There is a subtle danger in this pastoring gig. We can be in love with the idea of ministering to people and fail to love the very people to whom we are called to minister.
In my 20 years of ministry, I’ve learned that loving the people I minister to is more important than any philosophy of ministry or theology of the church I can muster.
That’s why Lesson #15 of the 20 I’m posting is this: You’ve got to love your people. Now, if that sounds weird to you (like a bit of a no-brainer), you might be surprised at the resentment and bitterness that can creep into pastoral ministry, making pastors jaded toward their own people. They can start to view them as wretched losers or difficult parishioners, resistant to change and muddled in the muck.
I understand how it happens. Hurts and misunderstandings are part of community life, leaders feel acute isolation, and continual strains and pressures can contribute to a loss of love for the actual people you are called to pastor.
I think that’s why some pastors move on to other churches with such regularity–they’ve fallen out of love with their peeps and begin to imagine how much better it would be somewhere else, where the people are kinder and more open and responsive. We all know how that works out . . . when five years later they move on to somewhere else.
Rather than looking for the greener pastures and whiter sheep, the call is to live more fully into the love of Jesus for his deeply flawed, mixed up people, of whom we as pastors are one!
Loving the people to whom we have been called is central to meaningful, effective ministry. And doing so over a sustained period of ministry will require that we dig deeper than the institutionalized cut-and-run philosophy of pastoral church hopping commonly allows. Unless we do, churches won’t grow–and neither will pastors.
I do love my people. And I know they love me. We are a mixed up bunch, making our way in fits and starts after the Jesus who loves us and calls us to follow. We do fail each other, but we also forgive each other. And while I do not have this ministry thing figured out, I do know that without love for each other–true, committed love–we won’t experience all that Jesus has for us, nor will we be able to live as his vibrant witnesses in the community in which he’s called us to serve.
You gotta love your peeps!
Why do pastors often get into difficult relationships with their people?
How can we grow in love rather than simply move on when things get rough?
I’ve almost finished posting my 20 lessons from 20 years of vocational ministry. Here’s the first 14 lessons: