8 Painful Statements I Still Remember as a Pastor . . . and the Lessons I Learned

I miss serving as a senior pastor, but I don’t miss the difficult days of pastoral ministry. In particular, I don’t miss dealing with the raw words of church members—but, sometimes, I’ve learned a lot from their honesty. Here are some examples of words I took as painful that also taught me lessons:

  1. “You really need to give us a clear vision as a congregation.” I thought I was casting a clear vision, so I didn’t hear this comment well. Looking back, I now know this brother was right. My “vision” was generic, cautious, and almost faithless.
  2. “You’re moving too quickly.” I wanted change, and I wanted it to happen yesterday. I did try to lead through change too rapidly, though—and it backfired. Now, I think seriously about the speed with which I lead.
  3. “Thank you for praying for my aunt this week.” The problem was that I had said I would pray but forgot to do so. My silence in response to this statement probably said as much – and leads me now to pray with people on the spot.
  4. “I think you did it on purpose.” I didn’t (I am certain), but I learned it is not easy to convince others of your motives when they’ve already made up their mind. Sometimes, you can only listen.
  5. “We have a person we think is a great pastoral candidate to replace you.” I knew the Lord had called me elsewhere, but it still stung to know the church had moved so quickly to find a new pastor. Years later, I understand they needed to step into the future.
  6. “You hurt me with that illustration.” By no means did I intend to hurt anyone, but I used an illustration I didn’t recognize would be offensive to some folks in our congregation. I now spend much more energy thinking about my listeners as I consider illustrations.
  7. “I’m not lying to you.” He was a church member I had to confront over a sin issue. I was sure he would be honest with me because he respected me as his pastor. Sin, though, covers itself up—and he lied to my face. I’m still learning just how deeply all of us can fall into sin.
  8. “You don’t care about us like you used to.” I truly did still love this church, but some of the longer-term members missed times when I was always with them prior to the church’s growth. I’ve since realized that this church member really did miss time with her pastor–and she wasn’t opposed to the church’s growth. I had to learn to look beyond her words to understand what was going on.  

Here’s my point: even painful words can teach us. We just have to be teachable more than defensive.



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