Pastors Share Their Problems and Concerns
(David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
On July 24, 2008, I sent out an announcement to the Fundamental Baptist Information Service mailing list asking pastors to share with our readers their troubles and concerns. I said:
“I think it would be very helpful if we could put together a report that describes the problems pastors face. It would help pastors and it would help the people. If you are a pastor of a fundamentalist Baptist or Bible church I urge you to write and share your greatest problems and heartaches. It doesn’t have to be long. Just list them and perhaps give an illustration or two.”
In response we received the following informative statements:
1. Most church members do not attend or come very late to Sunday School.
2. Most church members do not come back for the Sunday afternoon service.
3. Most church members do not attend prayer meeting.
4. One of the greatest heartaches is for young men to promise God to be a pastor upon high school graduation, and then not fulfil it. I paid the tuition fee of one young man for one year (whom I trained singing, song leading, and preaching) because he said, ‘I want to be a pastor.’ But when he graduated, he did not enroll. Now he just stays in their home doing nothing. Another talented young man I supported (by giving allowance) for one year on his first year in Bible College. On his second year, he quit. One more young man gave a testimony of his desire to enroll in Bible school and be a pastor. Our church promised him support. When he graduated high school, he did not enroll Bible school but worked in a computer game station.
5. Although this is no longer the case in our church, one of the ‘greatest’ problems in the fundamental Baptist churches in our area is that pastors seem to be ‘expected’ to be poor and to sacrifice for the church members. Since the pastors are not to be hirelings, the churches don’t give them a salary. So the problem of pastors is how to communicate and educate their church members about this matter of support.
I suppose my problem, or perhaps my heartache, is a seeming lack of understanding my church has of spiritual things, even those things I have taught on. For instance, we recently did a study of the book of Revelation; we spent about four months on it, going through it chapter by chapter, verse by verse. We do it in a somewhat informal setting, to allow for questions and further explanations in difficult areas, (which is, I guess, about all of it). To help, I illustrated many things to give a visual aspect for further understanding, as well as lots of hand-outs to take home, and so forth. At the end of the study, I decided to see how well the information sunk in, so I gave a 12 question quiz. Sadly, not one could even tell me how long the Great Tribulation period would be, with answers ranging from 10-1,000 years. My questions were very basic, nothing hard: Who are the 144,000? How long is the Millennial reign of Christ, (some got this one right)? What do the four horsemen represent? Things like this, that we went over and over.
Brother Cloud, some of these folks have been in church for 50 years! What are they doing when the teaching is going on? They come, they sit, they open their Bibles, but nothing seems to get in. Sometimes I wonder why I spend the time when no one hears or responds. Hence, my heartache. Can't even get them to read their Bibles on their own.
Thanks for the opportunity to air the gripes, concerns and problems of being a pastor.
In addition to the problem of women's dress---rather, the lack of it, there is the unavailability of those who say, ‘I’m here to help,’ or ‘I'm behind you 100%.’
And the problem of being the last one to hear--‘I thought you already knew.’ If we’re not specifically told, just how are we to know? All too often the pastor is the last one to know of a problem or need in the community or in the lives of his people.
All in all, through some fifty-two years of ministry, I find the Lord has blessed me so much---in that I haven’t felt the problems many pastors experience. I’ve had my share of threats, but few of the problems I hear of.
After 27 years of full-time ministry, the thing that troubles me the most is that I have come to the place where I know better than to trust anybody. Eventually, they all will turn on you, even if it is only for a short time, and even if they get right with you afterward. You cannot really rely on anyone. The only thing I trust everyone to do is to eventually betray my trust.
There are several things that I find as problematic in ministry as I pastor an Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church. To name what has become the norm in the culture of this day and age, I would say, of course, worldliness in general creates many problems. The lack of knowledge of God’s Word and ways causes many heartaches and disagreements. The misunderstanding of the proper biblical definition of ‘forgiveness’ allows bitterness to become rampant in our churches. All of these are maladies which harm the bodies of Christ which seek to glorify Him and serve Him.
