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  • Writer's pictureVic Bernales

Perils in Pastoral Ministry - Part 2

In an earlier post, I wrote about the discussion that we have had in our Pastoral Studies course at Mid-America Reformed Seminary pertaining to the perils or temptations in the ministry. There are seven common perils that we have identified in pastoral work although there are probably more.

In my previous post, I have dealt with the first three temptations in a pastor's life and ministry - first, the temptation to recline (laziness); second, the peril to shine (pride); and third, the temptation to whine (grumbling or griping).

I'd like to deal with the fourth danger that some (if not many) pastors struggle with in this article. Hopefully in another post I will be able to wrap up these common dangers in pastoral ministry with the last three temptations.

The next danger in ministry that every pastor must be aware of is the tendency to be sidetracked or to focus on secondary matters (Sidetracks and Substitutes).

Distractions in pastoral ministry are countless. I'd like to identify at least three of these common diversions. The first one is politics and social concern. The pastor's main tasks are prayer and study of the Word that he might be able to feed well the Lord's flock and equip them for the work of the ministry.

The problem comes when, instead of devoting more time in prayer and in the study of the Scripture, the pastor is involved too much in political and social issues. Not that these concerns are unimportant. But when the congregation, and even his own personal piety, suffer due to his over involvement in political and civic activities, the pastor has allowed himself to be sidetracked.

The second area where pastors could yield to the temptation of focusing on secondary matters is negativism. This is where the Lord's servant has let his strong conviction against anything (like liberalism, false doctrine, homosexuality, abortion, social justice, pyramid schemes, etc.) drain most of his strength and consume most of his time.

This is not to say that pastors should not be concerned or alarmed about these things in the church. They must speak about the dangers of liberalism and relativism, about the sins of homosexuality and abortion, about the consequences of greed and easy money and pyramid schemes, or about the evil and error of one group or the denomination they used to be a part of.

However, when all the congregation hear from the pulpit week in and week out are those negative things about everything (including all the wrongs of other religions) instead of the glorious things of God and His gracious work in Christ, the pastor has allowed himself to be sidetracked.

Dwelling on the negative side of things more often than the positive side of the Christian faith has a draining (not edifying) effect on the hearers. At some point, I will stop listening to a preacher or teacher whose approach in life or ministry is majoring on all the wrongs and errors in this world except his.

The third thing that pastors could yield to substitutes in the ministry is the temptation to resort in gimmicks or techniques. In this temptation, the pastor always try the latest craze or fad in church ministry. Whether it's the praise and worship band, or a celebrity-studded service, or a big production number, or a multi-million dollars (or pesos) building project, or whatever is available out there, to attract more people to the church, the pastor goes for it.

Instead of trusting the Lord to work in the lives of His people through prayer, fellowship, heartfelt service, and the ordinary means of grace - preaching and teaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments - the pastor resorts to quick-fix, easy answers to every problem in the congregation.

There may be more distractions to the ministry that every pastor is aware of. These are the ones that I remember the most in our class discussion - sidetracks and substitutes, negativism, and gimmicks.


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