Overcoming the Hurdles of Ministry

A Focus on the Family reports “a whopping 1,500 pastors will leave their churches . . . due to moral failure, burnout or contention within the congregation” (Pastors and Wives at the Breaking Point - Adventist Review online). Essentially, the above reference underscores problems and challenges within pastoral ministry. Given this reality, how does one handle the challenges and woes brought on by parishioners and colleagues? In this regard, I share the following points:
Remind Yourself of God’s Call
To remind oneself of God’s calling is to reassure oneself of his/her purpose and reason for being in ministry. It is like asking the questions, “Who am I?” “What am I doing in ministry?” “Why should I continue?” It is human to be affected and experience hurt and even failures, but it is crucial to know why one is in ministry and why one should continue. The Apostle Paul referred to his calling to the Gospel Ministry about three times in the book of Acts, chapters 9, 22 and 26. Additionally, this allows for refocusing and a deeper sense of commitment. It also allows for a sense of fulfillment and meaning as one engages in ministry to the church.

Expect Criticisms
Admittedly, no one enjoys being criticized, even at times if the criticisms are constructive. We would rather receive praises, accolades and even flattery. However, that would not be right, especially flattery, as it fails to confront honesty. Hearing week after week, “That was a great sermon” may lead one to expect this always; and when it does not come, it may be disappointing. Personally, I enjoy when members remark, “I have been touched,” or “I never thought that was in the text,” etc.

By your anticipating criticism, it tends to cushion the blow. Also, if a pastor can accept the criticisms objectively, he or she may discover some good advice for free. And except for the discomfort of the criticism, he/she will be better off for it (depending on one’s personality, for some of us handle criticism well and some not so well). I am tempted to share one experience, but to do so would be to give away the person and setting. Nonetheless, I note that on one occasion when I was criticized, I went to the member’s place of employment; and upon confronting the person, I discovered that the information given was true, but the manner in which it was presented was not pleasant. However, I learnt a valuable lesson that works for me even to this day.

Establish a Prayer Ministry
It is no secret that one of the most effective weapons that a pastor has is that of prayer. Prayer enables one to elevate his or her thoughts on a power bigger and higher than self, as opposed to focusing on problems, issues and the mundane. Develop the practice of praying for difficult persons by name. It is hard to pray for one and wish a person evil. More so, it is in praying that one depends on God to grant wisdom, solution and courage if required to confront albeit tactfully or in a Christ-like manner. In praying for those who criticize and give you a difficult time, you will find that you are in good company as Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Stephen, one of the seven deacons, prayed a similar prayer.

Plan Your Days
To leave your day open is to leave time to pity self and situation. On the other hand, strategizing to have an effective ministry allows for freshness, innovation and a sense of structure. Ensuring that I make time for personal devotion, exercise, family, sermon preparation, visitation, person and personal development is important. There is some truth to the expression, “the devil finds work for idle hands.”
Finally, observe that when one does his/her best he/she must accept that and not allow others to place guilt trips on him. Do your best each day, and leave everything to God.