However, one of the biggest problems I have seen in my years of ministry is the response of church members as well as ‘Christians’ in general toward the authority of the local church and pastors in their lives. Now, I understand that churches and pastors realistically have only the level of respect and authority in the life of an individual which that person allows them. What grieves me is that many church going folk desire only a preacher or someone to take care of the business of the church while not allowing that man to be a shepherd in their life...not allowing him to watch over them...to protect them...to provide the spiritual food and direction they and their family needs.
I have found there are many who love to come to church. They apparently love the Lord. They will even love the pastor. However, they stop short of allowing the man of God to serve them by leading them in a biblical understanding of the Bible and an obedient walk with the Lord. They pretty much feel that they know their Bible...their doctrine...what is right and wrong...and so, ‘preacher, you just preach, teach, administrate...but leave the living to me.’
I am not proposing a heartless, legalistic, authoritative, power-mongering form of leadership. What I am suggesting is a biblical, spirit-filled, Christ-honoring, compassionate spiritual authority which the Bible commands the pastor to represent. I know there is a segment of pastors within the IFB ranks who have abused the pastorate. However, there is also a spirit of rebellion among the membership. It is not necessarily an open movement; yet, it is a very present problem in our churches which leaches the true power of the spirit from our assemblies because of undealt with sin and impure or unsurrendered lifestyles.
Spiritual blindness ... related to modesty and many, many other issues.
And along with that lethargy -- just a general ho hum attitude toward spiritual things. Boredom toward the services and messages.
Youth ... a tremendous battle to keep our youth from either going into sin or leaving straight and narrow churches and going into more contemporary ones.
Music is an ongoing problem. My perception is that even in churches where the music is still good in the church, that families, and maybe especially the younger ones, are listening to CCM (and rock-n-roll) and they develop an appetite for it and eventually it shows up in our churches.
Pervasiveness of wickedness. I am often amazed at what God's people (and sometimes other pastors) talk of watching on television ... or even going to the Hollywood movie house.
I am distressed and dismayed over the lack of spiritual hunger and thirst, the lack of spiritual understanding of the times in which we live. How I long and pray for a true Holy Spirit revival among God's people.
Not to say that I am defeated, for I rejoice to serve a sovereign God!!!
In our case we have a ‘Big Mouth’ woman who comes to business meetings held on Wednesday nights on a quarterly basis who has ideas she brings to the floor, and usually they're opposes to the pastor’s. On non-essential matters, those present usually side with her. I am convinced she calls others beforehand and tries to influence them for her causes. Ironically, she usually doesn't support the cause anyway!
For example, our church celebrated our anniversary this month. I and our deacons thought we should scale down the celebration and focus on other pressing matters. She influenced those present at the business meeting to go ‘gung ho’ for the anniversary. So, when our banquet time came, we had about 130 attendees, who paid $50.00 each, but she did not show up for the banquet which she pushed in the first place! I'm hoping others see her hypocrisy. To compound the matter, she NEVER comes to prayer meeting on Wed. nights, NEVER comes to Sunday School, nor does she EVER attend the Sunday PM meeting! She only comes Wednesday nights to the quarterly meeting. Anyway, I am at my wit's end and am praying for discernment regarding discipline and considering how to ban her from these meetings, although our constitution is vague.
A pastor friend once said that the difference between the church member that loves you the most and the one that hates you the most is ...... 10 years.
Here are some problems that I have encountered as a Pastor. I think most of these you have addressed at some point or another.
1. Lack of commitment to the local church. There seems to be a lack of commitment these days to the work of the local church. People will come to hear the preaching of the word BUT do NOT want to get involved in the work. They will NOT take the first step to commitment and that is joining the local church. We have two believers in our church that have been with us for over 6 years, they come almost every Sunday to the services but have not joined. There are some believers that come to church and love our stand against apostasy, the charismatic movement, worldliness, Calvinism, ecumenism and new evangelicalism. They ‘seem’ to be fundamentalist through and through but after months and months of coming to our church they still fail to join. As a pastor, I can’t put them in positions of teaching and service. The work of the ministry either doesn't get done or it gets "piled on" the faithful few.
