Part of ministry work is dealing with irritating people. I once heard a veteran preacher say to his congregation: “I preach for free. It’s putting up with you people that I get paid for.” It was, perhaps, an inelegant comment, but I don’t know a preacher in the world that couldn’t relate. Most preachers I know accept this aspect of ministry as a fact of life and just deal with it. That doesn’t mean, however, that church members shouldn’t be encouraged to look in a mirror once in a while and see if they’re being unnecessarily difficult.
And so, drawing on my 39+ years of experience, I have made a list of some of the difficult people I have known. Are you one of these people?*
Victor Vague. This is the guy whose comments all have a vaguely ominous tone, but never contain any specific information. Example: “Your name came up during our golf game the other day. But don’t worry, there were some positive comments.”
Daniel Drive-By. This is the guy who always drops bad news on you at the exact moment you can’t talk to him about it. Example: Two minutes before the Sunday morning worship service begins, he walks past you and says, “You really need to talk to Joe. He’s about ready to take his family and leave the church.”
Harry Historian. This is the guy who’s been in the church forever and feels compelled to keep reminding you how wonderful things used to be. Example: “I can’t believe we only had 150 people at the Christmas Eve service. I remember when we always had over 200 and had to bring in extra chairs!”
Eddie Editor: This is the guy who’s never preached a sermon in his life, but never fails to point out the flaws in yours. Example: “That was a pretty good sermon, but I wish you’d spent a little more time on verse 13. It’s the key to the whole passage.”
Henry Hawkeye: This is the guy who never misses anything. Example: “Joe and Marie didn’t bring any food to the carry-in dinner, but they ate enough food for three people!” Or, “I saw Tom and Kate at a restaurant the other night, and, well, let me just put it this way: they weren’t drinking iced tea.”
Peter Pious: This is the guy who never met a church activity he couldn’t find some moral objection to. Example: “I’m not going with the men’s group to the ballgame because my conscience won’t let me patronize a business that sells alcohol.”
Tommy Tightwad: This is the guy who lives in a beautiful home, drives a couple of late-model cars, and owns a membership to the fanciest country club in town, but believes the church ought to make austerity one of its core values. Example: “My brother-in-law’s cousin has a friend who worked for a plumber when he was in high school. Before we spend money on a real plumber, let’s see if he can fix the baptistery.”
This is not an exhaustive list. I believe, however, that a good many of the typical preacher’s frustrations are embodied in these characters.
One more time I ask you…are you one of these people?
*Yes, in case you’re wondering, all of these characters come in a female version.