Insulting pastors is a good source of entertainment for many. The amazing thing is how many feel the need to actually stand in front of the pastor to level the insults. The brazenness of it all is amazing.
There’s a person in my church who has sworn at me and called me more names than anyone else on the planet. It’s unreal. There’s something about being a pastor that causes people to have to go overboard with disagreements, to just blast you in the face. I wonder if it’s an attempt to see if they can get a sinful reaction out of me? I don’t know. Perhaps car mechanics and plumbers deal with the same stuff. I believe they probably do, I just wonder if they get the same frequency.
I’ve never sworn at a mechanic or a plumber or another employee of anywhere. I was a janitor for years and was frequently complained about, but never to my face, it was always to my boss. This pastor gig has opened my eyes to the hostility residing in many people.
Of all the insults I’ve gotten about being a pastor, there are a couple areas that seem to show up most frequently. Here they are and my responses to them.
1) Lack of work
“You only work one day a week”
“What else to you do for a living?”
“This isn’t your real job is it?”
“What do you do all week?”
I’ve gotten this one a lot. In some cases I can’t blame the question. What do I do all week? There are weeks I wonder the same thing. There’s no product produced, there’s no tangible proof that I did anything, so in some ways I have the same question!
Other people simply don’t understand. In some ways the question is a bit of a compliment! If my sermons look easy, then hey, I must have prepared adequately. I don’t think most people know how challenging it is to come up with three sermons a week, which is how often I speak. I don’t preach short either. Those three sermons take up two hours. You come up with two hours of doctrinally thought out content a week, people! And then do it next week and next week. And then do that for 20 years and let me know how it goes. Not to mention the counseling, answering of questions, funerals, weddings and various other things a pastor prepares for. It’s a lot of mental and spiritual work.
I’m not one of those pastors who whine about being busy. I’m not. I don’t do stupid things in my church that churches do to fill time and make people feel like they are being spiritual. I won’t detail what I mean because I sincerely mean no offense; I’m just not going to do those things, so we don’t. This is the benefit of being a pastor of a small church! If people want to do things, I’ll do those things, but if you just want the pastor to do things for you, nope, not playing that game.
Because I don’t do a lot of those time filler activities other churches do, I often get accused of being lazy and people wondering what I do. If it’s any consolation, I don’t get paid much either, so if I did the math, I’d be making well below minimum wage. I think the more a pastor gets paid the more sensitive they will be over this issue. If this criticism bothers you, reduce your pay and see how much it ceases to bother you!
“You speak like you know everything”
“How come everything you say in this church is the way it has to be?”
“You are power hungry”
“Why don’t you let other people preach?”
I once had a guy tell me, “You know, you remind me of my dad. It was always his way or the highway.” I stood there stunned, to be honest. (A little insight for you: grown men take out their daddy issues on their pastor. Watch for it. I’ve had three guys who have more or less compared me to their dad. It’s a weird thing.)
First of all, when you’re a kid, it is dad’s way or the highway! That’s kind of what being a parent of brain numb, spit covered bodies is all about.
And secondly, lest we forget, pastors are kind of there to lead the church. I know “servant leadership, man.” Yup, true, but it’s still leadership. Someone has to make a decision. Perhaps the guy who is in church 50 hours a week knows what’s going on and is in a good place to make such decisions? It’s possible.
That being said, there are a number of arrogant pastors who do cross the line of being power hungry bullies. It’s possible and perhaps this criticism is a wake-up call. The guys, and it’s always been guys, who have accused me of this had issues. There is a sense in which, yeah, everything I want to do is what happens in this church. This is largely because NO ONE ELSE DOES ANYTHING. Trust me, there’s a ton of things I would rather have someone else do. It would ease my burden and probably even be done better! But nope, those things don’t get picked up by other people.
So yes, I do pretty much everything in this church. Not sure that’s my fault. Usually the ones who accuse the pastor of doing everything will do very little to lend a hand. In fact, being lazy in a church is the thing that raises the guilt level that drives someone to say such a thing. The people who do the most in my church are fully aware of what I do in it. The people who don’t do anything, have no idea what I do. Never seen an exception to this.
“How come we don’t do all the stuff that church does?”
“My last pastor did this, how come you don’t?”
“You know the reason so few people come here is because you don’t do _____”
“If I were the pastor I would _____, I don’t see why you’re not doing that.”
Typically this kind of insult has to do with what other hip and growing churches are doing. One lady told me that the church they left built an arcade for the kids and now they have the biggest youth group in the area, why don’t we have an arcade? This is said in such a way that I am the moron who doesn’t know that kids like arcade games. Don’t you know anything? There is rarely any pause to reflect on whether there might be doctrinal issues or at least deeper issues that decisions were based on. The assumption is that if the pastor doesn’t do what they want, the pastor must be too stupid to know that thing is even possible. Few consider that the pastor knows about these things and has actual thought-out reasons why they don’t occur in this church.
This even goes to doctrinal issues. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me to baptize their babies. If you want to baptize babies, go for it, I don’t because I see nothing in the Bible about it (yes I know households were baptized and circumcision was done to babies. I’m aware and have decided not to do infant baptism). This isn’t some sort of gimmick, this has actual doctrinal implications. I trust that pastors who do baptize infants have thought-out, doctrinal reasons behind what they do and don’t treat it lightly. It’s just respect for doctrine and a giving of the doubt that perhaps people actually have thought about things. The amount of people who I have refused to baptize their infants who then get mad at me, as if it’s just a simple thing, only takes a couple minutes, what’s the big deal, is astounding. If this is the reaction, then I can only assume they have no idea what infant baptism is to begin with. Churches that do infant baptism, I would assume, want people to understand the significance of what’s going on. This isn’t just some thing you do.
I am in no way saying that pastors are above criticism. Criticism can help us do our job better. I always listen to criticism, maybe they’re right. Who the criticism comes from is big. There are some people that no matter what comes out of their mouth I am not going to take it seriously. There are other people I will be brought to my knees if they even hint I might be wrong.
In the end, being criticized is going to happen. The Lord is the Judge and He will judge. Do your job before Him. Even if you think you’re totally right, you still might not be. Even if I think I’m wrong, I still might not be. Odds are, I’m probably wrong in some manner all the time anyway. Take it all with a grain of salt and a heap of humility. We serve the Lord, His judgment is coming. I will be on my knees.
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
–1 Corinthians 4:3-4