Being the leader is not an easy job. While some may mistakenly think that a pastor only works one day a week leading the church is a time consuming job that places great amounts of stress on the pastor and his family. Here are some problems that all church leaders face.
Loneliness or isolation
The leader must be ahead of the group, and this distance produces tension. The leader must remain separated from the group to continue as the leader. Isolation generates resentment; sometimes this is called “positional resentment.” He cannot be “one of the gang.” The leader must identify with the group, and not become a part of it. This delicate balance must be maintained. There are biblical examples for this loneliness. Christ felt it––even the 12 did not feel with him. Elijah felt it––“Only I am left,” he said. Moses felt this––he had to stand against the crowd, alone.
A pastor will really feel this. He cannot afford to form real social friendships within his church membership. He must maintain some distance with his staff. The other pastors in the same town usually are a poor choice of a close friend. He really needs to establish a relationship with Christ, with his wife, and maybe a seminary friend to help over the rough spots.
There is so much to be done that it will be impossible to do it all. Leaders have some areas of work they enjoy more and will have to be careful or else they will spend so much time in those that other areas are neglected. Pastors must spend time in preaching, administering, pastoral ministering, soul winning, counseling, and other duties. A balance should be maintained, but personal preferences are a problem. Staff members will have similar problems, especially the “combination man.”
To maintain a balance, the leader must determine his objectives, rank them in order of priority, and schedule his time to reflect the priority assigned to each objective. It is also important to see that each program of the church is working toward the accomplishment of the objectives of the church: all sub-goals should blend into the major goals. Also, the advancement of all programs should be somewhat equal. When one part gets ahead of other parts, you can expect problems. Maintain a constant program of evaluation.
Work or long hours
The leader, especially a pastor or church worker, must expect to spend many long hours in his job. They are on call 24 hours each day, and never get caught up. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount to be willing to go the second mile. A leader in our society today puts in 8 hours a day for survival; when he goes past that he is making an investment in his future. You have to give up something to go up in this world, and the higher up you go, the more you must give up. Priorities must constantly be evaluated and followed. A major priority must remain the church worker’s family and time must be spent with them. Every minute needs to be squeezed to try to get 70 seconds from it. The Bible says, “Redeem the time.” Try to save every minute. The leader should delegate as much of his work as possible.
While the leader is out front ahead of the group, and especially if he is doing something, some of those in the ranks behind him will find fault, criticize him, and oppose him. There is probably no way to avoid criticism. The saying goes, “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time.” Opposition will come from outside (persecution in Acts 4) and inside (problems in Acts 5). Many will misunderstand the leader’s actions and motives. They will say that his desire for church growth is a personal ego trip for his own betterment.
The leader should expect opposition. He shouldn’t be surprised, but, in a sense, be pleased when it comes. Satan has no need to cause opposition against someone who is doing nothing to bother him. When you are going forward, you will make waves. One should avoid opposition where possible, and be a lover and not a fighter; however, when biblical convictions call for a stand, the good leader will stand.
Disappointment and discouragement
Disappointment affects many church workers, and wipes some of them almost completely out. A program fails to be accepted, and the pastor is ready to quit. The attendance does not increase as fast as he had hoped, or as fast as some other church, and he becomes discouraged. Problems develop in the church and the pastor becomes discouraged. A pastor may be disappointed in himself, in his staff, and in his lay leaders and become discouraged.
Having unrealistic goals and expectations can bring on disappointment. Goals should be challenging, but attainable. Goals that are unattainable should be revised, instead of becoming a cause for disappointment. Goals must have action plans or strategies if they are to be achieved. Good planning will help prevent discouragement.
Good leaders are positive-minded. Paul said to be content in whatever state you are in. He also said to be thankful for all things. If a leader ever feels disappointment or discouragement creeping into his life, he should go to the closet, close the door, and pray until he and God have the matter under control.
Success can be a problem or a hazard. The leader who succeeds too rapidly or easily may become content with too little. He may be impatient with others who have to work harder for success. He may become too filled with self for God to be able to use; adapting an attitude of “look what I have done.” He may begin to take things easy and abandon the conduct that has won success in favor of less demanding and efficient methods––tend to forget all the prayer, visitation, promotion, and preparation that caused growth. A tragedy of our day is the large number of “successful” church workers who have failed and lost their testimony and/or ministry. They seemed to begin to think they could do no wrong, or anything was all right for them. History has repeatedly shown how men rise from poverty to riches. Many times the fame and success that are achieved early are lost. Rarely does a child from a self-made father have the drive to be successful.
Success will be a problem if it is too easy, or if the next step seems too big, or if the leader sees no new horizons, no new worlds to conquer. Alexander the Great actually cried because he knew of no more countries to conquer.
The successful church worker must constantly be aware of God’s role in the scheme of things. God deserves, and should receive, the praise and glory for what He accomplishes through our lives. A church leader needs a “divine discontent” always in his life. There needs to be a peace, satisfaction, and contentment from being in the right place, but never a feeling of “I have arrived,” or “we have it made.” There will always be lost people to reach and saved people to help and train. The church leader needs to avoid surrounding himself with “yes” men. They will lull him into complacency. “Hardheaded,” challenging associates will make a leader prove every idea and stay strong. It will further help the leader to overcome the problem of success to recognize and acknowledge the part the associates play in his success––it is a team effort. Satan is a special problem for the successful Christian leader. He may not know all pastors, but he knows the successful ones, and works to defeat them.
Women may be the number one preacher-killer. Counseling is probably the number one preacher-killing activity. Secretaries are also a big problem. A mistake here will probably cost a man his ministry. It is hard to make a comeback. Women staff members don’t seem to have the same problem here.
Be extremely careful in any private situation involving a member of the opposite sex. Think about the difference in the stories of David and Joseph. “Avoid the appearance of evil.” Never go inside a house where a woman is alone without someone with you. Don’t ride around with a woman alone in your car. Be extremely careful where your secretary is involved. A glass window in the office door is a good protective devise.
Preachers, plumbers, and painters are considered the worst credit risks, and that is terrible. So many preachers get to owing everybody in town, and even leave town owing people money. Many say that preachers can’t be trusted with credit. Many reputations are hurt here. When looking for a staff member, a credit check is a good investment. Many preachers also leave ministries because of financial conditions they let themselves get into because of a desire for things.
The successful Christian leaders will live on what God gives him and not on what he thinks he deserves. He must watch credit buying. Credit is dangerous for anyone, but it can be deadly for a preacher. He should be careful to set a good example, not only in prayer and soul winning, but in money management. He must watch his priorities on money and things.