What is a good reason for a pastor to stay at one church for a long time?

One of the most significant implications from Hebrews 13:17 (giving account for souls) I was grateful to learn early in ministry was that I don’t have the right to dislike and refuse to care for someone’s soul that God had entrusted to me.  This is important to realize as pastors because we all have those who despise us in our congregations–those we have upset by something we said or did–that we will still give an account for when we stand before God.  At this point, some of you may be thinking these kinds of people are a good reason to leave and start over, but I submit to you they are actually a good reason to stay and endure.  Why are these difficult people a good reason to stay and endure?    

 

Watching God work through your ministry in such a way that those who once despised you, grow to love and appreciate you.

 

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago as I went to the hospital to visit an elderly lady who almost died, but was beginning to make a slow recovery.  She is someone who years ago publicly attacked and slandered me in front of the whole church.  Not my biggest fan.  Although the tensions had calmed down the last few years, I didn’t expect a great deal of warmth from her. 

I sat with this woman and had the most encouraging and pleasant visit with her.  She was warm, kind, and gracious to me.  She praised me for caring for her and the church so well over the years.  Just as I started to intently look for the “candid camera” that had been planted, she reached to hug me as I left.

Unable to humanly explain anything I had just experienced, God reminded me of one of the greatest joys of staying and enduring with these people.  As we endure the criticism, complaints, and verbal attacks, and try to love and care for the souls of those who attack us, God in his grace might just allow us to eventually win them over.  What a powerful testimony of the power of God at work in his shepherd and sheep when He does this.  This is not the first time God has allowed me to experience this and I can definitely say it ranks as one of the greatest joys I now experience in pastoral ministry with my congregation. 

Pastors, hold fast to what you know to be true and right.  Love those who love you as you love those who don’t–at least right now.  However, don’t be surprised when you wake up one day (years from now) and find that a church member who has been cold to you for years suddenly has warmed up.

I leave you with these stunningly wise words from Richard Baxter on why we should especially care for the souls of those who despise us, “Even the stoutest sinners will hear us on their death bed, though they scorned us before.”

Posted in Oversight of Souls, Training for Ministry
6 comments on “What is a good reason for a pastor to stay at one church for a long time?
  1. Ken Nichols says:

    Thank you for this article. I am in year 4 of my first pastorate. I serve in a very small community, which magnifies the tensions of a small church. There have been many rough spots, also many bright spots.

    I look forward to the blessings you’ve described!

    His…yours,
    Ken

  2. I’ve served in ministry for nearly 26 years now. I’ve been at Cornerstone EFC for over 13 of those years and am rejoicing in the longevity God has granted.

    I find God’s timing in all things to be asounding. Just yesterday (Sunday), following the time of worship (and, what I believed to be an especially blessed time of worship and preaching God’s Word, at that), I had a young woman approach me and ask, “Can you come over so we can talk this afternoon?” I was pleased, as well as dreading this encounter. I was pleased, even though I knew this was going to be a hard conversation. Two weeks before, I had been blind-sided by this same young woman, told that she couldn’t trust me as her pastor, that I couldn’t possibly love her as her pastor, and that, if not for her husband’s wishes, would have left the church a year ago. I dreaded it because I knew it would all come down upon me (which it did) and I’ve simply learned “it takes two [or more] to tango.” It’s never just one-sided. However, I wanted to humble myself before God and this woman, takes whatever lumps she was going to dish out and give thanks to God for what He might do to bring His Kingdom into this situation.

    This article is a strength-giver from God’s grace through you. I didn’t walk out of that time thinking of leaving, but the rest of my day was nearly a misery and the Monday morning “pastoral blues” that I am blessed to not experience very often were heavy upon me. Then God “popped” this up on Google Reader for me to ponder over.

    May He grant the grace necessary for us both (and other pastors, as well) to endure through much for His sake.

    • briancroft says:

      Thank you for your encouragment! May the Lord make this woman a great encouragement to you in the future, by His grace and power.

  3. Kevin Womack says:

    Thanks for posting this. One of those who despises me gave me a real earful yesterday between our two worship services and I’ve been struggling with it all of yesterday and this morning. Your words remind me of my calling and encourage me at what God can do through our simple obedience. Thank you!

  4. Terry Reed says:

    Thank you for your article. Paul told Titus to stay in Crete in spite of the fact that some of the people there were “slow bellies.” There will always be tough times and tough people to face, but the greatest blessings come from long term ministry. God bless!
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

  5. Zeeshan says:

    Dear Brother,

    I am Zeeshan Javed from Pakistan. I have studied your web site, and I found it the most wonderful site to get right to the True Word of God. My suggestion for you is to create your material in my language of Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Pashto, Sindhi, Sraiki, and Balochi also. It will bring lots of blessings of the Word of God for the Pakistani and Indian Urdu and Punjabi and other local languages speaking people. For that purpose, I as a translator will bring your material into my languages and into Indian language as well. I will be printing and distributing your material to my people around me. Although it will take your low expenses as well, as fund for the Word of God to reach out to the deserving people. I my self, work on a local radio station also. Many times it becomes difficult for us to keep doing this because of being minorities and because of the lack of the financial resources. I will wait for your response.

    Sincerely yours

    Zeeshan Javed

    lowrence_20@yahoo.com

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