13 Things Churchgoers Should Never Say to a Pastor

By Matt Henslee

Previously, Joe McKeever wrote about 13 things a pastor should never say to a congregation. After a disclaimer about obvious no-no’s, he went on to list things some pastors may be tempted to say to their church.

But as we think about Pastor Appreciation Month, what if we flipped it to the 13 things a member should never say to a pastor?

I’ve heard some doozies over the years, like the time a disgruntled member said, “I don’t care what the Bible says; I don’t like it.” Or the time another said, “We don’t need too much Scripture in a sermon; it’s outdated.”

After 21 years of ministry, I could build the list myself, but I asked some other pastors for input. Some of the responses were sad, some downright mean, but here are 13 things a member should never say to a pastor.

1. “You couldn’t preach your way out of a paper bag.”
The gift of discouragement is strong with this one. Pray for your pastor, encourage him, but don’t tear him down.

2. “We get it; we need to share the gospel. Find something else to preach.”
Frankly, they should take this up with Jesus (Matt. 4:19-20, 28:19–20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8) and Paul (Rom. 10:14–15; 2 Tim. 2:2).

3. “I can’t look at you when you preach because you don’t wear a suit. Aren’t you the High Priest of this church?! You are supposed to dress like it.”
As one who’ll wear ugly Christmas suits, it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing for me to wear robes with bells and pomegranates on the fringe. But focus less on what your pastor wears and more on living out what he proclaims.

4. “We aren’t going to get as close to you as the last pastor.”
To be honest, you may be correct, but your previous pastor is not your last pastor––your current pastor serves you now. Open your heart and life to him, give it some time with prayer and faithfulness, and you may be surprised.

5. “You obviously don’t look at my tithe amount.”
This was similar to “I tithe, so I pay your salary, which means you work for me,” and is usually said by someone who didn’t get their way. This isn’t “pay to play;” you give to advance God’s kingdom.

6. “Preacher, that was a good message. It would have been better if you weren’t so fat.”
While a pastor should strive to be spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy, saying this is hateful. Please don’t.

7. “You can preach, but you’re a crappy pastor.”
The preacher to whom they said this replied that they were probably correct, but it’d be better for you to pray for your pastor and help him with your words, than to punish and hurt.

8. “Stop preaching about our sin. We already know what we are doing wrong. Just preach love.”
Love is important, but so is sin. Remember, “there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known” (Luke 12:2).

9. “You’re an elder? Wow! I don’t know what to say ….”
Let me finish that sentence, “… other than I’m grateful for you, praying for you and can’t wait to see what God does in and through you.”

10. “I’m leaving because it’s too cold in here. We need to keep it at 78.”
Most of these were pretty harsh, so I thought I’d lighten it up a bit with the silliest words ever uttered in a church building. Everyone knows it’s 68.

11. “You just canceled church during COVID so you could have more vacation time.”
Worst. Vacation. Ever.

12. “I didn’t vote for you, and I still wouldn’t. I just don’t like you.”
Honesty may be the best policy, but silence is golden.

13. “Eventually, you’ll figure out how to preach.”
It would take everything in me not to reply, “Eventually, you’ll figure out how to respect your pastor,” but that’d be equally prideful and unhelpful. Instead, grace goes a long way. Give your preacher some grace and lift him to the Father in prayer; don’t tear him down.

A lot of work goes into crafting sermons and ministering to the needs of church members, so respect and humble prayer will help your pastor far more than biting criticism.

This post originally appeared at Lifeway Research.

Published October 27, 2021

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Matt Henslee

Matt Henslee (@mhenslee) is the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, New Mexico, D.Min student of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of a few books, including Evangelize to Revitalize and Text-Driven Invitation.