Many Christian leaders become discouraged. The work doesn’t go as one imagines, the church doesn’t grow as one desires, lay leaders won’t cooperate with one’s leadership, people are excessively critical, or finances are down. The list goes on and on. Someone said that discouragement is the occupational hazard of the ministry, and Spurgeon was no exception to this rule. As successful as he was, he still experienced discouragement, and, in his case, it often deteriorated into depression. He became so depressed at times that he could barely function. In his lecture on “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” Spurgeon opened with these words: “As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us….The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.”
Larry J. Michael: Spurgeon on Leadership; p. 191
Discouragement and even depression are not the companions of so-called little pastors. Even the “greats” suffered such affliction. For example:
John Calvin – Calvin received so much opposition in his first ministry at Geneva that the year before his expulsion from Geneva he went through great discouragement and depression. Writing about this year in his life he said “Were I to tell you only the littlest things of the misfortune – what am I saying – of the adversity which virtually crushed us during the course of one year, you would hardly believe me. I am convinced that not a day passed in which I did not long for death ten times…”
Andrew Bonar – Writing to his close friend McCheyne said, “I was very melancholy, I may say, on Saturday evening. The old scenes reminded me of my ministry, and this was accompanied with such regret for past failures.” He also wrote, “My ministry has appeared to me to be wanting in so many ways that I can only say of it, indescribably inadequate.”
Charles Spurgeon – at the zenith of his ministry said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.”
G. Campbell Morgan – At the height of his ministry, Morgan astounded his congregation by telling them that he was a failure. As he thought over his ministry, he said, “During these ten years, I have known more of vision fading into mirages, or purposes failing of fulfillment, of things of strength crumbling away in weakness than ever in my life.
So, what can you do to encourage your pastor? Allow me to suggest some ways:
1. Live with him in the love of Christ by loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and might.
2. Love him in the Lord.
3. Pray for him all the time.
4. Let him rest.
Give him opportunities for personal and familial rest. Be proactive to make sure he is getting spiritual, emotional, mental and physical rejuvenation. Encourage him to take off for times of prayer, meditation and reflection. Leave him alone during his day or days off, unless of course, it is an emergency. Don’t rely on him to solve all your problems, so don’t keep on going to him relentlessly. Maybe even raise some funds and send him on a cruise or a study leave.
Craig Brian Larson wrote,
Someone has said, ‘Fatigue makes cowards of us all.’ Let me rephrase that in more general terms: Physical exhaustion alters my emotional state. What I could handle when fresh I no longer feel up to. Difficulties that I first faced like a problem-solver full of faith now cause me to buckle at the knees. The challenges that once energized me now terrify me. While the presenting symptom on such occasions is emotional – depression and weakness – the real problem is physical: low energy. (Larson, Staying Power; p. 55-56)
One day a week scarcely suffices for clergy or anyone to recharge emotionally, physically and spiritually; keep one’s home in order and in repair; and have quality and quantity family time. Ministers do not move from glory to glory but from crisis to crisis. Even if they took their one allotted day off, it is not enough to keep them from becoming one of those untimely funerals. (Jane Rubietta: How to Keep the Pastor You Love; p. 54)
5. Honor and esteem him (Phil. 2:29; 1 Thess. 5:12, 13 cp. Acts 28:9-10, 2 Cor. 7:15).
6. Do everything you can to pump life into his soul.
Build him up, encourage him, and communicate to him in the very many ways there are, how much his service means to you. Lift him up, inspire him, and bless him in Christ. You will reap the residual effects for it. Be a conduit of grace, hope and love to build up your pastor.
A minister’s peace of mind is very important to the quality of his productivity in ministry. It is very difficult to be loving, gentle, and kind toward people when a small group of nitpickers are constantly at him about trivial matters that have little to do with the overall purpose of the church. It is even more difficult to be the gentle pastor, meek and mild, when the accusations leveled at him are contrived and totally false. (Greenfield, The Wounded Minister; p. 104)
7. Be loyal to him in Christ.
Trust him when he is trustworthy. Treat him based upon who he is in Christ and for his position as an elder in Christ’s church.
8. Give to him as he gives to you.
Give, not merely monetary support, but give service to him and his family. Be imaginative and think of ways you can serve your pastor: give him genuine and valuable feedback; give him moral support; give him time and prayer. Above all give him love and affection!
9. Speak the truth in love to him and about him.
Do all you can to safeguard his name and reputation, but more than that, build up his name so that it becomes a name of honor. Certainly, the pastor must maintain his own reputation and integrity in Christ. This is not an admonition for you to pretend he is honorable if he has clearly sinned and defamed the name of Christ. But if he has a character above reproach, then uphold it, maintain it, and promote it.
10. Don’t covet to have your pastor be just like a pastor you admire or idolize.
© D. Thomas Owsley