The minister has greater responsibility in raising their children in Godliness with loving care and respect. That does not mean there will be no problems, but it does mean there is something positive to model and to show other people who are looking. Too many pastors, in my experience, and the statistics back this up; tend to neglect their personal life. In previous pages I mention a pastor who worked 80 hours a week and neglected his family. I saw him 10 years later at a conference and he told me his kids will have nothing to do with him and none of them are following the Lord. He started to cry, asking why and how did this happen. Of course, I just wanted to blurt out 'you idiot', that is what you get for working 80 hours a week and neglecting them. Thankfully, God did not let me say those words, and throw a knife into his wounds, I knew that he already knew that. The pastor's home too often becomes dead and not the refuge and haven of rest of love and care that it should be.
The pastor must pursue his marriage and family as the most important earthly matter, even over their call to ministry, and only second to their call of Christ, just as all Christians should. (Just so you are clear, God will never ask you to do something contrary to Scripture; such as, God would never ask you to leave your spouse. I knew a pastor who felt God was telling him to leave his wife and marry someone else. Only his lust was telling him that, not God!) The pastor's primary task is to their family, and to model the character of Christ through it.
The church must not put unrealistic expectations on the pastor's wife and family. When the church hires a minister they are doing just that, hiring the minister, not a two-for-one deal. Pastors' wives must be allowed to follow their own call, leading and spiritual gifts, and not be forced to attend all church functions and be involved in every ministry of the church. This puts too much strain on the family and will alienate their children from the church.
The pastor's family lives in a glass house, and the children will quickly pick up on this. The congregation needs to give the children respect and a wide berth or the children will grow up hating Christians. I cannot tell you how many times I have run into pastor's kids who have no love for the church; and to hear their sad stories. Yes, the expectations of the pastor's family are higher than the average family or any family in the church. The pastor's family should rise to the occasion and support him and realize their responsibility of mirroring Christ. When the kids are loved, encouraged and cared for, adequate time is spent with them; then they will normally rise to the occasion and take ownership of their own faith. You may be surprised at how mature and spiritually seeking they will get out of there own initiative (and the work of the Holy Spirit). God's will is that we first love Him out of trust and obedience, and out of that, the family will be together, in love, modeling the person and work of Christ, and be a viable witness to people around them.
Another note as an experienced pastor and church growth consultant take this advise: DO NOT LIVE IN A PARSONAGE! In all of my experience and study I have never seen this benefiting the pastors family! In fact quite the opposite, I have seen it drive the families away from the "Christians" and into the "world". I have no Biblical basis for this, just my observations and much dialogue to pastors. It sets them up in a glass bubble that the family cannot live up to, and leaves no room for privacy and growth. Turn the parsonage into a youth building or Sunday school class and get the pastor their own home. If pastors always live in a parsonage they never build up the equity that a house will, and they may have nothing for retirement. There are to many negatives and only one positive: the pastor is close to the church, but guess what?! Today we have cars! And most people do not live close to their church! Get the, "we have done it this way for hundreds of years," out of God's way!
I Timothy 3, is clear on the qualifications of leadership: Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. (I Timothy 3:1-7)
God calls leaders to be blameless, that does not mean we are to be without sin, because we all have fallen short of God's glory. But what it does mean is that we go through our life above reproach, a strong moral standing of values based on God's Word with integrity and consistency. Give close notice to verse 6 of this chapter and the danger of pride. The Bible makes it clear that the leader must place their families at the highest level of priority, and would be considered unqualified for ministry otherwise. And remember this passage follows on the heels of the end of chapter 2 that states to continue in faith, love, and holiness, and self-control. Remember the parameters of love. The aspects of pride have no business in the leadership of God's people.
