Today I want to highlight the fact that young pastors take more hits. I was commenting to somebody a while ago about a young pastor we both knew who was really quite gifted, capable and doing some amazing things in the church was just being dogged at every turn. Individuals inside the church seemed to be interfering and wanting to interfere with what was going on.
I made the comment to this person that very few people know how many hits and how intense the hits are that a lot of our young pastors take on. Young pastors take a lot more hits, and not just young as in age, but new pastors, and even people who are going into the ministry as a second career. They are often not prepared for the way people take shots at them.
In a way, if you look at it from a spiritual lens, it really is the work of the enemy. I don’t understand theologically how people in the church, some of whom may actually be Christians, seem to be pawns of the enemy. The intent is to discourage and to get you to compromise or get you to just outright quit, and a lot of young or new pastors do quit.
Now, if you’ve been in ministry for a while, you probably do understand how many hits pastors take and how intense they are. I remember the first few weeks of my very first church as a young pastor when I got a call from one of the leaders. He wanted to see if I was in the office so he could stop by. I thought he was just coming for a coffee, but he walked in the door and looked at me and said, “We better pray. Pray You’ll knock some sense into this young man’s head before he destroys the church.”
Then he launched into his shopping list of mistakes I’d made in about my first month of ministry, three in particular, and then he left. I was just devastated. I thought, am I really that bad?
I actually dug into and sought to make amends to the different people he claimed were offended by all my activity. There was nothing there. In fact, when I called to apologize to one person they said, “Did so-and-so talk to you?” I said, “Yeah.” They said, “Well, he’s just like that. I’m not offended at all. He just chose to be offended.” Then I realized this guy’s whole intent was to kind of clip my wings and keep me in line. That was the first kind of lesson in my ministry of toughening up a little bit and keep going.
I had another situation in my second church. I was still a young pastor in that sense that I’d been in ministry for six or seven years at that point. I shared some very deep trauma that we faced as a family in the past and shared how that affected me and how we’d gotten through it. A fella came up to me after the services and as he was walking by he said, “I always knew there was something wrong with you” and then left.
If something like that would have happened in my first church, I would have been just completely crushed. In this case, I was just irritated because I realized who this person was, the kind of person who was always complaining and taking shots so it didn’t have its impact.
I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older and gotten more into ministry that those kinds of things are more muted now. I don’t know if there’s less of them. I think there is in some cases. I’m older and I’m not maybe seen as vulnerable. Perhaps I’m also more callous and some of those same kinds of things just don’t register on me anymore.
Also, I do tend to cut off people when they are clearly malicious. When they’re going off on something that I know is not true, I’m more willing to challenge them. I don’t think that because I’m a pastor, I just have to take it.
I recognize of course, that there are people with agendas and I need to be alert to their agendas. As a part of my leadership, way back when I was an intern, my internship pastor made this comment to me and it’s something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Be aware of those who meet you at the train.” What he was saying was that people who are just big fans right out of the gate, the people who are right there and might even be the people who have campaigned to get you into a ministry position, are often the ones who will cause you grief.
I’ve seen it again and again. I’m actually witnessing right now in a situation I’m aware of where the number one fans of this new pastor a couple of years ago are now trying to get him out of the church. In fact, I once followed a pastor who had been kind of called into the church by some previous friendship connections, and within two years, that same person was trying to get him out of the church.
Anyway, this is all just to highlight the reality of the tension and the attacks and encourage you to look at it through a spiritual lens. Realize it’s part of the battle as part of the job. If you’re a young pastor or a pastor facing some of this kind of stuff, let me just make a few suggestions.
Number one, don’t ever say something you need to go back and apologize for. You are better off biting your tongue rather than saying something hurtful or striking out at the same time. Do not put up with abuse when people are crossing the line and attacking you personally, whether it’s your boss or an elder or someone in the church. Do not put up with it. You’re not called to put up with that kind of stuff. Ultimately, set an example as it says in Timothy. Set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. When it comes down to the battle, that is the ministry.
I think it’s really helpful to figure out what exactly David did at Ziklag when his men were wanting to kill him and everyone was against him. It says that he found strength in his Lord. He went and somehow got strength from the Lord. Figure out what that means and how to do that.
It’s very rare it’s just you or just me. There are people now we can contact who might be physically distant, but they’re in our corner. Have those people on speed dial, but also have the Lord on speed dial and know how to get on your face and revisit your gifts, your calling and understand who you are in His sight. Remember He is your Father and that you are a follower of Jesus.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, all authority has been given to Him. He calls you to go and make disciples and He will be with you and find strength in that. I’m not saying it’s easy and not saying the hits are going to go away, but I want to encourage you to keep going to press on and fight the good fight.
God bless. And yes, press on.