With nearly 30 years in ministry experience, I have seen church structures of all types in countries spreading four continents. These churches reflect small house gatherings, community centers of faith, and even large religious enterprises. Some of these church type structures are small, some large, some with plain architecture and others resembling ornate colonial type masterpieces, some sitting alone in the middle of a field in farming country, and then plenty more crowded on busy street corners covering blocks and blocks of prime land. Some are made out of brick and mortar, some made of wood, metal, and even others framed with paper or plastic wrapped around tree limbs offering shade from the elements. In all, at least two groups of people can be seen there each week: pastors and parishioners.
As believers, we should be pursuing excellence in our personal and professional lives. Both the pastor and the churchgoer should strive for excellence in all that is done, especially those activities shrouded in the name of Christianity. Yes, this includes maintaining a place of excellence that we call our church or house of worship. While I enjoy the conveniences of some churches and respect the simplicity of others, it seems to me that the main point is not the edifice but what occurs among the people that meet there.
In an effort to keep this article from being weighted too heavily on either those communicating from the pulpit or those gleaning from the pews, I collected some data from pastors and parishioners. I asked pastors what they want from their church attendees and those attendees what they want from their pastor. These data results are reflecting the comments from pastors of various mainline Christian churches of all sizes, ministers with a few years of experience to those recently retired from a life of pastoral work and all levels in between. As it related to the parishioners, these data reflect a range of ages, geographical locations, level of commitment, leaders, and followers. Table 1 provides a condensed list of the information collected from pastors and table 2 shows a condensed list of comments from parishioners. The findings are not listed in any particular order or preference. In all, I think there are some valuable similarities that will be useful for each of us as we continue worshipping and growing together in the Christian faith.
First, is the list of information gathered from the church attendee’s regardless of membership or level of participation, and what they desire from the pastor of their congregation. For continuity purposes I categorized the data into the following five categories lifestyle, attitude, vision, service, and preaching.
Table 1: What Attendees Want from Their Pastors
|Integrity||Protective||Clear visionary||Community oriented||Use wisdom|
|Honest||Loving||Discretion||Willing to engage the community||Speak truth|
|Prayerful||Humble||Wisdom||Practical oriented||Be bold|
|Genuine/Real||Be relational||Be relevant|
|Committed to family|
Second is the list of information gathered from pastors and a description of what they want to see operating from their church family. Again, for continuity sake, I categorized the data into the following five categories lifestyle, service, ministry, faithfulness, and discipleship.
Table 2: What Pastors Want from Their Congregations
|Loving||Outreach minded||Heart for service||Committed to God||Willing to grow|
|Supporting||Passionate||Heart for others||Consistent||Teachable|
|Hunger for God||Volunteer||Take Christianity seriously||Committed to church||Willing to learn|
|Willingness||Offer to help||Reflect the mission||Committed to family||Desire for God’s word|
|Promote unity||Be willing to serve||Be bold to witness||Make church activities a priority||Trust|
|Be friendly and welcoming of outsiders||Be mission minded||Engage||Offer to help|
|Affirming||Be available||Passion for the lost|
|Loyal||Bless out of being blessed|
If you compare the two tables, you will see some similarities among the expectations of each group on the other. For example, pastors want the church-go-er to be warm and welcoming of outsiders and the church attendees want pastors to be approachable and compassionate. After examining the responses, there are a few expectations that evolved which I think are worthy of consideration.
Hunger for God is essential to daily development as a disciple. Jesus stated in Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Food is essential to life. Just like the food that our natural body needs to survive, our spiritual hunger determines how strong we are as believers. Our choice of appetite in both the natural and the spiritual realm must contain good choices—if we hope to live healthy.
Authentic and biblical based vision is easily supported. Fulfilling vision is a team effort and I am confident that when pastors cast biblical based vision, then faithful believers will support that vision with financial resources and time commitments.
The work of the ministry is the responsibility of the pastor and the parishioner alike. The book of Ephesians chapter 4:11-12 states “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” While positions and gifts are relevant (according to Romans 12) it seems to me that if each of us were committed to and focused on utilizing our individual gifts to advance the Kingdom of God, together we would be effective in reaching the lost and training disciples.
Service to others is part of the Christian experience and should be a natural activity of believers. “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Healthy relationships are part of the community of faith. We see this in the life of Jonathan and David in the Old Testament. Solomon knew the value of brotherhood according to his writing in Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” Together we can accomplish more.
When citing personal preferences, it would be easy to pick sides, mount our defense mechanisms, and set blame toward the pastor or parishioner depending on which of the two camps we represent. Thankfully, if we chose to work together, we could defeat the spirit of division and see the result of unity. So, to the pastor, approach your work with humility and pursue excellence as a servant leader and to the church crowd join me in approaching our work as servants of the kingdom.