The King and Looser Mentalities
Another problem people face in leadership, including pastors and elders, is despair. Self-pity rules the emotions and even the aspirations of the pastor or leader. We have the mentality that no one is going through what I'm going through, no one has it as bad as I do, poor me. I have been there many times over the years, party hats and all, throwing myself the biggest pity party the neighborhood has ever seen. About 10 years ago I became physically sick with a lung infection, while I was ministering in an inner city outreach program. Around the same time I lost my job, my grandparents, who were instrumental in raising me, died, and my fiancée left me. My physical self was paralyzed, and I felt that no one cared what I was going through. I would go out and lead my programs, and then I would go home and sit in utter despair and pain. The ironic part is I was living with 16 other Christians at the time in a community. Everyone at the time was dealing with his or her own problems and frustrations. The caring and nurturing that the community was built on broke down. I found myself a victim as well as the instigator of the community's breakdown. Even though I started a successful program that was reaching youth, I became paralyzed with the fear that I may not be able to reproduce it. Because of my personal losses that I was taking personally, I thought there was something wrong with me.
All this was stemming from my distorted perceptions. I was convinced that no one could understand what I was going through, the demons I was struggling with were overwhelming at the time. Slowly friends talked to me and pointed out the deviations in my thinking, and at the same time I was getting better medical help. I was able to reboot myself by the power of the Lord working in me, but it was too late for the community that I was in, it dissolved.
So many of us were hurting with personal problems that we were unable to see the problems in each other, therefore unable to use our resources collectively for healing and caring. The result was that most of us moved on in other areas of ministry and life. This was a sad thing; that after over two successful years of ministry together, and friendship, and care; that we broke down and ran away from the very relationships that started and motivated us. I was just as much a part of the problem as I was a victim of it.
When we look at Scripture, we see many instances of Biblical characters struggling with the very same thing. We see Peter being disillusioned during Passion Week, and then we see David in the utter despair of depression on several occasions. What do we see through one of the greatest prophets, Elijah, after what I consider the greatest worship service in the history of ever: Mt. Carmel? (I Kings 18-21) Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to prove to the people of Israel who is the one true God. Was it Baal or was it the God of Moses? So Elijah built an altar and 450 prophets of Baal built their altar, each with their bulls on it, and they laid wood on it. But placed no fire to consume the sacrifice. Instead Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to have the sacrifice be spontaneously consumed by the power of their God. Which God that consumes the sacrifice by fire would be worth worshiping, and be the one true God? And what I think is real historical humor is that Elijah mocks them and egged them on saying, "is your god busy, is he on a journey, is he sleeping"? When you take a look at the Hebrew text it even says, "is your god busy on the Toilette"? Meanwhile, the prophets of Baal would cut themselves and bleed, but their god did not pay any attention, I guess he was on the potty! Then Elijah prayed, and a show of incredible proportions was unveiled to Israel and the pagans alike. The burst of flames came down from Heaven, an incredible display of consuming fire, destroying the sacrifice; wow, what a show.
What happens next is almost just as incredible too. After the triumphal victory over the prophets of Baal, after the drought that paralyzed Israel was at an end, Jezebel, Elijah's nemesis was not impressed. She calls for Elijah's extermination. It's one of those things I have to wait to get to Heaven to ask why Elijah was not afraid of the 450 prophets with knives, yet was terrified of one woman who would eventually become dog food. Why could he not trust God to provide for him and give protection, as he saw so vividly demonstrated already?
I believe the only satisfactory answer for us now is depression. After such a great performance and basking in God's glory, Elijah runs away. God comes to him and asks him why he was basking in self-pity. God answered Elijah in his depression in an unexpected way. Then Elijah realized what he needed to do. Unfortunately for us, we do not get a personal wake-up call from God. More fortunate for us, we have God's Word to rely upon, something even Elijah did not have. We have the experiences of God's greatest people like David, Elijah, and Peter to help us see our own frailties and weakness, so we can overcome and give God His Glory.
Pastors and leaders must be on their guard against the onslaught of Satan, especially if they're prone to depression of any kind, a weakness that Satan will come and pick at like an open wound. If you think you are alone and no one cares or understands what you are going through, be assured that kind of thinking is dead wrong.
