20 Lessons/20 Years: Lesson #9: Not Everyone Will Like Me (So Get Over It)

I like people. People (usually) like me. And I like people to like me. That’s where it gets tricky.

For the month of May, I’m reflecting on lessons learned in my 20 years of ministry. Today’s lesson has been hard won.

Lesson #9: Not Everyone Will Like Me (So Get Over It)
Confession time: My name is Tom and I am a recovering People-Pleaser. And while caring for people is central to pastoral ministry, pleasing people is its nasty Achilles Heel. The gifts that good pastors share, such as empathy and compassion, also make them susceptible to the darker side: needing approval and affirmation from people. But here’s the problem: leading people to follow Jesus and minister in his name will not always be pleasing or popular. Fostering missional change in a church creates tension. Sometimes people get downright grumpy. In fact, they might not even like you anymore.

DislikeThis has been a hard lesson for me, and I still struggle with it. I get all balled up inside when someone pushes back against a gospel challenge. I feel this overwhelming urge to rush in and resolve tensions Jesus himself creates (pick up your cross and follow me, for example). I can take personally someone’s deep antipathy to life change the Holy Spirit himself is leading.

But as I’ve lead in ministry, I’ve discovered something important. In order to truly care for people, I need to let my need for their affirmation go. If I want to help people follow Jesus, I must release my desire to be liked by them. More than that, I must embrace the fact that people may not like me, even as they hear Jesus calling them and respond to his call.

The less I need to be liked the more I am able to loveAcknowledging that not everyone will like me is still hard, but I’m starting to get it. Jesus is the one I must please, not others. He is my master.¬† And while this could be an excuse to be less caring, I’ve begun to see how I’m able to care for people more when I need their affirmation less. The less I need to be liked, the more I am able to love. Why? Because I’m no longer serving them to get something from them–I’m now serving them for their own sakes, even if that means they are less than thrilled with me.

How does pleasing people hurt true ministry?
How have you grappled with your need for affirmation?

During May, I’m posting 20 lessons I’ve gleaned from my first 20 years of ministry. Catch up on previous posts:


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