“…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance….” (James 1:3)
Pity the church with an immature pastor. He can drive good people crazy.
His ego is always out there seeking a caress, his stubborness could put a mule to shame, and his unteachable spirit frustrates even the saintliest. He thinks of himself first of all, what effect something will have on his career secondly, and of the church a distant third.
A few days after Hurricane Katrina went through our part of the world and left New Orleans flooded and hundreds of thousands of people homeless and vast numbers of churches destroyed, I had a phone call from one of our young pastors. His church had come through fine, but his members were scattered and some were not coming back. He said, “Joe, I worry about the effect this will have on my future prospects. I mean, this will not look good on my resume’.”
Yes, he actually said that.
I replied, “My friend, you don’t have a resume’. You’re still in seminary.” I let that soak in, then added, “If you will do this right and be faithful, you will someday look back on this as one of the finest things the Lord ever did for you.”
He could not hang around long enough to see that, however, and soon had moved out of state.
What to do if your church has an immature pastor
1) In the first place, if your church is looking for a pastor, do what you can to see that your congregation doesn’t call an immature preacher. You may end up with one, but don’t volunteer for that task!
2) If you have one now, make sure your church has a few leaders in place who can work with him, speak truth to him, and be his counselor, or the church could be in big trouble.
3) If his immaturity is hurting the Lord’s work and there’s no one else to do it, go to him yourself. Go humbly and prayerfully, but do it. In sharing your concern with him, do not make suggestions or recommendations, but simply tell him what behavior of his is causing the problem, assure him of your love, and leave matters there. You are not the fix-it person. God is that. (Most pastors—even the young immature ones–will be able to take this kind of input from you if you do not insist on telling him how to correct it and set yourself up as the go-to person in the church. Tell him, love him, and leave him!)
A crash course in maturity for the young pastor (or anyone else, for that matter)….
God wants you to grow and will help you do it. If you are faithful, if you hang in there through tough times, if you remain prayerful and pure and obedient, then He will bring you through the following four trials and you will emerge far stronger and more mature than when you went in:
Someone in the church starts a fight. Some group in the church organizes against you. A Sunday School class blows up over a change of teachers. The youth don’t like their new leader and have stirred up their parents. The seniors need a new bus and no money was included in the budget for it and they are calling for your head.
Enjoying this, pastor? No? You’re not supposed to enjoy it, but to deal with it without letting it destroy the church or ruin you. (You may need to call your spiritual mentors for counsel on what to do now. That’s a good sign, an indication of growing maturity even.)
You need a raise. The insurance on your cars is going up, the kids need braces, your wife hasn’t had new clothes in two years, the family needs a vacation, the car needs replacing. On and on. When you went before the finance committee, they were sympathetic but turned you down, saying the money just isn’t there. You know they’re telling the truth, but it still hurts.
Question: what will you do now? A few suggestions: keep on tithing, encourage your family to make the most of this temporary situation, and pray like you have never prayed before. Be faithful in this. You’ll come through it and be glad you did it right.
Advisers and critics.
The Lord will send friends who will tell you your sermons are not working, that your leadership style is all wrong, that you need to spend less time on the golf course, and your wife’s makeup is being discussed in the women’s missionary organization.
Then, after they leave, your real critics will arrive. They will ream you out, telling you that of all the 49 pastors who have served this church, you are clearly the worst. They will accuse you of preaching bad doctrine, lousy sermons, of over-emphasizing money, and making too many announcements. They will end by saying it would be a good idea for you to get your resume’ in shape and start sending it out.
Sooner or later, every pastor has both groups coming to (ahem) help him. You will either grow discouraged and leave the ministry or you will draw near the Lord who called you into this in the first place and you will grow in Him. It’s up to you.
You will have friction on your staff, with the deacons, with various church members you thought were your biggest supporters, and even with your wife. When that happens, you will learn all over again what it means to humble yourself and apologize, to learn from your mistakes, and to get up off the floor and walk out into the church auditorium and preach a great sermon to your people who have no idea how badly you are aching inside. Good. You’re growing.
Friction isn’t all bad. After all, where there’s no friction, there’s no traction.
These and other hardships will descend on you to the point you will wonder where the Lord is and why He has brought this upon you. Only after you emerge on the other side, when you see daylight again, will you see the pattern and recognize His hand at work in it all.
One day someone sitting in your office will say, “I came to you because you are so godly, I knew you would know what I need to do.”
You’ll not believe it–that you are all that godly–because you know you better than anyone. But it’s a good sign. It’s an indication that the Lord’s maturation crash course is working with you.
Later in James 1, this beloved brother writes, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under the Lord’s spiritual maturity crash course, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).
(Okay, he didn’t say “the Lord’s spiritual maturity crash course.” He said “trial.” Same thing.)