thoughts on pastoring
Updated: Jan 22, 2018
I was walking out of the bathroom the other day when I heard the Holy Spirit say, “You know what the role of a pastor is for my people?” I then saw in my mind the parable of the talents. The three servants were standing there with the talents they had been given. The owner was standing in front of them. The owner was then replaced by another servant, who was a pastor. The servant began to convey that the owner was away on a trip and will be back one day, and urged them to use what they had been given to please the owner. The vision was brief. I understood what God was trying to say. One of my main roles as a pastor is to prepare Christians for judgment and the account they will give one day for their life. I then heard in my heart, “You will give an account for how you prepared my people for that day.” I know that as a teacher I will have a stricter judgment (James 3:1). My mind began to think about all the struggling churches in the area…
- Attendance dropping
- Finances plummeting
- Youth groups abandoned
- Volunteers needed
- Ministries cancelled
- Missionaries returning home for lack of funds
It’s so easy to look at the world and blame it for the condition of the church. It’s easy as a pastor to let yourself off the hook for the church’s lack of zeal and simply blame the people or the culture we live in today. I gave the Holy Spirit permission many years ago to talk in whichever manner he wants, about whatever He wants, in any tone that He wants to me. Since then I hear the Holy Spirit a lot more. Could you imagine telling your close friend, “You are only allowed to say the following phrases to me in a positive tone: ‘Good job!’ ‘Way to go!’ and ‘I’m proud of you!’” That’s not a friendship, that is the highway to puffed up'ness.
What if the “Fear of the Lord” brings zeal for the Lord and out of that, obedience and passion? What if we got so used to only listening to one kind of message that we forgot what got us here in the first place? The ones that have the most skin in the game, who are the most passionate, who take God and His word far above themselves would have this one thing in common: They know that they are going to stand before the Lord and give an account for their motives, words, and actions from their time spent here on earth. They are not weird, fire and brimstone fanatics, they have a healthy fear of the Lord, believe in a scriptural judgment day (2nd Corinthians 5:10), know that Hell is a real place, believe that they are alive to bring God glory, and their desire is to be pleasing to the Lord.
Those who do not believe in the coming judgment of God are the least active but the most vocal. I have been in ministry at this local church since 2005. There have been at least four different occasions when I have been influenced by and tolerated the wrong spirit working through an individual to shut down the purpose of God.
COMMON TRAITS OF THE PERSON INFLUENCED BY THE WRONG SPIRIT
1. Exceedingly critical feedback
- I don’t mind criticism one bit. In fact, I would rather be criticized than complimented so that I might improve. This person has negative feedback on anything that would remotely come close to Jesus as Judge, Hell being real, and judgment that is coming. The criticism is used as a form of manipulation to try to gain authority over me, the pastor. They would set themselves up in the teacher position to let me, the student, know what the real Jesus is like. This type of person calls to ask to meet with me to discuss some things and then I would find myself sitting in a class I didn’t sign up for.
- It’s funny that flattery in the form of compliments are never dealing with what was being taught because the spirit is trying to diminish the perception of my teaching ability. The flattery is around things outside of the pulpit. The intention is to try to get me to value something tangent to the teaching.
3. A lot of talking
- The person has a lot of opinions and a lot of words but when it comes to service and volunteering they seem nowhere to be found. They’re always scheduling meetings to talk to me about my teaching. It turns into a counseling session I had not signed up for.
4. Circle of influence
- They gather a circle of followers under the guise of discipleship – this tends to be new Christians or youngsters in the faith. I often find out about this after the person leaves the church with this group.
5. All kinds of personal problems
- For preaching a gospel of just love without judgment and hyper- grace, their homes are desolate. Relationships with spouses are usually terrible or non-existent. Their children seem to be deeply affected by the lack of love in the home.
6. The quiet spouse
- The spouse usually never says a word. In fact, looking back, it’s as if the spouse is on assignment to be undetected by everyone. They’re never involved and on Sunday simply come in, sit down, and leave having not said a word.
7. No authority
- When it came down to it, there is no authority, not even scripture ruling in the person’s life. They have no questions and only answers, and are looking for a place of authority in the church.
8. Secret sin
- This is typically not known until later and sometimes a year after they leave the church, but usually divorce manifests or just in general they are more absent from church. To explain their lack of involvement, they use the excuse that no church is preaching the correct doctrine.
- In some extreme cases when the relationship begins to form, the person will begin to use manipulation to isolate the pastor. This is done by creating suspicion around the pastor’s inner circle and divisiveness.
I would like to confess something to everyone reading this. I have made so many stupid mistakes in dealing with the people who I described above. There was even one point in my own ministry where I fell into hyper-grace theology and believed that God doesn’t rebuke his children but only encourages ‘if it didn’t feel good, it wasn’t Him.’ I praise God that was a short season. I let people stay at our church for way too long and do more damage than they should have. I even, at times, put some of these individuals in teaching positions, God forgive me.
In hindsight, it seems easy to spot these individuals in the church, but as a pastor we believe we are just going to be able to help all those who cross our path. We believe that we are helping and loving them well by hearing them out.
Usually at some point we tolerate the wrong spirit for too long and it gains traction and power. You let the person slide on some things that should be corrected. Ironically, that is exactly what the wrong spirit is trying to do as a whole with the teaching at the church: to let everyone slide without ever being corrected, warned, or rebuked in the name of love. Once we start to do it with individuals we will start to do it in the pulpit. That’s the power of this spiritual war.
This is a warning not just for ministers but for anyone who might have let some ‘Christian’ speak louder than scripture, who let a person become their personal Holy Spirit. We were never meant to be led ultimately by a leader, but rather by the Holy Spirit.
Here are three easy things you can do to get good discernment on relationships like the ones I pointed out.
1. Talk to and get the discernment from loved ones about the individual you let in too close.
2. Take one full month away from this person and get a fuller perspective.
3. Confront the person after the month and tell them what you will no longer tolerate.
I hope this was helpful and I bless you and your short time here on earth,