2. Working instead of Coming to Church. Another problem that is becoming more prevalent is believers (notice I didn’t say lost folks) who work on Sunday and miss the church services. Many times they are NOT just missing one Sunday service but BOTH. Even worse as far as numbers are believers who miss the midweek service because of work. Although it is preached from the pulpit, these believers just can't seem to take steps of faith which would free up their Sundays and midweek so they could attend ALL the services of the church. I'm not against folks NOT attending some special Saturday fellowship or Monday night get together. I understand there must be some grace in this area. I'm not against someone having to work a shift because of some emergency. It’s the folks in the restaurant business, in retail business, in construction or in mining that are missing church. Some of these people take jobs without finding out if they will have to work Sundays or during the midweek service. BUT some take jobs knowing full well that they will have to work during the regular services of the church.
3. House Church Movement. Another problem pastors find is the house church movement. This seems to be more prevalent among homeschool families. People are so over protective of their families to the point that there is no church ‘good enough for them.’ So they decide to stay home and listen to tapes or watch videos.
4. Bitterness. This has to be one of the main problems in a church between active members. Satan has a way of taking away the effectiveness of a church and uses bitterness so often. I’ve heard of brothers who were mad at each other for years while trying to effectively serve in their church. Yet their service bore little fruit. They did get right in the end and had wonderful ministries to their church and to other churches as well. Bitterness against the pastor or pastor's wife takes a great toll on the church.
5. Lack of Willingness to follow church leadership. Another problem found in the church is a lack of willingness to follow church leadership. Many want to hear the preaching of the word BUT don’t want to fall under pastoral leadership. This may be the underlying reason people don't want to join the church. Practically, some of believers in the church have a radio preacher, TV preacher or even a video preacher as their pastor. Some people have a deceased preacher as their pastor. For example, in practice, some believers follow Jack Hyles, Vernon McGee, Lester Roloff , Charles Finney, Martin Lloyd Jones or A.W. Pink. I've had people in our church who could say NO wrong about some of these deceased preachers but would be constantly criticizing their own Pastor. These folks wouldn’t get behind the ministries of their local church and try to get their own pastor to pattern themselves after these deceased preachers. They are comparing their pastor to these preachers and when their own pastor comes short they fail to follow their own pastor’s leading.
NOTE: The problems that are of least concern are the problems with lost folks outside the church. A Pastor doesn't even loose a wink of sleep over these problems. I’ve had angry neighbors leave messages on my answering machine calling the church down. BUT these never amount to much and never hurt the church. The greatest problems are with believers in the church.
We are a very small start-up church, but very active in personal evangelism in this city. Our greatest frustration is two-fold: 1. There are probably only about 25 Christians in this city/area of 250,000 who are active in Scriptural personal evangelism -- namely, preaching sin, judgment, repentance, the Gospel, and the new birth to include a changed life to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. 2. Multitudes are religiously lost, including many who profess a new birth, but whose lives profess their lost condition.
The two issues are coupled because most of the people to whom we preach the Gospel have no other Scriptural influence on them. Most Christians experience conversion after multiple evangelistic encounters, challenges, etc. (some say 7 or 8 serious encounters). In short, we'd like to do more reaping in the midst of sowing.
Concerning my greatest problems, three top the list and these are in no specific order.
1. Young people that I and the Church have poured our hearts, time, prayers and resources into only to see them make a conscious decision to rebel against everything that they were taught when they reach the upper teen ages. Although they have heard the warnings against rebellion, they seem to want to find out for themselves and in the process cause themselves much pain and heartbreak.
2. Many parents of these teens that rebel continue to raise their other children in a way that will only promote rebellion in their lives. They don't seem to learn from the first child. Many moms and dads and grandparents in this Church are heartbroken because none of their children or grandchildren are serving the Lord.
3. Christians that are only 1 or 2 issue Christians and seem indifferent to other doctrinal matters. Some are very strong on standards but neglect soulwinning. They’ve memorized several verses on their pet doctrine and will amen when that 1 doctrine is preached on, but they neglect much of what they need to mature as a Christian.
Thank you for asking for input concerning the problems we face as pastors. I will try to answer as best I can and I hope I understand what you are looking for.
1. When it comes to pastoring the church the problems that constantly are being dealt with are separation type issues. I believe the modesty issue is paramount and music. I have to walk guard and deal with these two more than any other. Liberalism and worldliness are always seeking a way in. I have found in church planting that people do not mind my preaching on those subjects, in fact, they will even ‘Amen’ the points of the message. But, when it comes to enforcing the standard taught from the Scriptures some really take offense.
