Dear wounded pastor,
You’re not alone.
I want you to consider for a moment the company you keep. It’s pretty amazing. They locked Charles Simeon out of his own church. They fired Jonathan Edwards. When you are attacked by the people you pastor, you join the ranks of countless pastors who’ve gone before you.
You face two great challenges right now.
One is how you react. When people sin against you, decide now that you won’t respond in kind. Marshall Shelley’s counsel is wise: “When attacked by a dragon, do not become one.” You will be tempted, of course. As much as it hurts, ask God to keep you from sin in responding to those who hurt you.
Remember, as Jonathan Edward preached in his final sermon in Northampton, that you and the congregation will have to give an account to God for how you act. “Then every step of the conduct of each of us in this affair, from first to last, and the spirit we have exercised in all, shall be examined and manifested, and our own consciences shall speak plain and loud, and each of us shall be convinced, and the world shall know; and never shall there be any more mistake, misrepresentation, or misapprehension of the affair to eternity.” Wait for vindication on that day, and refuse to do anything that will cause you shame when you stand before your Judge.
The other challenge you face is your own well-being. Please take care of yourself. Find a friend who loves you. Find other pastors who’ve been through similar struggles and lean on them. Get away for a week or a month if you can. Cast your care upon Jesus. Remember that this phase is temporary.
Your worth does not come from the approval of humans or the success of your ministry. You are no less loved by God now than before. Of course, it hurts to be attacked, but you are just as secure in the love of Jesus as you ever were. You are valuable to him.
Jani Ortlund suggests that you find a verse — a promise — and cling to it:
Camp on it, memorize it, meditate on it, and recite it to each other in the dark hours. A wise Christian counselor gave us this assignment when we were in a deep, dark pit because of slander. Our verse was 1 Peter 5:10, and God is indeed fulfilling it in our lives:
After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
Wise advice. Don’t lose sight of God in the darkness. Cling to him and his promises. He has you. Nothing about him has changed.
You will make it through this. It will be hard. You will be wounded. You will sometimes lose hope. But, if you’re like many others, the best years of your ministry are still ahead.
Keep going. I’m praying that God protects you and encourages you. Keep your eyes on him. Aim to honor him. Cling to his promises. And please look after yourself.
Your fellow pastor,