It’s great for pastors to admit there are things they cannot do. Sometimes they need to make this known to their people so that they realize there are things their pastor cannot do. When I read Chuck Lawless’ article the other day on “12 Things a Pastor Cannot Do“. I couldn’t help but chuckle and felt urged to respond in someway. So I’m responding here. His post is what you see in black. My comments are in blue.
Pastors are, in my judgment, amazing people. They faithfully serve Sunday after Sunday, often with no desire for recognition or fame. In faith, they can do a lot—but here are several things they can’t do:
1. Read minds. Everybody knows that, but many church members hold pastors accountable for unstated expectations. Yep, that’s a reality I’m afraid. But the reverse can also be true: pastors sometimes think their people should be able to read their minds.
2. Be everywhere. No human being can be every place at once, yet some members still get angry when pastors have to say “No.” I’ve certainly struggled with this one. Part of the problem is my people-pleasing tendency (which is a form of pride – I want people to think well of me). I wind up to saying “yes” to things I don’t really want to be at and then sit there wishing I was somewhere else (which is usually at home with my family, where I should have been in the first place). I don’t sense that same pressure here at Grace, which is a blessing. They are still getting used to the idea of a Lead Pastor. I tend to be treated like everyone else.
3. Change hearts. Only God can do that. A reality I have to live with everyday.
4. Know everything. Most pastors study hard, but nobody can answer every question somebody asks. “You’re the pastor – you’re supposed to know this!” Yeah right.
5. Please everybody. Even Jesus couldn’t do that. This is one that I need to keep reminding myself of.
6. Live sinlessly. Nobody can. Including you. And me. We’re all sinners. That’s very true. However God does hold pastors to a high standard (James 3:1, 1 Tim 3:2). They do and will sin, and their people need to understand this. But if the sin is public, the repentance of that sin needs to be public also. I try my best to model this so that our people see that I need the grace of God when I sin just as much as they do.
7. Grow churches. If the church does grow, it’s because God does it. Yes and no. God also uses means to grow churches. And those means are his people, empowered by and directed by the Holy Spirit. I don’t think pastors can get off the hook on this one. If their church is not growing, they need to take a good hard look at why (see 1 Cor 3:5-15). Having said that, I pastored a church for almost 3 years where there was negative growth. It was lack of good leadership that caused this. The problems were there before I got there. I just happened to unknowingly dig them up.
8. Multiply dollars. That’s too bad, too, since some churches don’t pay their pastors well. Ouch. Don’t know who that is aimed at.
9. Escape mistakes. All of us will mess up sometime, often unintentionally and even unknowingly. Yes indeed. Just this past week I used an inappropriate word in my sermon (which I will acknowledge on Sunday), neglected the needs of a staff member and spoke harshly and unreasonably to one of my kids.
10. Avoid favoritism. Pastors minister to everybody, but having better (and best) friends is natural. How true! Yet so often a congregation won’t allow for this. They expect the pastor to be equally close to everyone. It’s that kind of pressure that isolates pastors, leaving them and their wives feeling terribly alone.
11. Reveal everything. No matter how much you may want to know the details, pastors may not be in a position to tell you. This is going in Sunday’s bulletin 🙂
12. Ignore sin. Pastors must address this issue, even when it’s not popular. Well said. That’s one of my pastoral tasks I don’t particularly enjoy. Yet it must be done – graciously and lovingly, but it must be done.
Thanks Chuck, I found this very helpful. It was a good reminder as to my own limitations.