Please Don’t Compare~ Way 27
Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.
1 Thessalonians 5:12,13
In my almost 40 years of life, I have never had to go through the process of choosing a church home. My Daddy was always the pastor of the churches we attended during my growing up years. During my college years, I either attended the church where I served as a Sunday school teacher for my “Practical Christian Ministry”, a requirement for graduation at the Christian school I attended or I attended the church where my boyfriend at the time had his “PCM”. During our senior year, my then fiance started working part time as a youth pastor. We were members at that church for 7 years.
For the past 10 1/2 years, we have been in churches where my husband has served as a youth pastor, associate pastor and now senior pastor.
This experience has taught me many things. One is that a church cannot be about what you get out of it. There was a time when I was very little when we were at a church which boasted a children’s ministry of 3 children, my two sisters and me. I know my parents wanted more opportunity for us, but I look back on that time in our lives as THE time that cemented my friendship with my sisters. We had no one else, so we learned to love one another. Now as a parent, I don’t worry about those things. Is the programming great for my children? Honestly, it is not my first or most important thought. What I want to know is are my children learning that worshiping God is not about us, but all about Him? If the answer to this question is “yes”, then everything else will just be icing on the cake.
We have been in big churches and small churches. Churches with contemporary worship and churches with a full orchestra. We have been in churches with superb children’s ministries and ones with hardly any children at all. We have been in affluent areas and poor areas. City churches and country churches. We have met kind people and mean people. We have worshiped beside different cultures and IN different cultures.
The one thing that has always remained the same? The God we worship. He never changes.
So I have learned that it is fruitless to compare churches in order to determine “best”. What is most important is who is on the throne? Because even if the church meets all of the criteria you have, if they do not love God first and others second, they are nothing (Matt. 22:37-39 and 1 Cor. 13:1-3).
In addition to never choosing a church, I have never chosen the pastor! First it was my Daddy, then the pastors who served alongside my husband and now my husband is my pastor (I did choose HIM, but I didn’t know that he would be my pastor some day in the future when I married him!).
From what I understand from talking to others about the process of choosing a church, it can be a lot like dating. You are looking for a church that feels like family, one where you can connect with others, be cared for and serve. Another stipulation is that the teaching is doctrinally sound and the pastor is both challenging and encouraging. I understand why these things are important. But once a pastor has been hired or you have chosen a church, it can be incredibly hurtful for the pastor to always be compared to previous pastors.
I know this is inevitable. It is human nature to judge and compare, but we need to understand the danger here. If we had an amazing pastor earlier in our lives, it will be hard not to expect every other pastor to be like him. But it is important to keep in mind that God’s plan is perfect. And in His plan, there are no cookie cutter pastors. They are all unique with their own set of giftings, talents and abilities.
This subject feels particularly vulnerable for me, because my husband has been compared to others in so many ways (and for some he could never measure up). It was a very difficult road, but we are now at a place where people appreciate WHO he is, not just what he does.
I am thankful to be where we are now, but I know enough pastor’s wives to know that my husband’s experience is not unique. If a pastor takes a position in a church that had previously been filled by a well-loved pastor, it will be difficult. There will be unfair expectations placed on him and if the congregation has not learned the dangers of comparing, it will be very difficult for his ministry to last. Also, if a pastor is one of many pastors on staff, it will be difficult for members not to compare. If there is insecurity or pride among the pastors, it will make for a not-so-great working environment.
Some typical comparisons…
- Introvert/Extrovert comparisons
- Time management (how many hours does he work? what are his priorities?)
- Type of teaching and manner of preaching
- Administrative strengths and weaknesses
- Personal preferences (sports or music person, use technology or paper notes when preaching, etc.)
Now think for a moment, how would it feel if people criticized you for these things or constantly compared you to someone else? It would be hard- especially when it comes to personality or preference issues. But for some reason, it happens all the time for pastors.
Now imagine how your pastor would feel if you were to celebrate who he was instead of always telling him about how someone else did it. I guarantee that pastors who are celebrated feel appreciated, but pastors who are constantly compared to others feel discouraged and unloved.
So, please don’t compare. Challenge where needed, but celebrate the most! Pastors who feel appreciated will work harder and love more.
Way 27: Your pastor will feel appreciated when he is celebrated rather than compared to others.