Pastors Under Pressure

The biggest change that’s needed in your church is where you place your expectations. Imagine the church service like a play with three roles: Prompter, Performer, and Critic. The prompter is in the front row giving cues to the performers (actors) and there are critics who evaluate how the play went.

Typically in our church services today the way we view things is that God is the Prompter, the pastors preaching and leading worship are the Performers, and the congregants in church are the Critics. This puts tremendous pressure of expectations on pastors! The stress is on them to be dynamic, insightful, funny, or whatever it takes to connect everyone with God and make them happy. People leave church evaluating the pastor’s performance.

How was church? “Oh, pastor gave such an inspiring message!” “I didn’t like the pastor’s point about….” “Well, the worship was flat.” People are critiquing the pastor’s performance, if not out loud then in their heads. When you do this it guarantees that you will receive little if any benefit from being in church and it puts an enormous burden on your pastors.

The other side of the problem is pastors putting pressure on themselves to preach a great message, lead engaging worship, or measure up to the expectations of their audience. Now instead of having a gorilla on their back it’s like an elephant is stepping on them! This is a major reason for today’s alarming statistics on pastor distress.

Biblical and Cultural Models for Church

We’ve got it all backwards! Here’s how the roles in a church service need to be: the Prompter is the pastor, the Performers are the congregation, and the Critic is God.

In a cultural (consumeristic) model for doing church God is prompting the pastor to perform for people’s pleasure, but in a Biblical model the pastor is prompting the congregation to perform for God’s pleasure.

In 2 Corinthians 4:1-7 the Corinthian church is critiquing Paul but he doesn’t accept the pressure to perform — he simply lays out the truth the word of God “plainly,” knowing that the light of Christ is shining and that it’s up to each person to open their hearts to God. He says, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (verse 5).

What You Can Do for Your Church

Pastor, the most important thing you can do on Sunday is to place yourself in the role of the Prompter, a servant assisting the Lord Jesus Christ and drawing people’s attention to him and the Father. (Of course this starts with your attention being on the Lord!) This means relying on the Holy Spirit and not merely your own abilities.

Congregant, the most important thing you can do in church on Sunday is to place yourself in the role of the Performer — not under pressure to perform for an audience, but as being given an opportunity to worship God, live by the grace of Christ, and be a loving person. In any Christian church service, no matter how “dry” or “flat” it may seem, you can continually lift up your heart in praise to God, listen to the Spirit of Christ and the Word of God, and learn something important for your life.

Let God be the Critic. His opinion on “how it went” is the only one that matters! After all, he is the Author and Director of the play!

The Best Way to Support Your Pastor” teaches you to ask yourself in church, “What is God saying to me?”


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