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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

False Expectations

A pastor asked me: “Would you be willing to speak to our congregation on a Sunday in the near future?” He continued by mentioning:

“Our church leaders require me to take a week once a quarter to be with God and to receive refreshment.” I was shocked – and impressed!

Much of my time these days is spent with pastors and church leaders. Someone suggested that my ministry is that of a “shepherd to shepherds.”

It’s not that I believe I have anything new to share. I have no significant new theological insight to offer or some new method that will remove the challenges of ministry. However, I understand the tests that pastors, priests, and church leaders face. And, I care!

I’m well familiar with the expectations that parishioners, council members, and ecclesiastical authorities expect of their pastor/priests (shepherds). Some are valid. Moral integrity, the ability to teach sound doctrine, to be sensible and sound in faith and endurance (Titus 2:1) are legitimate expectations.

However, not all expectancies are reasonable. Steve Merrill humorously wrote:

“A pastor must love older folks and visit them regularly while spending all of her/his time with young people. She will be in the church office when you call; ready to be updated on the progress of your bunions and backaches!

A pastor must be in his/her 30’s but have been preaching for over 40 years, capable of performing miracles and evangelizing like Billy Graham. She/he must have the eloquence and profundity of the greatest theologians (but with the simplicity that even preschoolers can understand).

Your pastor must fully comprehend the complexity of church finances, have the master skills of a CPA, and yet never talk about money.

A pastor must be a firm believer in Godliness and church discipline, but never speak a corrective word to anyone. And, they will have a sweet, tender, deep, resonant voice, which is quietly loud – pleasing to everyone, and always audible to the hard of hearing. And most of all…

…Your pastor must be willing to help each layperson while bearing the responsibilities of all the things others are too busy to do to keep the entire church and each family running smoothly.” [1]

While honored to speak at this church, I was humbled to be in the presence of a congregation who recognizes the necessity for their pastor to disengage to re-engage.

This model is not new. “But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” [2]

If this was important to Jesus, it ought to be essential for us! Will you join me this week – and every week – to pray for your pastor/priest? And, will you pray with me that our expectations for our pastor/priest will be God’s expectation for them?


[1] (Modified slightly from Steve Merrill’s piece in The Evangelical Beacon, magazine of the Evangelical Free Church of America, copyright 1984)

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Lk 5:15–16.

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