In 2 Corinthians 7:5-6, Paul talks about a time when he was troubled and discouraged, and yet he was comforted and encouraged by the coming of Titus. As a pastor, what types of things have brought you the most encouragement when you were facing a difficult time. Can you give a specific example or two?
Encouraging people is one of the most important aspects of ministry. So often, the people attending our services are going through different types of challenges, and I have learned to always be aware of the need to encourage people. I have discovered that as we continue to look to God in prayer and let His Word live in our hearts and surround ourselves with others who know God’s faithfulness, we too will be encouraged. And in this way, there is nothing that can stop us from moving forward in the plan and purpose of God.
I am reminded of one instance in particular where I found myself in a situation where I needed to be encouraged. We were celebrating our 30th anniversary as a church and I was personally celebrating 30 years of ministry when I was blindsided with accusations against me from some within our leadership.
In all the years before, we had never experienced a church split, but no matter how I tried to repair the situation, it was to no avail. Many were swayed in the church to believe things about me that were not true and it seemed there was nothing I could do about it.
It was in this very dark time, when I experienced “supernatural encouragement.” By that I mean when God uses others, who we do not expect to be there for us and help us, who are suddenly there and we discover the wonder of the Body of Christ.
The only thing I knew to do at that time was to go to God in prayer. We decided to open the church every night of the week to pray through this crisis, and to my amazement, so many came every night to pray with and for us. Many of those coming to pray were people I had, up to this time, not known very well (at the time of this church split, we were seeing hundreds of people coming every weekend to our services and it’s not possible to get to know everyone).
As I listened to their prayers for me and my family, as well as the future of the church, something happened on the inside of me; all the pain and even the anger that had been building in me left. My faith for the future of the church, as well as for my own ministry, was not only restored but was increased and many new friendships were formed at this time.
This season of prayer lasted more than 6 months, but at the end of that time, the church began to experience a new freshness from the presence of God. We began to a have a unity that was much deeper and stronger than anything we had experienced up to this time, and today as I look back, I find thankfulness in my heart. Although the process was painful, the love and encouragement that I received at that time changed me forever. Today, more than 8 years later, the church is strong and vibrant. We are now watching a younger generation being raised up to take on the challenges of the future, and I am confident that with God’s help and grace, I will run my race and finish my course.
The greatest encouragement that has come my way has always been from the Lord himself. It’s been getting quiet before Him and listening to His perspective on what has troubled and discouraged me. When God’s people were discouraged, the Spirit of the Lord spoke and the result was that God sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel (Hag. 1:14).
The second place I have found encouragement has been in trusted people. For me, they are the people on our church board, a few key staff members, and a group of intercessors that I meet with monthly. We all have people that suck the life out of us and people that breathe life into us. We must be wise and surround ourselves with the right people at the right time.
Discouragement is a very real issue that all Leaders must wrestle with. I’d love to believe that “someday” I’ll grow up enough that I no longer need to consider such “carnalities,” but whenever expectation collides with reality, discouragement walks through the door.
Understanding that discouragement is usually accompanied by unmet expectations, I’ve learned that the greatest strength I have in demonstrating discouragement’s defeat in my life is normally located by listening to a “Trusted Voice.” This is someone who comes because they’ve recognized the symptoms OR one who answers my call, because I’ve reached out for encouragement. Somebody can’t be just anybody. It has to be somebody who can see what I can’t see.
Discouragement usually gets a decent grip on me while I attempt to blame, as much as possible, on other people and/or external circumstances. As long as I continue to avoid responsibility, discouragement does its nasty work. However, the moment I take ownership of my thoughts and emotions, I actually know the steps to take towards freedom. I guess I’ve fought discouragement so often that I can no longer act as if I don’t know what to do about it.
I have TONS of experience dealing with the junk! My insecurities opened a pretty wide door for it to manipulate much of my time over the years. I don’t enjoy telling this truth about myself except for the fact that this might help someone else see what I’ve come to see so clearly. And it really does have A LOT to do with what you SEE.
When you can see what you couldn’t see before, you can go where you couldn’t go before. When you can go where you couldn’t go before, you can reach what you couldn’t touch before. When you can reach what you couldn’t touch before, you can accomplish what you couldn’t start before. When you can accomplish what you couldn’t start before, well, you’re no longer discouraged!
A “trusted voice” is so vital to our success in leadership, and in life in general. It takes time, effort, and often it even requires resources to develop a relationship that you can consider worthy of trust. And don’t assume that someone is responsible to hunt you down so they can be your encourager. If you don’t intentionally build life-giving relationships, you’ll NEVER have any. But we’re NEVER without at least one, REGARDLESS. We can ALWAYS call out to God IF we’re willing to do so.
