Some pastors seem to delight in being hard and mean.
We’re in a spiritual battle! they’ll say.
Jesus used a whip and turned over tables! they’ll remind us.
OK. Yes, Jesus did that. Towards religious leaders.
But to the average person seeking help and truth? He was almost universally meek and gentle – a friend of sinners. So kind and nice that it got him in trouble at times.
Pastors have a lot of power in the church and in people’s lives. Many would argue that we often have more power than we should – and I would fully agree with that. But that is reality. A reality we need to take into account then we’re dealing with people.
In addition, there seems to be a group of pastors who are perpetually angry. They can quote chapter-and-verse for everyone else’s sins, but they’re not so good at remembering James 1:20 which reminds us that “…man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
As pastors, we don’t even need to be angry for our words – even true words – to hurt people unnecessarily.
Here’s an example.
Never Embarrass Someone
I had a meeting several years ago in which I spoke harshly to a church member. Appropriately for the situation, I thought, but harshly. Afterwards, a leader in the church who had sat in on the meeting approached me and suggested I apologize to the person I’d been severe with.
“Why?” I asked. “They were in the wrong and wouldn’t listen to reason. They even rolled their eyes at one point! I had to raise the emotional level to get through to them. Anyone else would have done the same thing in that situation.”
“Yes, you’re right”, the church leader said. “I saw the eye-roll too. And I was very upset at how disrespectfully they were talking to you. But you’re not just anyone else. You’re their pastor. Those words in that tone from a friend, teacher or boss would have given the situation the impact it needed. But those words in that tone from their pastor was devastating. You have a deeply wounded church member right now.”
They were right. So I followed this wise suggestion. I apologized.
And, as it turns out, the person I’d been harsh with was feeling completely demoralized. Not by my words and tone, but by the fact that those words in that tone had come from their pastor. Continue reading