It’s a new year, yet again—2019. These things seem to keep moving faster and faster. As the calendar turns, I close in on a ministry milestone: Fifteen years being a pastor (with nearly nine of those in my current church). On the one hand, there’s still plenty of youth reflected in that number; still plenty of things to learn before I even sniff the tenure of guys who have been doing this for a long while (like Dave Miller, who purportedly learned from Paul in person).
Yet, there are still convictions that have been formed and plenty of lessons learned to help create some semblance of maturity in this decade and a half. In a series of posts, I’d like to detail six primary things that I have learned. Why six? Because it sounded like a good number…
So, here we go, Lesson #1: Not everybody will like you, and that’s okay.
I’ve never really thought myself too much a people pleaser. When it comes to preaching and teaching, I’d rather teach what is true than what is popular or convenient. Yet, at my core, I still have the same desire shared by most of humanity—I really want people to like me, and when they don’t, it bothers me.
Now, I don’t buy that our lives have to be full of opposition. Some people thrive off the idea that the more enemies you have the more correct you must be. And while Jesus did say that persecutions will come to the faithful, more often than not in our society if a bunch of people don’t like you it’s probably more that you’re a jerk than anything to do with your convictions and beliefs.
Still, inevitably, especially as a church leader, you will have people who simply don’t like you.
With some, there may have been an actual offense or a misunderstanding. When this is the case, we should go out of our way to reconcile the situation either through repentance or clarification. With others, no matter what you do, they’re just not going to like you, and that is okay.
On more than one occasion I’ve had the experience of people not liking me and leaving the church because of my personality. A deacon body (not at my present church) even split and one of the deacons left because they argued about my personality. In these cases, the criticism usually comes with the caveat that they wished I was more like [insert the name of a pastor who proceeded me that said person(s) really liked]. One couple, both extroverts, couldn’t fathom why someone would rather spend an evening at home with a book than attending some social event.
These criticisms have hurt the worst. That’s because they strike at self-identity. One might be able to develop habits to be less socially awkward or anxious; but one cannot simply flip a switch and go from being introvert to extrovert. Nor should we want to.
Everybody has personality quirks, and though each of us are marred by the fall, there is nothing inherently wrong or inferior in being introverted or extroverted, or at different places along any other spectrum of personality traits. God, after all, is the God of infinite creativity and he loves diversity. Yes, we would be without legitimate flaws, but there’s no reason to think that had the fall not happened the world wouldn’t be populated with a mix of introverts and extroverts.
Along the way what I have learned is that it’s best simply to strive to be the best you-in-Christ that you can be. Strive through the power of the Spirit to see sin decrease and the Spirit’s fruit increase. Love God and love others with the greatest love you can muster. Then let the chips fall where they may.
It takes a lot of wasted energy to be someone you’re not and someone God didn’t even design you to be. That energy would be put to greater use being the person with the gifts, talents, and experiences that he has given you. So, be you, and if someone doesn’t like you for that, smile, wish them the best, and pray that God would open their eyes to the beauty of diversity.