The past couple of weeks haven’t been my finest. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been short with people. I’ve found my mind more set on things of the world than storing my treasure in heaven. At times I’ve even felt angry or anxious. Believe it or not, I’m a pastor.
Do people have a perfect picture of pastors in their heads? I’m not sure, but I do know that pastors need grace, love, and mercy from their congregation just as much as any member. Congregations expecting perfection from their pastors will be let down. They may be hurt. You will never find a church with a perfect pastor.
Obviously there are qualifications for a pastor in the Bible. These shouldn’t be taken lightly or excused, but they will never be met perfectly. The pastor’s job is to be an imperfect model for His congregation and to point to the model who has met all of the qualifications perfectly. Because of Jesus’ perfection both the pastor and the congregation can be saved.
Chief of Sinners
Jean Larroux said, “If the biggest sinner you know isn’t you, then you don’t know yourself very well.” I imagine every pastor would tell you they are the biggest sinner they know. Sinning is easy. Being holy is hard. In fact, we are only by God’s grace and His Spirit inside of us.
Paul knew Himself well. A former persecutor of the church, Paul never forgot who he had been. Even after his dramatic conversion he was by no means perfect. Paul still affirmed his disposition to sin and need of Christ in his letter to Timothy where he says, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul laments that he is still prone to sin and do evil in Romans 7. He was a man who knew himself well and was very aware of his need for Jesus.
Paul’s words should resonate in every one of our hearts. We should be quick to argue with Paul and say, “No sir! I am the foremost sinner.” We should feel his struggle in Romans 7 as he wrestles with his sinful nature and new nature found in Christ. There’s a war waging inside of him that we feel warring inside of us as well. This isn’t just true for every Christian. It’s true for every pastor. In fact, I think it’s one of the things that makes being a pastor so hard.
Pastors preach a message that they need themselves. As imperfect people, they preach God’s perfect standards. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve prepared a message to preach and thought, “I am so unqualified to be preaching this word to these people.” That is why we must first preach it to ourselves and let God work on our hearts before we bring it to His people. We all need God’s grace and mercy.
Remember each time you’re at church that your pastor is a human. He is in as much need of God’s grace and mercy as you are. He isn’t a perfect man and you shouldn’t worship him. Do hold him to biblical standards, but realize he won’t meet them all perfectly. Take comfort that your pastor is relatable. Because he sins too, he knows what you are going through and he is equipped to point you to the One who can actually do something about it.
Your pastor doesn’t just need God’s grace, he needs your grace. Love him well as he seeks to lovingly shepherd you. Encourage him. Be quick to forgive him and show him the grace and mercy God has shown you if the occasion arises for it. Read the accounts of Moses and David and remember that shepherding a people toward Christ is not an easy job and no one does it perfectly.
Good pastors are seeking Christ, repenting of their own sins, and asking for the Spirit’s help in order to lovingly lead the people God has placed under their care. It’s not an easy job. Many days they don’t feel qualified. There are no perfect pastors, but praise the Lord we have a perfect shepherd who has laid down his life for the sinful sheep—including pastors.