I reread chapter one of Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer this morning. While there was a lot that stood out about how we are to live in community, what stuck out the most was Bonhoeffer’s advice to clergy in regards to their congregations.
“A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order the he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.”
As pastors, we are called to shepherd and lead people. To encourage them in the path of discipleship. It is, however, very tempting (and easy) to complain about a congregation who is stubborn, immature, or dysfunctional when, as pastors, we should take responsibility for our calling to lead such people and to be their shepherd. We are to recognize our own shortcomings, intercede for our flock, and commit to shepherding our congregations for the glory of God.