Another issue is the taking up of offenses. People will misread a situation because they do not know all the facts and draw wrong conclusions. A pastor most of the time cannot defend his handling of the matter because it would mean giving up a confidence or sharing information that is not for public knowledge.
2. Someone said, ‘The person that gives me the most trouble is the one I shave in the morning.’ I have to say that probably I am the one I have to deal with the most. I want to walk with God and truly feed the flock and yet I feel stretched at times to be all that God wants me to be and feed the people on the best pasture possible.
3. I must say that I am privileged to be in ministry. I believe that a major part of my life is to deal with problems. It is a thrill to go to the Lord and find help and strength for myself and then be able to help others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). To be able to see and pass on the sufficiency of Christ as found in the Word of God is truly an opportunity for which I thank God that He allows me to do.
Yes, there are many problems, but I would not trade the opportunity to serve Christ this way than any other work I could be engaged in.
Certainly there are challenges involved with being a pastor. If I were to point to one problem, I would say that it is the lack of morality of many church members. I don’t mean that I have a church full of liars and thieves, but I have seen over the last few years that many Christians seem to have no morals at all. Below are a few examples:
Some believers have a problem with telling the truth. I have had people flat out lie to me as if they thought I could not see the truth. I once asked a family if they were coming to a special holiday service, and the answer was, ‘We like to stay in and have a quiet evening.’ It turns out that they went to an extended family outing which had already been planned. We learned about what happened because the children did not know enough to lie to me and told all about the party.
Some believers think that once they get mad at you and leave the church, they can renege on any obligations. I had a man once do that and decide that he did not have to repay a personal loan. It sounds an awful lot like stealing to me.
I have seen pastors show a lack of ethics as well. Whenever someone gets mad and leaves (and refuses to talk to me about what happened), his new pastor welcomes the whole family in without calling me for my side of what happened. In another case, the ex-pastor of my church took the side of the person mentioned above who took my money and ran (they were very close friends).
I have had people decide to skip church (and their responsibilities in certain activities) because they decided that a church day was a great day to make home improvements. There was no phone call to us; just a failure to show up, causing us to scramble to cover for them.
Please don't think that I am sour on Christianity because I do know some wonderful Christians, and it is still true that we serve a great God. The problem people are gone and ‘blessing’ some other church (or staying home watching TV).
I’m an independent Baptist pastor from New Hampshire. I’ll list the top three problems that I have in the church.
1. Faithful SS, AM, PM, WED Church Attendance. I have dealt with this from the pulpit numerous times biblically. There is such a casual attitude about attending. If an event (i.e., child’s ball game, family reunion, big ball game) or inconvenience (i.e., tired from work, just got back YESTERDAY from vacation, headache) comes up there will be several families that are out. It is such a discouragement to me and other members of the body (even some who are guilty of it themselves are the ones who complain about ‘where is so and so?’ [I say ‘complain’ not concerned about the spiritual welfare of that one on purpose]).
2. Spiritual gifts. There is a great lack of knowledge of and naturally then exercising of one's spiritual gift in the body. Too many pew sitters. Sideline Christians. I have to take personal responsibility for the lack of knowledge (Eph. 4), and this will be a focus of my preaching in about three months.
3. Faithful MEN. We have a disproportionate number of faithful wives to faithful husbands. It rears its ugly head in every area: Leadership in the home, taking the lead in prayer, service in the church, etc. God give us faithful men. Men of convictions. Men of integrity. Men who can pray. Men who will stand with the Pastor. Men that I can invest my life and time in that will in turn do the same with other faithful men here in our church (2 Tim. 2:2).
With all of this being said, I do have several wonderful families that the above are not true of. The need for today is as old as the church. ‘Make disciples!’ I'm convinced that our churches are bursting with families that have been saved for many years and lived in rebellion against God and the Bible and just hop from one church to the next that they actually harm the church by destroying the spirit of a NT assembly. I am very careful about allowing ‘seasoned Christians’ from the area to join our church now as a result. I have determined now that I will not allow them to join (some exceptions) until they have proven themselves faithful over a six month period. I have a family of believers attending right now that have been faithful every Sunday morning for about nine months that want to join but I will not let them because they will not come on Sunday PM or Wed night or Sunday School. This has caused some in our church to be anxious and at times frustrated with me. But it’s the Lord's church not mine!
