Yesterday, I posted three ways to make your elders groan. The Bible tells us to obey our elders and to let them watch over our souls with joy, and not with groaning, because this would be of no advantage to you. It is important to make sure that we are those members who do not cause our elders to continually groan.
However, it is also true that elders can make their people groan too. Here are four ways that elders can end up doing this among their people.
Never listen to constructive criticism
Whilst it is true that your elders will groan if you are only ever raising problems and nitpicking about everything in the church, elders who never listen to constructive criticism will cause their people to groan. While there will inevitably be some members who are nothing but moaners, treating everybody who raises any concern of any sort this way – no matter how infrequently and gently – is surely going to infuriate even godly members. The proverbs tell us faithful are the wounds of a friend. If we treat everybody as though they are consistent grumblers the moment they raise concerns, we will quickly exasperate our people. Surrounding yourself with yes-men and making it clear you will never listen to criticism will upset your people and cause them to groan under your leadership.
Regard all dissent as a test of loyalty
If somebody comes to you with a concern, it is one thing not to listen, but to turn that into a test of loyalty toward the eldership (or, worse, to the pastor as the main man) will quickly cause your people to become frustrated. Not everybody who raises concerns is an enemy within the walls. Sometimes people aren’t keen on the style or music, or the Bible version, or whatever it is. They may not be major issues in the grand scheme of things but those who raise them are not necessarily calling into question your qualification to lead the church. Not every criticism is an attack on your character and people will soon realise they can’t raise things honestly with you if you turn on them and ask if they’re going to leave every time they honestly question a decision. If you want to exasperate your people, make everything a test of loyalty to you (and, almost never anything to do with Christ).
Offer up shoddy sermons
It is reasonable enough to tell our people that the ministry of the Word is central to the life of the church. On that ground, our people will become rightly frustrated if our sermons become sloppy or formulaic. If everybody knows that your Biblical theology will always lead you to point to Jesus and every application is either ‘Christ’ or ‘God keeps his promises’, your people will be 30-minutes ahead of you every week, bored and not a little frustrated. If not formulaic, if your sermons have been bashed out in 3-4 hours, I am going to bet that will show. Good, helpful application takes time and cannot simply be ripped out of a commentary (most don’t apply anything and those that do don’t know your people and will usually miss the mark for your context). Just as my children groan when we offer them shoddy, half-baked meals so our people will (rightly) groan if we keep feeding them shoddy, half-baked sermons.
Show no love for the flock
We all get tired and compassion fatigue is most definitely a genuine thing. It is hard not to become weary in doing good. But if that is our default mode, if we are constantly weary of doing good, our people will notice. Stuart Olyott said something to the effect, if people know you love them, you can say just about anything to them. The inverse of that is true too, if people sense you don’t love them, no amount of do-gooding will cover the fact that they are little more than a duty for you to fulfil. Few people are going to feel all gooey at that thought of themselves.
It will inevitably exasperated your people if they sense they are mere duties. If you don’t love your people, you cannot be surprised when they groan at your leadership. People are not means to doing real ministry. People are not there to be used to advance your personal fiefdom. People are given to you to be loved and cared for by you. The Lord has entrusted them to your care. Just as a father will make his son more than sad if the son discovers the father hates to spend time with him and wishes their dutiful time together would end, so the church will feel the same way if we treat them like that too.