One Common Struggle Every Pastor Faces

There is one common struggle every pastor seems to face. I’ve seen it dozens of pastors. I often hear it on Mondays – even after a great Sunday. I’ve been guilty of this one – many times. It was true in church planting and in church revitalization.

And, this common struggle, I’m not sure, but it could be a common struggle for every leader, regardless of what they are leading.

The struggle –

We often let a few negatives overshadow many positives.

Things can be going great, but we can get one negative email – and our whole day is ruined.

We can have one season of struggle and we forget all the seasons of triumph – or all the promises for future reward.

We can miss the blessings God is providing all around us by focusing on the distractions of a few critics we may never please – regardless of what we do. We can live in gloom and doom about a present situation, forgetting how God has blessed us and how He has promised to bless us in days to come.

Are you ever guilty of this? Am I alone here?

The Bible is not silent about this struggle. Elijah – who the book of James tells us was a person just like us – fell apart with one threat from Jezebel after he had had tremendous success in ministry. (1 Kings 19)

It really is a common struggle. A common temptation to see the negative immediate reality, over the bigger picture positives of what God has done and is doing.

I don’t know, this is speculation on my part, but I think this struggle may have existed throughout the Bible with God’s people. For example, consider one of our “go to” favorite verses of encouragement – Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord , plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Put it in the context in which it was delivered. Notice Vs. 10

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” (Emphasis mine.)

One of the greatest promises – a promise God is in control and has a masterful future planned. This promise fits well on coffee mugs and desk plaques. We love it so much.

But, what do you think the people heard when this great promise was revealed by the prophet?

Again, it’s speculation on my part, but don’t you think when the people heard those words it was the “seventy years” of captivity they were about to face which jumped out to them more than the “future and hope“?

Yet, which do you think was God’s intent – to encourage or discourage? (Hopefully, you know the God who is love enough to answer correctly.)

Again, everything can be going according to plan. God can be working in your life, but one setback – one season of decline in church attendance – one negative email – can destroy your perception of reality. Common struggle.

This is why, as pastors – as leaders – as people of God – we must keep our mind and focus on the bigger picture. A focus on what God is calling us to do – what He is currently doing – and, ultimately, what He has promised to do – rather than the voices of the negative minority.

The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Who is brave and honest enough to admit I’m not alone here in this struggle?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 30 Comments

  • I’m with you too. I think a reason why we let the few negatives overshadow many positives is that we as pastors desire to do well and we strive for excellence. I understand that God is the One who works in us and through us but we give so much time and effort into our calling.

    One negative comment or one situation that doesn’t turn out like we envisioned derails us temporarily. I need constructive criticism so I can see any blind spots, but the negative comments that come from out of the blue are mostly personal attacks, hurtful, and they’re usually done in a public setting instead of a private one.

    I have to remind myself that those who are most critical are those who are least involved.

    People who are encouragers in my life always remind me to keep the bigger picture in mind. This helps tremendously. We will have resistance in ministry. We will have things that don’t turn out the way we thought they would. But we have a big God who picks us up and forges us ahead for His purpose and glory. That’s my motivation.

  • Jim Duggan says:

    I'm right there with you, Ron. We have to learn to take the long look.

  • Kevin Glenn says:

    Good stuff Ron! "If you're getting kicked in the rear, it means you're out in front"

  • Phil Darke says:

    Thanks Ron for sharing this truth so clearly. This is definitely a struggle, and I've found that it doesn't even have to be negative criticism or critics that can get us down. It can be simply the absence of feedback or comments (in the blogging world) in response to our message (however shared) that can discourage us. And in this world where we are constantly seeking to grow our churches and build our platform, we can so easily work super hard to please and get the attention of people who God hasn't called us to influence, while neglecting the church and/or platform He's already placed in our lives to influence. I know that this is something I struggle with.

