I know. I'm biased, because I'm a pastor, and given the choice between engaging with pleasant, encouraging, smiling souls, and those carping critics who make piranhas look like tame goldfish, I'd obviously choose the latter. But it's worth thinking about why we should be nice to the women and men who lead us, for one simple reason: encouragement takes thought and strategy, and shouldn't just happen because it just happens. Years ago Ian Dury (together with his Blockhead friends) sang about 'Reasons to be cheerful'. Here are 5 reasons to be nice to your local pastor:
1. They frequently take the blame for God
It's true: Christian leaders represent God, who is currently invisible, and, at times, seems unavailable, especially when things go horribly wrong in life. When people get angry with God, there's no customer support line to call, and so they frequently take out their frustration on the person they most associate with God, which might be their vicar, pastor, leader or priest. Getting slapped on behalf of the Almighty is not a happy experience.
2. They are required to say some things that they'd prefer not to say
The Bible contains some awkward truths, and if your pastor is going to be faithful in preaching it, they'll have to deal with some tricky passages on sensitive subjects like divorce, war, adultery, sexuality, and, brace yourself for the subject that tends to light the blue touch paper, money. When speaking on these, they are unlikely to please all of the people all of the time, which means they will take some heat. Cool them down with some kindness.
3. They are often the target for gossip
In some churches, Christians don't gossip, they share. Under that guise of sharing, "Please pray for the pastor, he is really struggling right now", we can give the impression that the pastor is struggling with faith and is now a fully paid up member of the humanist society, struggling with temptation, and has opened their own private harem, or is struggling with anger towards his congregation, and is now a serial killer whose modus operandi is striking during the after-church cup of tea while wearing clerical attire. Gossip destroys people. Don't pass it on.
4. They don't have a hotline to God
Some think that their pastors have a VIP pass to the courts of heaven, and begin each day with a happy little chat with God. They don't. They too struggle with doubt, unanswered prayer, and when going through wilderness times in their faith, often have to appear more certain than they are, not because they are faking it, but because it is inappropriate for them to dump their own private struggles on their congregation every Sunday. If you sometimes feel that your prayer life is more AOL dialup than high speed wireless, know that they frequently feel the same.
5. They usually don't have a cunning plan for world dominion
Okay, there are some wolves out there masquerading as shepherds. There are power hungry, authoritarian clerical control freaks who would be better leading at leading fascist regime than a local congregation. Spiritual abuse does happen, and it's serious. But the vast majority of leaders are ordinary people (God only uses ordinary folk, nothing else is available), who are simply doing their best to respond to a vocational call to help people to discover Jesus.
So go ahead. Make their day, and help them out by being nice.
Jeff and his wife Kay will be hosting a tour of London and Israel this autumn. Find out more about joining them here.