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January 14th, 2009

by Craig Groeschel

36 comments (+ Add)

Responsibility Versus Freedom

Pastor, people are watching you!

One of your challenges may be learning to walk the fine line between responsibility and freedom.

  • I pray you have the freedom to make decisions that are best for God’s Kingdom, your family, and your ministry.
  • I pray you will feel the responsibility to make wise decisions and be a righteous example.

For example, can a pastor drink alcohol? Clearly it is not a sin to drink (although it is to get drunk). In some parts of the world, a pastor drinking is acceptable and expected. In other parts, many frown on it.

A wise pastor will ask important questions: Could I cause others to stumble? Would it matter if everyone knows? Even though this is okay, is it best?

Your answers will vary. Before you act, wrestle with responsibility versus freedom.

Another example… What kind of car should a pastor drive? Should he drive an expensive car proving the goodness of God? Should he drive a moderate car showing good stewardship? Should he drive a clunker because his treasure is not in this world? (Side note: Many pastors around the world will never own a car.)

Your answers will vary widely… and probably should. Before you act, wrestle with responsibility verse freedom.

Paul said everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (See 1 Cor. 6:12).

I’d love to dialog about some of the issues you’re wrestling with. How are you handling them?

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  1. Jan 14, 2009 at 6:28 am

    As a pastor I have always wrestled with the fact that people are watching my vacation habits. Personally I like to take time off once per quarter. I know that I am far more productive when I do this and that the church actually benefits more as a result. Even though I know it’s good for the church and ultimately good for me, I struggle with those that may not be able to do what I do or those that could but don’t think they can or just don’t think vacations are important. I struggle with people knowing where I go, even though it is always a modest vacation and sometimes it’s in my backyard. If I go to Florida I stay with my parents. If I go to Myrtle Beach I have searched for the absolute best deal I can find.

    I have come to the point that I say, I’m blessed, I am a good steward of my vacation dollars, I know that I will be better off after the time away, it will protect me from burn out, I can’t please all people, my family needs this time and that’s the most important thing for me. I generally keep things low key, not making much of a deal about my time away.

    I guess ultimately I need to look to God and know what his wants for me.

  2. Jan 14, 2009 at 7:47 am

    For us, the struggle isn’t so much what other people think as it is a heart awakening to the less fortunate around us. We live in an area where people drive nice vehicles, live in very nice homes, and have lots of material possessions. We are beginning to ask the question “what can we give up, so that we can give more to others.” I guess for us we are wrestling with our responsibility for the widows and orphans.

  3. Jan 14, 2009 at 8:01 am

    Great bolg, As pastors we have to make choices daily that affect or reputation and our walk with God. I Choose not to drink, period. I pastor a church in the south and it would hurt my witness. I guess you know your in trouble when you quit wresteling with these issues. I still fight internally with my motives of why I do any of it. I want it to be totally for God not for me. Flesh never gives up. Let’s keep fighting to walk in the Spirit.
    Swinging the Sword with you,
    Chris Stephens

  4. Jan 14, 2009 at 8:10 am

    “could I cause others to stumble? Would it matter if everyone knows? Even though this is okay, is it best?”

    This is a core life point that I have working on me all the time……..been with me my whole life. Unfortunately, I haven’t served God with it well at times. I have a prayer lead desire to be lead in a different direction then I have been.

  5. Jan 14, 2009 at 8:17 am

    “The people I meet with”
    This has always been tough. I have realized that as our church grows I just can’t and don’t have the time to meet with every person. Well, this isn’t received very well. Some folks expect to “know” their pastor or “spend” time with the pastor.

  6. 6SAW
    Jan 14, 2009 at 8:17 am

    I had a very recent conversation with a very wealthy man on this topic. He pointed out that as a business man, he had made (under God’s blessing and provision) his money. It was earned. He stated that for those in ministry it is not. It is a given asset by others in obedience to God and therefore carried it’s own unique set of rules. It compelled me to look closer at what I can do and what I do. This guy gives a lot and realizes it is all from the Lord. But, as we decide what to wear, drive and vacation–do you think the source (acknowledging God as the ultimate source) should determine the freedom? I would rather decide those things in advance due purely to obedience rather than based on peoples opinion of a car, shirt or vacation spot. Thanks for helping me look at heart motive–both ours and the giver.

