7 Reminders when Pastors Disappoint Us

By September 10, 2018Church, Leadership

We have all been devastated at the news of fallen pastors. Someone we loved and trusted disappointed us. They had a moral failure. They crossed boundaries they should never cross. They mislead us. They injured the church.

The truth is pastors are held more responsible in the eyes of God for how we lead in the church. Pastors have authority (sometimes too much), power (often too much), and influence. And, influence can be used for good or for bad.

So, we should be disappointed when a pastor lets us down.

An equal truth, however, is pastors aren’t any more equipped at living a victorious Christian life than any other Christian. It’s all grace. It’s all a work of His Spirit. Apart from Him we can all do nothing. And, whenever we stop submitting my will to His will we fail. Every time.

I’m reminded in my own life that “Elijah was a man just like us.” (James 5:17)

This will seem to be an excuse by some, but I actually think the undue pressure on pastors is one of the leading causes of pastor burnout, and, ultimately, complete failure. Pastors often live under unrealistic expectations. Granted, much of the pressure pastor’s face is self-induced. Pastors compare themselves to other pastors and their church to other churches. We self-critique what others are thinking about us. In fact, most pastors I know are prone to worry more about what others might be saying about us than what God has declared about us.

And, it’s not an excuse for moral failure. Sin should never be our response to external stress or pressure. All sin is a horrible offense to a Holy God. All of us have sinned and fall short of His glory. That’s the Gospel.

When another pastor falls, it always reminds me of the horribleness of sin. It also, though, causes me to look inward again at my own life. (And, that’s never a bad thing to do. “Search me God”, as David prayed.)

I’ve been disappointed by pastors too. In fact, I’ve been disappointed in myself while I was pastor. Thankfully, I was able to keep my ministry and reputation in tact. Now my heart is to serve the greater Church and its pastors and help us all achieve greater accountability and health.

So, let me share a few things to remember when a pastor disappoints you. Things, which can help you keep your sanity and faith even when someone in ministry, whom you love and trusted, disappoints you.

7 reminders when a pastor disappoint you:

One person, working on behalf of self, can’t destroy the work of the Holy Spirit, working on behalf of God. This is huge to understand. A pastor may disappoint you, but that ultimately can’t destroy the work God began in you. If God spoke to you through the pastor’s teaching, if your life was challenged to grow or change, that truth should still prevail. God was working through one who falls under the “all have sinned” banner. You may be stunned for now, but you’ll grow back stronger if you continue to surrender to His will.

Pastors, and even a local church body, may fail. No local pastor or even church is guaranteed in God’s word as I read it. But, the Church, Christ’s body, is here to stay. God WILL protect His church. The gates of Hell will not prevail over it.

People will deceive you – even some pastors. People will let you down, but God’s Word will never fail you. If you are extending ultimate trust to a human you will be continually disappointed in life – and, likely taken advantage of also.

Pastors are called to lead, but not control. I write about it consistently on this blog. I believe God uses people to lead his church. I am not afraid of good leadership in the church. We are given minds and talents for the purpose of building up the church and others; with God receiving all the glory. But, ultimately no person is in control of God’s church. God is. He WILL have the final word; even when a pastor disappoints you.

Just because a pastor preaches truth, doesn’t meant we’ve always mastered it. I’ve received so much pushback on this statement, but I stand beside it. A pastor would have to be perfect to teach the whole counsel of God and have mastered all of it. Isn’t that why we need a Savior? And, why the pastor isn’t your Savior? Pastors still lose their temper when they shouldn’t. Some pastors still struggle with lust. Many pastors I know have pride issues. But, we can’t refuse to teach truth, because we are still being sanctified in some area of truth.

Pastors are often skilled at acting like everything is okay — even when it isn’t. You’ve fooled others before, right? So has your pastor. Some pastors have this false idea they are supposed to keep you from seeing they are human. Coming into the ministry later in life it almost seemed to me like it was seminary trained. (If I was supposed to get that in seminary I didn’t.) But, that’s why we must learn to love pastors, be their supporters and friends, and offer appropriate care for them. Churches aren’t always skilled at that.

A pastor is less likely to be transparent with unpredictable outcomes. This is huge for elder, deacon boards or anyone in church leadership to understand. If a pastor doubts whether grace will be extended if they admit they are struggling, they’ll be less likely to share their struggles – and more likely to hide until they can’t hide anymore and the struggles have overwhelmed them. We’ve almost created systems and structures in our churches, which make it difficult for a pastor to have “normal” temptations and struggles. (“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” 1 Corinthians 10:13) And, again, much of this is self-induced pressure.

All pastors need help. All pastors. In fact, all people do. We need people who truly care. Who can accept us flaws and all. Who will love us on days we are doing everything right and days we seem to do everything wrong. People who will call a sin a sin, before it reaches the magnitude, which destroys other people’s lives, damages our witness, and hurts the Kingdom work we felt called to do. And, isn’t this a primary purpose of the church? It’s called making disciples. Pastors need the church to be the church also.

