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In our last lesson, we found that the job (and five-fold office) of "pastor" is not as glamorous and "cushy" as it may seem. We saw that the pastor has a lot of demands put on him to care for the people God has appointed him to care for. In addition to all that, pastors:
We talked about the first four in the last lesson. So let's continue looking at these costs.
We hear so many stories of "spiritual abuse" these days. It is sort of the in thing to criticize the pastor or accuse him/her of being abusive any time a person is upset with his church. (There really are cases of spiritual abuse, and I don't want to minimize them. But much of what people say is spiritual abuse really is not.) People get angry that they are not getting their own way, or that they are not getting the attention or recognition they feel they deserve. They begin to blame the pastor and/or criticize him. Sometimes God will throw them in the refiner's fire to expose and deal with some character areas that He wants to heal, and the person may get mad at or blame the pastor, as if it were his fault that they are in the refiner's fire.
Some sheep are not fully mature and conformed to the image of Christ. Sometimes they can be self-centered and demanding. I'm not a pastor, but I do head a ministry and I do get pastoral care requests. One person, who I did not know, wanted me to commit to praying and interceding for them an hour a day for the next six months because they were going through difficult times. I politely replied that I could not commit to that because my time is very limited and God had not quickened that particular request to me. They became furious that I would not be available to them in that manner and accused me of everything from being spiritually abusive to being a false prophet because I would not commit 182 hours to interceding for a complete stranger. The person simply assumed that because I was a minister, they had a right to make demands on me. There are a lot of people who have that attitude to some degree or another. Pastors frequently face people who are demanding and unappreciative and who get mad at the pastor when things go wrong.
Let me share an example from a church I once belonged to. There was a man who sang in the choir and who helped teach Sunday school, as well as being involved in a few social activities. He got busy in his profession and began to miss a lot of church. He started dropping out of the various activities he had been involved in. Then he had a two-month period where he had to work Sundays and was unable to attend church. He mentioned it to the pastor and to his friends. Several months went by and he had not been to church at all. The pastor wrote him a note along the lines of, "We miss you. Hope you are doing well in your walk with the Lord. Please know that I am here and would be happy to talk to you if you feel the need."
The man became irate that it took the pastor so long to figure out he was missing. He criticized and attacked him unreasonably and became hostile toward him. I ran into this man afterward, and he shared the situation with me. The real problem was that he felt hurt and unappreciated. Very few people from church had contacted him to see why he was not attending. Of course most of them were under the assumption that he was still working weekends. But he felt hurt that he was not missed and that people were not following up to see how he was. He was upset that they simply forgot him (out of sight, out of mind) as the months dragged by and he had not been at church. So he focused all of the hurt and frustration on the pastor and let him have it with both barrels. In reality the pastor was doing the very thing he hoped people would do. Caring about him and checking in on him to see how he was. But he was hurt and upset enough that it did not seem that way to him. And he ended up attacking and criticizing the pastor.
People do that. All of us can occasionally be unreasonable. When a person is really upset or hurting, they may tend to be unreasonable or demanding on a more frequent basis. They may tend to strike out at someone for something that is not their fault. When they do it to a pastor or leader, we call that "sheep bite."
Developing The Immature
One of a pastor's jobs is to help people grow and mature in their faith, their giftings and in their personal walk with God. This includes the spiritually and the emotionally immature. This means that pastors frequently have to work with those who are "developing." That can be frustrating, especially when the trainees make costly mistakes. There is a joke about this in prophetic circles. Do you know what many pastors/leaders/teachers call prophetic students who are still in the process of learning how to move in their gifting? They call them PITs - it stands for "Prophets In Training," but it also describes how their mistakes can be "the pits!"
It is important for a pastor to provide a safe environment for the trainees and those the trainees will minister to, in whatever area the pastor is developing the person. The pastor has to correct mistakes, but still encourage the trainees so they can grow into strong/gifted believers. This is sometimes a complex juggling act trying to find the fine line between not discouraging the person and correcting mistakes.
Pastors often get thrust into a counselor's role as well in working with emotionally immature and needy or dysfunctional people. Often pastors can make real progress because they can deal with spiritual issues as well as emotional ones. Many pastors have to serve as personal counselors for individuals or as marriage counselors for families in crisis. There is often a great demand on pastors to work in these situations even though they have not been formally trained in this area. It can be very stressful for a pastor to serve in this capacity. It can also be frustrating because a lot of times, wounded or immature people resist being helped, can fail to follow through on commitments and action items. Some people who come to the pastor for "help" want sympathy and attention more than they want to gain victory in their personal lives and situations. So the pastor has to work on adjusting their expectations and getting them to look at the situations from God's perspective as well as helping the people.
There really are a lot of demands put on pastors, especially by people who have not matured in their own personal life and walk.
Targets For Spiritual Warfare Counter Attacks
One of the basics of spiritual warfare is that the more you build up God's Kingdom, the more you are actively tearing down Satan's. And Satan does not want to lose ground, so he is out to defend his turf. In general, he perceives pastors as dangerous because they equip and enable others to be effective for God's Kingdom. Satan tends to spend more of his resources counter attacking those he views as a threat. Pastors are a threat on two levels. They advance God's Kingdom by the nature of the work they do, and they train others how to advance God's Kingdom and be effective in their Christian walk.
About 10 years ago, many prophetic voices began to warn intercessors to cover their pastors because Satan was launching an all-out offensive designed to destroy pastors' marriages and families. Satan actually released demons whose main job was to disrupt and destroy a pastor's relationship with his/her spouse and children. This went on for quite a while and it was somewhat effective. We began to see more pastoral marriages failing than we'd ever seen. Why? Because Satan was fighting back to try to make pastors less effective in dismantling Satan's kingdom.
In general, pastors tend to get more spiritual warfare counter attacks than the average believer. This comes in various forms. One form is that the enemy will work harder to tempt them and cause them to fall into some besetting sin. One form is that there will be attacks against their family, against their relationships with spouse and children. One form is that the enemy will try to attack them in the area of their health. And another form is that the enemy will try to attack them in the area of their finances.
Does this mean that pastors should cower in fear, afraid to do anything for fear of upsetting the devil? Of course not. The God they serve is much more powerful than the devil. But they do need to put on their Eph. 6 spiritual armor on a daily basis. They do need to exercise wisdom. They need to guard their own personal relation with the Lord, and not allow business to keep them away from spending quality time with God. They need to set apart time for their own family and give their spouse and children a priority in their lives. They need to exercise common sense, such as a male pastor not making a house call by himself to a woman member of the congregation who is known to have the "hots" for him. In addition to that, a pastor should have adequate prayer covering. This can take the form of a team of intercessors, or of a few members and elders who are committed to pray for their pastor on a regular basis.