That is why it is so imperative that Christians, especially leaders, must be in healthy relationships where there are people in our lives that can confront us on these issues. Without these relationships we stand alone. Yes, we have God, but remember God works through people, and when we push other people aside we end up working alone and we will fall. In our situations as well as with Elijah, God will eventually expose false teachings and our false way of thinking. It is a lot easier to get it right with God's Word before you go through life in despair.
I realized that I had to take the initiative before the Lord would start His work in me, just as Elijah had to learn, when the attending Angel told him to rise and eat in I Kings 19:5. After Elijah's great victory on Mt. Carmel, he faced depression. But God did not create another great miracle to reboot Elijah; instead Elijah had to take the initiative. He had to overcome the depression. This applies to us; we need to take the initiative and overcome it ourselves, with the help of the Lord. God may give us the power and plan, but we have to reach out and use it. To grab the brass ring from a merry-go-round, you first need to ride it, then stretch out your hand and grab it. Initiative is important in the life of a Christian, initiative that is focused on God's Word.
There are two errors that leaders often fall into in this situation. First, they rely on themselves and/or secular psychological help. At first this is good; we do need outside help at times and we do need to take the initiative. Just like the first step in overcoming substance abuse, you have to admit there is a problem and not be in denial before there can be any healing. However, if that is all we do, we will fail. The second error that Christians make is to lay on the couch and expect God to do a miracle. They may spend their time in prayer and devotions as well as in the study of the Word, expecting a miracle! If that is all they do, it is like buying lottery tickets, hoping to get rich, yet never getting a job. Then they become disillusioned asking why God is not helping them.
The solution is simple; we are to do both, just as Elijah had to. We are to take the initiative first. Perhaps we may need to get outside help if needed, and allow God to create the work within us. Then we will arise and obey God with greater understanding and courage then we could have before. Remember God will use our difficulties, pain, and suffering for His Glory. That means we may go through things in life that are not meant for us as a personal attack, but allow us to grow and become stronger so God can use us other people's lives. That is why Paul states he rejoices in the sufferings for Christ, because Paul realizes God is using him through the suffering and pain. So if you struggle with a form of depression or suffering, then you should be rejoicing because it allows God to use you for His Glory. You do not want to be just like I was, sitting on the couch in darkness throwing your own pity party, a party of just one, hoping for a supernatural miracle.
"The first thing, of course, is the CEO or the leader in the enterprise that we're backing. We ask every CEO a simple question, is it more important for you to be CEO of this company or for this company to succeed? That's always a tough question for a person who wants to be a long-term leader of any enterprise. But we frankly will not enter into an investment situation with a person who answers the question in a way that doesn't lead to the success of the enterprise. Because at the end of the day, leadership is critically important. They use one of my expressions, " It gets into the wallpaper of the company". (Net Fax Dec1998; Floyd Kvamme, a capital investment guru)
The pastor must ask himself, is my role more important than the growth and well being of the church? I have been to churches where the pastor views himself as a king over his domain. Because their congregation gives them such lavish devotion, they take it seeing themselves as deserving. This is an extreme danger and a disease that will lead the congregation astray. What happens is a congregation puts all of their hopes and trust in the pastor and not in the person and work of Christ. Usually the pastor does nothing to upset this balance, but allows it to empower their ego and self-esteem.
One such example is a church that a close relative goes to. Their pastor is young and inexperienced, ministering in an inner city church. This pastor does a wonderful job of reaching out to the community, and people come to know the Lord out of dire circumstances, so that they literally start to worship him, mostly out of gratitude. The problem he gets into is that he takes it personally that the people are lifting him up, and believe he deserves to be lifted up. This goes against the focus of Scripture and the redemption of the Cross. As workers, we have the responsibility to convey the message of the Gospel, but that we are not the message. We are performing a wedding where the bride and groom are to be focused on, not the minister. Leading the church is about leading people to Christ, not leading people to our personality or a person.
Pride takes over and does a very good job of keeping out the truth of Christ. The result is people become disillusioned when a pastor stumbles or they just wake up one day wondering why they are worshiping a personality and not the person of Christ, so they leave, perhaps not even going to another church. This does nothing to serve the kingdom of God, it only serves ourselves. We must be focused on humbleness and righteousness and a healthy concept of who we are in Christ. If not, we are modeling the wrong message to the Christians and non-Christians, and they will pick up on it very quickly.
