Most people in the churches I’ve ministered with treated me quite well. Some of the best people I have known are in the churches I’ve served with in Alabama, Missouri, and Texas.
However. . .
I have known far too many ministers whose lives were made difficult by a certain man or woman in their congregation who seemed to be doing their best to hurt and even cause their minister to leave the congregation. I once visited a congregation where an older woman boasted of helping to “run off” the last preacher.
I have become aware of ministers who were wounded by some in their own congregation instead of the congregation working together to encourage their ministers and give them life.
This is not an invitation for ministers to become overly self-conscious. The best ministers I know are not self-absorbed, nor are they full of self-pity.
Yet, do you know that a few people can do great damage to a minister and even participate in murdering something very important in this person’s life? I am convinced that the evil one has fostered great damage in churches through what a few members have done to its spiritual leaders.
Some have participated in murdering a minister’s confidence. I knew a young minister and his family. He was a fine person, gifted, and a hard worker. He graduated from a school where he studied Bible, ministry, and related subjects. He worked with a good church while he was in school. After graduation, he left for his first full-time ministry job with a small church close to the area where he grew up. Yet, his ministry with that church lasted less than two years.
Yes, there were several factors at work in his decision to no longer serve in this church. A part of this scenario involved a relentless critic who participated in tearing this young minister down.
I am not talking about someone who differs with a minister in his thinking or his preaching/teaching. Preachers work with a congregation. They are not called to live unaccountable lives or to serve without any kind of culpability.
Yet, the relentless critic can destroy the confidence of a minister and particularly that of a young minister. Wise, mature leaders within such congregations would do well to protect young, tender families from a member who has a well-deserved reputation for destroying young ministers. One seasoned elder said to a young minister in their congregation, “If anyone in this congregation begins to make life miserable for you and your family, the elders would like to know about it.”
Some have participated in murdering a minister’s credibility. Certain people can plant seeds of doubt and distrust that can cause a minister to lose credibility with others. Christian ministry is all about trust. When we live lives of integrity, trust increases in our relationships. However, trust can also diminish. All it takes is for someone to begin to spread gossip such as the following:
“I guess you heard what he said to a few of his friends. I was told that he told them . . .”
“I heard that his wife has a few skeletons in her closet. It is a wonder that he can continue to preach while being married to someone like that.”
“It makes me wonder why he left his last church. I have a friend who lives in the city where he lived before coming here. She knew someone from her work who went to the church where he preached. She said that several there didn’t like him because he . . .”
I know of one situation where one man in the church latched onto a phrase, attached it to a particular minister and then repeated it over and over whenever that minister’s name was brought up. “Well I guess you know that he was always scheming against the elders.” People in the congregation heard this over and over regarding this particular minister. The truth is that on a particular occasion a long time ago, he had used poor judgement in what he said to a small group of people. That was years ago! Yet, now it is being told and re-told as if it were happening on a regular basis.
This kind of slander is foreign to the ways and the spirit of Jesus.
I know that some wounds that ministers bear are self-inflicted. These can be self-inflicted through immaturity, poor judgement or sin. However, congregations need to be very intentional about the care of their ministers so that they do not needlessly inflict such wounds on their ministers’.
A few suggestions:
Elders and mature believers in congregations need to confront those who would destroy a minister’s confidence or credibility through gossip or constant criticism. Even if this minister has made mistakes with the congregation, his growth will not be bolstered through these negative tactics.
While these kinds of behaviors are wrong on the part of a few, ministers should not be surprised by this. Yes it can be difficult and painful. Yet, look at the treatment that many of the believers experienced in the first century.
Let us be a people who fervently pray for ministers and their families. Let us encourage them. Let us do nothing to diminish their passion or crush their spirit.