Answer: The desire for approval
Everyone wants to be liked. Pastors are no different. Especially, when it comes to the people of whom that pastor has been entrusted to care, pray, minister the word, meet their needs, and ultimately give an account (Heb. 13:17). What is our common default position when we want to be liked and accepted, but those we seek approval from do not give it?
I know what I did in middle school when that happened with a group of friends of which I wanted to be accepted. I pursued to be liked by them that much more. I started to do the things that I knew they wanted me to do thinking it might win them. I was even tempted to compromise my convictions thinking it might help.
We should not be so naïve to think our pathetic pursuits to be accepted by a group of friends growing up is that far off from the pull of acceptance a pastor feels towards his people. This is a group of people we are laboring to serve every day. In many pastors’ cases, our entire livelihood is in their hands. Our very lives revolve around them. Many of the sacrifices we make are for them. I am humbly aware of this demand on my own life weekly as I regularly find myself pressured to do something I do not necessarily want to do, but think someone in the church wants me to do it.
A pastor who underestimates the powerful pull of approval he seeks from his flock will very likely miss how quickly this pursuit can become unhealthy and lead to an unhelpful obsession that typically does not bring what we seek. In contrast, many pastors assume they are loved by their family and feel unconditionally accepted by them. Undoubtedly, this can lead a pastor to pursue those who need to be won, neglecting the ones who have already been won.
Pastors, this desire can slide into a sinful pursuit very quickly. Be on guard as you labor this week and desire the approval and acceptance of your people.