Some may like you as a pastor and some may not, but most times, it's not about you.
Some may like you as a pastor and some may not, but most times, it's not about you. (Flickr )

Who was it who said, "I'm not as bad as my worst enemies say, nor as good as my biggest supporters claim"? It goes something like that.

I expect there's a lot more going on as to why some love you, pastor—and others don't—than first meets the eye.

Stella was a senior adult and dear to everyone in our congregation. From time to time, she would drop by the church office with fudge for her pastor. It was as delicious as anything Godiva or Hershey ever hoped to make. I made sure she knew how much I appreciated her thoughtfulness.

Meanwhile, I was having a miserable time trying to get a handle on pastoring that church. A few of the leaders were chronically dissatisfied with anything I did and most of what I said.

I welcomed her kindness.

One evening on my way out the door, I ran into Stella in the hallway. She said, "Pastor, I want you to see something." Opening her purse, she brought out a letter from 10 years earlier written by the pastor at that time, Dr. Carl Bates. He was thanking Stella for the wonderful candy.

I feigned shock. "Stella! I thought I was the only pastor you made fudge for!"

She smiled. "I have always loved all my pastors."

I gave her a hug and said, "Good for you. That's exactly how it should be."

A few minutes later, on the drive home, something occurred to me.

The precious Stella had loved all her pastors. She did so not because of what was in them but because of what was in her.

I thought of William. He was the opposite of Stella. This deacon had, by all reports, always opposed his pastors. He did so, I decided, not because of what was lacking in them, but what was lacking in him.

That little insight was delivered straight from heaven, if I know anything.

Why Do Some People Love You and Some Cannot Stand You?

Every pastor has wondered this.

No sooner had you arrived at that church, pastor, than you heard that some particular person (or group) was organizing against you. They had not given you a chance. It couldn't be said that they found something in you they didn't like. They didn't even know you, and yet they're already opposed to you.

At the same time—and almost as explicably—others in the church began to treat you as the second coming of their saintly grandfather. They adored you, showered you with kindnesses and went out of their way to welcome you.

What's going on? you wondered.

You wonder what you did to deserve the accolades and what you'd done to provoke the opposition.

Answer: In most cases, nothing.

It's not about you.

Now, I am fully aware that making generalizations of this kind is hazardous, and a one-size-fits-all rule is probably unwise. Not all pastors are godly, humble or even called. Some preachers seem to delight in stirring up opposition.

But the people who love their ministers consistently and generously through the years do so not because the pastors are always deserving, but because pastors are human and make mistakes and sometimes should be taken to the woodshed—because the people themselves are wonderful and kind and loving.

And in the same way, the people who find fault with every minister they ever have do so because of what is lacking in themselves, not in the preacher.

See how they treated Jesus? Expect the same for yourself, pastor.

After all, our Lord said, "The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household?" (Matt. 10:24-25).

Here is one tiny sample:

"They watched (Jesus) to see if He would heal (the man with a withered hand) on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. ... (After Jesus healed him) the Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to kill Him" (Mark 3:1-6).

The problem was not with Jesus. All He was doing was blessing, healing and helping. The problem was with the religious leaders and what was lacking in them.

And what was that? What were they missing?

  • Clearly, they were missing love. Jesus was "grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (Mark 3:5).
  • But the failure to love is always a symptom of a larger problem: the absence of the reigning Holy Spirit in their lives. The religious leaders were trying to live for God in the flesh, doing it their way. As a result, they were missing the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.

"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).

Therefore, dear embattled and adored pastor, keep telling yourself, "It's not about me," because it isn't. Some will love you because they love Jesus. And some will despise you because they're resisting Him.

Here are a couple of statements from our Lord you may want to post on the wall of your stronghold, pastor:

"He who receives you receives me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent me" (Matt. 10:40).

"The one who listens to you listens to Me. And the one who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).

They are treating you the way they treat Jesus.

What they think of Him, they are transferring to you, pastor.

It's the highest honor of your life. And this explains Acts 5:41. After the disciples were arrested, tried and flogged for preaching Jesus, we read: "Then they departed from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name."

Let us be worthy, dear pastor. God bless and encourage you.

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. 

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