Pastors hurt because they care
During our Lord’s three years of ministry, He sought to teach His disciples what they needed to know in order to carry on the work after His return to heaven. One of the most difficult lessons in the curriculum was the cultivation of a tender heart, and the record indicates that the apostles failed the test more than once. When parents brought their little children to be blessed by Jesus, the disciples rebuked them and told them to go home! Jesus rebuked His disciples, welcomed the parents and blessed the children (Mark 10:13-16). A Canaanite woman begged Jesus to deliver her daughter who was possessed by a demon, but Jesus seemed to ignore here. Desperate for help, the mother turned to the disciples, and they told Jesus to send her away because she was a pest! But she persisted and Jesus rewarded her faith and delivered her daughter.
“Do you want to know how to remove all problems from your church?” I used to ask the students in my seminary classes. “It’s quite simple: just get rid of the people!” There would be a brief silence, and then somebody would say, “But if we have no people, we have no church!” They got the point. The solution to people problems and problem people isn’t to get rid of people but to cultivate caring compassionate hearts and do what we can to assist.
When Jesus looked at people, He had compassion on them and sought to help them (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34). As we serve, whether we wear clerical garb, leisure garments or business clothes, we must always obey Paul’s commandment in Colossians 3:12 — “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” These garments of God’s grace are always fashionable. We must preach the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and be certain that the love Christ motivates us (2 Cor. 5:14). Why? “Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8).
Caring is costly, but not caring is even more costly. Indifference to needs hurts us more than it hurts the people we ignore and it only makes the problems worse. The isolated servant soon develops a hard heart and becomes an insulated servant and then a mere religious robot. I recall a gifted leader who made it clear that he never wanted to hear any problems from his staff, neither personal problems nor ministry problems. His philosophy of service didn’t work and eventually he had to be replaced.
A friend said to me, “The most sensitive thing in ministry is a compassionate heart,” and I can never forget it. But once we have sought and found a shepherd’s heart, it makes our work much easier. Love never asks if a person is “worthy of help” or if a painful situation “merits our attention.” Do we want our Father and our High Priest to adopt this kind of attitude toward us? “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). We may discover that a problem we think is monumental is really trivial, but the God who sees a sparrow fall knows how to handle the trivial matters as well as the major problems.
Pastors hurt because they are leaders
“Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel,” the king of Aram told his commanders, and this is excellent strategy (1 Kings 22:31). If the enemy can confused the leaders, cripple them or remove them from the field of battle, their absence is bound to weaken the army and perhaps lead to its defeat. Moses was frequently attacked, not only by outside enemies but even by his own people, including his brother and sister. While supervising the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah was repeatedly maligned and threatened, and the enemy managed to put agents inside Jerusalem and even in the temple area!
During these many years of ministry, it’s been a great privilege for me and my wife to know and minister with some of God’s great servants. The better we got to know them, the more we learned of the battles they had fought and the burdens they were carrying. I have the names of several Christian leaders in my prayer notebook and I pray for them daily. Early in my Christian life, I foolishly thought that my service for Christ would immunize me against Satanic attacks, but I soon learned I was wrong. The enemy aims at Christian leaders, and pastors are high on his list.
God equips His leaders through their personal study of the Word, their meditation and prayers, as well as through whatever formal education He provides. But the school of suffering is the graduate school of Christian service. If you read Christian biography and autobiography, you will learn that some of God’s most effective leaders suffered in many ways, but from that suffering they learned more about God, themselves and their ministry than they could have learned any other way. The burdens helped to balance the blessings and keep them from falling over!
In his famous Yale Lectures on Preaching, Phillips Brooks points out that ministers must be preachers in order to have authority and they must be pastors in order to have sympathy. “The preacher who is not a pastor grows remote. The pastor who is not a preacher grows petty.” It takes more than scholarship and sermons to build a church. It takes the personal ministry of loving shepherds with caring hearts.
In his sermon “Going Up to Jerusalem,” based on Luke 18:30, Phillips Brooks said: “O, do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle. But you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come in you by the grace of God.” Doing God’s will, come what may, is the nourishment that gives us the strength we need to carry on the ministry (John 4:31-34).
© Warren Wiersbe
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).