I am a pastor in New Zealand and will soon be celebrating my 10th anniversary in the ministry. The church was started by a missionary from Australia approximately in 1990. As the congregation is small I have secular work as well as being pastor. We letter box, street preach, have all-age Sunday school, Morning Service, Evening Service, Prayer Meeting on Wednesday evenings, Advanced Bible Studies on alternate Thursday evenings, Young Peoples activity and Bible study every second week. All this makes us quite busy. We are, what would seem on the outside, an active church and the people like to have an active church but they themselves will only go to the activities if it suits them. Our congregation has gone from a median 24 in 1996 to a median 37 in 2002 to a median of 21 this year.
I will tell you why. It is because our church does not have enough people! When visitors come they might stay a while but leave because our numbers are too small. I ask them how are our numbers going to get any bigger when people leave because we do not have enough people? We are ‘between a rock and a hard place.’ We can't grow because we do not have enough people and we cannot get more people because we do not have enough people.
As you will no doubt know that if you are in a small church there is more expectation to put the hand to the plough, but people do not want that. They want the activities, but they want to be able to slip into a church service and not feel guilty about not doing anything. So they compromise on doctrine and charismaticism and go to another church. Christians today (generalising) do not want to work. This then leads to the work being left up to the pastor his family and a few faithful others. This is discouraging. I have just learnt that a US missionary-pastor in the next town has resigned from his church because of discouragement (he has been there for three years). This too is discouraging for me as we need contact to encourage each other and when they leave then where is the encouragement for me to continue on?
Over the years I have searched my heart and prayed about my discouragement, asking the question, ‘Is it me?’ The Lord led me to the conclusion, ‘Think of Noah! Only his family was saved. Only his family was present at the evening service only his family was present at the prayer meeting.’ Although we have been at that stage, praise the Lord we are not at that stage now, but we may one day get to that stage again if people get discouraged because our numbers are not growing.
I have told them that we do not want numbers for numbers sake we want numbers that are willing to serve the Lord with us. We want spiritual growth. But it is still discouraging.
But what can you expect in a time of history that we live in--lukewarmness is in the church? Romans 13:11, ‘And that, knowing the time, that now [it is] high time to awake out of sleep: for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed.’ But the church members continue to sleep on. It may sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself but that is not what is intended as we will continue to ‘earnestly contend for the faith.’
I find as a pastor here in South Africa that as living in a sinful, complicated world becomes more difficult people tend to focus on ‘here and now solutions’. They focus entirely a) on their problem/s; b) on other people who are the cause of it or c) the ‘unfair’ society they live in. All this...as long as they do not have to hold themselves responsible and accountable (just like Adam and Eve in their blame-shifting). The MAIN problem these people have is the way they think and the influence of the humanistic, warped world around them make them think. In a world which becomes more and more bent on quick-fixes, they are solution orientated for selfish reasons (‘I don’t need all of this in my complicated life’) instead of the urge to solve things a) for the glory of the Lord and b) to be an effective witness in this world. The VITAL answer is: zooming in on the real solution with the right motives and to be willing to practice ‘owning up’ and recognising: I am at fault because of my sinful, unholy life; I need the Solution (spelled with a capital ‘S’), and His Name is Christ Jesus who is holy and commands me to crucify self, repent of my sins and to break with sin. This requires humbling myself, to be self-critical and attaining Christ’s love in my heart so that I will love and forgive (as Christ Himself did) and make right with others whom I have a problem with (Rom. 15:7).
If these pointers are not followed people are wasting precious time in the pastor's study. The answer is to SPEEDILY in counseling move to these. Things are not ‘talked’ right, but MADE right, and it starts here and now and at the foot of the cross.
Don’t forget the number one cause of church splits, which is deacons who assume a leadership position over the pastor that the Lord didn’t call them to. And the number two is ladies fellowships.
Reading these replies made me think of A. W. Tozer who said he believed no more than 10% of evangelical Christians were born of God. He said his own [denomination] was no exception and that if he was wrong about that, his 10% figure was too high. This from a man who died in the early sixties when the average evangelical church was probably twice as holy as today's IFB churches! I wonder how many of these pastors would agree with Tozer's assessment.
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