1. Invest the good will that is given to you by the congregation. Don’t waste it. Another way of saying this is, “You only have so much good will to spend in a church. Don’t waste it.” Not everything is worth an argument or a fight. I have known a few ministers who just wear their congregations out with their willfulness. They seem to insist on their way about most everything. Consequently they have difficulty letting anything go that is not in line with what they want.
The truth is that most ministers are given some good will by their congregations. Why spend this on matters that are inconsequential? Far better to use this good will on issues and concerns that really do count for something. Why go toe-to-toe with someone over the kind of carpet to put down in the classroom areas? It could be that it will cost you more than it is worth. It is better to reserve such discussions for matters that relate to kingdom issues and what is important to God.
Some ministers waste their good will through ill-timed or unwise humor. Suppose you move to a congregation that includes a sizable fan base of the university that is a couple of hours away. So within a few weeks, you announce that you are a fan of one of their biggest rivals. You talk up your team (taking advantage of your public position to do so). Now, within a matter of weeks, you have communicated to this church that you don’t like the school they root for and you don’t mind rubbing it in regarding one of their biggest rivals. That minister might want to think about how he might be spending some of his good will. Is this really smart?
It might be wiser to look for ways to affirm the lifestyles of this church family, instead of immediately announcing that you are different. Is this a big deal? Probably not in the larger scheme of things. However, you may be unnecessarily irritating. So, the next time you mess up or mishandle something, they might not have very much good will to offer you because you have already needlessly spent what you have been given.
2. Consider your behavior. She came up to me after church a few weeks ago. She and her husband are outgoing, friendly people who are quick to engage most anyone. They have two small children. She and her family moved into a new house a few months ago. She would like to meet her next-door neighbor, the pastor of a large church in the area. That morning she asked me “Do you know the guy who is the pastor of the (blank) Church?” I told her that I did not. I had shaken hands with him once, some years ago, but I couldn’t say I knew him.
She said, “I can’t get him to talk with me. I just want to meet him and his family. Friends of ours who go to his church say that he seems to be a nice guy.” (These are friends, however, who primarily perceive this through his sermons. They don’t actually know him.) She went on to tell me of several more times when they attempted to get his attention by waving as he backed down the drive. “He acts like he has no interest in getting to know us.”
I wonder why ministers sometimes do this? Often, we work very hard to get a particular ministry in place. We may be very intentional about wanting our congregations to be friendly toward guests. Then, in the ordinary moments of life, we don’t practice the behavior we encourage others to practice.
I was glad she told me this story. It reminded me to look at myself.