I encounter so many struggling pastors. And unfortunately, I know so many who used to be pastors but no longer hold the position.
It may be through a blatant sin or a casual drifting from doing what they knew to be right, but it landed them in disaster. A pastor friend of mine said recently, “We need healthy churches and we need healthy pastors.”
Amen. Agreed. We must stand guard.
What are we guarding against?
No single post would be perfect. Obviously sin, but I can’t address everything that gets in the way of a healthy pastor. I can only list some that are more common in my experience.
Here are 10 dangerous distractions for a pastor:
Neglecting your soul. One of my mentors reminded me recently. “Ron, don’t forget to feed your own soul.” It was subtle. Almost given as a sidebar to our discussion. But it was gold. One of the biggest dangers for a pastor is when we begin to operate out of stored up knowledge of and experience with God. We need fresh encounters with truth and His glory.
Sacrificing family. Families learn to resent the ministry when it always trumps the family. Ministry families get accustomed to interruptions. They are part of the job as they are part of many vocations. But the family will hopefully be there when no one else is around. Ministry locations change but the family does not — so we must not neglect them. I’ve sat with men who lost the respect of their family. I know countless pastors who’s adult children no longer want anything to do with the church. Apparently, there’s not much that hurts anymore than that.
Playing the numbers game. Whenever we put the emphasis on numbers we are always disappointed. They will never be high enough. God is in charge of the numbers. We are in charge of what He has put us in charge of — but it’s not the numbers. We must be careful to concentrate on making disciples and the numbers will take care of themselves.
Comparing ministries. There will always be a “bigger” ministry. Someone will always write a better tweet — or a better book — or a better blog post — preach a better sermon. When we begin to compare it distracts us from the ministry we’ve been God-appointed to lead.
Finding affirmation among the rebels. This is the one that gets me in trouble among the rebels when I point it out to pastors. But we must be careful not to get distracted by people who would complain regardless of the decision we make. Yes, it stings the way some people talk to a pastor. And, it’s certainly not always godly how some people express themselves in the church. But, what if Joshua had listened to the naysayers? What if Nehemiah had? What if Moses had given up every time the complainers were louder than the people who are willing to follow? Okay, he probably was willing to give up a couple of times but he held the course. If you are leading there will always be someone that is not happy with the decisions you made. People bent on pleasing others — more even than pleasing God — have a very hard time finding peace and joy in ministry.
Sacrificing truth for popularity. It’s easy to preach the easy stuff. Grace messages are pleasant to share and popular to receive. And, we need them. Where sin increases — grace should increase all the more. But, we need truth. Even when it is unpopular. Making disciples becomes impossible when we sacrifice either one — truth or grace.
Stealing glory. My mama used to say “that boy got too big for his britches”. Sadly that can happen in ministry also. Many pastors struggle with ego problems. God is never honored in that. Pastors are in a God-glorifying position. Actually, everyone yes, but it is written into our job description.
Poor boundaries. In an effort to “minister” to people, I know too many pastors who fell into a trap because they didn’t have proper boundaries in place. The enemy enjoys a door of opportunity.
Neglecting friendships. Most pastors struggle knowing who to trust, but because of that they have few people really get to know them. Therefore they often have no one who can speak into the dark places of their life. And, pastors have them too. So, they put on a good front — but inside, they struggle alone. It’s dangerous.
Abusing power. The pastor holds a certain amount of power just because of position. It has been said, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” One of the more dangerous things I see churches doing these days is giving a pastor too much power, without enough built-in personal accountability. (That’s coming from a church planter’s heart — and one who is prone to lead strong.) BTW, I’m not for controlling the pastor or forced relational accountability — and I haven’t discovered the perfect system here — but there needs to be one that balances truth and grace equally. Again, I don’t know how to systematize that, but it is a dangerous distraction. My challenge would be to the pastor or ministry leader to build this system into his or her own life absent a system within the ministry.
Those are some that I have seen. These distractions are displayed in a number of ways — and all of them are not fatal thankfully — but all of them are real. And all of them are dangerous.