for pastors

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 5:8-11)

A pastor tried an experiment and opened his pulpit up to anyone in the congregation to give a 3-minute talk. Surprisingly, few volunteered, and those that did got a glimpse of what pastors do every week. Prepping for the 3-minute talk proved challenging, and delivering it gave increased appreciation for how easy pastors make it look. Increase the talk to 25-45 min., and create a new message every week and suddenly there’s a new respect for what pastors do. And of course most pastors have many other work duties and home responsibilities in addition to writing weekly messages. Thank you for all that you do, week after week, year after year to minister to those God has entrusted to you.

If you recall from the film “Forrest Gump”, when Forrest is first introduced to Lieutenant Dan and salutes him, he is sharply instructed to put his hand down and not to salute. His lieutenant explains that there are snipers all around that would love to “grease an officer”. As an “officer-lieutenant” of the church, you too become a target of the enemy. This is a respectful yet urgent “heads up” reminder to be vigilant - this is serious business and in one way or another, many pastors have been rendered ineffective or have altogether fallen. You are not immune to this. While church shootings happen on rare occasion, it’s not bullets that the enemy will use to try to take you out. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal and in most cases neither are our enemy’s.

The first of three weapons in the enemy’s arsenal against pastors is pride and it attacks your character. The enemy knows all too well about pride as it caused him to be expelled from his high position in heaven. Saul was a humble and effective king early on, but he let his position of authority go to his head. David, on the other hand, maintained his humility by regularly acknowledging His need for the Lord’s guidance, strength and protection (as seen throughout the Psalms). For those who fall to pride, they start to reflect the enemy more so than God who humbly served us as our Savior, our Provider and our Creator. Whether you are pastor over 20 or 20,000, please take care to follow David’s example. Protect yourself from the enemy whispering in your ear as he tries to puff you up and get you to think that it’s about you. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”(I Peter 5:5b)

The second weapon is compromise which directly hurts your listeners. Much can be said regarding this subtle form of attack on the church. Even as I write this, I’m tempted to hold back in what I believe the Lord is prompting me to share with you, and then I would be compromising. It seems to come down to doing something other than what God has shown us in His word and by His Spirit. It’s often well intentioned. When Saul spared the Amalek King and the best of the goods, it would appear that His intentions were good. The issue was he followed his own reasoning rather than obediently following God’s instruction. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The enemy works to get pastors to compromise on a number of levels. Creating a “seeker sensitive” environment means less substance in the messages in case an unsaved person is in attendance. That would be like starting a restaurant that only serves baby food in case a baby might show up. The problem is that the believers become spiritually malnourished as they require stronger food for growth and maturity. When a lawn is not effectively fertilized, the blades of grass become thin and weak, making room for opportunistic weeds to take hold and spread throughout the lawn. Believers need to be built up within the church so they can keep the weeds out of their own lives. Otherwise the church will be affected as the members allow sin in their lives. Churches are much like a one room school house where young and older children are in attendance. You can teach for the older students and the younger ones will glean some understanding from it. In addition, if you “dumb down” the message, an unsaved visitor won’t get a real of sense of the wisdom God makes available to us in scripture. They may not understand a message for the mature believer, but they’ll see that church is unlike anything the world has to offer. “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word. Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.” (Jeremiah 26:2-3)

Other compromises can stem from convenience. I know of a pastor who moved to a small town to pastor a small church. When his kids complained that there were so few other teens in the church, he sent them to a larger neighboring church to join their youth group. The problem was the larger church had sharp doctrinal differences, including losing salvation over certain sins. Not only did this Pastor send his kids there to be taught, but he started inviting the other Pastor to his church to pray with his congregation. This compromise hurt his church in two ways. First, some who were clear on the significant doctrinal differences left the church. Those who didn’t leave were exposed to some of the larger church’s errors without correction. This is also a picture of how the ecumenical movement can be taken too far, partnering with churches steeped in critical error.

Regarding compromise stemming from personal ambition or greed, it can be a temptation to make decisions based on what most people will like in an effort to grow the church in numbers. Growth in spiritual maturity is far more important. Don’t let the goal of having a large church drive your decisions. Leave the growth to God according to His wise and perfect plan. A craftsman has many tools in his toolbox. Some of the smallest tools are essential for tasks too delicate for a larger tool. If your church is small compared to other local churches, that could be exactly what God wants for His purposes.

