What to do When Your Pastor Offends You

pulpit

Pastors can offend in many ways. I know I have.

One Sunday when preaching on reaching out to strangers I noticed a student who looked distinctly international to me. Swelling with love for foreigners, I gushed, “I’m so glad to see we have someone from another country with us this morning. Sir, what country are you from?” He looked around, unsure if I was addressing him. “Yes, you sir, what country are you from?” He replied loudly, “McKeesport, Pennsylvania.” End of sermon.

I once asked a lady when she was due. She wasn’t. I’ve failed to appreciate people for serving, failed to visit people when they were sick. I’ve called people by the wrong name – I guess I really shouldn’t guess at people’s names, but when they’ve told me 20 times I hate to keep asking. “So, ummmmm…..Chhhhhelsea, how are you?” “It’s Bernadette.”

At times I’ve offended by my preaching. Sometimes because the truth is offensive. Sometimes because I just say stupid things.

If your pastor offends you, what should you do? Hang a Michael Bolton poster on his office door? (I probably just offended someone). Stew in resentment? Leave the church? Here are a few suggestions:

First, pray.

Next ask yourself, what does this offense reveal about my heart? What am I craving? Honor, recognition, or approval? Sometimes a strong reaction can indicate sin in our hearts. James 4 says the root of all anger is our cravings – we want things and don’t get them. What is it you’re wanting and not getting? Sometimes we have unmet expectations we’ve elevated to idol status. The pastor should visit me when I’m sick. He should notice when I’m absent. He should consult me before making decisions.

Ask, is this one of the “multitude of sins” love covers or a serious sin or pattern of sin that God wants to help him with?

If you can’t cover it in love, go to him. But before you go, ask, what are my motives for going to him? Do I want to help him or blast him? Am I going out of genuine concern for God’s glory, his good, or the good of the church? Am I going in anger or love?

Try to believe the best. Maybe he just forgot. Maybe he didn’t get your message. Maybe he didn’t mean it that way. Maybe he just didn’t think that comment through.

Forgive him in advance.

Go humbly. Go with thankfulness for the grace you see in his life. Go in a spirit of inquiry. Don’t come in accusing. Assume that you might not see the whole picture or don’t see the situation correctly. Try to get the facts. Find out if he actually said what you thought he said. Ask him to help you understand why he made the decision he made. Then speak the truth in love.

And tell him your name is actually Valerie. And that you’re from Belize.

How about you? What other suggestions would you add?

  • Robin

    Excellent advice. I think it applies to when ANYONE offends us, not just our pastor.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000317237285 Kenneth Howard

      When a Pastor ask a Senior who has been preaching for years and then tell him he would rather have someone else from the outside to take your place for Sunday. I asked him why? He couldn't tell me but did say, "Well, you didn't say anything wrong, but couldn't give me any reason. I left the Church. I fill he has violated the call of God on my life and he does not know what body Ministry is all about. He is a control freak. He is very young and fill like everybody has to be up to his standard. Doesn't know much about how to love the body of Christ and treat them with respect. The body ministry should not only be the perfect people that he prefers over body members in his church. My Bible tells me the foot can not tell the eye, I have no need of you and so on. I have left his church, obvious it is not the Lord's Church. I have been preaching at several church since then and singing his praises. If a Pastor doesn't respect you in his body then leave for the sake of not being around someone who doesn't love you. Look at the case of Paul and Barnabus. Paul got into a heated argument because he did not want John Mark to tag along on his missionary journeys. Paul was in fault and later called for John Mark because he is profitable for my ministry. Paul wrote the "Love Chapter but did not follow his own letter.Poor Barnabus left and never was heard from ever again. Offense will come but woe unto him who offend or hurts one of my little ones said Jesus. He should have a mild stone around his neck and cast into the sea. I'm just a person who wants to obey the call of God on my life.I guess I am just like Barnabus who just left for other who would love me and respect me.

  • Tim

    Great post. Keep ‘em coming!

  • Peter

    But what about those with the spiritual gift of criticism? What place do they have? What about the spreading of “prayer requests” for the problems the pastor quite obviously has? :-)

    On a more serious note, this is a much-needed article for an awful lot of local church bodies. Sadly, there are always people who would rather tear down the leadership than actually work to come to an understanding. I know of some pastors who have suggested to those people that they would be happier at another local congregation when they can’t resolve their differences. (And I mean after actually trying to come to some form of agreement, not just saying that they’ll never resolve their differences.)

