These thoughts come from a message that I was watching / listening to; as usual, the person preaching it is unimportant – the purpose here is not to take shots at people, but to discuss ideas.
It was stated that one should “stand with” one’s pastor “even if you think he’s wrong“.
To be charitable, this could have been a slip of the tongue, but I don’ think so because I’ve heard almost that exact phrase multiple times.
There is a huge difference between disagreeing with what he is doing and thinking he is wrong. Being wrong means that he is doing something, well, wrong – something that violates the Scriptures, either explicitly or in principle. While one can also be wrong by breaking the laws of the land, (that’s involved enough to have a separate entry; we are talking about just and reasonable laws that do not violate Scripture).
Disagreement merely means that two people don’t agree about something that is not covered in Scripture; it is possibly personal preference. There are many such things: the times of the services, the color of carpets or paint; hymnals that are used – there is a huge list here. You can certainly give your opinion, but once the pastor has decided, that’s the end of it; he is ultimately responsible, so, by all means, stand with him in such times.
Before I go on, I should point out that, contrary to what some people think, the pastor is human (can you believe it!!?) He is a sinner saved by grace. He will have areas of strength, and areas of weakness, just as all men do. Some people treat the pastor as an infallible man in all of his pronouncements. Only God is perfection; we human beings fall far short. The pastor will make mistakes; a humble man may use these as times of teaching; a proud man attempts to hide the mistake, trying to convince the members that he has no flaws.
On to “wrong” things: Even with “wrong”, there are certainly different levels of “wrong”; most of us have used the “wrong” word – perhaps these should be called “mistakes” or “wrongs that are unintentional”. As an example, I’ve heard various speakers confuse Noah, Moses, and Abraham — these are wrong, but they are generally minor matters, if they are just incidental slips. It doesn’t bother me if a preacher says in passing that Moses built the ark; however, it DOES bother me if that is a man point of the message.
So, leaving mistakes (or unintentional wrongs) aside, when you think the pastor is doing something wrong, you need to get it resolved. Go to him and explain and listen. Remember that the pastor, by virtue of his office, should always be treated with respect. Having said that, I can think of four possible outcomes: First, he will admit that he was wrong and plan to correct it (this is, of course, most gratifying to anyone: to discover he was right). Second, you may learn that you were wrong – that’s fine; you’ve grown and learned. Third, it may turn out that the matter is one of disagreement instead of right and wrong (disagreements were discussed above). Fourth (which hopefully is rare), no agreement is reached. In this case, it may be better to separate instead of continuing to support something you think is wrong.
We see Biblical examples of the first and second when Paul confronted Peter, discussed in Galatians 2. We also see an example of the fourth when Paul and Barnabas separated in Acts 15. I’m not sure about the third one – those may be causes when one party says “the Lord judge between thee and me”.