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?