he serves me.

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