Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #5: Living Under Scrutiny

Every pastor feels the pressure of living under scrutiny. It is not the pressure of living in a “glass house” that creates difficulties so much as it is the burden of expectation. Often church members hold the pastor to a double standard, expecting far more of him than they do of themselves.

 Some expectations are warranted. James warns those who teach that they will be “judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Does he mean that they are held to a higher standard? Or simply that those who prove to be hypocrites will be condemned more severely? He is at least implying that teachers will be held to their word.

 Unfortunately, congregations do not always limit their expectation to the pastor. Sometimes the entire family feels pressured to live by a standard that church members do not always apply to themselves. The embittered pastors’ child is so common it is almost a cliché. The factors that contribute to this are complex and not always easily addressed. But a basic starting point is our recognition that no matter what some church members (and a few pastoral parents) may think, God does not hold the children of clergy to a higher standard. They are not more holy than other children. Though there are certainly some benefits to growing up in a pastor’s home, this “privilege” also has its drawback.

The children of pastors are exposed to the inconsistencies of the church more than other children in the congregation. They hear the criticisms leveled against the pastor and feel the pain when he is mistreated.

 You cannot avoid the scrutiny of the congregation. Nor can you keep others from having unrealistic expectations. But you don’t have to live up to a double standard. Nor are you required to enforce their expectations upon your family.

 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. 1 Cor. 4:1-5

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Published by

John Koessler

John Koessler serves as professor and chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. His most recent book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest published by InterVarsity Press.

3 thoughts on “Challenges Pastors Face-Challenge #5: Living Under Scrutiny”

  1. Thanks Dr.Koessler I’ve always enjoyed your lectures and your blogs. I find them helpful as i have just entered ministry with a church.

  2. Great post Dr. Koessler.

    How can pastors encourage their children and help alleviate some of the pressure they(the children) may feel from church members expecting more holiness?

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