  7. Jan 14, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Definitely have felt and regularly feel the tension between freedom and responsibility. I’m slowly learning (the hard way) that maturity in ministry is more about the model I live than anything I teach. I always knew that, but God has deeply challenged me to live it.

    Last year, I was preparing to preach on surrender. Then, God personally addressed my un-surrendered attitude about “deserving” a better car for the sacrifices I had made for ministry. Instead of getting a car, felt challenged to give away to our church my savings. This is not a prescription, just my personal journey in wrestling with freedom and responsibility.

    I will say that my obedience turned out to be an amazing experience and community impacting project:

  8. Jan 14, 2009 at 9:04 am

    I’d have to say the house you live in — that’s one that I’ve wrestled with. How big? How small? What part of town? How much it cost? Etc.

    I’d agree with the others too: Vacation, car, drinking.

    Maybe another one would be the kind of hobbies you have and how much time they require or how much money it costs to do them — or at least the perceived time and money requirements.

    That’s my 2 cents. For now anyway.

  9. Jan 14, 2009 at 9:10 am

    You guys are deep. i have been wanting to test God. God says we can test Him about money, right? I want to give my whole paycheck one week as an offering and see what happens. Is that foolish? I do have a family and bills to pay. Maybe someone can offer some wisdom.

  10. Jan 14, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I am not the sole or even primary breadwinner in our family. My husband makes MUCH more than I do and my salary is dedicated at this moment to putting three kids through college. But I struggle with two things: 1) vacations, as mentioned. My hubs travels a ton and sometimes i’ll tag along and so I’ll get to experience a great location such as France, or San Francisco but for much cheaper. We also have gone to Hawaii four times on ff miles and hilton points! (this should tell you how often i am home alone!) But others don’t know that and I hate explaining…….To be honest I would have never seen half the places I’ve been if not for work trips. I have no problem with that but I worry people will not understand. Ultimately I am doing nothing wrong at all so I try not to let it bother me.

    2) Clothes, hair, makeup. I am not a clothes horse but I am a woman who is on stage each week and while I live in tshirts and jeans 80% of my life, I feel like I need to look my best each week when I lead. I don’t spend much, but I struggle with how much is okay. Do guys in ministry wrestle with this?

    On another note, I’d say ministers earn their living as well, even if the money is given by someone else. All believers must ask this question as mentioned above - how do we live our lives so that we can give generously and regard our money as a sacred trust?

  11. 12Mike
    Jan 14, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Cody -

    Examine your motives. God’s requirement for believers today is to give joyfully, not reluctantly or under complusion (2 Cor 7:8,9).

    Also, consider this verse if the amount you’re thinking of giving is to the detriment of your family.

    1 Timothy 5:8, NASB - But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

  12. Jan 14, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I have discovered that when you come to an established church to be the pastor, you are living under expectations that probably do not fit who you are as an individual. Those expectations were likely formed because of problems or issues that arose in the past. This is difficult to navigate at best. However, when you plant a church, people get a feel for who you and the church are before they commit, so you are much more likely to thrive as an individual just being yourself. It is part of your philosophy of ministry as a church. You can explain why you do what you do and people can either accept it or find a church where they can set the pastor’s schedule. No one controlled Jesus’ schedule but Jesus. There is much more freedom in planting to just be yourself, which is always the best.

  13. Jan 14, 2009 at 9:36 am

    For me, as a Worship Pastor, it’s the ever-argued “should i publicly listen to secular music?”. I’ll be honest, as long as the lyrics aren’t dishonoring to God, i don’t think there is anything wrong with it. To me, i enjoy secular music. Let’s face it, musically speaking, Christian artists aren’t leading the creative way, BUT i desire for that to be the case.

    Is it ok for Worship Pastor’s to listen to “sifted through” secular music publicly?

