Obviously, I don't mean getting paid a huge amount of money because pastors don't really get paid much (more than some, but not a lot). What I mean is: do I stray from my ideals in order to please pew-sitters or denominational authority? My ideal is this: ultimately, my life is to please God. If others happen to be pleased as well, then that's great, but my number one priority is pleasing God.
Honestly and unfortunately, the answer is "yes." I have from time to time tried to keep people happy simply so they would keep filling a pew on a regular basis and give their money. Yes, I have done things simply because the denominational higher-ups expect something a certain way. Just confessing that is freeing.
Here's what really concerns me though: I feel like I have to give my attention to a lot of things that aren't really making an impact. So often, I feel like there are competing expectations. The congregation expects me to take care of the people who are already Christian-Church-Attenders, and the "membership," but I feel God calling me to reach people in the community who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now if I can mobilize the "membership" to join me in reaching the community, that would be awesome. That seems so difficult. Even impossible. In fact, I think Mark Love captures a bit of what I'm saying here:
Our [pastors] greatest fear is irrelevance...that what we say and do is making zero difference in your life.
The truth is, if keeping people happy is the goal, then I'll never reach it. I have to stay focused on pleasing God, even if it means questioning the status quo, changing things, rocking the boat...or leaving the boat...and even if it means some people are unhappy.
There's another voice that is speaking to me from Scripture right now. It's Matthew 25:21:
You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much