The Dangers of Arrogance and Apathy
With all the stresses and struggles in ministry it is very easy to shrug our shoulders and give up, yet still go through the motions; this is apathy. It is our human nature to consider comfort and security a primary concern. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as it does not make us complacent and take us away from the goals and reasons we are in the pulpit, or in leadership. If we are too comfortable we become apathetic, not wanting to stretch ourselves in our personal walk. Then this falls into a slippery slope of not desiring to stretch the congregation, or being afraid of making any challenges that may offend someone's pride. We come up with the "do not rock the boat mentality" and do what is called maintenance ministry. That is no growth, no serious discipleship, no serious Bible studies, no serious teaching in the pulpit, just basic stuff to please and police people.
The pastor then starts to have an attitude of, "I'm doing the best I can, you do not understand what I'm facing." These people "don't wanna" be challenged, they are used to doing it this particular way". Thus the pastor advocates his personal responsibility Christ gave him to make disciples, worrying instead that he may offend someone, such as some influential person, or that they will cause strive and division or someone will leave.
Friends, if you have people in your church that do not want to adhere to the vision and tenants of the faith, let them leave, all they are doing is keeping other people from growing and preventing you from filling your mission. Never allow an individual or individuals to control the focus of ministry when their focus is on their wishes and not on God's ordinances. A pastor must do just that, pastor, teach and equip, and keep doing it in a creative, truthful and creative way. But pastors are not allowed to have wolves in the flock, just because the wolves are giving money or holding high positions. The Bible speaks of tares in the wheat field, we are to expect that. Satan will place people who go through the motions of the Christian life but never have been transformed by it; thus will cause divisions, gossip and slander to destroy the confidence of the leadership, and neuter the effectiveness of the church's mission. "But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat…." (Matt. 13:25-26) See our channel on Conflict Resolution.
Thus, we need to be on our guard for stressful and overwhelming situations, for pride, as well as being too comfortable in our positions. When we are not growing, and not on our guard, then we will venture into the land of apathy, and that is one place that will not grow any fruit or give any glory to the Lord.
Another disease that strikes pastors and leaders is arrogance. This goes along with what I have written in the previous section on pride. This also effects pastors, but with greater destruction. When a pastor or leader is filled with the puffed-up image of himself and not the glorious image of our Lord, the result is darkness. The Lord will not bless a prideful Church, you may spin your wheels for awhile, but the house of cards you have built will blow down. Prideful pastors fall, they do not remain very long in leadership and their congregations dissipate.
While I was in seminary, I had a roommate who was the Music Director for a well- known church, with a pastor who had a radio show, and was very popular. I had the opportunity to meet with him once, and I was amazed at how arrogant he was. Totally the opposite impression I received from listening to his show. He soon fell from grace with a money scandal; his 2000+ member church withered to less then 200. The congregation was following a personality, and not the person of Christ. The pastor was following himself and not the Lord.
This has a devastating impact on the community as the non-Christians views the situations with disgust and contempt. Meanwhile, the parishioners go away wounded and hurting, spreading their pain with their testimonies of how the church hurt them, instead of the testimony about how great our Lord is. When we base our church on the talents of its people, the wealth of our budget, and the respectability we have in our own circles, then we are treading in shark infested waters. Our only hope out of that situation is repentance, humbleness, public confession and surrendering to the truth of God.
One of the things a pastor can do to protect themselves from arrogance and apathy is how they manage the stewardship and giving of the church. Stewardship is a reflection of what takes place in our hearts. God asked us to be cheerful givers, not to give out of the "I have to's" or out of "it's my obligation", but rather out of love. The pastor's response to this, in my opinion, is to present Biblical stewardship and love to the congregation in their personal walk as well as in teaching. During the same time I believe the pastor should not know who in the congregation gives what monies.
