Leading—and Pastoring—With a Limp

I grieve when I see wounded pastors (even those whose own actions contribute to the pain). In too many cases, those wounds create scars that are difficult to overcome. Here’s why:

  1. Few pastors fully expect the anguish that church members can sometimes cause. Even pastors who know that shepherding people can be difficult are often caught off guard by the venom of some people.
  2. The arrows often come from formerly close friends. It’s the “kiss” of a Judas that’s distinctly painful. Betrayal hurts deeply.
  3. Wounds affect not only the pastor, but also his family. Sometimes, in fact, family members struggle the most with forgiving people and moving forward in a positive way.
  4. Many pastors hurt alone. Some don’t have many real friends. Others generally hold things to themselves. Still others simply don’t want anyone to know about the pains of their ministry. Aloneness, though, only compounds the pain.
  5. Some pastors view conflict as ministry failure. They hold themselves to high standards—impossible ones, actually—and they beat themselves up when they don’t achieve them. They may even question their call.
  6. Pastoral grief at times stretches a pastor’s theology uncomfortably. After all, why would God allow a faithful pastor to face struggles that leave scars? And, why should a pastor want to forgive somebody who hurt him and my family?
  7. Some pastors experience such pain in more than one church. The repetitive actions of church members in multiple congregations drain the pastor of hope and confidence in God’s people. Hurting pastors eventually just wait for the other painful shoe to drop.
  8. Too many pastors are blinded to their own role in the conflict. If you’re not self-aware of your own potential to be at fault, you only build up animosity toward everyone else. Pride only complicates this tendency.
  9. Some criticism of pastors is simply unfounded. It’s wrong. It lacks facts. It’s evil. Yet, people believe it—and it’s often hard for the pastor to overcome it.
  10. Pastors sometimes refuse to admit they have scars. They publicly talk the language of grace and forgiveness even while they privately hurt. That’s a tough place to be as a leader.

So, here’s my challenge: if you recognize ministry scars in your life, prayerfully seek a trusted friend, colleague, professor, or counselor who can share your burden with you. Talk to somebody. Be honest. Wounds heal better when we walk with each other.

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This article originally appeared on ChuckLawless.com and is reposted here by permission.