When a Pastor’s Friend Leaves the Church
I’ve asked the question dozens of times. In one way or another, I simply ask pastors: “What has been one of your most painful moments in ministry?”
Obviously, the responses are diverse, but one response seems pretty consistent. Let me summarize it with this quote from a pastor who spoke to me just two weeks ago.
“Critics and bullies bother me,” he said. “But at least you know where you stand with them. The greatest pain for me took place when one of my good friends and his family decided to leave the church. At least I thought he was a good friend. I felt like I had been stabbed in the back.
I am not surprised at the pain. I am, however, surprised how common the experience is with so many pastors. At some point, I will do some digging to find out why these friends left. For now, I asked the pastors how they dealt with pain both positively and proactively. Here are the common responses:
- They accepted the reality of the pain. “For a season, I pretended like it didn’t bother me. But I was lying to myself. I honestly felt like I had been betrayed. Once I admitted the pain, I was able to deal with it better.”
- They prayed for the friend and his family. “That was tough. My carnal self wanted to punch him in the face. I had to pray for the strength to pray for him. God began to do a work in me that got me beyond the intense pain. It still hurts today, but I am making progress.”
- They avoided burning bridges. “I’m glad I resisted the temptation to bless him out. It could have happened so easily. But I prayed and bit my tongue. I am so glad God gave me restraint.”
- They answered members’ questions honestly. “The questions from other church members were expected. They knew how close we were. But he never gave me a reason for his departure. So, I just shared what I knew. I told them I was hurt. I told them I was clueless about the reasons he left. I was straightforward and honest.”
- They were careful about forging close friendships in the church from that point. “Maybe it’s not the best thing to do, but I am wary of making close friends in the church now. I love my members. I serve my members. But I am not going to get burned again. My closest relationships now are outside the church.”
Pastors, if this painful reality has happened to you, please know you are not alone. It is so much more commonplace than I would have ever imagined. I pray you will find good friends you can trust and enjoy, whether they are in inside the church or outside the church.
You need those friends. And I have little doubt you will be a blessing to them as well.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on December 19. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer
Misrepresent and Demonize: The Weapon of ‘Progressive’ Christians
Last week, I encouraged Christian parents in California who had children in public schools to defy the law and pull their kids from the state’s...
What can Christians Learn From Israel Folau?
As you’re probably aware, Israel Folau’s Australian rugby union career appears over after a three-person panel ordered that the Wallabies...
Jim Carrey’s abortion post called out by Franklin Graham
Actor Jim Carrey has taken to Twitter to criticize abortion. Christian evangelist is not impressed. The Hollywood star posted an image on Twitter...
When the church receives an anonymous letter
On occasion a church leader at Church Answers will share with the community that he or she received an anonymous letter. The leaders are inevitably...
It took 1000 coffees, but you've ﬁnished your book...
So where to now?
That's where we come in.
We have a team of publishing professionals ready to help you bring your book from your laptop to the world.
We offer cover design, typeset, eBook conversion, and competitive print prices. Oh and you'll also be on Amazon and thousands of websites worldwide.
Let us help you take the next step.LEARN MORE