How do you go to church on Sunday morning? Do you go with a heart full of longing to meet with God and his people? Do you have a mental checklist of things you want to see happen, or not happen? Do you have to force yourself to go because you know “that pastor” is preaching? Do you eagerly anticipate the worship experience and look forward to what will happen? Do you go because it’s what we do on Sunday—whether we want to or not? Do you go because it won’t look good if you don’t? Do you go because it fills your soul?
If we’re honest, we’ll answer yes to all of these questions. At some point in our lives each of these situations has been true for us. And for the most part that’s fine because we are, in fact, human. Being human means that sometimes we’re positive, understanding, upbeat, faith-filled, and accepting. And other times we’re judgmental, selfish, doubting, unreasonable, and just a pain in the neck. All of our human qualities, both the warm fuzzy ones and those that set others’ teeth on edge, go with us wherever we go—even to church.
Add to all this humanness that we, churchgoers, can be consumers. There’s church shopping when we check out one church after another to see which one suits us best. This isn’t all bad or even wrong. It’s important to find a church home in which we can share our gifts, grow in our faith, develop relationships, and serve others.
However, trying to find the church that suits us to a tee is not only impossible but unhealthy. Even those of us who don’t have the option of such shopping can take on a consumerist mindset in our home church. As long as we feel satisfied or that our needs are being met, we’ll be content. But when things don’t quite go the way we want them to, we start to grumble either internally or externally, or both.
Most of us only spend a few hours a week at church or involved in church matters. We can step in and out of it with relative ease. Not so for the pastor. Pastors are immersed in all things church. They’re called by God to minister his people and the community. The work is fulfilling, draining, life-giving, soul nourishing, meaningful, never-ending, delightful and at times, just plain difficult.
Pastors know that all of the folks showing up on Sunday morning can answer yes to at least one of the above questions—all on the same day! They know there might be church shoppers present. Regular attenders may or may not be happy with what’s going on. That’s a lot of pressure! No one can flourish with all of this swirling around in their head and heart. Some pastors even find the fear of losing people or turning people off such that they do what they can to keep everyone satisfied and happy. That’s just impossible.
I met with a search committee a few years back and asked them what they wanted in their next pastor. The list was long as it usually is. So I asked a few pointed questions such as:
Is it more important that the pastor is a good preacher or a good administrator?
Is it more important that the pastor spends a lot of time visiting or in the study preparing for Sunday?
I then lead them in a discussion about giftedness, personality types (introverts/extroverts), the church’s vision for ministry, the importance of fit between the pastor and the congregation, and other key things to consider when calling a pastor. Many of these they’ve never thought about before.
Finding the “right pastor” for your church is important. It impacts a lot of things and people—including the pastor. However, this alone won’t result in people entering church every Sunday morning in the best possible frame of mind thinking only good things. It won’t solve all the problems, the budget shortages, or the consumerist mentality. There’ll be great times and less than great times. After all, pastors are human just like the rest of us. They’re a mix of wonderful qualities, gifts and skills, and some less than glowing things. At times, they can even be a pain in the neck.
Pastors are human. Let’s not expect more from them than we ought to.