One of the most disheartening things in the modern church is the seeming disharmony between many pastors and their people. I believe that one of the most sacred relationships in all of the world is the relationship that the pastor of a church should have with his people. God is not pleased when the people are dissatisfied with the pastor. Neither is God pleased when the pastor has a bitter attitude toward his people. God wants the pastor and the people to love each other, to pray together, work together, serve together, worship together, win souls together, give together. Following are some suggestions that will help the pastor understand his people.
1. Love Your People. Ask God to give you a heart full of love for the people you serve. This does not mean that you can always condone what they do. Many times a parent who loves his child will have to spank him hard, and the child may doubt the parent’s love; however, behind the heart of a true parent there is a love that realizes it is best for the child to receive punishment for his errors. This is also true with a pastor. A pastor who scolds his people because he is tired of their sinning, is wrong. A pastor whose heart is broken because of the sins of his people, and scolds them for their own good, is right. Many evangelical ministers have failed in this respect because of the lack of a deep, abiding love for their people.
2. Be Expressive in Your Love for Your People. Some preachers carry a little pad around with them, and a pencil, and when they think of some member who has been a blessing to them, they jot the name down and later write the member a note or express appreciation personally to one who has been a blessing. Our people do much for us-they pray for us, overlook our faults, forget our mistakes and make us what we are. Let us express to them our love and appreciation.
3. Pray for Your People. The pastor should call the names of his people in prayer, especially those who have burdens and heartaches. When a home is having trouble, the pastor should pray for them. When Johnny has the measles, or Mary has the mumps, the pastor should pray for them. Many times a little note to Johnny will be an encouragement to him; or a phone call to Mary might be a blessing. It is always good for a pastor to pray for his people.
4. Do not Use Your People to Build a Great Work, But Use Your Work to Build Great People. Some have the idea that it is the job of the preacher to build churches. This is not true. It is the job of the preacher to build people to be great Christians. To use the people to build a work is wrong; to use the work to build great people is right. The greatest product of a pastor is a steadfast Christian, and not a sanctuary. The greatest work of a pastor is to see a Christian grow in the grace of the Lord, and not to see the membership grow. Individuals are important. When a preacher can see his people individually and rejoice more over a Christian who grows than over a building that goes up, then he has developed a true pastor’s heart.
To use our people as stepping stones for our ministry is not fair; neither is it Christlike.
5. Make Your People Feel That You Are Theirs. People like to feel as if they have a pastor. They like to feel as if the pastor belongs to them, and that they belong to him. Do not let your people feel secondary. Spend your time with them. Many preachers spend so much time with each other that their people feel they cannot have fellowship with their pastor. Live with your people, love them, pray for them, work with them and seek their good-not your own.
6. Eat in the Homes of Your People. It is good for the pastor to be in the homes of the people. When your people invite you for a meal, try never to reject such an invitation. It is a mutual blessing. The people need the fellowship with the pastor; the pastor needs the fellowship of the people. Children know the pastor better when he comes into their homes. If he is kind, thoughtful and understanding to the children, they will become his pals, and will feel that he belongs to them.
7. Give the People Some Time at Home. Many of our people are tired. We preach to them hard and long that they should have a Christian home, and then give them no time to have a Christian home. A preacher should encourage his people to spend some time at home. Then, he should not plan such a heavy church program that it will take all of their nights, so that they do not have the opportunity to have a Christian home. It is difficult to come in at midnight with sleepy children and have a family altar. However, with some nights at home together with the family, it becomes easier to pray together and stay together. When the families realize that the preacher is concerned about their problems, then they will love and appreciate him more.
8. Be with Them in Hours of Need. When a person is to have an operation, go to the hospital and have a period of prayer with him. When a couple is married, spend some time with them. When a baby comes, rejoice over the coming of the baby. It has long been my conviction that the pastor should not receive remuneration for the things he does for his members. It seems to me that marrying the church members is a part of the pastor’s duties; hence, it would seem inadvisable to accept a fee for marrying one of my church members. Little things like these make a pastor dear to the hearts of his people. Of course, it should not be our desire or our aim to become dear to the hearts of the people. These things should come naturally to the true man of God who loves his people.
9. Remember That Your People Make You What You Are. A good church can make a good preacher; a poor church can make a poor preacher. All that we are, we have been made by the Lord, and God has used our dear people to make us what we are. Many times people come to me at Miller Road Church and say, “Pastor, God has used you to make me what I am.” Then, I go home and think -God has used my church to make me what I am. Our soul winners, and those who pray and are faithful, have helped to make our church what it is. Because of that, the pastor has opportunities open to him that he would not have had, had the people not worked for the Lord Jesus. Never forget, dear pastor friend, that what you are is largely a work of Christ as He has used your people to make you what you are.
10. Never Reject Anything From Your People. Dr. Truett used to say, “Even if all they offer you is a glass of water, drink it. They are offering it as unto the Lord.” You are God’s man, and they are offering you something as God’s man; hence, never reject it. Accept it, and be grateful to God, regardless of how small the gift.