Early in my pastoral ministry, one of my elders gave me a tremendous gift.  It was the gift of honesty. It was early in my ministry at an urban-suburban church that I really was in love with.  The people there had struggled with pastoral leadership that had changed too frequently and I was following someone they had fired. They seemed to really like me and were enthusiastic about my preaching.  Each week after worship I would stand at the door greeting them warmly and receiving their compliments.

But one Sunday, Bob, the elder, lingered in the narthex until everyone had departed.  Then he approached me.  “Pastor, I feel I need to say something.”  Bob was always very supportive and had blessed me with consistent affirmation and good counsel.  “Sure, Bob.”

The smile left his face and he said to me, “Pastor, I have watched you and I perceive you are a people pleaser.”

Talk about being hit with a ton of bricks.  I knew that was not a compliment.

Bob continued.  “Each Sunday I listen to you preach and then I watch as people greet you at the door.  You thrive on their compliments.  Your smile grows larger and larger and you enthusiasm multiplies.  You love what they are saying to you.  You love it when they say ‘Great sermon,’ ‘Loved the message,” “I really enjoy your preaching.”

I nodded my assent.

“Did you ever think that  maybe that’s not a good thing?  That maybe some people should shake your hand quietly but avoid looking you in the eye?  That some should even appear unhappy or angry when they leave?”

I had not.

“Each Sunday you have people in those pews who are being disobedient to God, who are sinning and are comfortable with it, who are behaving badly, ignoring the truth. If you are really telling them what God needs for them to hear–you should be disturbing them, making them uncomfortable, reminding them of their sin–the sin they are denying.”

I thanked him.  It was the best advise I had every received.  When I enter the pulpit I am speaking on behalf of God.  I am delivering his message.  I don’t need to be needlessly offensive but I need to be concerned that my message pleases God–not the person listening to it.

Who are you trying to please when you preach?

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

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