    Dustin Pead

  14. Jan 14, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Don’t have much but I like this post. Thanks Craig.

  15. Jan 14, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I have to always balance the secular and kingdom worlds in my family’s life. This is even more so now that I have a teen. The “How” people see the clothes we wear or music or what movies we go to. My son hate to be told his clothes, hair and music is not Godly enough……I have to correct some for speaking out of term to my family and others because of be in the Golden years we just smile and promise to consider it next time….. How do you guys handle that?

  16. Jan 14, 2009 at 10:11 am

    The challenge as I read this post is getting so consumed with what “other people” think rather than what God thinks or wants. We wrestled with the house that we just purchased. It is way over our league in looks and location. We wondered why we were even looking. What would the people in the community think of us? We were afraid of becoming consumed with “stuff” to compete with our neighbors. AND THEN WE PRAYED. We had it so backwards. We have already seen why we are where we are at. We paid less for the house than any house that was “in our league” but God clearly had opened the doors for us to move. When I move off of ME and OTHERS so much and seriously seek the heart of God I don’t have to worry as much about the other things. I have seen God take care of that for me. I have allowed Him to be my defender. I like it that way.

  17. 18Jon
    Jan 14, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I like the way the Message says I Cor. 6:12 “Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate.”

    I have struggled with these questions as well. However, I am not the head Pastor but an associate. As an associate I feel you must submit to those who rule over you and to live by the rules they have set out. If you don’t agree then find a spiritual authority you agree with. Don’t live in rebellion of your leadership.

  18. Jan 14, 2009 at 10:28 am

    How about us son’s of Pastors?
    We also go through this issues as over us is this invisible rule that “we have to be perfect”.

    Now, a Pastor should teach that every person should deal personally with the thoughts of judging the pastor’s actions.
    This is not a green light to do anything we want.

    I think that if we ask God and we “receive” a green light for everything, we should question who’s giving us the answer, there will be times where HE will say NO to us, and its my opinion, it should be 50/50.
    Too many yes can make us think we “deserve” and too many no’s will make our lives miserables, including our family.

    Blessings from El Salvador.

  19. Jan 14, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I’m not a Pastor, but I serve closely with one. I strongly believe the Church side should be run as a ministry to others, but the Administrative side should be run as a business. Any other non-profit that pays those in leadership roles don’t have to live differantly just because the money comes from donations.

    Simply saying if you run any organization, the President/CEO/Pastor should be paid according to their qualifications. Experience, Ability to lead people, Fiscal Responsibilty and able to achieve the goals set on an anual basis. So your pay should be comenserate of what you would be payed in your field of expertise.

    The way we live our life, whether Pastor or a Christian, shouldn’t change. As followers of Christ we are all “an open epistle read of all men”. We must live our lives to glorify God and to draw people into his kingdom.

  20. Jan 14, 2009 at 11:53 am


  21. 23Jared B
    Jan 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    I have also been struggling with the car situation…I’ve had people tell me that I need to be an example of Christians being able to have nice things (i.e. a nicer car), but my own thoughts are sacrificing and using the overhead for missions.

    The question to me is: Are we denying God’s blessings to us by constantly giving them away or are we doing exactly what He hoped we would?

    Craig what would you say? (if you don’t mind me asking) I’d love to hear other thoughts too!

  22. Jan 14, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    [...] Responsibility vs. Freedom By mec5462 Craig Groeschel, pastor of out of Oklahoma has become one of my favorite pastors to read and follow through his blog.  His writings are always inspirational and challenging and he is on the cutting edge of church life today.  This morning I came across his blog entitled Responsibility vs. Freedom.  Where do we draw the line between freedom and our responsiblity to not cause others to stumble. How far do we go when weighing our choices.   I encourage you to follow this link and read this entry.  It is written to pastors but is applicable to all Christians.  The link is: [...]

  23. Jan 14, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I loved this post. This is something that I struggle with on occasion. I currently am planting a church, and work outside the church. I work as a financial director for a company.

    I bought a house this year in a very nice neighborhood. I used Dave Ramsey’s advice and bought the cheapest house in the nicest neighborhood I could find. It was all the rage about 10 years ago.

