Pastor and People Relationships - Caring for Churches

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Caring for Churches
You're a Great Pastor

John17:21-23 "may be one"
1John3:1 "called the sons of God"

The Church's Responsibility To Their Pastor

Good, Godly and healthy churches have a right and responsible pastor and member relationship, which obeys and honors God from the scriptures. Most churches say that they are Bible believers, but fail to practice the very elementary (baby) teaching on how to get along with each other in  the church. There are no perfect pastors and there are no perfect churches that you can join. But the Bible tells how the pastor and people are to serve together and grow in their relationship with each other as they grow in their relationship with the Lord.  

Most church problems and conflicts come from a wrong belief or understanding of a Biblical pastor/church relationship, or fail to be obedient to what the Bible says. Both pastors and church members have a great need of learning and obeying the clear teaching from the scriptures concerning their relationship with each other. This means that both have a responsibility to serve each other with humility, in the place and position where God has given them within the ministry of the church.  

There is no place for pride in the ministry and church members are wrong when they measure their pastors by 584other standards which God has not given them. They are also wrong when they boast about their favorite preachers (1Cor. 1:11-13) and compare their pastor to someone else. This is not to say that faithful servants (both pastors and other preachers) cannot be recognized and honored, but in all things, God must be glorified (1Thess. 5:12-13). We should not be trying to build our own kingdom, but to bring people to the King (Jesus), and help them to develop a good growing relationship with the Lord.
In his (Be Series on 1Thess 5), Warren W. Wiersbe says, “Paul sought to correct some weaknesses in the church. Some members were not respecting and honoring their spiritual leaders as they should. I have discovered that lack of respect for spiritual leadership is the main cause of church fights and splits.  
What Paul wrote in 1 Thess. and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 is greatly needed today. It is tragic when believers neglect or ignore the local church. No family is perfect and no local church is perfect; but without a family to protect him and provide for him, a child would suffer and die. The child of God needs the church family if he is to grow, develop his gifts, and serve God.”

As we grow in our relationship with the Lord we should also be growing in our relationship with each other. This should also be true for pastor and church members to grow and not neglect their God given responsibility that they have toward each other. The church will need to be taught how to relate to their pastor from a Biblical position. This is somewhat hard or awkward for many pastors that don’t feel comfortable teaching or training their own church about how to relate to him as their pastor. That is why there is a lack of knowledge with the members in the church on how to Biblically relate to their pastor.  

1. The Role or Attitude of Respect and Love toward their Pastor.
Churches are to highly respect and love their pastors who truly serve the church that God has called them to shepherd; (1 Thess. 5:12-13) “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;  And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
Just as God has given the pastor directions in the Word of God on how to shepherd the sheep, God’s word also tells the sheep how to follow the directions of their godly shepherd. The words “to know” them means to (to respect, to recognize, to appreciate) them. It has the idea of giving proper deserved recognitions, understanding that he has earned your respect for their work sake. Pastor, Joseph Willmouth has this to say about this point; “In other words, we should recognize and respect our pastors not because of their personality or what they do for us, but because God appointed them. Nowhere in the Bible does it give permission for a church to fire a pastor because they don't like his personality.”

(From John G. Butler) “The believers were to know about their leaders. The the word translated "know" means to see with perception—being able to comprehend and understand.  

Three things about their leaders they were to know.
First, know about their work. "Which labor among you." The word "labor" is rendered from a word meaning to work to fatigue, to toil until worn out, to be weary because of the labor, and even to be faint because of the labor. Many pastors belong in this category. Of course there are some who are just the opposite. There are, unfortunately, charlatans in the ministry.  
Second, know about their worth. "Are over you in the Lord." This knowing of God's ministers has to do with recognition of the rank (worth) of these people. They are the leaders. Knowing them involves recognizing them as leaders, submitting to the leaders, and giving them the authority so they can lead.  
Third, know about their warning. "Admonish you." This involves the difficult duty of dealing with the dissidents. People need to know about this task so they can support their pastor and other church leaders involved in this work. The word "admonish" is translated "warn" (1Thess. 4:14) several verses later.”  

The fact is that the church is told to love their pastor and hold them in high esteem for their work sake (v.13). God tells church members to love their pastor, even though they may not understand or agree with what he does personally. Some pastors are more lovable than others and some are more talented and have good personalities, but God says to love them regardless of these things. “This type of love is the same that God has for us (agape- love) which carries the idea of a deep devotion to someone regardless of what they say or do to you or for you. It is the type of love that gives of itself and doesn't look for anything in return. It is the same word that described Christ's love that put Him on the cross for you and me.” (J. Willmouth)

Many pastor/people conflicts could be resolved if they just truly loved each other sacrificially as the Bible says. Each church member has the obligation to love their pastor and pray for him and his family. R.A. Torrey in his book, Power of Prayer, basically said that if there is something that you don't like about your pastor, then take it to the Lord in prayer and then go to church and watch God change him. If you don't love your pastor like this, then you need to get on your knees in prayer, and ask God to forgive you.

