Scandals involving moral issues with television preachers seem to have faded from the headlines, yet the dangers and temptations for pastors remain a threat. Those who lead large churches have opportunity to be side-tracked by a desire for greater power or financial success. Others may struggle with relationship issues. Since their task is difficult, burn-out can happen and the weakness of it can mean vulnerability in many areas.
Paul was aware of this when he wrote Timothy, a younger pastor. He was also aware of sinful tendencies in congregations and the fact that those same things can also tempt ordinary Christian people. He wrote:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1–5)
Pastors must focus on their task of proclaiming the Word of God, always ready to convict listeners of sin using forceful warnings if necessary, encouraging them to walk with Christ. They must patiently endure all sorts of resistance (including weekly emails of complaint about minor issues) as they teach God’s truth with focused faithfulness.
Paul warned about a time when people would opposes sound teaching. It started back then and is certainly an issue these days. Why do we have “name it and claim it” and other doctrines that appeal to human comfort and prosperity to the neglect of the Gospel? It is because this is what many people want to hear. They want a God who will make them healthy, wealthy and comfortable, not a God who uses suffering to build character, gives contentment even in poverty, and bids us go and tell the world of sin, righteousness and judgment and that they need salvation. Yes, the Gospel is good news, but not to those who have no desire to change or submit their lives to an unseen God.
In our many years of moving around and attending different churches, we have not experienced those who have totally gone off the rails. Most of them still use the Bible and still talk about sin and salvation. However, the itching ears are evident. People in the pews want pastors who make them feel good about themselves, not those who convict them of sin and their need for Jesus.
This puts pressure on church leaders. They are to be free from ordinary desires that would draw them away from their primary focus. They must endure the pain of being unpopular with many and stick to the work of telling others about sin and salvation. They must fully accomplish the role God has given them — not an easy task.
How do I apply this? Pray for pastors. Ask God to protect them from temptation. Pray for grace to do their work with joy, enthusiasm, and faithful dedication. Tell them how their messages are blessing my life and helping me in my walk with Christ. Tell others the same thing, particularly those prone to having ‘roast preacher’ for Sunday dinner. And be thankful to God for their faith and the perseverance He gives.
Lord, there are a host of reasons to support my pastors. There are also a host of temptations that endanger them and therefore entire congregations and Your work in our communities. Bless me with wisdom and with a supportive and encouraging attitude. Criticism is cheap and easy to come by. Words of support and thankfulness go a long way. Keep me alert and part of the solution, never on the destructive side of a pastor’s struggle.
Today’s thankful list . . .
A rich time of prayer with others.
Shopping success for two great grand kids who love drawing and cats.
Safety driving in scary traffic.
Fixing my google account without having to change my password again.
My hubby is healing.
An incredible fall day, warm, sunny and lots of green still in the trees.