This post, and the opposite one before it, (7 of the Most Exciting Things Pastors Experience) actually began when I received this question on my blog: "Ron, what do you think are some of the most frustrating things pastors experience?"
Great question. I decided to first address some of the exciting things, but, like most jobs, the pastorate has its frustrations. Leadership deals with people—different people, with different expectations, demands and opinions. And anytime there are differences in people, there will be frustrations. This is true even among people who love each other greatly.
The actual question was about what is "most frustrating." I had to think about that. There are lots of little things that can frustrate me. I don't understand why some people leave a room and don't turn out the lights or how someone would ever put a toilet paper roll on so it unrolls from the bottom. (Slight attempt at humor there.) But, those are small examples—not "most frustrating." So I had to think a bit.
I should first mention that I'm sharing frustrations, but I'm not frustrated. I love the local church, and I love my church. (I shouldn't have to mention it, but I will.) I believe the church is the hope for the world. I am a proponent of the local, Bible-believing church. We are filled with imperfect people, but our mission is God-inspired, God-given and supposed to be God-glorifying.
With this disclosure, here's my reply about some of the most frustrating things I see as a pastor. Please understand, I'm simply being honest.
Here are 7 of the most frustrating things pastors experience:
1. People who abuse their power or position. I have witnessed this firsthand in some churches I have pastored, but even more so in churches friends have served as pastor. I know a couple of churches—as this is being written—in which a few people are literally controlling the church and causing potentially irreversible damage.
It always bothers me when people abuse power, but even more so when it happens in the church. This includes, of course, when the pastor abuses power. Abuse of power is wrong regardless of who is doing so. Ultimately, we are to follow Christ, but sometimes we can let positions and power get in the way of humility and obedience.
2. People who live opposite lives in and out of the church. It frustrates me when people have one "church face" and one "community face." It gives the church a bad name. Many of my unchurched friends won't come to church because they know someone who comes to church already. And they aren't impressed. They know the person in the office on Monday morning is not the person who claims to be so wonderful on Sunday morning.
I should say, I'm not referring to new Christians, and certainly not those who are attending but not yet believers. I'm talking about those who claim a history with truth but don't exhibit truth in the way they live their lives. They would shout amen to "love one another" while sitting in the pew, but their actions outside the walls of the church say otherwise.
3. Rumors that spread with no basis of truth. How many times have I been caught in the middle of this one? I once had to dispel a rumor that I was going to tear down the church's steeple. I must admit, I'm not a fan of tradition for tradition's sake, but I sorta like our steeple. Granted, our building looks very "churchy"—and this can be an initial barrier to people coming. And this is possibly where rumors start, because I've said similar things before, but the building's appearance means we must meet and embrace people outside the church, inviting them to join us. It never meant demolition. But rumors like this spread rapidly in the right environment.
And this is a minor example. When the rumors involve other people, they can be damaging to character and reputation. Gossip destroys a person's witness.
4. Selfishness. This involves people who want what they want, even at the expense and inconvenience of others. These are people who will allow their personal preference to interfere with carrying out the ultimate mission of the church. They guard "their seats." They protect "their programs." They never complain about change—until it makes them uncomfortable. This one probably frustrates me because it has never seemed very biblical. I certainly can't find it in the Scriptures.
5. Tradition for the sake of tradition. Again, I'm not against tradition per se. I like meeting at a set time every week, for example. I love giving and receiving gifts at Christmas—let's not stop this one. I get frustrated, however, with tradition that is adhered to only because of tradition, especially if it gets in the way of making disciples. If it's biblical, I'll be its biggest proponent, but if it exists simply because we've always done it this way, I get frustrated with those who insist it never be changed even if it is no longer effective in fulfilling the mission of the church.
6. Wasting time. I'm on a mission. A number of years ago God called me out of the business world and into full-time vocational ministry. In the business world, we knew we had no time to waste. Our livelihoods depended on efficient use of time and resources.
Now in ministry, I have a keen sense time is short and it moves faster than I can fathom. I don't want to waste precious kingdom-time debating issues that simply don't matter or doing activity which has little kingdom impact.
7. Half-heartedness. Perhaps, just perhaps, I got this one from Jesus. He called it being lukewarm. I sense it when the Spirit of God is obviously active in the room, but people who have claimed to be Christians for years look at me as if it's a typical Sunday. I see it when people are more concerned if the rules were followed than they are excited about lives that are changing. I notice it when people choose to get involved only when it's convenient for their schedule. I sense it when someone has been in the church for many years but hasn't grown deeper and more passionately in love with Christ than when they began attending. Some days I wish we were a ballgame—with bleachers—and a favorite team. Then maybe they'd get excited.
So, there's my honest list. While I am confessing frustrations, can I tell you the person who is still staring at the phone when the light turn greens or pulls out in front of me, then drives 10 miles under the speed limit also frustrates me—greatly. I feel better getting this off my chest. I guess I should remind readers I'm human. Just as things frustrate you, they frustrate me.
But let me say again: I love the local church. And, I learned years ago—actually I was convicted years ago—that I must also love the people of the local church. Even if someone or something someone does frustrates me, I must love them, too. And I strive to do so.
And, a word to my fellow pastors: I know when I am allowing frustrations to control me more than what the Spirit of God wants to do in and through me, I need to take a break, rest and renew my soul.
Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.
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