One of the things that makes a pastors job so hard is that most people don't want you to do your job. This is why there is so much turn over in the ministry. Pastors are brought on by churches to fill the pulpit and officiate weddings, funerals and other ceremonies, but they are rarely able to oversee, reprove, rebuke, admonish and correct people. It has been my experience thus far after about four years of pastoral ministry that most people want a pastor but don't want to be pastored. They don't want you to shepherd them or oversee them unless it's something that they already agree with you about. They want you to keep a safe distance from them and only come close when they are in the hospital or need a ride to the airport. When their behavior is out of line, they don't want you meddling with their business. Even those who call you for counsel are not really looking for you to confront their sin and correct them. They want you to affirm the decision that they are already bent on making and if you don't, they find creative ways to tell you why they will go to another church. This is discouraging and makes ministry a real drag.
So, what shall we do about this? There are a couple of options that I've seen pastors take:
Option 1: It's easier to just not care and let people do their thing. It's easier for us as pastors to just be hirelings and deliver our sermons that they don't really listen to anyway and try to keep the peace as much as possible...especially with those who give the most. This is the way of least resistance. Just go ahead and let sin run rampant in the church but feel justified in the fact that at least you're preaching the truth and they are accountable for what they do with it. Only deal with the stuff that gets out of hand and has the potential of becoming a public embarrassment.
Option 2:, depending on your personality type, it may be easier to just keep a lock down on everything as a micro-manger and a task master that instills fear into the people. They may not want you to meddle with their business, but if you are heavy handed with your leadership, you can at least keep them in line and minimize the stuff they'll get into by making everything an issue that brings about a confrontation. They know that if they do something you don't approve of as the pastor, they will be shunned, preached against in the next sermon and labeled as "backsliders".
Option 3: We never abandon our call to shepherd people. We do it whether they like it or not. The difference is that we will have to learn to do it in a way that gently teaches the sheep that they have a need for shepherding. This is to seek the greatest good for your church member. Sometimes, you can't even get to the bottom line with some people because if you do, they'll split and then you can't help them anyway. You have to first convince them of their need to be pastored by showing them their inadequacy to go it alone. You will have to convince them of your love for them and your interest in their well being. Then, move on to Biblically dealing with the problem. Sometimes, nothing you do will convince them of anything except that they need to go to another church. But at least you can know before God you did your best for them for their profit and your joy.
Here's Peter's expert advice to us:
1 Peter 5:1-3 The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
From this verse we see that option one and two are out. Option one just does the job by compulsion or for job security. Verse 2 forbids this. Option two is forbidden by verse 3 which is lording over people.
We are to shepherd people as overseers with eagerness. What would make us eager to do this? What is our motive?
Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.
John Piper comments on this verse with advice to pastors by saying:
"The pastor who does not seek to do his work with joy does not care for his flock. Not to pursue joy in ministry is not to pursue the profit of our people...The command of the apostle Peter is to pursue joy in the ministry. It is not optional. It is not a mere unexpected result. It is a duty! To say that you are indifferent to what the apostle commands you to experience is to be indifferent to the will of God and that is sin." (Desiring God P. 306, 127)
So, we minister to people so that we can do it with joy. To do ministry with joy is to seek the greatest profit of our people. When they disobey and rebel, they hinder our joy and we are not able to pastor them for their own profit. What will keep us going when people do not want to be pastored, is to fight for our joy in pastoring them by seeking what is profitable for them. It is inevitable that there will be people who are a grief to oversee, but let be of their doing in disobedience and not because of our neglect of duty to seek joy in ministry by seeking their good.
~ Originally posted at Reforming Baptist