By Dennis Wiggs

One of the great responsibilities for the young pastor is getting along with people. Christians are human beings who possess unique and different personalities. The young preacher must learn to work with everyone without offending or compromising.

What a challenge! The young preacher will never please everyone all the time. He shouldn’t even try. However, it would benefit his ministry to set a goal of ministering to his congregation as effectively as possible.

Love Them

Jesus declared, “Love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). Remember the three disciples who requested seats of authority? The other disciples were angry and jealous. Remember Simon Peter proudly declaring that he would never deny Christ? Remember Judas Iscariot jingling the betrayal money in his purse at the Last Supper? Remember the disciples forgetting about the miracles of feeding the 4,000 and 5,000 and then questioning Jesus how He would provide their needs?

It must have been hard to love such stubborn, faithless, myopic followers. But Jesus loved them and commanded us to love them too. Church members are sometimes like the 12 apostles—inconsistent, weak, double- tongued, unfaithful.

Love them anyway! Remember that the young preacher is not perfect. It may take as much grace for the congregation to love the man in the pulpit as for him to love those in the pews.

Love Them Anyway

Every believer has value, even those with odd habits and idiosyncrasies. The young pastor must love those in his congregation as they are. Tolerate the loud, demanding board member. Pray fervently for the backsliding young believer. Visit the complaining, disgruntled widow. Shake everyone’s hand. Give a smile to those who look the other way. Wave. Exercise the determination to aggressively treat everyone with the same respect.

Some Suggestions

Pray regularly for your flock. Divide the membership list into five equal parts. Pray for the first group on Monday, the second group on Tuesday, and so on.

Speak to everyone. Before and/or after the worship services, try to shake everyone’s hand and give a kind greeting.

Visit. Yes, I know that ladies work outside the home and people work different shifts. But try to spend a few minutes of fellowship with each church member once or twice a year.

Pray over the telephone when church members call about a burden or a blessing.

Be with your church family when they face surgery death or disappointments. Attend the weddings. Rejoice with them over a new job ora promotion. Ayoung preacher will touch the lives of every church member in some special way in iust a few years.

Recognize birthdays, anniversaries, spiritual birthdays, births of babies, sickness and death with a card. Mail it to their home.

Speak well of your flock. Criticism or condemning words will not accomplish anything. Be careful how you make cutting remarks to other preachers about the congregation the Lord has given you.

Tell them “l love you in the Lord.”

Love without physical affectation. Be careful about your contact with the opposite sex. Learn to love without being physically attracted.

Love Without Partiality

People are prone to jealousy. The young preacher should be careful about giving more attention to some than others. Treat everyone equally. Shake hands on one side of the church this Sunday and on the other side next Sunday.

Visit without discrimination. Preach to both sides of the congregation. Exercise genuine love to all groups in the church.

Is It Possible?

Yes, it is possible to love even the unlovely. The Lord can work a special grace in our hearts. Even a casual reading of First John reveals how important it is for believers to love not only their friends but also enemies.

Young preacher, everyone in the congregation may not treat you with respect. They may never do anything for you besides attend church services. However, ask the Lord for the grace and strength to prove your love for those the Lord has placed in your care. Love your congregation. Watch the love grow as you remain at that church as long as the Lord allows.

About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.

Adapted from Contact magazine, April 1998.