  • […] allow the negative words to crowd out the positives. I blogged about that HERE. Concentrate more on what God is calling you to do than the naysayer’s personal agendas. […]

  • […] Something I’ve Learned about Pastors and Leaders […]

  • […] criticism, leadership & ministry: Something I’ve Learned about Pastors and Leaders by Ron […]

  • bryankr says:

    I understand better than I would, sometimes, like to! I am reminded of Elijah. You do so much, accomplish so many things, and 1 comes along with a power no one understands, and knocks people down!
    Twitter: bryankr

  • Glen Dornsife says:

    Why is this a general disposition for pastors, and specifically, church leaders? To crumble under criticism? When I read your reflection on the Jeremiah verses I thought about how we tend to cling to the positive part of that passage and forget about verse 10. Maybe if we quoted them together our perspective would be more holistic, and not so defeated by our critics, and in our trials and shortcomings.
    Twitter: glendornsife

  • You're not alone Ron. Even though I see many victories and successes, it's always the one or two things I did wrong or the one or two critics that cripples my self-view.

  • kmac4him says:

    Brave and feeling very foolish! Hitting right where I was this week! Sad to say, lost a full day of writing this week over this very thing. I am not working right now, writing and finishing up a book, I say I am “working for Jesus” LOL! Staying focused is key for me right now. On our hashtag on twitter, we have someone who has decided to use it to “bash a well known pastor” When I refused to join in, this “christian” decided that if I would not join in the harsh judgement and criticism of this pastor, that I was as he calls part of his “Babylon” and this christian called me out on twitter by name and said he was praying for me because I had a “spirit of Babylon” and had turned away from God. Hmmmmm…. Mistake one… let my pride buck up and lead me! Lost a whole day of work, I was so mad at myself. Mistake two… trying to “fix” what he had done…. No matter how many tweets I posted, geeeeeezzzz I should know this by now…. Only God can change a heart, and GOD IS in charge of my reputation and my favor! So, he is still on our hashtag muddying it up every day with his judgemental tweets about this pastor and now the church, but I am letting the “battle be Gods”. This morning God said write an apology tweet to the pastor and his church from our hastag and I did and then I moved on and got my writing done! AWE-GOD! Followship is not breaking free of your call to God to chase after your reputation; it is wiping off the mud on your face so you can see, readjusting your focus of Who and Whose you are and trusting God to use it for the good of your face!!! Jesus was silent, focused on the Father God and His Will. Oh Ouch…. I am learning! Thanks!
    Twitter: kmac4him

  • @onepursuit says:

    That's a great encouragement, and certainly not limited to those in ministry/leadership. I know I needed to be reminded of this today. We can't ignore the negative, but it is of no benefit (to ourselves or others) to give it more weight than it deserves. Thank you!

  • Christina says:

    I need this post. I was about to walk away from a new ministry because I'm letting a handful of critics dictate my perception of reality.

  • Rebecca says:

    You are so right. Thanks for the revelation. I already knew this about myself, but I needed to be reminded.

  • Rob says:

    I'm with you Ron! This is so true, one ever so slightly negative feedback can blow up my psyche.

    I like to remember David encouraged himself in the Lord (1Sam 30:6).

    Thanks for this encouraging word!

  • Andrea says:

    you are not alone! it always amazes me how a few comments can undermine all perception of progress and growth. something that helps me get my perspective back–thanking God for the things we have seen Him do– creating that pile of stones of remembrance. thanks for your post. made me realize I am not alone in this either!

  • Greg Martin says:

    You are not alone! But as I'm beginning to learn and embrace, if everyone is in agreement, and consensus is my goal, I'm probably not leading. It's like watching 5 year-olds play soccer. It's one big happy swarm following the ball around the field, and after the game, the coach (leader) tells everyone what a great job they did. But as the game gets more complicated and the kids grow, the coach (leader) has to push and pull in different directions. No longer is it a happy, carefree swarm running aimlessly around the field. A good coach knows where he's going (sees the big picture), but not everyone will follow, and the whining starts (it usually starts with the parents, but that's another sermon!). But the coach keeps coaching, and those that love the game and understand the mission will follow. You are not alone!

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