It’s time to stop the pastor-bashing

Last week, I had coffee with a couple who have just resigned from their church and are moving on to mentor other pastors. Being in their sixties, they are looking for a change and are excited about their next phase of helping a new generation of pastors build healthy churches.

Their daughter and son-in-law also pastor a church in New York and they told me a really interesting story. When their daughter and her husband were re-locating from Virginia Beach to New York, upon arrival, they went to a restaurant for lunch.

Once they were seated, they all wondered where their son-in-law had gone. The subway was beneath them, so they went down to find him. They tracked him down in the subway to find him witnessing to those waiting for the train.

Asking him what he was doing, he said to them, “If I am going to build a church in New York City, then I am going to start today.”

To me, that is testimony to where even the most successful pastors start from. We only get to see them and read about them years later, when they have worked hard and built successful churches, but behind every pastor is a person who could have gone to law school, could have gone to medical school, studied business, teaching, or whatever it is that would have paid a salary and put food on the table.

But no, these pastors instead decided to put that same energy into building a church, with absolutely no guarantee of success or that they will be able to feed their families. Many are heavily criticized by family and friends for choosing bible college over the safety of a corporate career or trade. Some just manage to feed their families, some cannot make it work and are subsequently back in the workforce, but for those that are successful, I’d say 100% of them started from the bottom and put the same amount of time and energy – if not more – into their vocation as most other successful people do.

I read this article recently about a guy who has set up an Instagram page to follow the sneaker-wearing habits of pastors, adding the cost of their shoes alongside their image. He has 160,000 followers in about a month, which tells me that people are always ready to criticize pastors.

At the end of the day though, we all have the right to spend our money the way we want to. I spend mine on surfboards, not sneakers. Someone else might spend it on football tickets for the season, or more expensive vacations. The point is, we are so quick to be critical of pastors, when so much of that criticism is unjustified. Yes, it is valid for a few, but a few spoil it for the hard-working ones who give up their life to build the church.

For the record, that pastor in the subway in New York was Carl Lentz, the lead pastor at Hillsong New York.

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