Recently I just returned from a preaching conference in St. Clair, Missouri at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church pastored by Tom Smith. What a wonderful time of fellowship and challenging from the Word of God!
I always enjoy the fellowship and meeting with other men of like mind. I always enjoy catching up with friends I have not seen in quite a while. I always enjoy meeting missionaries who stand the same way we stand. But, the best part to me is hearing the preaching and being challenged by the Word of God. Almost every pastor this year preached on being broken or hurting in the ministry. Nearly each of them shared the typical thinking of most pastors. Upon first becoming a pastor, one can not imagine anything being wrong. Sort of like Wilbur when he first arrives at the Zuckerman farm. Every one loves you, your ideas, and your visions. Then one day Wilbur hears of the "conspiracy" and soon fears for his life! Seems like the 'honeymoon' period last a while, but then people get used to their pastor and pastors get used to their people, and soon each is constantly looking over their shoulder. People leave, people grumble, people have problems, people are discontent, people start looking for 'greener grass,' people look for faults, and the pastor grows weary, pastor gets discouraged, pastor sees people's faults, pastor starts looking for 'greener grass,' pastor is discontent, pastor has problems, pastor grumbles, pastor is discouraged, and soon pastor leaves. If it wasn't so sad and destructive, it would be humorous to watch this vicious cycle keep repeating itself. There is much that could be said here, but we are focusing on the pastor and his thinking. I know I have only pastored for 8 years, but in those eight years I have learned a lot. I also served 7 years as an assistant pastor, and had the privilege of growing up in a pastor's home. So, I feel though still younger, I have more than normal experience and authority to speak on this matter even at my age. I've seen and studied the pastor's psyche. I've seen the thrills, visions, and excitements; I've seen the depression, grief, and isolation. I believe first the power of possibilities thrill a pastor. Paul shares in 1 Cor. 16:9 how that while in Ephesus "a great door and effectual is opened unto me..." For Paul, this was the festival for the worshipping of the goddess Diana. History teaches that over 2 million people would visit Ephesus during these days. Can you imagine Paul salivating at this opportunity to witness? No wonder he says, "I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost!" There are times when a pastor can only see the possibilities and envision what God can do! In these days the pastor has a smile on his face, a hop in his step, and is fellowshipping with all his members sharing that burden and getting them on board! Then come the adversaries! Paul would then say after sharing his vision, "but there are many adversaries." Demetrius, the silversmiths, and a great host of people would soon oppose Paul. The Devil hates visions and soon sends his attacks. These attacks come through opposition, health issues, family issues, finances, and depression. Study Acts and how many times in Paul's life that the Lord stood with Paul and said to "Be of Good Cheer." Paul would no doubt fight these things. In these days the pastor is quiet, withdraws himself, teary eyes, quiet, and even stern, "matter of fact" and performance motivated. It is at these times a church can help by encouraging him in prayer, words, cards, and expressions of love. At other times there is Doubt. I can't explain why, but the Devil whispers in pastor's ears frequently, and one of his most used messages is that the man of God is failing, inadequate, and some one else could do better. Jeremiah examples this after his calling from God in Jeremiah 1:4-10. Jeremiah heard God, but replied "Ah Lord God! behold I cannot speak; for I am a child." He sees himself as: 1. Injured "AH". This word is a Hebrew word used often to show pain. 2. Impaired "I cannot speak". Here Jeremiah sees himself as being impaired and unable to meet the required task. 3. Inadequate "I am a child" Surely Jeremiah thought others more mature and knowledgeable could do a better job! These same three areas are a battle with every pastor. In these three areas every pastor is fought. There are times when serving as a pastor brings hurt. None can grieve you more than those you love. The hurt is great when people fall into sin, quit, go elsewhere not led by God, complain, cause divisions, and such. Many times the hurt becomes to great and pastors get their eyes off the Lord. At other times, the Devil tries to convince the man of God that they "cannot speak." or that they "are a child." We see our faults, our weaknesses, our lack of knowledge, ability, or strength. Pastors hear all the 'blessings' of the other men of God and feel they have failed. Pastors see all that have left and miss all that have stayed. Pastors get caught up in numbers and feelings and forget promises and facts. There will always be hurt, there will always be others who can speak clearer, louder, bigger words, better personality, funnier jokes, more stories, better alliteration, more Scripture memorized, larger churches-but they are not you. The Lord told Jeremiah to shut up and encouraged his heart by telling him: 1. God gave him the people to minister to 2. God gave him the preaching to speak 3. God gave him the power to do it 4. God gave him His presence at all times If you are a church member, encourage your pastor at all times, pray for your pastor, and understand he is a man too who the Devil wants to discourage. If you are a pastor, realize who the enemy is, encourage yourself in the Lord, claim to the promises in His Word, and go on and thank the Lord for the people He has given you to minister to, and do your best with the promises of God on your side. If you are one of those people God has blessed me with to minister and serve, know I love you and thank the Lord for you and remind me of these same things when discouragement comes my way!