Each week, a congregation expects its pastor to preach the Scriptures, call people to prayer and salvation, administer the sacraments, pray for the sick, comfort those who mourn and encourage the saints. That’s a full and joyful weekend that every pastor enjoys. However, our vocation invites some unwanted pressures as well.
Because our culture is so divided and full of vitriol, a pastor is expected to speak out on a host of social concerns while also proclaiming the Good News. Pastors often feel like a referee in the pulpit, trying to calm fears, fire up the team and squelch tantrums, sometimes all at once. In the past year, I’ve had conversations, read social media posts or received emails asking me to:
“Preach more salvation messages”
“Preach more about politics”
“Preach less about politics”
“Preach more often about racial reconciliation”
“Don’t preach about immigration, unless you agree with my politics”
“Preach more about healing and miracles”
“Tell people who to vote for this year”
“Thanks for not telling us how to vote”
“You never preach on the end times. What about the blood moon and the earthquakes in Oklahoma?”
“You should honor grandparents more often”
I could continue. Seriously, there are more. What is a pastor to do? There are really two reasons we became a pastor – we love Jesus and we love people. Certainly, we want to be liked and respected, but our allegiance and alignment is to Jesus and even he rarely pleased everyone, nor did he try.
After almost two decades of preaching and teaching, I’ve stumbled upon some wisdom that’s kept my heart pure and my mind clear. These seven ideas have kept me focused and away from my need to please or my desire to perform for approval.
1. Preach the entire counsel of the Scriptures. Do not skip over the difficult texts or focus only on your favorite topics. With this as your guide, the Holy Spirit will help you cover all the significant issues in due time.
2. Love your people, but do not fear them. Criticism is part of the job, but so are the miracle stories of lives changed. Learn what you can from the critics, but celebrate the wins of ministry often.
3. Hang around smart, mature and positive people. We always need the encouragement and the wisdom.
4. Listen intently to opposing views, because that’s how we learn empathy.
5. Preach with boldness but not with anger. God is not mad at us, even when we’re wrong. We should not be mad, either.
6. Do not neglect the marginalized. The widow, the unborn, the orphan and the stranger often cannot help or speak for themselves.
7. Preach Jesus. A lot. We need his words, his way, and his life in the church, more than ever.