I’ve never been one to overtly seek to people please, but I certainly do like to be liked and would love to be loved. I just don’t want that to be a part of my reputation. Let me tell you a secret that’s not really much of one, though. We pastors have to be people pleasers to a degree or our churches will be empty. We have to be political. We cannot always, or even usually, be candid. Why? I don’t know why I’m telling you what you already know. People don’t want the truth, even the ones who say they do. They want an image. They want their existing beliefs and prejudices reinforced. The speaker who can do that well will have a large listening audience.
I have tried to please people. I have tried to please everyone in my church. I have done a bad job. Our church was started to reach people who don’t go to church. That can be young or old, but early on we had a ministry to youth, largely. As the church has matured we have attracted older people, and I’ve sought to make this an environment to, well, please them.
Our band can be loud, so I sought to control the volume by building a room for the drummer. I led our church to purchase nice carpet to replace the old, chairs to replace the ancient theater seats that were once bolded to the floor. I’ve tried to have services at various times: early Sunday, Saturday evening. We’ve done campaigns by Rick Warren, which some of the people I was trying to please disliked. Nothing works. The people I’ve sought to keep happy aren’t and do not stay. I just don’t have what it takes to keep them.
I’m not from the South. I’m not a Texan. I’m not married. I don’t have kids. I preach too long. I don’t know, but, obviously, when we keep losing people to larger and/or established churches (ironic since our church is nearly 15 now). There are times when I’m ready to move back out West. Start another church. Leave the ministry altogether. I don’t know. I just want to do God’s will, and I’m tired of trying to please these people!
Stuff happens. In any human community, and that includes churches, there are conflicts, issues to resolve, feelings to assuage. What gets old is the tendency to blame the pastor for all of it. We do this with leaders. Look at how people seem to believe that the President of the U. S. A. is somehow to blame for all of the nations problems. You might be surprised at how little the man can actually do. As leaders we must take responsibility, however. We have to try to solve problems, but that doesn’t mean we are the problem. Now, that doesn’t mean I have no issues or am not a contributor to difficulties. I try not to be. I want to help, not cause or exacerbate problems.
I have come to the conclusion that I cannot please everyone. There are people who are intractable, incorrigible, and implacable. There are also great people who just don’t agree with me, or like me, or who perpetually take me the wrong way. I have to accept that and love them anyhow. I have to allow that some will join our church and then will eventually chose to go somewhere else.
Now, will that conclusion (that I cannot possibly please everyone) stop me from trying? I hope so. I’m not giving myself permission to be unkind to people, nor am I validating a self-centered approach to relationships. Love must be the basis for every human relationship. I will seek to love people. However, love doesn’t mean I must always try to do what makes others happy. Love means doing what’s best for others, even if I don’t like it: even if they don’t like it. “Love rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6), so I must be willing to tell the truth to others, although that’s painful to them and to me at times.
“I am what I am by the grace of God, and his grace toward me was not without effect” (1 Corinthians 15:10). I’m not Super Pastor. I’m just Pastor D. I’ll be me. I’ll let Christ do his work through my personality. I’ll keep learning and growing and changing where I need to become more Christlike. But I’m going to stop trying be someone or something I’m not, even if that means my church never gains MEGA status.