How does one listen to the congregation AND do what God wants?

by kensneed2 on November 7, 2011

Who’s Your Boss?  People seem to always feel free to comment on the minister’s work.  The pastor’s sermon, the music minister’s music, the youth minister’s lack of Bible study or lack of  social activities or lack of . . . something.  Educational ministry, age group ministry . . . too much . . . too little . . . wrong theology . . . failure to emphasize what “I” believe.

St Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church, Houston, TX

So, who’s your boss? The “Sunday School” answer would be to do what God wants.  That’s the easy answer, and technically the right answer.  But it’s not necessarily the real answer.  Often the reality of trying to do what you believe God wants interferes with your congregation’s wants.  And the immediate, pressing demands or hints that you should cooperate are so hard to ignore because they’re real.

What if they’re right?  What if what the people you’re pastoring are being used by God to help you know what they need?  And again, confusion seems to reign as you try to separate who’s actually trying to send you the right message — people or God.

What are you trying to achieve?  

  •  Ministry — Service to others in Jesus’ Spirit.  Probably the number 1 reason people get into The Ministry.  It is undoubtedly the right reason. The position of authority that it is, it brings with it a heady rush that derails the original motivation if one is not careful.
  • Notoriety — Getting the appropriate recognition that you’re God’s servant, equipped and called to serve Him.  And as a result of the ego boost that comes with the position, the attention that’s received often becomes a motivation to work for more notoriety.
  • Attention — Who wouldn’t enjoy increasing attention from others?  Even if it’s not the primary motivation, it can quietly distract us from the focus on looking to God for direction.
  • Lack of conflict (peace?) — Most people don’t enjoy conflict.  Claiming that avoiding conflict to keep the peace at all costs may mean abandoning God’s call to be a prophet by speaking the truth regarding wrongs that are occurring.

    How would it affect your ministry?

  • Sermons — Speaking the Truth in God’s name can be difficult to do when there is pressure to avoid losing attention, notoriety and to avoid conflict.  Don’t allow God’s messages though you to become possible losses.
  • Time management — It’s easy to be distracted by pressure from church members when trying to follow God’s direction.  Focusing on immediate emergencies and pleasing God at the same time is not an easy task.
  • Family — Turning off the pressures of the work of ministry when home so the attention is given to family is hard.  With family being part of the church membership, they often are aware of the problems you’re dealing with.  Not talking about the problems with them is hard for them to understand.  Healthy boundaries established with a long talk with your family to explain your need to have time away from those problems and at a different time, how you’ll answer their questions is very important for your sanity and family harmony.
  • Self-care — Just as with family boundaries, set some personal boundaries for your well-being.
  • Fear — Don’t allow fear to grid-lock you, nor drive you to make rash decisions.  Remind yourself that by listening to God so you know his love and direction, fear is not part of your experience.

    Now it’s your choice!
Can you separate listening to your congregation from discerning God’s will?  We all know that God often speaks to us through brothers and sisters in Christ.  And at the same time, we sometimes find that we’re pressured and distracted by good church members who are . . . human.  Since ministers are human, too, it points out the need to be consistent in our personal relationship with God to stay the course of serving God.
I had a seminary professor who frequently answered questions in class by pointing out that the answer might not be an issue of either/or, but rather both/and.  Being sensitive to God’s direction and hearing what the congregation’s wants/needs is the answer when it’s accomplished as a result of having a viable connection with God.

Whatchathink?  It’s difficult to be the minister who engenders the church’s confidence and at the same time admitting that you might need help to get off of a plateau in enthusiasm.  Addressing a need for new perspectives in ministry and outreach doesn’t admit weakness.  It demonstrates an acknowledgement of the need to increase practical knowledge, which is a practice of leaders of industry.

If you’d like to discuss how I can be helpful as a coach for you in your ministry, contact me at 225-773-8883 or on the Let Me Hear From You page at

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