Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to my pastor, Pat Schwenk. Pat just started at my church here in Ohio a couple months ago, and I’m glad that he’s agreed to share some thoughts here at the site from time to time. His first post is about leadership and the different between pleasing people and people pleasing. I hope you enjoy! Pat writes:
I have never met anyone who liked being disliked. I suppose if such a person existed they would not be fit for ministry. However, I have met thousands of people who either liked being liked too much, or were destroyed by not being liked enough. Ministry requires walking a fine line, recognizing that there is just as much danger in listening to your advocates as there is in listening to your adversaries.
As a leader, there is a fundamental difference between pleasing people and peoplepleasing. On the surface they appear the same, but there is a drastic difference. Pleasing people is driven by a genuine desire to love, serve, and help those you are leading. This is the heart of Paul expressed in 1 Thessalonians 2:7‐8:
“As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
Paul uses the imagery of a mother who loves, nurtures, protects, pleases, and cares for her children to describe the way he felt about those he had spiritual oversight of in Thessalonica. A mother has a genuine concern and desire to help or please her children because ultimately she wants what is best for them as they grow up.
This should be the heart of every Christian, but especially the heart of a Christian leader. Pleasing people comes from a pure heart that wants to love and serve those that you are leading.
On the other hand, people pleasing is motivated by fear, insecurity, cowardice, and ultimately is driven by a need for approval. People pleasing has your own interest in mind (usually your pride or comfort) more than it does the overall health of those you are leading.
Peoplepleasers find their joy and worth in people’s approval. When it’s gone, they feel less significant because their identity is wrapped up in their popularity. People‐ pleasers find it difficult to speak the truth because of the fear that someone won’t like them, might leave their church (or youth group), or never return for more counseling.
There is an interesting passage in John 2:2325 that describes Jesus’ attitude toward people’s approval.
23Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. 24But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. 25He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
In other words, as the crowds were swelling in Jerusalem because of Passover, so was Jesus’ popularity because of his miracles. There was a buzz in the crowd and excitement in the air. The vibe was good. But notice what the text says. It says that Jesus “would not entrust himself to them.” It also says “he did not need man’s testimony.” In a moment when Jesus could have capitalized on the momentum, he seems unmoved by the masses approval. There is a lesson to be learned in this scene.
One of the most dangerous things you can do as a leader is to entrust yourself to people as a people-pleaser. You become like a ship lost at sea with the winds of people’s approval blowing you every which way. Once you entrust yourself to the ebb and flow of people’s praise, you’ll then need the testimony of others to validate yourself. The real tragedy in people‐pleasing is that it is never truly the best thing for the people you are leading. It might keep them happy or keep them around, but it’s not helping them move toward Christ‐likeness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Pat Schwenk is the Future Lead Pastor of New Hope Community Church in Bryan, OH. He is the father of four, husband of one, and pastor to many.
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