Okay, there’s actually eight now that I count again. But, sometimes pastors miscount too. (Even, maybe especially, on Sundays. ) Pastors aren’t perfect.

But, would you stop right now and pray for your pastor?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 27 Comments

  • For sure! Ron, you have hit the nail on the head! Often we look to pastors, relying on the arm of flesh, which is sure to fail. This is why we need God’s Grace and Mercy to strengthen us through times of testing and trial. Be sure of this one thing, we are not able to overcome the enemy on our own. Paul wrote about this battle he faced in Rom chs 7 through 8. When he says the thing which I do not want to do I find my self in the predicament of doing. Likewise, the thing I wish to do I find myself not doing.

    What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Let it not be! But I did not know sin except through Law; for also I did not know lust except the Law said, “You shall not lust.” Ex. 20:17 But sin taking occasion through the commandment worked every lust in me; for apart from Law, sin is dead. And I was alive apart from Law once, but the commandment came, and sin came alive, and I died. And the commandment which was to life, this was found to be death to me; for sin taking occasion through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me. So indeed the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Then that which is good, has it become death to me? Let it not be! But sin, that it might appear to be the sin, having worked out death to me through the good, in order that sin might become exceedingly sinful through the commandment. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, having been sold under sin. For what I work out, I do not know. For what I do not will, this I do. But what I hate, this I do. But if I do what I do not will, I agree with the Law, that it is good. But now I no longer work it out, but the sin dwelling in me. For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good. For to will is present to me, but to work out the good I do not find. For what good I desire, I do not do. But the evil I do not desire, this I do. But if I do what I do not desire, it is no longer I working it out, but the sin dwelling in me. I find then the law, when I desire to do the right, that evil is present with me. For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I myself with the mind truly serve the Law of God and with the flesh the law of sin.
    (Rom 7:7-25 LITV)

  • For sure! Ron, you have hit the nail on the head! Often we look to pastors, relying on the arm of flesh, which is sure to fail. This is why we need God’s Grace and Mercy to strengthen us through times of testing and trial. Be sure of this one thing, we are not able to overcome the enemy on our own. Paul wrote about this battle he faced in Rom chs 7 through 8. When he says the thing which I do not want to do I find my self in the predicament of doing. Likewise, the thing I wish to do I find myself not doing.What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Let it not be! But I did not know sin except through Law; for also I did not know lust except the Law said, “You shall not lust.” Ex. 20:17 But sin taking occasion through the commandment worked every lust in me; for apart from Law, sin is dead. And I was alive apart from Law once, but the commandment came, and sin came alive, and I died. And the commandment which was to life, this was found to be death to me; for sin taking occasion through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me. So indeed the Law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Then that which is good, has it become death to me? Let it not be! But sin, that it might appear to be sin, having worked out death to me through the good, in order that sin might become excessively sinful through the commandment. For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am fleshly, having been sold under sin. For what I work out, I do not know. For what I do not will, this I do. But what I hate, this I do. But if I do what I do not will, I agree with the Law, that it is good. But now I no longer work it out, but the sin dwelling in me. For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good. For to will is present to me, but to work out the good I do not find. For what good I desire, I do not do. But the evil I do not desire, this I do. But if I do what I do not desire, it is no longer I working it out, but the sin dwelling in me. I find then the law, when I desire to do the right, that evil is present with me. For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members having warred against the law of my mind, and taking me captive by the law of sin being in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I myself with the mind truly serve the Law of God and with the flesh the law of sin.
    (Rom 7:7-25 LITV)

  • thepessimistone says:

    Because of my military background (being moved around) I have had several pastors. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not necessarily in my church, but in a sister church or in a church across town, or even in another work in a neighboring state. Except in the rare case where a man was obviously in the pulpit only for money, or prestige, or power, or some other nefarious reason I have always grieved over a fallen pastor. I have seen some be lifted up far beyond what God's intent was ever meant to be (I know God has a pastor's crown, so God obviously holds them in high regard.), and they began to believe the press reports. And I have seen others so burdened with responsibility that the weight they bore almost crushed them. Some likely failed because of a lack of prayer support. (I wonder how many pastor's have even 50% of their members faithfully praying for them and their families- by name- on a consistent, daily basis?) I knew one great man who had to hold two jobs, and his wife had to work because the flock felt he should make a meager salary. (That one has a great ending, though there were some very distressing and trying times, and a vicious church split.) For me, I've always felt that I knew very little, was worth not much, had only a bit to offer, BUT I could pray, and love, and support my pastor. Granted, even in that I have failed a time or two. But pastor's are the primary torch bearers, and Christianity's over two thousand year propagation has been primarily carried out by pastors. So even the fallen should have the dignity of respect, and not be ravaged viciously by what resembles a pack of dogs. They should also be held accountable, and their sin not glossed over because they are a pastor. I am only a layman, and then not a very attractive, affluent, or influential one so thank you for allowing me to post. I hope I have added something to this thread. If not, forgive me. The story of Koree, and he and his family being swallowed up by the earth after he tried to usurp Moses' authority (I heard that story preached when I was a month old Christian) has always been at the forefront of my thoughts in regards to how I treat my pastor, wether in his company or in the company of others who were discussing him.

