3 unreasonable expectations pastors have of their churches

By Sam S. Rainer III

I have high expectations of my church. Church members should worship together often, give generously, serve sacrificially, and make disciples of all nations. There are no exceptions to these high expectations. The mission of God requires an all-in effort from every believer in every church.

Of course, plenty of low-expectation churches exist.

The come-and-see consumer mentality is an unfortunate church culture that is far too prevalent. What are reasonable expectations of a church member? I’ve blogged on this subject, and it was one of my more popular posts in 2013.

In this post, I want to address unreasonable expectations pastors have of their churches. I’ve seen these unreasonable expectations in churches with a low view of membership, as well as churches with a high view of membership. I’m guilty of all three. There are more, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. I’ll start with the three unreasonable expectations I have seen most.

#1: Agreement is the same as unity. I doubt you ever experience a moment in your ministry where everyone in the church agrees with you at the same time. Let’s be real: The only place total agreement exists is in dictatorships, where “agreement” is forced. As a pastor, good people will occasionally disagree with you. If you lead a church with over a couple dozen people, then at least one of them will disagree with you about something at any given point. Agreement or disagreement occurs over specific decisions, and you will not always get everyone to agree with you. However, I do hope your church is unified at all times. Unity is a Spirit-led culture in the church that should be exhibited by everyone.

#2: Passion is often contagious. “Passion is contagious!” Sure, I’ve said it many times. Passion can be contagious, but it is often not contagious.

Leadership and discipleship include passion, but no matter how passionately you say, “Let’s discuss the eschatological implications of supralapsarianism!” you probably won’t have many people signing up for that Bible study class. Some areas of the church self-generate passion. (Potluck, anyone?) Most others do not. That’s why it takes more than passion to lead and disciple people. You cannot expect passion to be contagious.

#3: The bulk of leadership can be done in the pulpit. One of the most common pieces of pastoral advice floating around is, “Just preach the Word!” I appreciate the spirit of this statement, and I too have a high view of Scripture and preaching. But telling someone to “Just preach the Word” is kind of like telling the President of the United States to “Just give good speeches.” (I do understand the difference between preaching and speeches — I’m simply making a point). Preaching is critically important, but you can’t rely on the pulpit for the bulk of your leadership. A preacher becomes a pastor when he is connected to the people personally.

Agreement, passion, and preaching are three important areas of church leadership. Just don’t have unreasonable expectations of your church with them.


sam_s_rainer_IIISam S. Rainer III serves as president of Rainer Research (rainerresearch.com), a firm dedicated to providing answers for better church health. He also is the senior pastor at Stevens Street Baptist Church in Cookeville, TN. He writes, speaks, and consults on church health issues. You can connect with Sam at @samrainer or at his blog, samrainer.wordpress.com.


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