Last week, I reposted a list of eleven things you need to know about your pastor. I wanted to follow that list up with some things that pastors need to remember about the people of their congregations. As a pastor, whose vocation is the ministry of the gospel, it is easy to forget that not everyone has the priorities that you do.
- They are pulled in lots of directions. We pastors like to believe the church is the most important thing in people’s lives, and it probably should be. The reality is, however, that church is just one of many things pulling on people’s lives.
- They make some decisions out of necessity. Most people want to do and give far more than they can. They make good and bad decisions, but sometimes they have to make necessary decisions – things they don’t want to do but have to do.
- They are a little intimidated by you sometimes. You are their pastor. They see you as a spiritual authority over them. Sometimes you preach about things that impact them like you can see inside their head. That’s freaky.
- They like you, but they need Jesus to be the head of the church. They don’t always agree with you. They don’t need you to be the answer man. They need you to point them to Christ. They need you to make church about Jesus.
- They could have slept in. If they’re at church, they are probably tired. They probably have a lot to do; but they are here. They value this church thing and give it what they can.
- They are not as invested in your sermon as you are. You spent hours preparing. You’re inside it and the message is inside you. They just heard it. They need to digest it. Don’t get frustrated if people don’t respond as you think they should.
- They get attacked and ridiculed in ways you aren’t. Christians are sometimes under all kinds of pressures and attacks for their faith. Co-workers, family members, television, pop culture – there are elements everywhere putting pressure on them because of their faith. You don’t deal with that because you’re a pastor.
- They are struggling with something inside. People only talk about a very small portion of what goes on in their thought lives. Sometimes they are struggling with something that has nothing to do with you that makes them act in ways you don’t understand.
- They don’t know what’s going on inside your head either. Your thoughts are a matrix of lots of things they will never know about. Don’t assume they think like you. They need you to communicate clearly so they can understand.
- They don’t know what they can do. You see potential in people, but often they are too busy or too frustrated or too self-conscious or too hurt to see it in themselves. You need to nurture abilities through mentorship and encouragement.
- They are the Church. We forget this point, pastors. The Church is not you and the people to do stuff for you. The Spirit of God is at work in them as much as in you. The Church is a union of people with many different gifts.
These are things I need to be reminded of as much as anyone. Pastors, let’s make sure we are wise stewards of the congregations God has equipped us to lead.