Many jobs require varied skills and knowledge. But only one job in the world requires expertise in theology, politics, finance, emotional disorders and counseling, parenting and family challenges, sex and romance, and usually some HR and operations skills, too. That’s right, the pastor. We expect him to be an expert on any pressing issue in our lives. “Pastor, who should I vote for?” “Pastor, my kid won’t listen to me.” “Pastor, why is the new Sunday school room painted taupe?”
Of course, I mean that we require all this from the position of pastor and thus the man holding the office. Pastors can glean deep wisdom from the Bible to help them sort through difficult issues and challenges. But while the Bible offers wisdom it doesn’t offer expertise, and the difference is significant. Certain passages can be looked to for clarity on specific issues and struggles, but just as often we put the pastor in a position demanding that he speak as a professional expert into an issue about which the wisest thing he could probably say is, “I don’t know.” One of the wisest things a pastor can do is to admit a lack of knowledge and refer people to someone better suited to help. If only we would let them do so.
Instead, we heap expectations on our pastors. We pile the demands on them and build the pressure on them to an unsustainable level. We oblige them to speak in detail on subjects they have no clue about. This differs from pastor to pastor. Some might have an affinity for politics and other may be trained in family or marital counseling, but there is a 0 percent chance that any pastor can speak with the proficiency we expect on every subject we put forth.
Expectations like these lead to serious issues. They can contribute to a pastor’s pride as we swallow up anything he offers on any subject and ask him to believe in his own genius. It creates a proliferation of poor advice leading to our own harm and creates blind spots to other members of the church body who do have the knowledge necessary to help. We break the pastor down by expecting him to be something he is not and expecting him to excel at it. And as we break the pastor down we undermine the church as a whole.
Such damage is unintentional. We are just turning to the man we trust to give us answers in areas of need. But the church wasn’t made to have its questions answered by one man. We were made to be a body, a collection of gifted people using our gifts and knowledge to build one another up. The pastor is not a Christ-figure. We are the body of Christ, uniquely suited to meet each other’s needs, and in leaning on one another we will free our pastors from the demand to be a pundit.