Discouragement and Encouragement in Ministry—A Personal Testimony

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My first year as a lead pastor was a rough year. I was told by many that the church would grow, and people left instead. (The Lord gave many to our church in the next two years, thankfully.) We felt the strain on finances, and, with the small crew we had for our large property, life was busy and often tiring (especially while trying to write a dissertation).

We’ve always maintained our average attendance over the years in spite of people moving, marrying, and going on to glory, which is saying something for a small church in Rockford, Illinois. God has done abundantly more than we could think to ask.

Almost a decade into my ministry now, I was recently digging through my files and found what you’ll read below. I apparently read this to our congregation before my first year was over. I’m glad they didn’t throw me out for being so transparent! If anything, I suppose everyone already knew the things I said, and then I happened to say them. So, thank you First Baptist Church for your patience and mercy with a young and growing pastor. (And the thanks continues!)

The funny thing is, though the kids are older and the nursery is not so much an issue (#9 below), the rest of these matters are somewhat timeless. I though it would be helpful to pass this testimony along. But just before you read it…

Pastors, I haven’t arrived. It was good to preach this to myself all over again. I’m not speaking from a higher plane of sanctification. I was encouraged to read this again, and I hope you find it encouraging as well.

Church members, these things are the kinds of discouragements your pastor faces from time to time. Perhaps this is a little window into their sometimes-discouraged souls so that you can pray for them and encourage them to persevere, especially from the truths at the end.

Ten Things That Discourage Me Most as Your Pastor and How God’s Word Encourages Me to Be Faithful

May 9, 2014

In all I say below, I believe I say these things as led by the Spirit “of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7). In no apparent order, here are ten things that discourage me most as your pastor:

  1. When my own vices such as ambition, anger, or apathy are the cause of problems in our church.
  2. When people have criticisms about me and refuse to talk to me personally about the matter but feel free to discuss the matter with anyone and everyone else.
  3. When people intentionally schedule something else of little to no eternal value in the place of our times of worship, Bible fellowship, prayer, or occasional church activities.
  4. When people intentionally choose without good reason to be absent for our times worship, Bible fellowship, and pray.
  5. When people are upset that their preference is not met in some way, and I know that there are others whose preference is for the just the opposite, which leaves no one happy in the end.
  6. When laziness or careless planning leads people to abandon the regular ministries they said they would do and then further fail to show consideration to others by notifying them
    ahead of time that they will have step in to fill the void. 
  7. Having responsibilities that keep me from spending time with the people in my church, particularly my PhD program (now complete!) and our annual pastors’ conference.
  8. When little things in our church are blown out of proportion simply because everyone knows about them because word travels quickly in a small church.
  9. When my wife has to work in the nursery so much and hardly gets to sing or hear any preaching or teaching at all.
  10. When my discouragement provokes my wife to be discouraged, something which discourages me even further.

In all of these matters, as a pastor, I must be “the one who leads, with zeal” (Rom 12:8). I am commanded to “shepherd the flock of God” that is among me “not under compulsion, but willingly” (1 Pet 5:2). Though there are occasions when people forsake God’s Word and pastoral counsel and provoke me to serve “with groaning” which is “of no advantage to you” (Heb 13:17), there are several truths that rekindle my zeal and will to carry on:

  1. The church will always have conflict and trial, and my suffering through as much is inevitable because, just like any other Christian, I, too, must have my faith refined like gold so that it “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:7; cf. 2 Tim 1:8).
  2. God saved me and called me according to His own purpose and grace in order to carry out a holy calling that He gave me in Christ Jesus before the ages began (cf. 2 Tim 1:9–10).
  3. This purpose is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ who gives life and immortality to those who believe (cf. 2 Tim 1:11–12).
  4. The Spirit indwells and enables me to faithfully and lovingly guard the good deposit of the gospel and God’s Word that has been entrusted to me (cf. 2 Tim 1:13–14).
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David Huffstutler

Pastor First Baptist Church, Rockford, IL

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a PhD in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.