How much should be expected of a pastor? Of course, every pastor has a responsibility to represent Christ well—but given even that mean different things to different people—this is a question worth thinking about. Pastors are not perfect. They are human beings—who get impatient, drive inconsiderately, are insensitive at times—and sometimes much worse.

This can become a cop-out used to explain away a lack of character in the core. Then again, peoples’ expectations are a moving target. For instance:

  • Stopping in the lobby to speak to members of the church can be seen at once as caring for the flock and neglecting the first-time guests.
  • Exercising church discipline can simultaneously be seen as harsh legalism and faithful pastoral care for the Body as a whole.
  • Missing church events to coach a child’s soccer game can be seen as neglecting the church and having one’s priorities in order—at the same time.

When everyone has their picture of who a pastor should be, few are happy—because the odds of anyone matching that picture at all times and places are slim indeed. In my experience, the best pastors are those who worry less about what people think (notice I didn’t say, ‘not at all’) and worry most about impressing an audience of one. That one isn’t Sister Sue. It is the Lord Jesus Himself—who cares about Sister Sue—but also a lot else–including the pastor. Focusing on Jesus more than the expectations of others creates healthy space between the pastor and the church. Pastors who lack differentiation from the expectations of the church find themselves, eventually, in a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship with the church—who desperately needs a pastor who can do or say what God leads them to—even when it is unpopular.

We should expect pastors to pursue the way of Christ with devotion–while realizing that is what Jesus expects of all His followers. I think we’d find it rather amazing how much we’d realize one another’s hopes (very different from “meeting expectations”). Pastors should live a life characterized by Christ-likeness in all it’s facets. They will never be perfect—and church members who cast too critical of an eye do the church and themselves no favors. After all, if the church isn’t characterized by grace, it isn’t characterized by Christ—the one from whom all grace flows.

What do you think? How much should be expected of a pastor?