Pastors' Forum



What trait in your own life has been the greatest challenge to you in your ministry? How did you recognize it, and what did you do to overcome it or compensate for it so that it did not adversely affect your church and ministry (or minimized the effect)?


Pastor Craig Basler – La Grange, KY

For years, I suppressed hurt and frustration that comes with being a pastor. I tried not to let it get to me. This resulted in a six-way heart by-pass surgery. Since that time, I have learned to be very honest with the Lord and the people I serve with.

I guard against stress, take time off, and have another pastor in my town who is my accountability partner. I have removed myself and our Church from the pressure to perform every week. I let Jesus build His Church, and we just love whoever comes each week.

I am healthy now and so is our Church. I’m so grateful to God for everything I learned, and I hope I am able to help any minister who is struggling like I did.

Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI

I’ve heard it said before that your greatest problem is not somebody else…it’s you! In more than one way, I have been my biggest problem. My filters—the way I hear things—have been a challenge.

Have you ever had someone “push your buttons?” The problem isn’t that people push our buttons; the problem is that we have them. For me, my “button” is a gnawing feeling that I’m just not enough. So, when I transitioned to being the pastor of the church, following Pastor Dave Williams, someone would say, “Wow… you sure have big shoes to fill.” I would hear, “It’s clear that you are not enough, not big enough, not smart enough, blah, blah, blah…” In thinking this way, I missed the opportunity to celebrate at that moment, how big Pastor Dave’s shoes really are J, and how big God is. What a blessing that God would see fit to put such a great leader like Pastor Dave Williams in my life. What a gift that God would put it in his heart to take a liking to me, and what a wonder that God would call me, equip me, and trust me!

Furthermore, when a staff member would transition from the team, I would respond to the situation like it was a divorce. It’s as if they liked me from a distance, but once they really got to know me, they bailed. That may or may not be the truth, but either way, my thoughts and the reactions that followed were not healthy. Dr. Carolyn Leaf, in her book, Who Shut Off My Brain said, “Negative thinking actually creates a groove in your brain; in essence, we give ourselves brain damage.” Crazy, huh? I’ve had to learn to identify the thought of “I’m not enough,” as an ungodly belief and counter it with the Word of God.

I’m not going to say I don’t have “buttons” anymore, but I am aware. I am aware that stinking thinking won’t do me any good. More importantly, I’m aware of the Father’s thoughts toward me. He called me, and when He did, He didn’t say, “Oops.” Now that should make you smile.

Blessings to you on your leadership journey.

Pastor John Angelina – Munich, Germany

As the saying goes in life, “sometimes our greatest strengths become our greatest weakness.” I have found this out all too often in my own life and ministry.

One of my strengths is the ability to take on a task and stay focused on that task till it’s done and done right. Although this can be a positive trait, at the same time, I can overlook others who don’t approach things in the same way or I can become very impatient with those that don’t respond like I do. This tendency would also lead me to just do it all myself and in doing so, leaving no room for others to develop and grow.

As I began to discover the negative side of my strength, I had to learn to discipline myself so that I could help others to discover their gifts and strengths. In the phase of ministry I am now in, this is very important.

I am now approaching my 37th year of pastoring and I am presently preparing a transition for the future generation. My goal is to be able to turn over the leading responsibilities by our 40th anniversary as I transition myself to helping in the background when needed, as well as assisting younger pastors when possible.

This can never happen if I let the negative side of my strength dominate me and the only way I know to overcome this is to constantly work at it by asking God to point out to me quickly when I’m taking over to much as well as listening to others close around me as they remind me to make room so that the next generation of leaders can enter into their place. It is a daily process for me but God gives grace.

Pastor Jane McDonnough – Tampa, FL

The trait in my own life that has been the most challenging is self-sufficiency. Too often, I feel the pressure to have to be the end-all and do-it-all. And even as I have grown in this area, I still have to be aware of it creeping back in.

In an effort to overcome this tendency, I put comments to myself in “meeting notes” that simply say: “listen more—talk less.” I am intentional about asking questions rather than giving answers. I purposely challenge myself to give away ministry and assignments to others on a regular basis and specifically praise team members when they do things well. Of course, I spend time praying beforehand and confess when I blow it. I have also shared with my staff this weakness so they can help me see when I am thinking for them instead of allowing them to think.

Pastor Ray Eppard – Staunton, VA

“I can miss a dump truck.”

That’s a phrase that we joke about on my staff, as I actually missed noticing that the dump truck that had been on our property for some time had been gone, and at the point I noticed it, it had been gone for some time.

I tend to miss things sometimes. I can be oblivious to things and have blind spots. I also am not a detail person. All of those could go on the list of traits. I actually get fidgety when someone is giving me too many details. I guess you could say I tend to have large blind spots when it comes to certain areas with details. The way I recognized that is that I got hit by one—and it cost me.