    I try my best not to vent my frustrations about leadership in front of others (including my children). I might tell my wife, but other than that I’ll typically try to work out a situation directly. I may not always go in with the best attitude, but I try to work things out. I don’t think I’ve really failed to resolve something yet. Our leaders are human, too. They can make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are more visible. Sometimes people can be offended because they were hit with the truth rather than words to make them “feel good”.

    In any case, this is great advice and probably something that belongs on a recommended reading list somewhere.

  • Alan

    This fits so perfectly into some experiences that my wife and I are facing, and the advice is perfect. I’ve had to approach my pastor about some things he has preached that I truly believed were wrong. My initial reaction was anger, but the Lord always graciously calmed and helped me to think lovingly toward him as a brother who is also not above error. So by grace I was able to lovingly and humbly express concern rather than attack and vent.

    Now, the pastor’s response to a confrontation is a whole different matter. That’s probably why the Lord is moving us out of state in a month.

    But these are words are most convicting and encouraging. Thank you for this service to me.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Thanks Robin – True – these principles apply to any offense…

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Thanks Tim! As long as I keep doing stupid things, I should have stuff to write about….

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Peter, thanks for your comments. I commend you for being careful about discussing certain situations in front of your children, and also for your faithfulness to go and work things out. It would be great if everyone would do that. And I think it’s great that you would go, even though your attitude might not be the best. I’d rather have someone come in with a less than perfect attitude, even a bad attitude, than to not come to me.

    Appreciate your thoughts.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hi Alan, you also are to be commended for going to your pastor with concerns, and for seeking the Lord to go with a good attitude.

    I’m glad you mentioned that a pastor can have a sinful response to criticism. We who are pastors should humbly receive correction and observations, for we are sinners with blind spots just like those we serve.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • http://widemargins.blogspot.com Mary

    You talking to me? Yep. Reminds me of the Peacemaker materials by Ken Sande. Have to deal with those pesky idols of the heart. Again. And again. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hi Mary,

    I’m talking to myself first. And yes, the Peacemaker is a great book. Thanks for commenting.

  • chris

    Great advice!!! So, here’s my question…

    As a pastor, how do I share this with my church without making it look like I am just trying to justify myself and putting all the “blame” on them?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000317237285 Kenneth Howard

      Hi, Chris–If you are one who thinks he can control Pride,, Attitude in leadership,and Pastors then start your own church. Once you begin on that road, you will be avoided and pushed aside because no pastor will fill at ease around you even if you are right. There will always be that uneasiness between the two. In the days of Ester, no one could speak against the king or come into his presence without being summoned. It was sudden death. If you correct your leader to often you will also have sudden death being excepted in your church. You might even be branded as a trouble maker. The best advise I can give you is to pray over everything and learn to follow instead of leading. Jesus said to his disciples to take up your cross and follow me.(Jesus)

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hey Chris,

    Great question. It’s hard to know how to answer, since I don’t know you or your church and the interplay between you and those you serve. A few thoughts:

    We pastors should regularly express to our churches how much we love them, how grateful they are for them. We can do this when we pray before preaching, or at the conclusion of messages. We can thank God for the grace we see in their lives – that they love Jesus and love his word. For the way they serve, for their faithfulness, their desire to obey him, etc.

    We can try to create a culture in our churches where people are not afraid to come to us. One way to do this is by sharing whenever appropriate, our failures and sins from the pulpit.

    We can tell people from the front, in new members classes, etc. that we don’t mind if they have disagreements with us, or if they have questions we won’t be offended.

    We can thank people when they do come to us – it usually takes a lot of courage on their part. Our response to people when they come to us, even when they come with bad attitudes, will either encourage them to come back or turn them off from ever saying anything to us again.

    You could give out the post or direct them to the post, and tell them you’d like them to read it, not because they have a problem, but because it could help you. You could tell them you’re not trying to justify yourself or put the blame on them. Tell them the principles in the post apply to you too.

    Maybe you could ask them to read it and give you their thoughts on it. You might even ask select folks, like your leaders, if they feel you are approachable, teachable, easy to bring things to, etc.

    Hope these comments help, Chris.

    Mark

  • chris

    Thank you, Mark. This is very helpful. I fond that one of my (many) glaring deficiencies is being genuinely compassionate toward our church when the text I am preaching from addresses specific sins. I always call the church to repent and plead for the mercy of God, but I don’t think I do a very good job of displaying mercy personally.