    I did this for 2 reasons, I felt like I had the freedom and it was responsible buying a newer home that my family would not have to struggle maintaining.

    As soon as I did, I had several members comment that I must make a ton of money since I work, and get paid by the church. It was difficult. Most of our body knows I draw $0.00 salary from the church and that we only own one 3 year old car so that we can steward our money. I ride a bike to work and back as much as possible to save on money.

    This ministry thing is messy, and hard work! Praise God I get to be a part of it!

  24. Jan 14, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Hey Craig,
    Now that we are a Network church and you do the preaching I only work a half day on Sunday! LOL
    Now I can really feel guilty about time off.

  25. Jan 14, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Craig, Thank you for bringing up this topic. We recently had a team from an inner city (4 pastoral staff, 4 lay leaders) who wanted to come to NYC on Staten Island where we minister. We rent a very beautiful home that God provided for us from a desperate person who had it on the market for almost 4 years and has not been able to sell it. We rent it for less that we could a two BR apt. We served and fed the team for a week and they constantly critisized us and judged us for so many things, what our home looks like and our furniture,clothing,etc. We did not tell them that 80% of our furniture came from the Salvation Army or donated to us.They went so far as to question why our family would not choose to live in the inner city to minister to those who need it most. We are church planters and were very discouraged and exhausted when they left. We don’t feel we should have to defend ourselves. What would you have done? We love having folks in our home and constantly do so. Last week was such a difficult experience that we are hesitant about doing this again. Any advice?

  26. Jan 14, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Jared B,

    Knowing Craig like I do I feel certain he would choose your second option. In fact, I think he does the same as you.

  27. 30Tim
    Jan 15, 2009 at 7:21 am

    This is a tough issue for all pastors. When we planted our church we always said we wanted to pay people well, as most pastors have to deal with a financial burden as well as a spiritual one. Although I am always more busy than I care to mention, I always struggle with receiving a decent salary. Craig, any thoughts about pastors or church staff salaries…and have you ever struggled with this?

  28. Jan 15, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I had to post! I drive a 1989 Olds Buick. Ok that can be pride too. I get a kick out of watching folks response when they see mr mega pastor in a clunker. One young guy shouted out to his mom and dad, look pastor jimmie drives a piece of junk! I love it. I do love nice cars. If a totally restored trans am showed up in my drive way, let’s say 77, dude I would probably wind up in jail driving my dreams. I do want to live out Humility, Integrity and Generosity! For others that would look different so it’s not one size fits all. Thanks Craig for your life and ministry. jimmie

  29. Jan 17, 2009 at 10:24 am

    [...] The Swerve blog discusses Christian freedom vs. responsibility… [...]

  30. 33Mark
    Jan 19, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    The drinking or not drinking thing can really get people. I always ask myself why I need to drink?? For the taste, or is it to relax me or make me happy. What is my motivation behind drinking alcohol? If I am finding something in alcohol that I’m not finding from God then something is wrong..

  31. Jan 20, 2009 at 5:09 pm


    Then what is your take on coffee? I’m guessing, if you’re a coffee drinker, that you’d have to ask the same questions about that beverage.

    And they are absolutely great questions to ask.

  32. 35bob werner
    Jul 12, 2011 at 2:38 am

    Craig, On Monster energy drink : Notwithstanding the effect of 160 mg of caffein per 16 oz can, current vibes swarming suggest implicaitons of its logo ( three hebrew alphabet Vav’s ( three 6’s ). What would your reaction be, or suggest doing, if you walked into a church and found this logo replicated on the bass drum head of the drum set upon the church’s altar ? A corporate logo, neither coke nor pepsi, nor charagma for IBM or Verizon, but this one which youth in that church fully understand as having suggested nefarious implications. I would simply appreciate your reaction. ( By the way, though in Florida, I have attended your church several times in both Edmond and on the NW expressway in Okc ( recall the movie series ). I have enjoyed several of your video packages, including Chazown and comparative religions. Thanks for your response.

  33. 36Nancy Davis
    Jul 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm