Recently, one of the missionaries sent from our church and laboring in Europe contacted me. He was discouraged because there was a recent decline in the attendance of his work. There isn’t a preacher who cannot sympathize with a missionary or another pastor when that type of thing happens. When I inquired about the reason the people were giving for their departure, I was stunned by the response. They said they were leaving because the missionary was encouraging them to get on their knees during prayer time. For some reason, they felt this was reason enough to leave the church. This is not a third world country nor is this a rookie missionary who is unaware of the culture or people. The real truth is, there were other issues besides the reason they were giving the missionary.
You Are the Man God Chose
Throughout my tenure as a pastor, I have had some moments of great discouragement when people left the church. I don’t think the average church member is aware of the care and concern that a genuine man of God has for his soul and spiritual well being. There have been moments when I was discouraged and thought that perhaps someone else could do a better job pastoring my church. Thoughts came to mind that maybe I had made a mistake and maybe I wasn’t the right man for my ministry.
I often reflect on the years as an assistant pastor when I did not realize the burdens being a pastor would bring. During that time, when someone had a problem, I would say, “I am not the pastor. His office is across the hall.” Whew! What a relief. Then the day came when there was no one across the hall to pass the burden to. It fell on my shoulders. Many times I have sleepless nights because I am agonizing over a problem that needs to be confronted or finances that are needed to keep the ministry going. I have groaned in prayer as I have talked to the Lord about people and circumstances. There have been uncomfortable moments of confrontation when a church member was out of line or guilty of a sin that needed to be dealt with.
Remember Those Who Are Faithful
Dr. Roy Thompson, who I affectionately call “the Preacher,” mentored and prepared me for the ministry. When he was training me, he said on a number of occasions, “Kevin, you will have to deal with some difficult things that I never dreamed about dealing with. Just be ready!” How prophetic! There have been times when I called him and said, “Preacher, it’s me again. Remember when you told me that I was going to deal with some really weird and different things? Well, what advice do you have for this scenario?” I am thankful for the godly counsel from this great man of God. I am not minimizing prayer or seeking the Lord, as I have already shared that there are plenty of times when I wrestle with the Lord about an issue all night.
When we go through times of discouragement, we often allow the negative to keep us from focusing on the positive. Recently, I was sitting on the platform during a service. I thought about how blessed I am that God chose me to lead and to serve so many great people. There are times when I face problems and difficulties in the ministry and I don’t see it that way. Yet, the truth is, this is my church. I am sure your church has some wonderful people who are faithful through thick and thin. They quietly go about their ministry, loving the Lord, His church, and their pastor. It might be a Christmas card or a note that tells you that they love you and pray for you daily, or they may thank you for taking a stand and for leading the church. I love those moments! Don’t lose sight of those people during the times of discouragement.