All the Things People Say

I think one of the hardest aspects of pastoral ministry is the sheer number of voices and opinions about what you should and should not be doing. Many pastors are naturally inclined to be “people pleasers." We don’t like it when people disapprove of or dislike us so we tend to be very conscientious about what others think and how they feel. In other words, we can suffer greatly from what the Bible calls “the fear of man” (Proverbs 29:25).

Now, it is true that pastors are called to the ministry of shepherding the flock of God and this ministry is by nature a very tender ministry. Good shepherds lead the sheep, they don’t drive them. Good shepherds care for the sheep, they don’t bully them. So, how can we make sure that we are listening well and shepherding well and at the same time that we don not give in to the fear of man?

I think Solomon offers some very helpful counsel on this point when he writes, “Do not take to heart all the things that people say…” (Ecclesiastes 7:21). It’s one thing to listen, to sift through and to make wise decisions based on the feedback that you’re getting. It’s another thing to take every piece of feedback “to heart,” which will inevitably paralyze you from making any decisions at all. Ultimately it is before our own Master that we must give an account for our care of the flock and praise Him that “He is able to make us stand.” (Romans 14:4).