    The result has been a church that is afraid to confront their pastor because they are afraid he will not show mercy.

    This really breaks my heart that I have done this to them.

    So, thank you again for your encouragement. I hope and pray that God will give me more mercy…

    Chris

  • http://vineandfig.blogspot.com Jim Swindle

    These are good words. I’d pass on to Chris something that I once heard Jack Hayford say, back in the days when I thought Hayford was the next best thing: The pastor should always send the obedient Christians out with joy.

    Now, that’s not an iron-clad rule. I’ve seen Hayford break it. :-) However, I think it still holds as a general rule.

    Meanwhile, I’ve slowly learned to deeply appreciate excellent pastors without putting them on quite so high a pedestal.

    One final thought: After you have spoken to the pastor and thought and prayed and waited, eager for reconciliation, if the issue is keeping you from fully serving the Lord and the pastor shows no desire for bridging the gap, there can come a time to leave for another church, if one’s available. A quick heart-test is whether you can still love that pastor who offended you. If not, you should probably stay until the Lord has corrected that fault in your own heart.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Chris,

    Thanks again for your humble comments. The Lord gives grace to the humble, and I trust he’ll continue to help you grow in mercy. I’m the president of the sinners club – over the years I’ve been proud, unmerciful, and impatient with God’s precious sheep, and God in his kindness has been so patient and merciful towards me.

    I know he will help us both.

    Jim,

    Great heart-test. I believe we should do all we can to not leave a church offended, should God call us to another church, but we should do all we can to leave reconciled and at peace.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • http://? fluff

    couldn’t get past the “michael bolton” comment…still laughing at it.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    My son David wears a Michael Bolton tee shirt.

  • Dave

    Isnt reconciliation the key?????If a pastor is losing his core members and people are leaving the church and now you r struggling cause of that,doesnt that say something about the pastor and maybe hos pride in wanting things his way???I went this particular church since Iwas a young boy and now i dont go there, There has been offensive things done by the pastor who wont suck up hispride and reconcile with ALL the many people that have left cause of all the craziness there.We were good friends and the things said and done to my parents who went there for many yrs were not taken care of.Its a struggle in my life.Why cant we ALL show grace to one another???

  • SissyGirl

    Mark, we are going through some of this. We love our pastor and our church dearly. Thank you for this advice and this is exactly what we are trying to do. It all started over my husband having a great fund raising idea to raise money for missions. This started 2 months ago. He went to the guy over missions, who said he had to get with the pastor, my husband called and called the guy over missions..he finally called him back and told him it was "with the pastor" & he would let him know. Well calls to the pastor went unreturned ( he said he called back once but realized he called the wrong # but did not call again …)..

  • Katrina

    Pastor: I am in much pain as I write this today. My "pastor" has been gossipping about other Christians, including other pastors since I came to her church, which has caused me great pain and cause for concern. At first, I thought these ppl really DID offend her, but she gets offended herself, then goes to prayer meetings and talks about ppl. When she tells other Christians how SHE was offended they come to HER defense and beieve HER gossip, BECAUSE SHE IS A PASTOR!!!!!!!!!! There are people who have cooked for her, babysat, worked, built things FOR FREE and STILL she complains about them, which I feel is backbiting. (I am talking about YEARS of help. I have NEVER seen a pastor receive SO MUCH FOR FREE IN THE NAME OF GOD!). She said that all this is for the ministry and local community, but even the donated stuff goes to HER and HER FAMILY.
    She told me she wanted to have a baby shower for my daughter. I brought everything and then she told me 24 hrs b4 the shower that she would NOT be making the cake. I told her I would BUY the cake weeks before, but she INSISTED she would do it then called to tell me she wouldnt one day b4 the event. She purposely over-scheduled herself knowing her commitment this Sat, but this is a LIFESTYLE, not a one-time event. She has a body of only 8 beievers (3- husband, daughter, son in law). She is trying to run a clothing store and start 3 or 4 other ministries by herself and will NOT delegate. The gossip has hurt me spiritually. This pastor received her ordination through a local church and has NOT healed many of her own wounds. I went to Seminary and it was there that I learned that pastors are just ppl. Many of them did NOT believe in the counseling profession or that THEY needed any counseling. I understand how much pastors ARE criticized and that is why I believed what she was saying. By writing to you I AM trying to let this go. I fear that by talking to her she will then use it as an excuse to gossip about me as well.