Still other compromises involve a lack of discernment. Churches are starting to allow yoga to be practiced in their building. It’s been fully embraced by the world as “just stretching”, however experts who are pro-yoga explain it’s impossible to separate yoga from Hinduism. Those who practice it sometimes experience a “zen peace”. Communicating with “spirit guides” can also be a part of yoga. Clearly, this is more than simple stretching and has a definite spiritual (but not Christian) component. It is said the the various yoga positions were designed as prayer positions to the various Hindu gods. Whether you believe that or not, if you participate in them, you are still giving these demons an invitation to harass you. That being the case, what in the world are we doing letting it coexist with Christianity and specifically bringing it into churches?! “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14)

Regarding ignoring God’s commands, scripture states, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (I Timothy 2:12-14) I was at a mega church that had several female pastors on staff. The lead Pastor mentioned to the congregation that some expressed concern over having female pastors. He then explained that the command in I Timothy was only for that time, but not for now. But that reasoning just doesn’t hold up. It states that God made Adam first and that Eve, not Adam was deceived. 2000 years passing doesn’t change those foundational facts. Also, everything else in that chapter is clearly for all time. Why would the last three verses only be for that time? We can’t ignore God’s commands just because they conflict with how we think things should be. (See also Ephesians 5:25-32, I Corinthians 11:3)

Finally regarding compromise, the Gospel has been compromised. While Pastors spend time each week doing research in scripture as they write their sermons, when it comes time to share the gospel too often they seem to wing it (even the best of them do this). They will string together various things people “need” to do to get saved, but so much of it is unbiblical. From the moment the church was birthed, the enemy started trying to alter the Gospel and he’s had 2000 years to refine his efforts. Please see the category “What the Gospel isn’t” and consider the content therein.

The third weapon the enemy uses against pastors is the most deadly. Infidelity. If he can get a pastor to compromise in this way, when it is exposed, the pastor will immediately lose his position and his reputation going forward will be destroyed. When a husband commits adultery, it hurts his wife and kids. When it happens to a pastor, his wife and kids are hurt, but so is everyone is the church (and those listening online). To illustrate the prevalence of this destructive problem, here’s a list of related casualties from one state involving pastors that I personally heard sermons from:

- Youth pastor with a wife and two daughters falls for a college girl he was counseling and loses his position in the church.- Single pastor accused of being inappropriate with a few of the single women is asked to step down.- Pastor of a fast growing mega church fired over an affair.- A Pastor and a fellow believer who hosted a prominent Christian radio program both left the show because of marital infidelity.- A married pastor (who was also a professor at a Christian college) leading a singles group admitted to me that he was falling for one of the single women. His wake-up call was learning that a colleague had recently fallen into a similar situation and lost his marriage and his job over it.- An attractive divorced woman with lots of kids and little money starts attending a church. The married pastor falls for her and commits giving her significant money every month from the church fund. He is fired over complications with this woman.

And of course we’ve all heard of the national stories of prominent pastors falling in this way. Pastors (and ALL husbands) need to be quick to shut down situations where we start to develop feelings for other women. Guard your heart. Take every thought captive and reject the wrong thought when it tries to return. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)

That pastors become a target of the enemy is likely why we are told “my brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things.” (James 3:1-2a) Also we are counseled that “if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” (I Corinthians 11:31-32)

If multiple members of your congregation come to you with the same concern, you should listen to them. There’s a good chance that there is some truth to their complaint and God may well be trying to speak to you through them. Pray for fellow pastors, and ask those you teach to pray for you as well. There is power in pray, and strength and protection as we unite in fellowship with other believers. Fight the good fight! “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4b) We can have the victory, but we can’t let our guard down and forget that the enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

Dear brother in Christ - again, thank you for all that you do to minister to those God has entrusted to you. I pray that the Holy Spirit will lead you and protect you and your family as you build up the believers within the church you pastor at. Evident in the growing trend of a single pastor having multiple churches, a good pastor is hard to find. As you continue to seek God’s guidance, you and the church you lead will be like a light in the darkness - like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. The lost stumble in darkness, calling good evil and evil good. Our Lord’s return is nearer now than when we first believed - until that hour arrives there are still some who will be saved and those who are already saved still have time to grow in Him!