For those who know me, I have ministered across the southeast in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. I thoroughly enjoyed every stop along the way, but as I look back over my time in ministry, I have learned that there are things that seminary will not teach you. My time in seminary was great as I was able to build long lasting friendships and relationships. These relationships have carried with me into my vocation. I can also remember the late nights of studying for Greek and Hebrew. I can remember the countless hours in the library preparing for a systematic theology exam. And I can remember loading my backpack with 15-20 books in order to work on a research paper in my dorm room. This sterile laboratory called seminary was great for a minister who had a passion for missions, discipleship, and the church. Seminary was able to teach me philosophies, theories, and techniques that could work in a church. But as experience would teach me, my degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary didn’t mean much to people who were involved in life’s affairs. As a pastor of local body of believers you will come in contact with trails and conflicts. From my experience, these trials and conflicts can be self-inflicted due to a number two primary reasons:
- Pride – it is easy for a pastor to get wrapped up in his degree and forget trust is not earned through a degree or church experience. Whether you are a recent seminary graduate or you have years of experience, a minister can only be effective as the trust that is developed. Pride can be a minister’s biggest obstacle. He should long to shepherd his people instead of coming in and saying what works and does not work based on his education and experience. A learning experience must take place in the pastor’s new place of service. He should come into his church simply hoping to love and serve them well. Once I figured this out it totally transformed my ministry and how I approach the people whom God has entrusted to me. Don’t get disheartened if it is not immediate. Trust can take a lifetime to earn, but only a moment to shatter.
- Communication – communication is easily the one thing that can shatter any relationship. One of the leading causes in divorce is a stop in communicating with each other. Likewise, a pastor must always be in communication with his congregation. He must be able to sense when an issue is at hand. He must be willing to take a Biblical approach and restore that relationship. This includes going to a person where conflict exist, even though it may scare you. The rewards that are gained from establishing trust can go a long way in determining the longevity of your ministry. A minister who avoids conflict will surely shorten his tenure at the church he is pastoring. Whether it is staff members or the congregation, our focus should be on encouraging, uplifting, and talking with one another as we walk this Christian journey together.
The great thing about these two things is they are correctable. You can easily work on getting better at each. Pride is a spiritual condition, where issues in your heart must be addressed. Communication issues tend to cross paths with insecurities. It is in these insecurities a breakdown can occur. If you find yourself in a trial with the congregation you serve, more than likely it can come to one of these two issues. My advice is to repent and seek out forgiveness, as it will go a long way in reestablishing the trust that may be broken. No pastor is without his faults. As under-shepherds, we have a strange dichotomy where, yes, we are shepherds, but never forget we are also sheep.
Rob Bowden is passionate about proclaiming the Gospel to a generation that is in need of Him. He is a 2012 graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and has been in student ministry in churches across Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida. He specializes in youth culture, discipleship, and communication of the gospel.
He is married to Amanda and they live and serve in Mt. Dora, Florida.