The responsibility of the financial management of the church should be handled by qualified elders, or an outside, reputable organization. The pastor can oversee and make sure they are trained and qualified to handle it with integrity and practical business sense. When a pastor knows who in the congregation is giving what amount, this will effect the decision processes of the pastor. Even the most guarded pastor and gifted heart will be influenced by someone who gives thousands of dollars over someone who gives very little, it is our human nature. I believe it is our responsibility to guard against that with integrity. So do not be concerned about who is giving what, but be concerned about how they are growing and being discipled. One pastor told me recently that he needs to know who is giving what so he can determine there spiritual condition. OK giving is an indicator of spiritual health, but more so is Galatians 5!
Also, make sure your church has good financial guidelines. I was on staff at a church where the financial secretary took off with $40,000 over a two-year period, and nobody knew about until it was too late. We must be wise, loving, and caring, and guard our Lord's resources from those who would misuse it and from ourselves who mistrust it.
When the pastor and leadership of a church are handling the financial aspects of the church with integrity; this has a very bright impact on the body of Christ, as well as to non-Christians. What they are modeling is integrity and that is appealing.
Be aware if your church is secretive about their finances, and a lot of them are, where a pastor's salary is kept a secret, and the details of the monies are kept secret from the congregation. If you continue on this skewed steward path you will soon be taking part in a prison ministry. Especially since the IRS is steeping up their efforts to go after churches and pastors.
The misuse of money, where it is going and how it is being used, must be handled legally, morally and publicly, or it creates a very suspicious atmosphere even though the money may be handled correctly. In my experience and observations, more often than not, being secretive with the church finances is a sure sign of financial mishandling, and someone's hands are in the cookie jar. I have observed one church that was so bad that the pastor's kids were all driving brand-new cars, expensive ones at that. I knew that pastor was drawing a salary of over $40,000 a year, so how did three of his teenage children, who helped out in the church's accounting office, afford brand-new BMWs?
Money is alluring and a big temptation, even to the best intentioned person. There must be checks and balances and effective guidelines. I believe one of the most effective guidelines is for a pastor to keep his hands off the money. Don't handle it, don't touch it, don't know who is giving what, and definitely have nothing to do with accounts receivable and payable; these matters must be handled by trained and qualified people. Even if the pastor is an accountant, stay away from the cookie jar! Without these guidelines the church cannot function honestly, and soon its reputation will be tarnished, and a suspicious atmosphere will fill the void of integrity. The suspicious atmosphere can become a cancer of destruction and a very poor witness. Even if there is no wrongdoing.
The pastor, as well as the Christian, must be in control of his faculties, that is, their emotions, actions and deeds. We must have a healthy understanding of our emotions, what we are capable of, what will set us off so we can avoid and side-step situations that can blow up out of control and hurt not only ourselves, but those around us. Never forget the responsibility you have as a Christian, and never forget the even greater responsibility of a leader. It is not very politically correct to talk about the judgment of Christ, but be assured, we will all face judgment, the Bible is clear on that.
Fortunately we have protection and covering that Christ gave us because of the redemption of the cross. Make no mistake; we still have the responsibility and accountability to do our best for His glory. So do not go through life thinking, well I will just be forgiven, and I will do I want. Do not do that, this is not what our Lord Christ wants us to do. Yes, you may be forgiven, but you will be called on to make an accounting of your actions. Wouldn't it be great to hear, " well done, good and faithful servant", instead of "well here is a consolation prize, you can have the board game, 'How to be a Christian'" instead of the grand prize that awaits us. None of us, I would hope, want to go to Heaven just by the skin of their teeth, and hear Jesus say "I'm so disappointed in you, I have given you great gifts, and you could have done so much more". Can you imagine a greater hurt then hearing those words, and looking back on our lives saying, "oh I should have, oh I should have, oh I should have"? Like the scene at the end of the movie "Schindlers List" where Schindler looks at his ring and realized how much more he could have done, even though he did do a great job. We can always be better; there is always room for growth. Friends, let us not say those words, rather let us live our lives the way Christ wants us to.