I have concluded that most church people are positive, encouraging, and supportive. Nonetheless, it generally takes at least ten encouraging things to offset one discouraging thing (this varies a lot with intensity).
The greatest discouragement most pastors face is from within the Kingdom. Jesus warned his disciples that they would have to bear insult because they belong to him (Matthew 5:11). What Jesus did not warn his disciples about is that Christians would insult fellow Christians, and particularly that Christians would insult or demoralize their leaders. I call these offenders the “ungracious ten per cent.”
Most insults are passive-aggressive—insinuation and inference. Here are some common insults—coupled with my subjective rating scale rating intent to insult.
1. Fewer than half of solo pastors receive any health insurance ... 2. Almost three-fourths of full-time worship/music leaders receive health insurance... 3. Many full-time church staff receive no retirement benefits.... 5. Only six in ten full-time pastors and staff get any type of automobile reimbursement.... CPost
(Read the series so far.)
Here I continue sharing my reflections on how Paul guided Timothy when he was facing discouragement, from the book of 2 Timothy. You can read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already. I address these to others, but first to myself.
Sometimes a pastor’s discouragement comes because there is disunity in the church, or a lack of commitment to the core truths that we all hold in common. People can become divided over secondary or even relatively minor issues. This may be a signal to the pastor that he should speak to the church family about focusing on the fundamental truths of Scripture and on the person and work of Christ.
When I finished speaking, however, the leader of the search team asked: “How do you think this will work out here, given that Steve [not the actual name of the senior pastor] has the opposite view?” In that moment, it wasn’t clear if his question was directed to the whole search team (as though they had never talked about this before), or if the question was only meant for me. But if you want to know what happened next, I’ll tell you: long, awkward pause.
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.
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).
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.