Posts Tagged ‘pastors and conscience’

Not long ago, a pastor told me that a key leader in his church was angry with him.

When I asked the pastor why, he replied that he had refused to marry that leader’s daughter because her fiancée was not a professing believer.

The leader’s attitude seemed to be, “I help pay your salary and volunteer my time around here, so my daughter is entitled to be married in my home church by my pastor.”

The pastor’s attitude seemed to be, “I promised to obey the Word of God at my ordination, and since Scripture forbids the marriage of a believer to an unbeliever, I cannot in good conscience perform that wedding.”

I’ve had church members say to me, “Come on, pastor, can’t you be flexible in this case?  It would really mean a lot to our family.”

I understand that sentiment completely … but the answer still has to be “no.”

But when a pastor doesn’t do something that a prominent member wants him to do, conflict can easily break out.

Pastors are asked to do many things they simply cannot do, either because God’s Word condemns a practice, or because their conscience won’t permit them to do it.

For example, in the churches I’ve pastored, I’ve been asked to:

*Publicly support home schooling while condemning the public school system.

*Stop preaching on any topic that’s even remotely political.

*Give weekly altar calls.

*Forbid the youth from attending Christian rock concerts.

*Go back to singing the old hymns.

*Wear a suit every Sunday (long after I ditched the suit altogether).

*Insist that my two-year-old son sit in the morning worship service.

*Tell people at a funeral that their deceased loved one was in heaven when I didn’t know his/her spiritual condition.

In each of the above cases, I said “no.”

I’m sure that when I refused, I upset some people … but had I said, “Yes,” I would have upset even more.

And more than anything … especially on the preaching issue … I would have upset the Lord.

Most … if not all … pastors believe that they work primarily for the Lord.

So when a board member says to a pastor, “I insist you do this,” the pastor’s attitude may come off as, “I work for the Lord, not for you.”

That board member then interprets the pastor’s attitude as one of non-cooperation … or even defiance … and the board as a whole may start to think, “We can’t control this guy … and he seems insubordinate.  Let’s get rid of him.”

I believe that this independent/control dichotomy is one of the main reasons why there is so much friction between pastors and board members today.

The board forgets that their pastor has been called to ministry by Almighty God … and that call has been confirmed by God’s people through the process of ordination.

Ordination does not confer infallibility (nor insensitivity) on a pastor … but it does mean that the pastor’s call to lead and preach has been recognized by his home congregation.

My friend Charles Wickman, founder of the Pastor-in-Residence program and author of the book Pastors at Risk, told me on several occasions that he believes that every local church should celebrate the anniversary of their pastor’s call to ministry on an annual basis.   It’s a way of reminding the congregation, “This man isn’t ours to control.  This is God’s man.”

Yes, pastors need to be sensitive to the needs and wishes of the board, the staff, and the congregation … and sometimes, they aren’t.

For example, on one occasion, the elders of my church were evaluating my preaching at a retreat.  The quietest board member told me, “I don’t like it when you elevate your favorite baseball team at the expense of my favorite team.”

He was right …  I did that several times a year.

Since it wasn’t a big deal, I stopped.

But when a board member once told me that I couldn’t raise money … I was not a happy camper … and justifiably so.

While this topic needs further exploration, let me ask you:

Do you know how and when your pastor was called into ministry?

Before you insist that he follow your dictates, find out … and you just might learn why he acts the way he does.

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