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Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Are You Judging Your Preacher?

Judging preachers is not new. It has been around since New Testament times. I have been on the good end and the bad end of that judgment.

There seems to be one pastor who made a tremendous impact. Everything is held to his standard. People tell their pastor that this "annointed" pastor would always visit, was always there in every crisis and always had an altar full of people who wanted to join the church. They wonder why their present pastor can't do as well.

I would like to defend your pastor if this is what is going on in your church.

First, let's ask when this perfect pastor was at your church. How old was the congregation at the time? Most new churches start with people in their twenties, thirties and forties. There are a few exceptions to that rule but you will find this age group more likely to start something new with the understanding that they must go to work if the church is going to survive. This group is ready to work and serve. Few of them are sick or dying. Sick and dying people just don't start new churches. They require very little pastoral care. The pastor of one of these churches does two to three funerals a year.

Now, let's look at the present age of the church. A fifty year old church will have a significant number of people in their seventies and eighties. There will even be a few in their nineties. This congregation will have a large number of people in the hospital and many of them will have terminal diseases. The pastor will do twenty to thirty funerals a year. He simply won't have the time to give the care that a pastor who is doing two to three funerals a year with very few people in the hospital.

Let's look at the time in which the perfect pastor served. A church generally builds a new building as soon as it can. It is a stretch for the congregation but the excitement overtakes them and they build a nice new sanctuary and other buildings. The community is new with new families moving in. They are attracted to these new facilities. They come to get their children involved in church. They also come with the idea that they must give to the Lord because that is what they have been taught all their lives.

The present pastor is in buildings which have seen better days. In fact, the whole community has seen better days. The community is filled with older people and those who are significantly different than the congregation of the church. The younger people are looking for something more lively. They like new buildings too and are willing to drive outside of the community to find them. The younger people give eighty percent per family less than the members of the congregation. Each member who dies needs five younger members to join in order to replace his giving.

Let's take a look at the situation the world is in. The best means of contacting people during the age of the perfect pastor was home visitation. Today many people live in gated communities. They see an unannounced visit as an invasion of their space. They see no difference between a call from the church and a telemarketer. Younger people like websites, facebook, and twitter. They want to get involved as quickly or as slowly as they would like without anyone pushing them. They don't especially like altar calls. They want to involved in a couple of churches at a time. They want to keep their options open.

Now, let's look at the pastor himself. He probably doesn't have the same mannerisms or personality of the perfect pastor. He may not be a hugger and will be judged to be unfriendly if the perfect pastor was a hugger. He can be judged as "strange" if he is a hugger and the perfect pastor was not. He may wear conservative clothing and be deemed dull or be extremely sharp dressed and be called flamboyant. He may not like wearing a coat and tie and be judged as disrespectful. He may only be thirty years of age when the perfect pastor retired at seventy. Why should anyone expect the new pastor to come to the standard of someone who has been known for what seems like forever? Yet, congregations do it all the time.

So, the new pastor does not have the same situation, the same resources nor the same qualities as the perfect pastor, yet he is judged as if everything is the same. Does that make sense?

Don't be surprised if he responds negatively to your criticisms. He is merely defending himself from the onslaught of painful words which are said of him. He is being judged unfairly.

Shame on you if you don't give him grace.

1 Corinthians 1:11-12 (NIV)
11 My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12  What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."

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