2. The Role or Attitude of Submission and Obedience toward their Pastor. (Heb.13:17)
The idea of submission and obedience does not set well with the carnal or immature church member that is walking in the flesh. But the same thing is with the husband, wife, or child that is rebellious toward God’s word and the Holy Spirit. If families and churches would first submit and obey God in the scriptures then there would be order in the home as well as in the church. When there are people problems in the family or church it’s because someone is not heeding the leading of the Holy Spirit and the word of God.  

Unless a pastor is out of touch with God and there is open sin in his life the church is to follow his leadership and pray for him. We are not talking about blind submission and obedience that is not spiritual or Biblical but seeing God use and work through the pastor for the good of the whole church ministry. Most of the time church members have a problem obeying the pastor is because they have a problem obeying God first. A kind and loving pastor will not force this submission or obedience upon the church, but will earn it through his walk with God and his service to the church.

In Heb.13:17 these words are given to help a church relate to their God given pastor in a correct manner. The words “obey” and “submit” has the meaning of a voluntary action on the part of the believer just as it would for a wife to her husband. To “obey” means to have confidence in, to trust in, or to yield to the pastor’s leadership. If a church can’t put confidence and trust in their pastor then they need to pray for him and seek to help him get back the trust and confidence of the church. Pastors aren’t perfect, but neither are church members, they both need to grow and mature in certain areas of their lives.

The word “submit” carries the idea of surrendering or submitting to. Webster's defines "submit," as to defer to another's judgment or decision. “By obeying and submitting yourself to a godly pastor, it reveals your faith in God. When we fail to do these things we are really saying by our actions that God doesn't know what is best for us.” (J. Willmouth) A true shepherd from God will only seek the best for His sheep watching over them with a loving guiding eye that must give an account to the Chief Shepherd.  
In the last part of the verse the pastor and people are to follow God’s word in their relationship with each other so that there is joy and not grief to the pastor or to God. If this obedience and submission doesn’t have its roots in the word of God and yielding to the Holy Spirit then there will be conflict for both the pastor and the church member.  The word "unprofitable" means of no advantage, detrimental, hurtful (i.e., extremely destructive or harmful). “When churches fail to recognize and submit to the godly pastor's leadership it becomes extremely destructive and harmful to both parties - i.e., terminations and many cases a church splits. When this happens the testimony of the church is ruined in the local community and the name of Christ publicly disgraced. God doesn't take having His name disgraced lightly, and neither should we.” (J. Willmouth)
If God is leading the pastor and he is walking in the Spirit then he is submitting and obeying the Lord. Therefore the church has the responsibility to submit and obey their pastor as he follows the Lord. May the Lord teach us all to have right, Biblical relationships that will bring honor to His name and health to the church.   

3. The Role or Attitude of Financial Support toward their Pastor. (1Cor.9:1-23 /  
   Galatians 6:6-9)
J. Vernon McGee puts it this way about (Gal.6:6), "'Pay your preacher. If someone ministers to you spiritual benefits, minister to him with material benefits.' If God has blessed you materially and you are being blessed by someone spiritually, then you ought to minister to that person with material benefits" (McGee).

There is a wide range of feelings and misunderstanding concerning the area of a church supporting their pastor financially. Most of the time there is very little knowledge of when, or how much the church is to support their pastor. Sometimes it’s the thought of a well meaning and kind hearted pastor that keeps a church from knowing how to take care of the pastor financially according to the Bible. I know of pastors that wouldn’t let the church give them support of any kind. Then the church was not willing to support the next pastor, or had no idea of how to support the next pastor according to scripture.  

If the pastor is financially self-sufficient and is able to take care of his own needs, then that is fine and nothing wrong according to the scriptures in (1Cor.9:15). “The minister has the right to make the judgment about receiving wages or not. Paul made the decision not to receive a wage from the Corinthians. This was simply his strategy with the Corinthians. It enabled him to face his enemies and to refute any charge of preaching for money. He did receive support in other situations (Phil.4:10).”- (P OSB – Comm.)  

The pastor that doesn’t take a salary or a very little one should also teach the church that they have a responsibility to take care of their pastor, for the sake of the next pastor that comes after him. The pastor that is giving more time and effort to making money than taking care of the church should maybe evaluate his motives and calling. Paul worked when necessary to supply his needs and not his bank accounts, but would rather be doing the work of the ministry instead of making money.

Some church members think that the church is over paying their pastor and giving him too many benefits for the time that he is “working” for the church. They think that a pastor only works one and a half days a week and the rest of the time is his to do as he pleases. A real pastor and servant of the Lord will in all probability put in more time serving and working for the people and the ministries than anyone else in the church. A true shepherd is not concerned about overtime in the ministry but taking care of the flock of God of which he is called to oversee.  

