Pastoral Ministry

What a Discouraged Pastor Should Do (Part 2)

I recently read through 2 Timothy several times and journaled the specific ways Paul instructed Timothy to overcome his discouragement. Last week I shared the first four. Here are some more.

5. Be Strong in the Grace That Is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 2:1).

Man up! That’s probably how we would say it today. But Paul wasn’t urging Timothy to be self-confident, relying on his own strength of character, skills, or resolve. He reminded Timothy there is a source of strength available to every Christian—“the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Generally, grace is God’s favor that we don’t deserve. Specifically as it is used here, it is God’s personal help for challenging responsibilities. We have access to this help in Jesus because He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

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What a Discouraged Pastor Should Do (Part 1)

Pastors experience discouragement. It goes with the territory. Paul wrote his protégé, Timothy, to encourage him at a time when he was down. Paul’s letter is what we call 2 Timothy.

How do we know Timothy was discouraged? Here are some clues. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:4 that he was aware of Timothy’s tears. He addressed in 2 Timothy 1:7 the fear Timothy was experiencing. In 1:8ff, Paul challenged Timothy to not let suffering for Christ get him down. In 1:13 he tells Timothy to “hold fast,” in 2:1 to “be strong,” in 2:3 to “endure hardship,” in 3:14 to “continue,” and in 4:5 to “fulfill your ministry.” I infer from all this that Timothy was hurting and discouraged. Timothy seems to be a reluctant leader, one who is somewhat timid, subjective, and sensitive to opposition. Paul wanted to encourage him.

I need this kind of encouragement at times, and I’m sure other pastors do too. I read through 2 Timothy several times recently and made a list of “things to do” for a discouraged pastor. I’ll share several of them today and more in future posts.

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What I've Learned As a Pastor (Part 3)

From Voice magazine, Nov/Dec 2015. Used by permission. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

We Pastors Need to Learn to Forgive.

Local church ministry often involves seeing people at their worst and unfortunately all of us pastors experience times when rocks and arrows are directed at us. We need to forgive others when we’ve been wronged because it’s commanded in the New Testament and because it honors the Lord when we “take the high road.” And we need to acknowledge there are times in ministry when we pastors do or say the wrong thing and we need to admit “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” All of us need to forgive those who have hurt us in church squabbles and get along with them so the gospel won’t be negatively affected. Unsaved people are watching and need to see how the Gospel has changed us by helping us to truly love and forgive others. Forgiveness is simply the active part of love.

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What I've Learned As a Pastor (Part 2)

(From Voice magazine, Nov/Dec 2015. Used by permission.)

People Will Fail. God Never Will.

As I said in Part 1, over the years I’ve deliberately surrounded myself with some of the finest people imaginable. Those great folks have given me so much that I’ve often felt overwhelmed with gratitude reflecting on the countless ways I’ve been blessed by others in my life. Yet I also know that people fail (including, and most especially, me). We are all fallen, feeble, frail and broken instruments—but God is great! This truth has helped temper my perfectionistic, unreal, idealistic expectations when I’ve directed them at myself and those around me. I’ve learned to be more patient and forbearing over the years knowing all of us need to receive grace and extend forgiveness each and every day. People are great; people are frustrating. People help us up; people push us down. My actions are good; my actions are bad. In all the variations of our humanity, this one thing is certain: God never changes and He’s always dependable. He will never fail and so we should keep our eyes on Him.

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What I've Learned As a Pastor (Part 1)

(From Voice magazine, Nov/Dec 2015. Used by permission.)

Shortly after I became a Christian at the age of 18, I sensed God’s leading into full-time ministry and I enrolled in a Bible institute to begin my preparation. During two of those summers I served as an intern in a small church plant in Utah, the second summer serving as “the pastor” when Ron (my mentor) left for a month of missionary deputation.

Before he left, Ron told me I would have to do everything in the church while he was gone “even a funeral if anyone died.” Needless to say, at 21 years of age I prayed like crazy for the good health of everyone in the church! Much to my relief, God answered those prayers and there were no funerals that month. The second month that followed felt like a breeze compared to the first month when I was all on my own.

It was during those summers in Utah forty years ago that I tasted what it meant to be the pastor of a local church. After graduation from the Bible institute, I continued my education in a Christian liberal arts college and at seminary knowing God was calling me into the ministry as a missionary church planting pastor. All along the twists and turns of the various ministry assignments God has given to us, we’ve loved every one of the last forty years.

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