This past weekend marks one year that I've been here at The Brook as Pastor. While there have definitely been challenges, I am so grateful to the Lord for all He's done and is doing. Great things! This significant crossroad has given me reason to think, pray, and reflect on some of what I feel the Lord has taught me in this short time - some of it quite painful - and what He is still teaching me now. I'm going to work through this a few things at a time, so this will be Part 1 of several different posts. So, feel free to comment or criticize - but save your energy. You might want to do it in waves!
EXPECTATIONS: UNREALISTIC & UNCLEAR (BIG Difference!)
Without a doubt, growing up in the home of a minister and watching my Dad spread himself so thin that his weight problem was ironic, I have seen firsthand the effects of operating under the expectations of others. And (I don't think this is a secret) for pastors of all shapes & sizes, faiths & denominations, those expectations placed on you can be simply unrealistic. The sad thing is, it's much better today than it was 10-20 years ago. But that's still no excuse. Often people have an unbiblical, cultural, tradition-laced dependency on the "Pastor". There can be an expectation that he be "all things to all people". (And yes, I know Paul said that this was his aim. But Paul was also not married, nor was he a "Pastor". He was a single, traveling evangelist & church planter. Another post for another day.) I've seen church-folk get riled when the Pastor's sermon wasn't ranking with the likes of Graham or Swindoll, while simultaneously being furious that he didn't personally visit all 13 people who were coincidentally having their gall bladders removed on the same day. (OK, I exaggerate a tad!) But sometimes, the demand is impossible to meet.
That said, there are a few reasons this happens that are actually within our control - there are some things that we either do or allow or just ignore that - if we had some vision and backbone - could prevent these unrealistic expectations. First of all, if you don't have a clear Job Description, that's YOUR FAULT! The elders, leaders, deacons, staff, and people of your church better know what your actually responsible for. And I realize that there are plenty of times as servants (which we better be!) that you have to step up and get things done that just aren't your job. But if the Pastor is the one being called at 10:30 on a Saturday night because brother Harry came up to check the temperature of the baptistry water and discovered a broken toilet, there is obviously a lack of communication going on as to what you should and should NOT be called about - the night before you're preaching 2 sermons! [READ your Job Description. If you don't have one - a CLEAR one - fix that! If you do, then (to put it simply)...DO YOUR JOB!]
Another reason why this happens is because - as pastors or leaders - we're not equipping, empowering, and releasing others to "do the work of the ministry". You do realize that THIS is your calling? That Ephesians 4:11-13 is the fire that should be lit underneath your backside? And let me say as a not-yet-fully-recovered control freak, I know this can be a battle. But it's a battle you better be fighting! We are CALLED to equip others to grow, build, and expand the Kingdom. We are CALLED to teach and lead others to teach and to lead. Pastor: you're not the only one who can pray or baptize or (heaven forbid I say it)...preach! If you want to be a one-man show, go for it. But go ahead and make your reservations at the nut house and the cemetery. It won't be long!
The bottom line: you absolutely, without a doubt cannot and will not please everyone. You will probably lose sleep - lots of it - because of the strain that a decision you made cause exuberant joy for some and unrestrained aggravation for others. It's going to happen. But you can't please everyone. Don't try! Because if you do, you will in some way - even if it's invisible to the naked eye - stop trying to please the Lord. And THAT is your highest aim & calling!
But those are UNREALISTIC expectations. And I know all we usually think about are the ones placed on us. But stop for a moment and think about this: Are you placing any unrealistic demands or expectations on others? For me, this is really not the greatest temptation or crime. As a pastor or leader, the greater tragedy is when our expectations are UNCLEAR! And man, have I tripped over myself on that leadership sidewalk. More on that in Part 2.