Attitudes toward pastors

Our former pastor was well respected and recently passed away. His replacement is not very well liked. Several of us are considering moving on. Would it be wrong to leave the congregation?

I would encourage you and your fellow members to read the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians. In that part of the epistle, you will find that the Christians in Corinth were putting too much emphasis on their spiritual leaders. They were taking sides and rallying around their spiritual leaders—past and present.

What is interesting is seeing how the apostle Paul addressed that situation. He told the Corinthians to keep their spiritual leaders, including himself, in perspective. He reminded them that their leaders, their pastors, were only God’s instruments to plant the seed of God’s word and water it (1 Corinthians 3:5-9); they were servants of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). None of them were foundations of their faith (1 Corinthians 1:13). Paul wanted the Corinthians to see beyond the messengers of the word and focus on Jesus Christ. That would be my encouragement to you and your friends.

The Bible directs us to respect ministers of the gospel (Hebrews 13:7, 17). If your current pastor is faithfully carrying out his God-given responsibilities, he is worthy of your respect and honor (1 Timothy 5:17). The fact that he might not, in some people’s eyes, measure up to his predecessor, does not provide reason for withholding respect and honor. It also does not provide legitimate reasons for leaving the congregation.

With the context of 1 Corinthians 1-4 in mind, it is understandable that Christians can become closer to some pastors who minister to them more than others. Christians might really appreciate a pastor who baptized them, another who confirmed them, still another who married them, and finally another who served a family member in illness and at death. It is wonderful that Christians appreciate faithful service by a faithful servant. But, as with the Corinthians, there is a problem if we put too much emphasis on the messengers of God’s word and fail to put the focus on the content of their message: Jesus Christ, our Savior from sin.

If you and your friends, for whatever reason, do not like the messenger of the word who is serving you, I hope you can see the need to speak to your pastor and relay any concerns you may have. Nothing is resolved, and the eighth commandment is abused, if people merely talk about their pastor. On the other hand, good things can happen when people have difficult conversations and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Another “speaking” you can do is to continue to pray for your pastor. God bless you and your congregation with unity and peace (Ephesians 4:3).