Battered Pastors (5)

In this, may final post in the series, I am picking up where I left off in part 4...

4. Devote time to reading works by and about battered pastors.
All pastors need companions. This is especially true for the battered pastor who, out of a sense of shame, will draw inward into isolation. It is in those times when he needs to know he is not alone. Devote time to reading the accounts of pastors who experienced great pain but nevertheless endured. We need the stories of these men who persevered. Specifically, we need the stories of those pastors who endured through personal attacks, betrayals, and unrelenting criticism and slander.

Become acquainted with the following works:
The Roots of Endurance by John Piper - When I was undergoing my own experience as a battered pastor, this book became a very good friend. The chapter on Charles Simeon is well worn. Also you will want to listen (over and over) to Dr. Piper's outstanding biographical addresses on Charles Simeon and Charles Spurgeon. They are a wealth of sober thinking and encouragement.

The Full Harvest by Charles Spurgeon - The pastor of London's Metropolitan Tabernacle goes into excruciating detail about the terrible slanders leveled against him. He was battered by outsiders in the press, doctrinal compromisers within his denomination, physical maladies, and a tragic event which haunted him until the day he died.

Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon - The chapter entitled "The Minister's Fainting Fits" is worth the price of the book.

New Life in the Wasteland by Douglas Kelly - This little exposition of 2 Corinthians pays special attention to Paul's sufferings as a pastor. Highly Recommended.

5. Shun self-protection.
In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis writes, "Love someone and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken." To love is to paint oneself into a corner. That is, to love is to guarantee that you will be hurt. Little wonder why Buddhists teach: "He who has many loves has many woes. He who has one love has one woe. He who has no loves has no woes." The Christian however willingly, even eagerly, enters into the pain and loss which loving others inevitably yields. We do this, supremely, because God is love. And God has loved us with a costly love. His pursuit of sinners hung his Son upon a cross.

It is understandable why battered pastors tend to draw inward and begin avoiding people. The pain of being betrayed, undermined, and slandered by Christians is so great that withdrawing from people seems wise. But this sort of self-protection is deadly. It is actually a failure to love. It is also a failure to show forth the God who is love.

This was one of the sins for which I had to repent during the time of my own battering. I had failed to love many people because, in my pain, I withdrew and began to isolate myself. In this way I failed men and women within the church and, most painfully for me, my own wife and children. Lewis describes what happens to love when it becomes something we barricade within our hearts: "What you can do is wrap your heart up in little luxuries, in hobbies and, as it were, put it in a golden coffin, but in the coffin it changes and becomes essentially unbreakable and irredeemable" (quoted in Kelly, 46).

Be careful at this point however. The apostle Paul, who clearly modeled sacrificial love for those to whom he ministered, did not shrink away from warning against those who did great harm to him as in the case with Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Tim 4:14). The call to love is not a call to foolishness. There is no virtue in trusting those who seek your demise.

6. Seek another call.
There is no reason for you to willingly remain in a church which batters their pastor(s). You are probably not the first pastor they have driven out of their midst and you will probably not be the last. If you are married, your family should not have to witness your demise at the hands of wicked people within the church. I am convinced that one of the reasons some pastor's children struggle with the church is because they have seen great harm done to their father.

This is not to say that a pastor's family should be insulated from seeing unpleasant things within the church. They, like all of us, must learn to love the church despite her flaws. A pastor's family must learn, like all Christian families, that their sins play a part in the frailty of the church just as surely as those of anyone else.

However, while all churches struggle with their own sinfulness, there are some which are particularly toxic. I would suggest that it is unwise (unloving?) for a pastor to leave his family too long in a toxic church. It is true that a pastor's wife and children must bear peculiar burdens. But they should not have to witness his slow execution.

I am writing in generalities of course. There are times when God, for his own wise and good reasons will leave a pastor in the hands of his batterers. However, this possibility should not dissuade you from seeking another call. If it has become clear that those mobbing you have won, then you ought to move on (or at least seek to). Take to heart Jesus' instruction to his disciples regarding those who reject them: Shake the dust from your shoes as a testimony against them and go to those with ears to hear.

7. Be ready to accept the possibility that your circumstances may not change.
Ultimately we cannot force the hand of God. All of your efforts to leave your current situation may be frustrated. God may indeed be saying, "Not yet." The Lord provided relatively quick rescue from the situation in which I was being battered. I have no idea why that is. Perhaps it is because I have a particularly frail emotional constitution. The point is, who can trace the Lord's wise providence? One pastor is battered for two years while another endures decades (Charles Simeon).

I am not sure of the original source, but there is a wonderful line from a Puritan tract which reads: "Out of the presses of pain cometh the soul's best wine." Count on it brother. You may not see it now but the Lord is using the sins committed against you bring forth good wine.  

"I blessed God that my fearful experience had prepared me to sympathize...I would go into the deep a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me that I have been afflicted that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary."
- Charles H. Spurgeon from The Full Harvest

Battered Pastors:
Part One   
Part Two   
Part Three    
Part Four