Ministry is not all about money, but it sure takes money to be in the ministry. The motivation of both the pastor and the church should be to honor God with their giving and receiving. I’ve been both a fulltime and by-vocational pastor and at present now sometimes a by-vocational missionary. It’s really a matter of the heart towards what God has called us to do and with the means that He has given us to do His will.  

A pastor should desire to give fulltime to the work and service of the ministry paid or not, and a church should desire to give a fulltime salary to their pastor even if they can’t financially do it now. No church will prosper withholding due means to take care of their pastor when they have it in the bank or in not giving their tithes. Neither will a pastor be what God intends him to be when he is paid a fulltime salary and yet doesn’t give his fulltime to the ministry in that church.  

How much then should a pastor be paid by the church? That will be determined by the hearts of the church members to take care of their pastor Biblically. I believe that a church should error on giving the pastor more than not enough. God will always bless the generosity of the church that gives to their pastor and other men of God in the ministry.  

May the Lord help each church to take care of their pastor adequately to see that his family needs are taken care of in the ministry. The church that can’t supply the pastor with a fulltime salary should do the best they can and seek to do more as the church grows and prospers.  

4. The Role or Attitude of Resolving Conflicts toward their Pastor. (Matt.18:15-17)
There is nothing new about church conflicts, they have been happening since the church was started and before with the people of God in the Old Testament. I have found that most churches don’t practice proper church discipline according to scripture. It’s not from a lack of knowing what the Bible says, but by not doing what the Bible says concerning conflict in the church. There is basically two ways that churches deal with conflict; one is to do nothing and the other is to over react and do more than what is necessary. Most churches have in their by-laws instructions on how to handle conflict between its members according to (Matt.18:15-17), but fail to practice it with a right heart and motive. The Bible and the by-laws as well give a command and guidance in this area of resolving conflict with church members as well as with their pastor.  

The staff, deacons and church volunteer workers can be a great help in resolving conflicts toward the pastor if they have a right relationship with their pastor themselves. Conflict is the result of sin in one or more people’s lives that are not willing to confess and be restored to God and others. Most churches say that the Bible is their final word on faith and practice, but fail to do either one when it comes to resolving conflict towards each other or the pastor. God is not the author of confusion or conflict within the church – (1Cor.14:33/40) but of peace in the church. There may not be 100% peace all the time but there should be an overall attitude of peace within the membership and with the pastor. Just as much as it’s the pastor’s responsibility to seek to resolve conflict with church members, it’s also the responsibility of the church member to seek to resolve any conflict with their pastor.  

Here are some guidelines in helping the church member to keep a right relationship and resolve any conflicts with their pastor.  
A. Pray about any concern or matter that concerns you and the pastor.
(Many times this will take care of things)
B. Don’t talk about him – talk to him personally. (Pastors need to be
approachable, but so do church members)
C. If you feel offended, go with a humble heart and with a right motive to
resolve the matter in love and forgiveness.
D. Seek a Biblical answer to resolve any concern first before confronting the
pastor. (The Bible may have your answer before you ask the pastor)
E. Make sure that you are not being convicted by the Holy Spirit instead of
being offended by the pastor. (Personality vs. personal conviction)

It will honor God and be healthy for the whole church if everyone seeks to resolve their conflicts in a Scriptural and loving manner. Healthy families and churches learn to handle conflicts in a Christian like behavior. May the Lord use you to make things right with God and others, practice being a peacemaker, God loves it.   

In dealing with pastor/people relationships we could continue on with many different areas in the practical ways these could be improved and scripturally obeyed. J. Willmouth says “This is not a subject that should be taken lightly, and to do so shows a real lack of spiritual maturity and a lack of love for the Lord's church, which He gave His life for. I don't know of too many Christians who would openly deny that they do not believe God's Word, but when it comes to putting their beliefs into actions, sadly that has been another story.” "Those who believe in the Holy Scriptures are bound to observe its teachings. Those who do not are to be bound by its consequences." - (William Bradford, the governor of the Plymouth Colony)  

Every growing and healthy church, practices good pastor and people relationships and will work to make them better. Gene Wood states in (Leading Turnaround Churches) “All church growth consultants agree that the pastor-people relationship is a leading factor in determining whether a body will be effective. If the constituency of the church believes their pastor is doing what he ought, they will gladly follow him. When people follow their pastor, good things happen. When you discover a growing church, you find strong pastoral leadership.”  

A strong leader will take steps in building healthy relationships within their area of influence and service. There is always work to be done in getting and keeping good, healthy relationships with the people that God has allowed us to fellowship with. The idea is not to have a perfect relationship, but to maintain and build balance with the relationships that we all have.  

Our Lord is always seeking to build a greater relationship with us, (His children) even if we are not responding to Him in any way. May the Lord help us to seek to have the best pastor/people relationships that will honor Him and bring Him glory in His church.  (Colossians 3:14) And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

Mickey Muse

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2 Corinthians 11:28, "Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches."
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