By Brian Boyles
Each year brings about its own issues, but this year we’ve had a number of issues converge and culminate into a cataclysmic eruption of emotions across the nation.
We’ve seen race issues boil over, riots in major cities, a viral outbreak around the globe, and all of this during a presidential election year. Many politicians have responded in ways people expect politicians to respond.
Unfortunately, I’ve become more aware that the line that distinguishes pastors from politicians is becoming more and more blurred. This is a tragedy, and it must be addressed.
I want to present three ways pastors look more like politicians than like dispensers of the Word.
If any of these behaviors are in your life, confess it to God and make the commitment to reverse the trend in your ministry.
1. The Facial Scanner
The “facial scanner” is a minister who has a conversation with someone while constantly scanning the other faces in the room to see if a “more important” person is nearby.
I’ve seen this so many times that I’ve come to expect it.
Go to a convention or conference for church leaders and watch as people are having conversations without looking at each other. Both of them talking, neither one paying attention.
Have you ever been in a conversation with a pastor who patted you on the shoulder to interrupt you when you were mid-sentence and then said something like, “Excuse me, I need to go speak with this person?”
It’s embarrassing. It’s hurtful. And it’s common. In fact, it happens in churches on Sunday mornings, not just in convention halls.
Scanning the room for a bigger name rather than giving undivided attention to the person who is speaking with you is more than a bad social habit; it’s harmful to your ministry.
People notice when you do this, and they’ll remember it. Your credibility will suffer.
Instead, practice giving people your undivided attention. When speaking to someone, leave your phone in your pocket and focus on the person you’re speaking with.
Treat them like the most important person in the building and keep your undivided attention on them.
This is a basic social skill, but it’s become rare today. Doing this will communicate to people that you value them, that they matter, and that you care about what they’re going through.
Here’s a better plan than the facial scan: Before beginning a conversation with someone, scan the room for the person who appears to be visiting for the first time, or the person who appears to be most in need of a warm welcome, or the single parent who could use some help.
Finding and focusing on that one person will set your church apart from the rest.
2. The Financial Planner
The “financial planner” is a pastor so focused on money that wealthy congregants get special treatment compared to those with less financial means.
Politicians need money like they need oxygen or else their campaigns will collapse. Therefore, many politicians chase after wealthy donors, surround themselves with wealthy people, and remain at their beck and call.
But a pastor is to be as Christ was, showing no partiality, and never a respecter of persons (Matthew 22:16).
There’s already a stigma related to pastors and money, with many people almost expecting wealthy individuals to get special treatment.
This might be expected behavior for a politician, but it shouldn’t be this way in the church. This bad behavior can sneak up on a pastor because of how subtle it can be.
Maybe there’s a building project that requires raising a lot of funds, and the involvement of big donors would be a big help.
But if you look over your calendar and see a lot of your time is spent with wealthy members, but almost no time with others, then you need to take a hard look in the mirror.
Jesus said it’s impossible to serve both God and wealth. He didn’t say it’s difficult; He said it’s impossible.
You’re not a politician. You’re not running for reelection. You aren’t called to be a financial planner. You’re a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
He’s your Provider, your Treasure, and your Sustainer. Treat people equally regardless of whether or not they have a condo at the beach.
3. The Flirtatious Manner
This pastor seems to always be in a conversation with, or often meeting alone with, someone of the opposite sex.
This is more than foolish; it’s dangerous. Many politicians often have a flirtatious manner about them. I guess they hope they’ll get the vote of the opposite sex by being charming.
But too many politicians have a broken marriage and wander into the hallways of adultery.
Many pastors are guilty of this as well. Personally, I’m weary from the number of pastors who’ve fallen to moral failure in this area in recent years. It’s a stain on the church and a muzzle to the gospel.
The answer is not to avoid the opposite sex as if they have the plague. This can also be damaging.
But if the integrity of your ministry and of the gospel of Jesus Christ is worth anything to you, at least be better than politicians in this area.
Pastors Are Not Politicians
Many politicians do what they do because they have a goal or dream of power and influence. They treat people as if they’re only there to help further their vision.
But as a minister of the gospel, people aren’t coming to the church in order to help make fantasies a reality.
Many people visit your church because of some type of pain, loss, or confusion.
They’re looking for comfort and answers. They need to know there’s a God in heaven who hears their prayers and who cares about their suffering.
Your job—your calling—is to care for them and direct them to God through Jesus Christ. Pastors, remember, we are not politicians.
BRIAN BOYLES (@brian_boyles) is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Snellville, Georgia.