FIRST-PERSON: 5 of the most difficult challenges pastors face

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Serving as a pastor may be one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Indeed, it may be an impossible job to do in our own strength.

I know. Before I was LifeWay's president or a seminary dean, I served as pastor of four churches.

I have heard from countless pastors in countless churches. Their stories are similar to mine. So I asked the question: What specific part of being a pastor is the most difficult for you? Let's look at five tough challenges for pastors.

1. Responding graciously to someone right before you preach. The pastor has put hours into the sermon. He has prayed for God's power for that moment. He is focused on God's Word and its proclamation. All of his energy is devoted to the upcoming moment. Then someone rushes up to him with a piece of paper and says. "Pastor, you need to announce about the garage sale we're having this week." Most of the times I showed grace. A few times I did not and showed something else.

2. Knowing what do with a staff member who is not making a vital contribution to the church. Many churches will not let leaders make the tough decision of letting a staff member go, even if he is not really productive and obviously an ill fit for the ministry and the church. Such a move is considered "un-Christian" and will not be tolerated, even if it would ultimately be best for that staff member. Many pastors have lost their own jobs when they made such a move. So we often move those persons to innocuous, low-accountability positions, even though we know it is poor stewardship.

3. Loving a person in the church when that person is your critic. We want to be Christ-like, and love people unconditionally. I admit that I often saw those people through their critical words instead of seeing them through the eyes of Christ.

4. Preparing more than one quality sermon a week. When I was a pastor I had to prepare a Sunday morning sermon, a Sunday evening sermon and a Wednesday evening Bible message. Frankly, it took all I had to prepare one good message. I know many churches no longer have the Sunday evening preaching service, but tens of thousands of pastors still prepare more than one message a week.

5. Doing the funeral of a person who was not a Christian. We can always hope the person had a deathbed conversion of which we are not aware. And we can always preach messages of comfort to the family and friends. But it is extremely difficult to talk about the deceased if he or she was lost.

Pastors, what wisdom can you share with other pastors regarding these challenges? And laypersons, what can you or your church do to support these pastors?


Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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