It is that time of the year and life again. I have gotten another year older since we last shared in this blog. Yes, hard to believe I know, especially since I look so good…LOL (That was a joke in case you didn’t get it.) I know people say that with age comes wisdom and knowledge. Please pray that I continue to grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. However with the passing of time, especially in ministry, comes many dangers. The longer one lives, trying to serve the Lord, the more the devil desires to attack and bring that person down. The longer one serves in a place of service the more likely one of two things will happen: 1) People become endeared to the pastor and love him more and come along side to help in ministry and prayerfully support the ministry; or 2) People become embittered, hurt, disillusioned, and thus exchanging less service, support and prayer for inactivity, gossip, or negative talk with less financial support for the church. (Which harms the church far more than it harms the pastor.) But anyway, over time Satan ramps up his attack on the pastor and the church over time, so Please, Please Pray!
Satan has many pitfalls for the pastor or any servant of God who tries to serve the Lord faithfully over time. So since I am getting older, more feeble of mind, and in more danger of attack by the enemy please pray the Lord help protect me and our church in the following areas as we try to move forward and succeed in His Service.
The definition of failure (and success) is subjective. For our purposes, failure is not pastoring a small church or never writing a book or never being featured as a conference speaker. Failure as a pastor is not fulfilling the call that God has placed on you. With this definition, failure is not an option. So Pray, Pray, Pray!
So how do we prevent failure in pastors and how can you pray for me to help me not fail? This is a list of a few things to pray that I and any servant of God avoid.
It’s been said that leaders are loners. That simply is not true. Leaders are connected with people—the people they are leading and the people who are leading them. Pastors who pull back from relationships and especially those who disconnect from other pastors will likely fall. Remember Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Don’t pastor in a bubble—you need other people.
Practicing secret sins
Only a few pastors are caught in the high profile sins—those sins aren’t the problem for most leaders. It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15). If we allow little sins to invade our private lives, our integrity will be compromised and our faith will be weak. While nobody is perfect, pastors need to aim for purity. God’s grace is the only way this is realized. Practice grace in your personal life. Pray for purity in your pastor’s life. I need it to have His power!
It’s only a matter of time until every pastor is hurt or disappointed. My advice for you and me: get over it quickly. Don’t allow the pain of local church leadership to turn into a bitter root in your life. Once bitterness sets in, it becomes toxic to your soul. “Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Flush offenses from your system as soon as possible and keep your heart tender. Please pray that I let no root of bitterness take hold in my life and that I cause no bitterness in the lives of others.
A terrible trap for pastors is to become a people pleaser. We want to be liked or we need the finances of a particular family—so we do what they want, in spite of our convictions to do otherwise. If you become a slave to a special interest group, you will lose your self-respect and the respect of the church. Pray I can be strong, serve the people, but sell out only to Christ.
Neglecting my family
My family is my first ministry. I really struggle with this one. If I habitually put the church ahead of them, everyone will know it, and no one will be impressed—especially my family. There will be times when duty calls, but let it be known that regardless of what happens at church, I will or at least need to fight for my family. If the church kicks me to the curb, my family will still be with me. And, if I lose my family, I lose my ministry.
Being driven by emotions
James Dobson wrote a book entitled Emotions: Can You Trust Them? The simple answer is “no.” As a pastor I have up days and down days. People will like me, then they will loathe me. We’ve got to remain steady, levelheaded, and even-keeled. I must lead from a position of balance and stability. If I am guided by my emotions, my ministry will be short-lived. Please pray I am Spirit lead not emotionally driven.
Relying on my own strength
No doubt I try to use leadership abilities or you I be where I am. But the day I trust my gifts more than I trust the Lord, I am doomed. Pray hard that I depend on the Spirit. He is better at my job than I am.
Having all the answers
It is a real pressure we pastors feel to be ready to answer your question and to always know what to say, but it is not realistic. If we ever get to the point where we have it all figured out; if we don’t need to learn anything more; if we can lead the church “with our eyes closed”… failure has already happened. Arrogance tells us we know enough, but reality tells us we have a lot to learn. Pray I Keep learning! There is always someone smarter than me. Pray I never stop reading. Pray I seek advice and solicit input. Pray I am a lifelong learner and keep growing. Remember, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5b).
You may think it is foolish to publish such a list because most of us don’t need help in trying to figure out how to fail. The point of this Pastor’s Pen is this: I have made these mistakes as a pastor and I hope to prevent myself and or someone else from repeating them. Each of them has the potential to cause failure as a pastor. Or worse yet, failure in ministry. If failure is not fulfilling the call that God has placed on you, then failure is not an option. Please pray that this ole pastor, 53 years old and over 38 years in ministry, can last another many years without failure so that I can serve God faithfully and effectively. What better gift could I ask for at this point in my life than your prayers.
In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,