  • James says:

    A great article. One point often forgotten in today’s church is that one person was never meant to do it all himself….

    ‘How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification’. (I Corinthians 14:26)

    How many churches actually live this out today? The pastor was never meant to do it all. Today’s church expects that he should and when he doesn’t do it the way we expect or want him to, rather than stepping up and helping, we complain.

  • Suheyt says:

    Thank you for this very funny and heart felt article. It certainly puts things on perspective.
    God Bless,

  • Bud Brown says:

    All pastors wrestle with insecurity. Those who lean into their identity in Christ may find the grace and resources needed to survive while those who don't probably won't.

  • Karl Vaters says:

    Thanks for such a thoughtful and gracious response to those tasteless comments, Ron. I've been grateful for the delete button on my blog a few times, too. The internet has a way of making everyone feel like their comments are valid, no matter how thoughtless, cruel or off-topic they may be. The good news is, they inspired you to write this post, which will help a lot of pastors and church members.

  • katsuiro says:

    "Pastors are often skilled at acting like everything is okay — even when it isn’t"

    So true. Even for the young pastors ((like me). Admit your struggles and share them lead people to conclude that your call is not a real one.
    "You should be strong , a rock, so that we all can rely on you." I heard some day

    but I read in the Bible
    "And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone"
    Ephesians 2 : 20

    So…

    Thank you Rod. Your posts are really helpful.

  • mb4tech says:

    Thank you so much for this thoughtful post which illustrates some truths that everyone can relate to. It sickens me how some especially in social media can be so hateful. They forget that words can wound others deeply. We can disagree with others without being disagreeable or attacking someone's character. Treat others with the respect you want to be treated with. Join me in praying for our Pastors.

  • Ivan Solero says:

    Ron,
    Terrific article on grace and forgiveness. My question is, is the present format of laity and elders presented still working as a model for a church? The New Testament made no distinctions between the two, meaning that within the context these two groups acts interchangeably and without ruling one over the other. Have we lost our way with this model? How are teachable moments only given to those that is called pastor and in essence putting them on a spiritual pedestal? Again, when we allow men to lead our hearts and mind to God instead of the Holy Spirit I find trouble is not to far behind. This endemic problem seems to raise its ugly head in megachurches. When a persons personality is superseding Christ's work that should be a warning sign. That I feel is the epidemic of the churches today. The New Testament did not promote pastors as leaders with no accountability. They were guides. Have we lost our way on what church is today? If you say Bob Coy as a guide instead of a spiritual monolith would it hurt so bad? Praying Ron, you also stay grounded and continue God's work!

    • Stacey Campbell says:

      Our present church model is more reflective of a Western business model than what is presented in the New Testament. There is always a plurality of leaders that guide a church in the Bible, not a lone person sitting at the top of the organizational chart. This latter model might move faster but can ultimately lead to an abuse of power and preoccupation with control. Team-based leadership can lead to humility and an open-handed approach. Is it any wonder that most churches prefer a "great man" to lead them…and, in essence, be their savior?

  • Stacey Campbell says:

    Ron, you touched on this but it's worth being super-clear: So many times we extend grace to those on the outside, yet withhold it from those on the inside. If grace is sufficient, then it must be sufficient for all, even pastors–like me–who blow it. Oftentimes, it is for everyone except those who need it the most.

  • jonstallings says:

    I can attest to #1 – Years ago my wife served at a church where to say there was sin in the camp would be an understatement. Yet my relationship with Jesus grew deeper. I met and married my wife. God's grace is sufficient.

    And I remind our congregation all the time the number one person I preach to each week is me. Just like them, I desperately need God to show up in my life everyday.

  • Dave Avery says:

    Once again, right on point. It's no wonder the the world watches as the Christian community bashes itself and thinks, "No thanks, I don't really see anything there that appeals to me." Thank you!

  • sbordewyk says:

    Great post! All true, but #5 really stood out to me. Thanks, Ron.

  • Mark Carroll says:

    Ron, I am good friends with your sister and serve on staff with your brother in law. I see it this way, God has placed an incredible call on ministers and Satan wants nothing more than to taint their testimony. He will use any way necessary to knock them out of the abundant life that God has called them to. He uses infidelity and moral failure in most instances because it causes others in the church to doubt themselves. I battle everyday with Satan and I have determined that he will not deter me from what God has called me to do! He tempts me, but he will not win! Thanks for all you do for the kingdom!!!

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thank you so much Mark. I totally agree. God bless. Keep my family in line please.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  • spirituallyrelevant says:

    Love the point/quote, "Pastors lead…but ultimately God is in control." Great thoughts…thank you for sharing. I will share to help others.

  • Stephanie says:

    Great truth! Thanks for sharing:)

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