Friday, October 22, 2010

Randy Alcorn on his most painful experience in ministry

Ministry is filled with painful experiences. A pastor who is doing his work properly will regularly help shoulder the sufferings of others. Additionally, though, he will have to shoulder (usually alone) his own pain. And the pain is frequent. A pastor knows what it is to receive almost daily "performance reviews" from various congregants. If he is fortunate he serves a church with many gracious people. If this is so then he will receive frequent words of encouragement. However, every pastor knows what it is to live with the awareness that he is always letting someone down. The number of needs and the often times competing expectations of the congregation means that not a day goes by that the pastor has not disappointed and even angered at least one of his flock.

And to whom does the pastor turn? Who will help him shoulder the weight? He cannot simply dismiss the criticisms of the crowd. He cannot 'let it roll off his back.' To do so would risk the hardening of his heart. The pastor cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to criticism if he wishes to remain a loving shepherd.

Randy Alcorn recently addressed his most painful experience in ministry. I have deep respect for Alcorn, not only because of his heroic efforts for the unborn but because of his humility. He is many of things I want to be but am not yet.

What is the darkest or most difficult experience you have had to date? from Randy Alcorn on Vimeo.

I went from being a leader to no longer being a leader. I had to learn what other people had needed to when they related to me as a pastor—such as follow your leaders and submit to them as Hebrews 13:17 and other passages tell us. But now I was doing that, and I have done that since. It has not always been easy. I love my church, and I love my church leaders, but I still don’t always agree with them, just as people don’t always agree with me. So I’ve experienced both sides of submission.

Nanci and I have grown tremendously through the years as a result of this difficult time. One of the things that helped us was praying for different pastors and church leaders who we felt were not supportive of us in the most difficult times. We‘re not bitter—God preserved us from bitterness.

In fact, the ministry we founded, Eternal Perspective Ministries, began with the financial support of a number of people, including a few of those pastors and several of those elders I worked with.

God was very kind to us, but as I’ve thought about it, this would have to be at the top of the list of most difficult things we’ve ever faced. It seems strange that it would be higher than the deaths of certain people who were very close to me. But I think it’s because you experience God’s grace more in certain areas and times with huge personal losses such as death than you may when there is alienation and distance from people you know and love and have had close relationships with.

God has been gracious in dealing with that distance and healing those relationships over the years. And it feels great to say that we now have very good relationships with those we felt had turned from us in a dark period of our lives. Some of them would probably do things different now than then, and I’m positive we would also. But forgiveness means accepting that just as you don’t always do things right, you shouldn’t expect others to either. And as God forgave you, you must forgive others, and it is liberating to do so.

Read the entire post HERE.

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