Jeremiah 33:3 is a great insight into that subject. If I call Him, He’ll answer AND He’ll SHOW me what I haven’t seen YET!
Having worked a secular job several years before the ministry, serving Jesus is the greatest privilege, and the worst day pastoring is better than any day doing secular work.
Having pastor friends, especially those who have been pastoring longer than we have, and talking to them helped greatly. It helped to know that everyone has challenges in dealing with people.
In 1990, a man caused a great deal of strife in the church. It was very hurtful when people you thought were with you sided with this man and left. Praying extensively with Sheila and believing that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter helped greatly. Leaders in the congregation standing with us and encouraging us also helped. Friends in the ministry that we respect, sharing their wisdom and experiences, helped us to see that what happened to us, in some form or other, happens to many pastors.
The Bible tells us that there will be challenges with some. The longer we have pastored, the less impact these things have on us. Thankfully, we have had very few challenges with people. We do our very best to help, teach, and be there for the congregation. If they move on, and I know that we did our best to help them, I can live with that. In 1990, I knew there were some things going on that were wrong, but I chose not to do anything, hoping the situation would get better. This was the wrong thing to do. Strife must be confronted quickly. In 1990 I met with that man causing all of the problems alone, but he brought others with him to the meeting that I was not aware of were coming. I will always have other staff members with me. Jesus knew the heart of men and we know there are challenges. A faithful staff and friends in the ministry to talk to and confide in has helped greatly.
The one thing that has always brought me the most encouragement while facing many difficult times in my ministry, is setting a special time aside and praying entirely in the Spirit. Over the many years that I have been a pastor and have faced many difficult situations with members, family, friends, etc., this has encouraged me more than anything else.
This question made me take time and search my heart. I don’t want to appear super-spiritual, but to be honest, my encouragement has always come from the Lord Himself. Maybe it’s a fault in my personality or the fact I was raised from a life-threatening illness by the glory of God as a child. Or maybe it’s been my life’s journey that has taught me to go to Jesus; who knows.
For me, in these times, I’ve taken it as a signal to have extra time with God because He is about to speak! I look at it as God calling me.
I have special locations that I frequent; locations that mean much to me and places where I have previously received a revelation, a visitation, or direction. These geographical locations connect me to all I need and cause my flesh to be peaceful.
It doesn’t sound helpful or make for a conducive read to answer this question in this way, but my aim is to point you to the all life-giving One.
I’ve learned these times can be misunderstood. Turning feelings productively toward God can bring powerful results. I’ve tried to be discouraged; it doesn’t work for me. I tried it once, and God told me to get up. Jesus is praying for me. What more could a believer wish for?
I recognize it now as my heart calling to the Father, and when I get with Him in that quiet place, that place where my flesh and mind are quiet, it is where I receive and get to explore and receive spiritual understanding of the great honor it is to know Him.
Naturally, we must also understand and grasp as ministers and believers, that most of the time we can misread feelings. Most of the time negative feelings, or ‘discouragement,‘ could be a call to pray for someone else or intercession for the lost.
So what would be helpful tips?
- Do something useful with how you feel.
- Spend extra time with God. He may just want to speak to you.
- Yield to a spirit of prayer. The discouraging feelings might just be the Holy Spirit getting your attention to pray for another.
- Find a geographical location. Go walking, hiking, fishing. Find the place where your flesh can be quiet and relish in the truth that your Great High Priest and friend, the Lord Jesus Christ, is successful in His present day ministry praying for His Body, and we cannot fail.
Remember that the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.
I would like to share with you a specific example of a time when the Lord sent encouragement in a difficult situation.
Back in 2013, my wife Dorothy and I were taking a vacation to Michigan and decided to travel by train for our transportation. We boarded in OKC for the first leg of the trip which was to end at Ft. Worth Texas. We were about one hour into our trip, when Dorothy fell and hit her head. The nearest hospital was in Ardmore, Oklahoma, so the conductor made the necessary arrangements for her transport to that hospital.
Immediately, as I learned these details, I contacted RMAI member, Pastor Eddie Thompson, whom pastors a church in Ardmore. I cannot express to you the strength and comfort that leaped in my heart when we arrived at the hospital and opened the ambulance door to see Pastor Eddie and his wife Leigh waiting for our arrival.
Eddie and Leigh stayed by our sides while they treated Dorothy, and when she was released, Pastor Eddie and Leigh drove us to a motel, later picked us up and took us to their home and fed us a wonderful steak dinner. We had some wonderful fellowship, prayer, and encouragement before they took us back to the motel. That is a great story, but it does not end there! The next morning they came back to the motel, picked us up and took us to the train station so we could continue our vacation.
If we had not been connected with the Thompsons, my wife and I would have been in a strange city, facing these unfortunate circumstances by ourselves!