A Healthy Church: A Layman’s Letter to His Pastor

by Patrick Morley

Dear Pastor,

As I was sitting in church on Sunday, I decided to write you this letter. When the service began, this is what I found myself thinking…

I’m here, pastor, I’m here. I worked 55 hours this week (that’s five days from 8 to 6 and 2 hours every night after the kids went to bed), slept 48 hours (I’m short one whole night), spent Saturday morning shuttling between soccer games, worked Saturday afternoon on the yard, took my wife to dinner Saturday night, and now here I am on Sunday morning.

All week long the world has told me to buy everything from computers to cars, and to want everything from more sex to more fun. My boss is not happy with me, nor I with him. My spouse appreciates my problems, but she has problems of her own. She’s frustrated that I don’t spend enough time with the family, but doesn’t complain about the money. Besides, I can’t share many of my struggles with her – like sexual temptations, work overload, and how to cover all these bills. The kids need more of me, but it’s not like they can really tell the difference – I’ve always shorted them.

Meanwhile, I read my Bible and prayed four mornings this week – a total of one hour. I don’t wake up in the morning wanting to fail. My intentions are good, but I still fall short. I’ve come here to receive some encouragement and direction from God. Now, what do you want me to do? What can you say to me?

Because I love you so much and want the best for you, I decided to write a letter and share my thoughts about our church. I’m only speaking for myself, but here are ten things I think most of us really need.


First and foremost, I need a healthy theology. These questions haunt me: “Does God know about the problems of his people? Does He care? Can He do anything about it? What is He doing? Will He take care of us? Is God sitting in heaven wringing his hands about a world running amuck? How should we respond to the struggles and opportunities of daily life? What should be our relationship to the world?” I may only be a layman, but I don’t see how a church can be healthy unless it gets its theology right. I need the church to tell me to keep the Sabbath-no one else is. I need the church to tell me to tithe-no one else is. Theology starts with the Bible: right reading = right thinking = right believing = right doing. Please don’t give up on me, I need you to help me become a disciple.


I need my pastor to be the man he wants me to become. If he’s to be a healthy pastor, he must create some space for himself. He needs to focus mainly on his own private life with Christ. He’s got to minister to me out of the overflow of his own relationship with Jesus. So first, he’s got to first make sure that he has enough “Jesus” for himself. Then he will have enough to give away to the rest of us. Also, I’m depending on him to take responsibility for his own marriage, children, finances, and health.


The best thing a leadership team, under the direction of the pastor, can do is to become to each other what they want us to become as a church. They shouldn’t ask us to do things that they themselves are unwilling to do (a common mistake). They must lead by example. They’ve got to take seriously the leadership qualifications of 1Timothy 3 and Titus 1. I need them to create a culture of prayer-not merely believe in prayer, but pray. They can get organized-I’d appreciate it-but mostly I need them to stick to the work of teaching, shepherding, and prayer. My family needs them to be careful not to run the church like a business. Please show us a 1 Corinthians 12 “one body, many parts” display of unity and mission.


Ideas are more powerful than labor. Ideas unleash forces that cannot be contained. What idea will capture my imagination as one of the sheep? The pastor and the leadership team must help me to see in my mind a “picture” of where they want me to go, and what success as a Christian man will look like. Otherwise, how will I know what to do, and whether or not I’ve done it? Grounded in Scripture, related to current culture, they draw for me a portrait of what this looks like in day-to-day practice.


I like to win, and winning would be easy except for a couple of things. First, I have opposition, and my opposition wants to win too. I’d have no problem scoring if it weren’t for all those mean looking men trying to knock me down. So, help me understand what to expect, and how to play fair. Second, not all the players on our church team are equally strong or committed. Let’s never cut our weakest and least committed players-we don’t give up on people. I need my church to remind me of eventual victory, but help me realize that for now we must function more like a hospital for broken people than a team of superstars headed to the Super Bowl.


Any car manufacturer knows it cannot offer one model in one color and expect much success-though once upon a time it was so. In the same way, a successful church cannot offer a “one size fits all” ministry plan-though perhaps once upon a time it could. A healthy church will have some plan for ministry that differentiates the needs of different groups based on either age, spiritual maturity, gender, life phase, and/or special needs. I need to know that all my family members are being thought of at every stage.

At the same time, we need to be sure that we are developing healthy men. If we will disciple our men, they in turn will lead their wives and children to deeper faith in Christ. Like Jesus, let’s place a high priority on reaching men.


I know my church can’t be all things to all people. It’s always going to reflect the interests and vision of our pastor and leadership. Still, a healthy church has to cover all the right bases, even as it specializes on its own distinctives. Suppose a church focuses primarily on, say, meeting the needs of the poor or missions. To be healthy that church must balance itself with proper emphasis on worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and other types of ministry.


When I come to the worship service I come to give and to receive. I come to give worship, praise, and adoration. To worship literally means, “to kiss, the way a dog licks its master’s hand.” Help me do this. I also come to receive: to hear a word from the Lord-a word of instruction, or encouragement, or challenge. I hope to be staggered by God’s love, overpowered by His grace, astonished by His mercy, overwhelmed by His presence. A healthy worship experience helps each of us become a holy place.


I know the Bible is the word of God, and believe it offers explanations for all matters of faith and life. I need you to help me connect the dots between what my Bible says and what happens on Monday morning when the phones start ringing and customers start complaining. How do I make the connection? A healthy church draws us “out” of the world for repair, then sends us back “into” the world as agents of reconciliation.


If my church will pay attention to these nine things-a healthy theology, pastor, leadership, dream, expectation, plan, balance, service, and connection-we will be blessed with a healthy laity. We will become a humble community of saints that cheer each other’s victories, weep over each other’s sorrows, reprove each other’s mischief, and encourage each other’s strengths. We will become a family that doesn’t discard its weak nor abandon its young to the wolves. We will think the best of each other’s intentions, and hope the best for every member. We will have a vision for how we should engage the world. As a result, good news will be preached to the poor, prisoners will be set free, the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, and the oppressed will be set free. We will see Jesus.

With Great Appreciation for all You Do as our Pastor,

Your friend,


Copyright © 2005, Man in the Mirror, Inc

3 thoughts on “A Healthy Church: A Layman’s Letter to His Pastor

  1. Just a suggestion, Mr. Morley… Why not get the so-called “pastor” off the pedestal and refer the top ten things above to the Lord Jesus? Think He can handle it? Does Jesus go to your church?

    • You’re right… however, the pastors of the churches are called to be the shepherds to us and teach us accordingly. I will admit that while I’m very founded on the word, I learn much more, quite often, from the teachings of a pastor than myself. It is important for a pastor to be a deeply founded pastor. Lets be real, not every pastor is a strong (mentally/spiritually/and virtuously) founded pastor… let alone true Christians. Many do it because its a job, and they know how to say the right words to the congregation, without believing his own words. Furthermore, I’ve been to several churches with potential, be the thing that held them back from moving forward was the pastor (or other leadership members); however, because of tradition and “its always been this way” the pastor may still be there running the show his way. Sometimes (and is it not possible) that God may send a messenger to his own shepherds to bring correction to those in charge? Do you not believe that even if “Jesus didn’t go to his church” … that God wouldn’t want that to change? And so if there is to be change, someone has to make a stand, and not just sit down waiting on God… because God works through people as well.

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