I can feel the defense mechanisms kicking in as a layman reads this article. Some of you are seething and thinking, "If you knew our pastor, you would feel the same way I do!" Perhaps! I know some pastors who should never have entered the ministry and wreak destruction wherever they land. I have counseled many laymen on how to resolve conflict with their pastoral leadership. There is a way to work through differences of opinion and even to confront a morally corrupt pastor but that is not the purpose of this article (visit www.markinc.org to learn wrong and right reasons for leaving a church).

Believe me Mr. or Ms. Layman – we know how you feel about us. We can see it in your eyes, your demeanor, or the way you turn your head when you see us coming. It’s tough for a shepherd to look into the eyes of an angry wolf that is covered in lamb skin!

 

We know we do - and will - fail you. We cannot be 100 percent efficient at building budgets (we do not learn that in seminary). We won't hit a home run every time we preach and we’ll never preach like your favorite televangelist. We will forget your name or neglect visiting you in the hospital. We will say the wrong things – just like everyone else! Why is it worse in your mind when preachers do these things? Godly pastors recognize they have “feet of clay” and daily petition God to reflect redemption through them – in spite of their short comings.

Cruel, ungodly behavior toward your pastor is a mark of shame on the church of Jesus Christ. The enemy wins every time seeds of unbiblical conflict sprout between a godly pastor and laymen. Internal conflict drains spiritual energy given by God for winning the lost (to learn how to resolve conflict biblically, go to www.markinc.org and order the message series The Lost Art of Church Discipline).

I am pleading with God’s people. Look inward and see your anger and frustration toward your pastors through the grid of scripture. Push your own hearts and behavior through the same grid. Ask God how you can be a Barnabas who comes alongside and encourages and earns the right to speak the truth in love. Don’t gossip to others because “I’m intimidated by the pastor.” Pray diligently every day for us and our families and work through conflicts biblically. Do not be casual in your critical remarks – the hurt they cause is not casual to the pastor.

When a pastor broken by the sinful behavior of a congregation seeks my counsel I try to comfort them with a tiny little letter Paul wrote at the end of his life:

2 Timothy 4:9-18 - Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.