The leading question to this post may seem as if it requires no amount of thought. For church members in the majority, I can hear their answer: “The pastor’s door should always be opened – no questions asked!” In other words, when it comes to the wish of church members to meet with their pastor, I have found in my own experience (not to mention, the experience of other fellow pastors) that the lion share belief is that despite the motive, attitude, and aim of the church member – pastors are beholden to bow to the demands of those they minister as it pertains to a personal conclave. But is this right – biblically? Does the Word of God bind the conscience of Christ’s under-shepherd to keep his door always opened to every whim and fancy of the sheep?
To begin with, pastors should always be willing to meet with those in their charge. If they truly love and care for those God has placed under their leadership, then when a church member makes a request to meet, a readiness to oblige their desire should stand at attention in the heart of a pastor. But such a keenness to meet on the part of the pastor, should never be without wisdom and discernment. For instance, has he already made other commitments prior to this request? Would he be breaking his word to others if he chose to meet? Is he already stretched so thin with his time, that to meet would only add more stress to his taxing schedule? And what about his family? Would this meeting infringe on their time with the man they know first as husband and father? A pastor’s family must get first dibs on his time and energy before the church ever makes such demands.
Also, has he asked the church member what is the nature of this meeting? This is a huge question which many pastors tend to either forget to ask or they’re afraid to ask because they don’t won’t to offend the church member. But this question is critical and crucial. A pastor should strive as best he can not to enter a meeting with a church member completely blind as to the matter at hand. To do so shows a naivete in the pastor whereas prudence is what he needs. If a church member refuses to disclose why he desires to meet, then the pastor would be wise to hold off. I have found more often than not, when church members have nothing insidious as to their aim in the meeting, they’ll not hesitate to express their reasons for the meeting. If their motives are pure, then they have nothing to hide before the meeting ever takes place. However, if their motives are not for good but ill, then they’ll say only they desire a meeting (in most cases). Or as I’ve heard it so many times: “Pastor, I have something I want to talk with you about…” And with those words, a pastor feels a chill in the air. He’s left hanging in suspense. This is nothing but tortuous and discourteous. Thus, it is only fair for a pastor to ask: “What do you want to talk about?” In short, the pastor has every right to judge for himself if this is a meeting worth pursuing. He therefore has the freedom and in some cases the obligation for the sake of caution, to close the door.
But as to the church member who is seeking to meet with the pastor, what should they be asking? First and foremost, what are my motives? What is it that’s driving me to meet with my pastor? Is it love or anger? 1 Corinthians 16:14 commands, “Let all that you do be done in love.” Am I pursuing this meeting out of love for my pastor? If love is not the driving motive but anger, then a church member needs to put off the meeting till they repent and put the anger to death. The wrath of man only acts foolishly, exalts folly, and stirs up strife (Prov. 14:17,29; 15:18). In addition to this, am I as the church member pursuing peace with my pastor? Let’s say a church member has a personal grievance with their pastor, an issue dividing them with Christ’s under-shepherd. How are they to resolve this? Do they meet with the pastor just to let him have it? Is the goal of their meeting only to get their digs in? If this is all they want to do then to meet with the pastor would be a sin. Romans 12:18 and Hebrews 12:14 command us to live peaceably with all by pursuing peace with all. If peace then is not the end at which the church member is endeavoring, then their purpose will not have the favor and pleasure of God. If they’re not about reconciliation but only revenge, then they need a meeting with God before they even think about meeting with their pastor.
Yet, another layer for a church member to question has to do with their respect for the pastor and his office. Romans 13:7 commands us to “Pay to all what is owed to them…respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” The context of this imperative has to do with respecting and honoring those in authority over us. God says we owe all such persons due to their authoritative office respect and honor. This includes pastors! Thus, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 calls every church member to respect and esteem their pastors highly in love for the sake of their work. A church member then who refuses to show this respect for their pastors is sinning against God’s direct command. But what’s more, if they are pursuing a meeting with their pastor they must ask themselves: Do I love this brother and respect him as the man of God placed over me for my spiritual welfare? Do I esteem him highly in love for the sake of his work? If a church member cannot answer in the affirmative to these questions, then he has no business meeting with his pastor. Sadly, what I have witnessed in so many churches, is the total absence of respect and love for the pastor – because his sacred office is profaned by the idea that a pastor is nothing more but an “indentured servant” than the man of God. In fact, there are church members who believe it is their right to treat God’s man any way they choose because there’s nothing holy about his calling. How shameful and disgraceful is such an attitude! But if this is an attitude burning in the heart of a church member who’s pursuing a meeting with their pastor, they need to stop and reprove themselves by seeking God’s forgiveness and the mortification of what amounts to nothing but disdain for God’s delegated authority over them.
So then, returning to our leading question, “Should the pastor’s door always be opened?” – what would be the right answer as guided by Scripture? For one thing, God’s providence may not permit it (Dan. 2:21; Rev. 3:7). Hence, “always” is expecting too much. Second, the pastor himself must walk circumspectly not foolishly (Eph. 5:15). While he should believe the best and hope the best as opposed to being cynical and suspicious (1 Cor. 13:7); yet, he cannot afford to throw caution and prudence to the wind. Asking what the meeting is about is a fair and appropriate question! Lastly, as to the church member pursuing the meeting, remember this chiefly: “Whatever you want men to do to you, do likewise to them” (Matt. 7:12). How would you want the pastor to treat you if he sought a meeting with you? Then treat him the same way. This means above all, let the love of Christ dictate your motives, words, and actions for meeting with the man of God given to you by Christ.