Every church has the one brother or sister who has appointed himself/herself to be the one to “keep the preacher humble” by being hypercritical of anything he does.
I know that the vast majority of Christians today have not taken that holy calling (can you feel the sarcasm?), but they are always there lurking in the shadows ready to jump on any sign of “ego” in the man who has taken the job of teaching others about Christ and publicly proclaiming the Scriptures. I’ll write about them another time.
The fact is, that preachers need encouragement from the church much more than we need criticism! If not, we will continue to see young men deciding to step out of the pulpit to work meaningless secular jobs and the church will continue down the road to having little to no capable men to fill its pulpits in the coming generations.
I recently did a little survey and although it is not scientific in the slightest, the answers were very telling.
Here are 5 things that preachers, real life, honest to goodness ministers said they need to hear from Christians to stay encouraged:
1. “You make me want to study the Bible.”
It may sound trite or pandering, but it is so encouraging to know that your sermon, class or anything else you have taken the time to put together pushed someone along to dive deeper into God’s Word!
2. “We need to pay you more but can’t afford it.”
Preachers do not do it for the money. Sure, I make my living with what I do and I fully intend on being able to provide for my family through my job as a minister. But, as one preacher said, “If the church can’t pay me I’m still going to preach, I just may have to back off on the other aspects of my work so I can make money somewhere else.” Or like one said, “The church pays me to keep the staff together and on working for Christ, my preaching is what I do because I’m a Christian.”
That being said, it is uplifting to know that the brethren truly believe that your work is worth more than the compensation they are able to provide.
3. “You’re sermons are getting even better!”
Ok, I’ve been preaching now for 8 years. In those 8 years my technique and confidence in the pulpit has grown tremendously. I have spent time in preaching school, studying public communication and honing my craft. I KNOW THAT I AM BETTER THAN 8 YEARS AGO.
But, I can honestly say, like the other brethren that answered with this statement, that it means something for someone else to notice.
4. “You’re not moving anywhere!”
Preachers move far too often. Whether it is because the church cannot compensate them enough to provide and so they have to move somewhere else to do so and continue to preach, a “bigger church” opens up and he gives in to the Grass-Is-Greener syndrome, or it’s something more problematic like the jokers we talked about at the beginning of this post driving him crazy to the point that he steps down from the pulpit and works at McDonald’s. Whatever it is, it happens far more often than it ever should.
I have already moved far more than I ever wanted to in my short 8 years behind the lectern. So I can relate to those who find encouragement in the church wanting them to stay!
5. “You challenge me.”
This was by far the most popular answer in my anecdotal survey.
Like the first, this is the reason we do what we do, people!
To know that something we said caused someone to reflect inwardly and react outwardly to the call of God in the Scripture is worth everything we can ever face in ministry. I promise you, if you say this, and mean it, to your preacher he will be thinking about it all week and it will be the reason he wakes up Monday morning and heads to the office!