The pain that never goes away in pastors

“…serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials…” (Acts 20:19)

Let a pastor go through one huge church fight that leaves God’s people bleeding and bitter and scattering and he will do everything in his power to avoid another one.

Let a pastor go through a termination in which he is forced out from the church where the Lord sent Him, and the pain of that rejection will accompany him the rest of the way home.

Some pain never leaves.

The wound heals but the scar remains and the memory never fades.

Thoughts of that event will color his counsel to other pastors.  The pain of that event will pop up at the strangest of times.  The lessons of that event will demand to be shared with others going through their own little foretaste of hades.

So, the wounded pastor will mention that event from time to time.

It’s not even a choice he makes.

He could no more ignore that event in his life than forget his wife and children.

Occasionally when the pastor mentions that bit of his history, invariably some (probably) well-meaning soul will say, “You need to get over that.”  Well, thank you, friend, but some things you never get over.

The scar remains.

The suffering comes to an end, but the memory of the pain is never gone.

The lessons and the guilt, the self-recriminations and the regrets, become a part of our very bone and marrow and never go away.

In a sense, you don’t want it all to go away.

“God doesn’t waste suffering,” we like to say.  And for the God-called pastor who has been the victim of self-righteous (or mean-spirited) church leaders with an agenda of their own and sent packing, there are things he cannot forget and will retain the rest of the way home.

He cannot forget some of his own mistakes.  “I wish I’d been more patient there….more assertive with that group…less abrupt with him.  I wish I’d made more pastoral visits in homes, had spoken more forcefully on moral issues, and had not terminated that staff member.  I wish, I wish, I wish.”

He cannot forget how his family was treated.  The phone calls in the middle of the night to disturb the household. The anonymous letters.  The harsh comments from the children of church people.  The vicious rumors which were completely without foundation.

He cannot forget a few comments from antagonists.  “You think you have won this one, pastor.  But it will never be over until you are gone.” “I don’t care what the Bible says.  I just want you gone from my church.”  “Unless you go quietly, preacher, you will be fired and there will be no severance.” “I’m going to tell the congregation there are things you did that we can’t talk about, that are too shameful for words.  That’ll do it!”

Some of that the pastor would love to forget, but it will not go away. So, he consciously works to forgive the others–and forgive himself!–and go forward.

Some of the lessons from that terrible time in his life will never go away either.

He remembers how important it is for a pastor to show a spirit of Christlikeness at all times.  The times he lost his cool with church members who were trying his soul linger with him.

He remembers how critical prayer is and determines he will live for the rest of his days on his knees.  Nothing is better than knowing when life is coming unraveled that you are right where God put you, that He has this situation in His hands.

He remembers the importance of giving strong leadership to the ministerial staff.  Allowing a lazy or carnal staffer to go unchecked was a mistake for which he himself paid dearly.  But he will try to get this right next time.

He reminds himself how important is the balance between protecting his wife from the daily stress and yet informing her of all that is going on so they can pray together and be a strength to each other.

And he knows one more big thing…

He cannot make the next church pay for the sins of the previous one.  He must not be too harsh or demanding with them because of how the last church failed to get it right.

He must abide in the Lord and let His words abide in him.

He must begin every day on his knees with the Lord and before the Word in order to find strength and direction for all that day contains.

And even then–if the past is any indication–he will make mistakes.  So, he prays for an understanding church and a wise heart.  He prays for the Holy Spirit to “lead him in the path of righteousness” and for boldness to declare the whole word of God.

And he prays for one more thing, a huge request which He hopes God will grant.  He prays the next church will have a corps of prayer warriors who will daily intercede for their pastor, even though they know little about his past and the battles he has come through. Let them pray for their shepherd, asking the Chief Shepherd to care for him and be his all in all.

God, bless your pastors please.



8 thoughts on “The pain that never goes away in pastors

  1. Last month, at our annual church convention, I was asked which of the 6 congregations I have served over the last 41 years I liked best. (That’s as unfair as asking a parent which of his/her multiple children they like best.) After several hours, I realized that there was one (only one!) of the six where there was no conflict with or in the congregation while I was there. I don’t know if I liked that congregation best, but I liked their/our lack of conflict best.

  2. As the daughter of a Baptist Pastor and the most unrecognized and unappreciated person in a church, the Pastor’s Wife my entire life, your words have helped me through the bitterness I feel towards church members who have one purpose and that is control. My dad was never able to support his family on the income from a church so he and my mom always had other jobs and did up until my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015. I am 45 years and I’ve lived my entire life watching church members put down a man of God who has put them first over his own family. It never bothered me throughout growing up because bringing people to Christ is the most important thing. It’s all I knew. As my parents get older, I see different faces with the same goal and it absolutely breaks my heart into pieces. I struggle daily with church members not appreciating and standing behind a man of God and his supporting Wife. Church members forget the entire purpose of a church. I so wish and pray my dad and mom could fell the gratitude and peace they deserve. I pray that all young Pastors and there families are not discouraged because it truly takes a man called by God with a supportive family…and being tough as nails with tunnel vision would help. I also pray that there children do not feel or see the hurt I have. Thank you for your words and encouragement. I send your posts to my dad weekly and they are very much appreciated. God bless.

    • Remind your dad, what he already knows, that the reward day is still in the future and it will not be a judgment of peers or even church members. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said that the last will be first. All the pastors of mega-churches seem to get all the recognition but surely, God sees the humble and faithful servants who labor because they love Him and love His people, and He takes note of it. As the Doctor said, wounds heal but scars are a different thing. God Bless you and your dad.

      • Anna, my brother Ron (who just replied to you) has been preaching the gospel for some 55 years, and mostly in small churches. His little brother Joe has gotten the recognition (far more than I deserve), but no one has been more faithful than my brother. He will be far ahead of me in receiving rewards when we get there. And as he said, I expect your father will be toward the head of the line too. Hebrews 6:10 has his name all over it.

  3. Your post assumes that the fired pastor was actually fulfilling God’s will at the church that fired him. I know some that haven’t, acting irresponsibly, glorying themselves, breaking confidences, etc. it’s not always the church’s fault…nor its “sins.” Mane churches are far better off post-pastor-firing. Perhaps you shouldn give the churches the easy break you’re giving your fellow pastors.

  4. Thanks for the article. It is comforting indeed. I have experienced the termination piece. I find that some of my strongest comforters were people OUTSIDE the church. I still see God’s hand in these folks.

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