As a fellow pastor with almost 20 years of experience I believe I have a unique role to guard the integrity of the ministry and make sure the broader Body of Christ is protected.
Paul said that disciples should “…no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
I also do not want to infringe on the freedom God gives each church within the structure of elders and deacons to serve God in a way that is best for their context. Jesus said in Luke 9:50, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” And Paul said in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”
At the same time, Paul said in 1 Timothy 5:14 we should, “warn those who are idle and disruptive” and in 2 Timothy 4:2-4, “2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. [because]… 3 the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Therefore, here is my list for pastors in the U.S.:
1. COMPLAINING ABOUT MINISTRY: I wish pastors would stop complaining about the ministry and trying to justify taking 3-4 week sabbaticals. If you need to take off 21-30 days in a row each year from ministry- you’re doing it wrong. After preparation time, no where in the New Testament did Jesus or the apostles “take breaks” from preaching the gospel and serving God’s people. Sure, you should take a day off each week (or more if needed) and feel free to take vacations throughout the year, but if you need to be off weeks in a row to “get alone with God and your family because you’re running on “E”— learn to rest daily in Jesus! (And by the way, you should never need a break from “church people.” If you don’t like church people, you won’t like heaven- because it’s all about the Church– the Bride of Christ being with Jesus).
2. MAKE PROMISES THEY DON’T KEEP: I wish pastors would stop saying they are going to call people and stay in touch when they really have not intention to do so. Let your “yes” by “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Learn to use a calendar, delegate and stop pretending you’re more important than you actually are.
3. ACT LIKE CELEBRITIES: I wish pastors would stop acting like they are a celebrity when their church gets big. Literally, Jesus was God in the flesh and yet He washed His disciples’ feet— if we ever stop washing people’s feet we have forgotten who are Boss is. Now that I can’t be there for everyone in our church, you’d better believe I have people in place that can be.
4. MAKE EXCUSES FOR THEIR SIN: I wish pastors would stop making excuses when they sin and asking for special treatment because “the church depends on them to keep going.” If you are in sin- step down out of ministry (period). Pastors have no business staying behind the pulpit when they are sinning. And if they are caught they should give public repentance in front of the same people they preached to every week. 1 Timothy 5:20, “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.”
5. PREACH MAKE-BELIEVE: I wish pastors would stop making up things that literally have nothing to do with the Bible or the historic way of being a disciple. I am grieved, especially by many popular preachers, because of the non-sense they preach. It’s really not that hard to preach— read the Bible to God’s people- explain it in context, give practical application, and practice what your preach!
6. RUN FROM CONFRONTATION: I wish weak-willed pastors would stop being cowards behind the pulpit and on social media. So many pastors in the U.S. lack the basic courage that every pastor must have in a persecuted country like North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. For the love of God- stand up and preach against sin. Stop waiting for the world to give you permission to have a hashtag. It’s so easy for pastors to join the bandwagon against hypocrisy in the church (which the world hates), sex trafficking (which the world hates), racism (which the world hates)… why not also preach against things the world loves? Preach against homosexuality (which the world loves), abortion (which the world loves), sexual perversion (which the world loves), false religions (which the world loves), selfish ambition (which the world loves) and greed (which the world loves).
7. SELL THINGS GOD FREELY GAVE THEM: I wish pastors would stop selling worship concerts and conferences in the same church that the people paid for when they gave their tithes/offerings! I understand we have to cover costs of things like books and t-shirts or airfare/traveling expenses; but do you have any idea how much many popular guest speakers and worshipper leaders make these days? Some of your favorites won’t even come to your church unless they get paid $10-$20,000 for one night. God freely gave the person their talent and they shouldn’t have to charge God’s people to receive the blessing of the gift. If the church cannot cover the costs- then don’t have the event (it’s that simple). Selling tickets was never God’s way of having church. Dear God, what has happened to the days of the real apostles and prophets? Here is a rule from the Didache, an early church manual from the 1st century; “When the apostle leaves, he is not to take anything with him except bread until he finds a place to stay. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.” Literally, in the early church if an apostle (traveling missionary/church planter) wanted to leave with more than they came with or asked for money- they were to be considered a false prophet.
I could go on…. but I think you hear my heart. I believe God can use pastors, despite these mistakes, but I would have talks with them if I saw any of these things and I attend their church- especially if I was in leadership- you should expect better. Just ask them, “Can you show me in the Bible where what you are doing was done in the book of Acts or commanded in the epistles?”
Jeremiah 23:4, “‘I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,’ declares the Lord.”