The Heart Of A Pastor

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11:16-28, NLT

16 Again I say, don’t think that I am a fool to talk like this. But even if you do, listen to me, as you would to a foolish person, while I also boast a little.
17 Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool.
18 And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too.
19 After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools!
20 You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.
21 I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too.
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
23 Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.
24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.
26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.
27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.
28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.

INTRODUCTION

We are getting near the end of our series in 2 Corinthians which will be my final here at Danville. I have been watching you the last few weeks and I can tell your interest in our study is waning. 2 Corinthians 10-12 is taylor made for preachers but it must get boring to lay people so I have decided to exclerate the pace just a bit.


When I was kid, I didn’t think my mother and daddy knew much about parenting but when I became a parent, I changed my mind. You can’t understand parents until you become one. The same is true with being a grandparent. No one can tell you what it is like, you just have to experience it for yourself. The same is true with being a pastor. It is impossible for lay people to understand the pressures and anxieties that a pastor carries. I could preach a hundred sermons on the subject and it would not help one iota. To understand what it is like to be a pastor, you would have to be a pastor.


I understand what Paul did; I know why he said the rediculous things he said; I know why he commended himself. Scholars are divided on Paul’s motive, Dr. Wiersbe {a pastor scholar] says that Paul was forced to defend himself, the Corinthians forced him and his boasting was a proof of his love for them. I love Warren Wiersbe but I respectfully disagree.


Palmer says, “Paul went temporarily mad.” I’m going to have to lean toward Palmer, I think Paul did brag on himself; he commended himself and I don’t think it had an bearing on his critics, it never does. As far as I am concerned, it was an expression of his humanity and proof that the Corinthians had hurt him deeply. Paul was not super-human, just human and I find nothing offensive in his honesty. It has always been a refreshing passage to me because I could read it and identify with Paul but this is much harder if not impossible for a lay person to do.


Surfice it to say, there are many perils in the ministry and Paul mentions quite a few in this passage.

I. THE DANGER OF BEING MISUNDERSTOOD.

 This group of critics within the Corinthian church are most likely a minority. F.F. Bruce and others are convinced that this did not represent the church as a whole. Most of the Corinthians are supportive of and they probably don’t understand what he is talking about because they are not pastors. Why punish the entire group for something that only a few were doing? These critics {whoever and howmany} are very hard on Paul: {1} They impugh his motives by accusing him of preaching for personal gain. {2} They criticise his appearance over which he has no control. {3} They criticise his speaking ability and {4} Question his authority. Listen, you cannot prevent these kind of things from happening. You cannot stop criticism.


If a young man came to me and ask me what I thought of him entering the ministry: I would tell him the truth. Expect criticism and do not defend yourself against every attack, every criticism, it will not work. This will allow criticism become a major distraction which is exactly what the devil wants. We have to follow the model of Christ, not Paul. God wanted Paul’s words to be recorded because his experience has helped thousands of preachers through hard times but what he said did not stop the ones who were stirring the stink. You have to accept the fact that you are going to come under fire and some of it will not be fair. Your loyal supporters are not going to take part, they give you the benefit of the doubt and those who oppose you are not going to be convinced of your innocence by anything you say, so there is no need to defend or commend yourself. It is ineffective, a total waste of time.

II. THERE IS THE DANGER OF GETTING IN THE FLESH

 

Paul is guitly in a sense, he confessed in verse 17…Such boasting is not from the Lord, but I am acting like a fool. And in verse 18…And since others boast about their human achievements, I will, too. 


It is obvious that Paul is not claiming inspiration at this point, he is resorting to the same tactics as that of his enemies…boasting about human achievements. What Paul did was a minor infraction compared to some of the things I have done.


The greatest guilt and misery I have experience over these 49 years is from getting into the flesh in the pulpit. Don’t tell me it can’t be done, it is a never ending peril of ministry. It can happen when you least expect it. It is a constant temptation and there is no end to the pressure it exerts.


There are some measures you can take to help–like preaching through the bible or a book in the bible but there is no fool proof method of keeping it from happening. It has happened to me recently and I had prayed about the message all week. I had no intentions of saying what I said but it came out.


Dr. Wiersbe thinks that Paul intentionally portrayed himself as weak in this passage and it is true that he brags about his weakness but that is not what’s happening here: he is bragging about his credentials and his experiences and you know as well as I that commending one’s self is unacceptable and I firmly believe, a waste of time.

III. THE DANGER OF DISCOURAGEMENT

There are a lot of bad stats floating around about preachers:
  • 77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage.
  • 75% of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. 
  • 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons.
  • 38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
  • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

None of the stats above can be supported with empirical data. All are grossly exgerated but they are partially true. Some pastors do have bad marriages and if want reasons why this is true, talk to a pastor’s wife. Many pastors do battle feeling of inadequacy but this is common. I would be more worried about the ones who don’t feel unqualified at times. A recent survey states that 93% of Evangelical Pastor’s feel priviledged and I am among this group.

BUT discouragement is a pitfall in the ministry. There are not 1,500 Evangelical Pastors leaving the ministry every month but there are some who get discouraged enough to quit. Charles Spurgeon fought depression constantly. There were times when he stayed in the bed for two weeks. Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah all fought depression and discouragement.

I surrendered to preach the gospel at a relative young age, I was 19 and I had no bible study habits. I did know a few verses that I had learned in SS but I was no avid bible student. When I surrendered to preach, I had to begin studying in order to preach and teach but I was 50 years old before a daily quiet time became an established habit and passion. I have notice a remarkable difference when I look at my life before and after concerning spending time with the LORD. 

The key to overcoming discouragement is to spend a lot of time with the LORD.

The LORD is indeed my refuge and strength. I look forward to my time with Him daily.

Some criticism is good but too much can crush your spirit and you can’t let that happen and it will happen if you fail to spend that quality time with the LORD and you focus on the criticism. So I don’t put my ear to the ground, I don’t eavesdrop, I don’t question people. Jesus did ask His disciples what folks were saying about HIM but I’m not Jesus. I want to stay focused on my call and my responsibility.

 

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