As a pastor, you have to realize that ministry can be like walking on eggs at times. It does not matter what size church you might be part of, the problems you will have to deal with, will basically be the same.
They are the same problems faced in the churches of the New testament. At some point, you will have to address issues of leadership, gossip, doctrine, immorality, lack of help, lack of finances and even color schemes. They might look a little different in each church setting, but are issues that had to be dealt with from the earliest times.
The issues in their selves do not matter, but how you handle them means everything. How you come to handle adversity in you ministry can make or break a pastor. Paul is one of the best biblical examples to pattern after. He writes a road map for pastors in his book of Second Corinthians. Every pastor should at some point, study this letter in depth. In the first part of the letter you see Paul going through one of the most nerve wracking ,and make you want to quit, times in his entire life. He is insulted and taunted, accused of not being sincere, being prideful, and boastful. On top of all the insults they attack his preaching, his weaknesses, and call him a deceiver and cheat. Wow! , enough to make you want to turn tale and run. During all this Paul was in a lonely dungeon waiting to be beheaded, but he does not think of his problems or bemoan his lot in life, he only thinks of his beloved church at Cornith. Paul writes to Timothy about leadership and what he is telling Timothy can help all pastors today.
In this letter to the Chorenthians Paul gives the New Testament’s best look at what life is like for a minister of the gospel. Paul knew that many of the leaders in Corinth wanted the glory, but only a few wanted to suffer for it, as Christ had. Paul was hurt, because his people, the people he ministered to and discipled, could not see through the self-seeking schemes of those around, trying to persuade them down the wrong path. Paul knew this could damage a church body and was dealing then with issues we still face today.
In his book “Clergy Killers” G.lloyd Rediger says, “Abuse of pastors by congregations and the breakdown of pastors due to inadequate support are now tragic realities. This worst-case scenario, one that is increasing in epidemic proportions, is not a misinterpretation by a few discontented clergy. Rather,it is a phenomenon that is verified by both research and experience…. Pastors have become more vulnerable, parishioners more confused and less courageous, denominational offices more political, and our whole society more numb to abuse and conflict.
Together these factors create opportunity for abuse of spiritual leaders and even encourage its development.” Paul faced the same dangers and knew he had to put an immediate stop to the discontent.Even though he loved the people, he knew he had to be firm, “We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us.”(2 Corin. 6:12).He loved them dearly, but he loved them so much he could not let them destroy themselves.
Philip E.Hughes writes, “It must be emphasized that Paul is not moved by self-concern he willingly endures for Christ’s sake any number of affronts and indignities to his own person. But when the genuineness of his apostleship is called into question, that is something he dare not endure in silence, for it is no less a challenge to the authority of Christ himself”. (The New International Commentary: second Corin. Page 477)
Today our churches are loosing pastors at an alarming rate. What keeps ministers from leaving the ministry? What kind of character does a pastor need to minister to parishioners, who on the most part, love to complain, provoke and ignore? Most pastors stay the course, as Paul did, their emotions might fail them, they might become weary, but their faith in Christ never fails.
Two important things are needed in a pastor’s life that helps deal with unwelcome situations, a strong sense of their call and a deep love and concern for their flock. To go along with these two essentials you need to develop strong, godly team leaders, “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devils trap.” (1 Tim.3:2-8), having Godly people you can count on will go along way in thwarting adversity. Paul told Timothy; be zealous, be courageous, be faithful and be enduring. Ministry is like being a Farmer; your reward will come at the end, after the work is done.
It’s not unusual to want to run from adversity, we are weak in the area of endurance. In your bible, it clearly shows this is not the answer. If this response was practiced many of the dearly loved bible stories would have had a different ending and would have inspired no one. We can not accomplish much that’s worthwhile and not endure opposition. Think for a moment what your parents went through raising you? Anything for our good was “old fashioned” or “you just don’t understand” We did not care for anything that was good for us.
There is always a purpose for adversity. It’s also two-sided, one side positive; stimulating you to spiritual growth; the opposite side has the potential to defeat and destroy your ministry. Sometimes, the purpose is to keep us humble and our egos in check. The main reason is to grow our trust and faith in God and his ability. When we turn to him, his promise to be our strength will carry us through.
The way we respond to adversity shows our true view of God. Many times we ask “why lord”, sometimes God shows us and sometimes he never makes it known. At times God has to prepare our hearts before he shows us his purpose. Other times adversity comes because of some sin in our lives; pride being the biggest offender. If we search our hearts we can see this might be so and confess and repent; usually the adversity goes with the repentance. Sometimes adversity is the enemy’s doing. In the book of Job (1:6-12) satin brought temptation into Job’s life. Temptations are the underlying factor in much of our troubles. Satin is not allowed, however, to do anything God does not permit. All adversity comes from us, from satin, working around us and in others, or from what God allows in our lives. Nothing happens in our life outside the knowledge of God, who strengthens us to overcome all.
Adversity reveals our weaknesses and our strengths. It reveals our willingness to forgive, and it increases our faith in god. Good advice in handling adversity is to face it and not run from it. We can never get far from it, as it always follows, wherever we may run or what church we may try to find. The goal is not to have a problem free ministry; this will never happen. Your goal should be to deal with problems, and problem people, in a biblical manner. Sometimes as pastors, we light the fuse ourselves, because of the way we deal with problems; we need to be skillful and biblical.
Adversity is an accurate gage of our spiritual life. If we want to measure our level of faith, we need to look at how we handle our troubles. We need to ask ourselves; how am I handling my circumstances? Am I exhibiting patience, self-control and love? Am I relying on God’s strength and not my own? God has called you to minister to his beloved people; do not be fearful and do not give up.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”(Isa.41:10).
Wilson, A.N. Paul, The mind of the Apostle. New York.W.W.Norton&Company
Beck,KennethEditor.The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids:Zondervan 2002
Bruce, F.F. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: second Corinthians. Grand Rapids Mi.: Eerdmans 1951
Stafford, John, Ministry Burnout.Louisville,Ky.Westminister Press 1992
Williams, Charles D the Christian Ministry and Social Problems. New York. Macmillan Co. 1917.
Rediger, G.Lloyd. The Clergy Killers. Louisville, Ky. Westminster Press 1980
Londen, H.B. and Wiseman, Neil B. Pastors at Greater Risk. Ventura, Cal. Gospel Light Regal Books 2003