Becoming a pastor is like painting a big red target on your back. All spiritual leaders face spiritual attack, but Satan especially loves to bring down pastors. At times, being a pastor means just trying to survive the constant barrage of spiritual assaults. Use the following list to help you understand and pray for your pastor.
Most leaders have an internal drive toward a vision or destination – that’s what makes them leaders. Pastors are no different. However, there is a dark side to being driven. Visionary qualities that are necessary to shepherd a church can become overpowering. When a pastor’s drive to achieve becomes louder than the voice of the Holy Spirit in his life, drive becomes destructive. Pray that your pastor’s internal drive will be healthy and fully submitted to the Holy Spirit.
Pastors, like other leaders, are change agents. It is their job to lead the congregation toward health and maturity in Christ. One big obstacle stands in their way – congregations always resist change. This resistance can cause the pastor to become discouraged. When a pastor is discouraged they can be tempted to give up on a God-given call. Often pastors quit when discouragement is at its worst, right before change becomes possible. Pray that your pastor would have the courage to fight through discouragement to lead the church to a healthier and more mature future.
Pastors are servants at heart. One of the great dangers of serving others is that they will occasionally take advantage of you. When a pastor feels taken advantage of he can become bitter. Bitterness can also result from being forced to do things that you don’t desire to do. Many churches put so many demands on their pastor that the pastor has trouble doing what he knows God has called him to do. Pray that your pastor would have the courage to say “no” to anything that is not from God and the courage to say “yes” to God’s call.
Anger is an occupational hazard of ministry. Moses, Paul, and even Jesus had times of anger because of what was happening in their community. There are times when pastors get angry that they have to fight so hard to earn the trust of others. They can get angry at the sin that is hurting their flock. They get angry at injustices and at their own failures. Satan loves to tempt a pastor to give in to anger. Pray that your pastor would be angry but not sin – this is never easy.
Pastors and other elders in the church are given the authority to oversee (and sometimes to command) the church. However, this authority is always to be used for the good of others – to build up the body of Christ. In addition, they aren’t the ones in control – Jesus is. A pastor must always exercise authority in submission to Christ. Pray that your pastor would have a continual heart of submission to Jesus as he exercises authority in the church. This is a hard tension to maintain.
Whenever you stand in front of people and speak, there is a temptation to think of yourself as smarter, more mature, or better than others. The praise pastors receive can be a temptation toward pride; criticism can be an even greater temptation. Pastors need to be continually looking at themselves with sober judgment. The apostle Paul struggled to judge himself rightly (1 Corinthians 4:3-4). Pray that your pastor would remain humble in the face of both praise and criticism.
There is a unique kind of loneliness reserved for the leaders of an organization. CEOs often talk about the loneliness at the top. Even though a pastor isn’t a CEO, he is subject to this same kind of “executive” loneliness. When you are the one who is ultimately responsible for the church (under God), that burden can feel awfully heavy. This is why Jesus and the apostles taught that ministry should be done in teams. A plurality of elders can help keep some of this loneliness at bay. Unfortunately, when the church struggles the pastor is often the one who gets fired (not the elders). Pray that your pastor would find comfort and friendship among other pastors, church leaders, and most importantly in his relationship with Jesus.
Whether because of loneliness, overwork, or discouragement, pastors can be susceptible to depression. Some of this is just the body’s natural response to the long hours that a pastor can work. However, some pastors do not do a good job of self care. They are so busy caring for everyone else that they neglect their own physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When this happens, they will become depressed. Pray for your pastor’s joy in Christ and pray that he would take the time to engage in healthy rhythms of life.
Occasionally, every pastor wonders if they are making any difference at all. Satan loves to put this thought in their minds: “You have wasted all this time. Your ministry is worthless.” Most of the time pastors dismiss this thought, but on occasion it can take root in their soul. Pray that your pastor will not believe the lie that his ministry is a waste of time.
There are many more temptations that pastors face. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but it should give you a good start in knowing the unique challenges that your pastor faces. Please join me in praying for pastors.
Look back over this list. What can you do in addition to prayer to encourage your pastor?
Please leave a comment so we can connect; I’d love to hear your feedback, questions, or stories.