Awareness of these things has enabled me to work at being better at them. However, I found that these were things that I have primarily had to find ways to compensate for. I endeavor to be aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and then I look to hire people and surround myself with people who aren’t like me. This helps me because they can see those things and communicate—let me know when I may be missing things. This is why I tell those around me not to hesitate to challenge things because I know I have blind spots. I realized that I need people that have managerial courage. A lot of pastors are too insecure to allow others to point out failings and shortcomings. I don’t have a problem with having someone push back on something; my requirement is to just be nice about it. I endeavor to hire people that have strengths that fill my gaps. This makes us all better and more effective to do what God has called us to do.

Pastor Jack Yurus – West Harrison, NY

I would have to say there are two. The first would be: I was always the class clown, and everyone’s buddy. These are two traits that make it hard to lead and especially hard to bring correction. God helped me by telling me to “be professional.” I knew what that meant. I had the ability to have fun and joke around and switch gears and be serious when needed. If I was on official church business, I was a completely different person.

We all have superiors, equals, and subordinates. I would never bring my superiors down to my level, but the line between peers and subordinates got blurred. The problem was, I was able to draw the line between myself and my superiors but others weren’t. Just to give you an example of what I mean about me being “one of the guys” or one of the kids: we rented a room at a college; it was in a castle. They had a very large room. When the kids took out a football and started playing catch, I was like a dog looking at a steak and being told to stay. Kids don’t have the ability to get yelled at along with the pastor and then sit down for counseling. God reminded me of when I was a youth minister, when it was acceptable to be a class clown. While at our church picnic, I saw a woman from our church that looked upset. I asked her what was wrong, as I switched gears and started to minister to her she looked at me funny. I said, “What’s wrong?” She said in her Spanish accent, “I didn’t know you knew all that.”

The second issue would be my assumption in thinking everyone was like me. If you asked me to do something and I said I would, I did what I said. That mixed with the fact that I thought I was being kind and understanding by giving people grace because they were busy, meant that there were a lot of things falling through the cracks. This is one area I am still working on. First, get a reasonable time commitment and then assign tasks accordingly. Turning away a volunteer because they were too busy was not something I ever considered. I heard in a leadership seminar that you can only expect what you inspect. If you use that as a rule, some of us would have to do a lot less until we found the right people.

Pastor Wendy Preston – Aylesbury, England

The only way I can answer this is from the beginning.

At five years old, I had my first encounter with Jesus. Naturally at five, I was very impressionable. I was diagnosed with double pneumonia. I can remember clearly to this day a cloud (I now know as the glory of God) entering my oxygen tent where I was placed. I had no contact from family or anyone. It was a touch-and-go night and my parents were told to be prepared for the worst. But the cloud came and I was instantly healed.

As you can imagine, I have never forgotten this. Then it continued with a series of encounters that pointed and shaped the direction for my life to preach the Gospel. You may think, “well, there’s nothing unusual about that,” and there isn’t and yet it marked me. I was different from school chums and work colleagues and I had little interest in many things—just a life of hunger for Him.

I quickly found out Jesus didn’t mean the same to everyone, even Christians. When people would express their knowledge of God, I would think it must be a different God—a different Jesus. This has been a double-edged sword for me.

I’m ever grateful for my experiences (not that my life is based on them; it’s based on the Word of God). However, it’s been challenging for me to fellowship on certain levels, and conversations can, at times, seem shallow. But I have learned to always put others first and listen from there place in life.

As a pastor and a friend to many, it has always had to flow from the position of compassion. My constant has always been Jesus. But at times, I feel far removed from daily cares (nothing matters in this life: no worries, no cares when you have had encounters). I didn’t mean to sound “super spiritual,” and I know that there are many just like me out there that have had similar experiences. My challenge when I’m with someone similar to me, is that we don’t converse about natural things but we fellowship and delight ourselves in God. So not the best thing when serving in a pastoral role, accept we do get many healed and see miracles.

As for visiting over coffee to discuss life, this is a huge challenge for me. I have to purpose to do it and try not to yawn ! Help…

Pastor Barry Fredericks – Newbury, CT

I have always loved to read and going to the library to borrow books or the bookmobile in the summer. As a kid, I loved science-fiction books about time machines going back to the dinosaurs and their adventures. When I was in the military (Vietnam), I typed up the radio messages sent from the field and routed them to the officers. This gave me opportunity to go to the recreation ‘hooch’ where America sent books. I always had the first choice and took a great number. I probably read, since I had plenty of time, 200 books in about a year. Once I was out of the military, I traveled a great deal for the company I worked for and continued reading at night. Once I became born again, I spent a great deal of time reading the Bible, but still had time to read an adventure book or two. After Rhema, when we started the church, after the services on Sunday, I would spend the entire afternoon reading Alistair MacLean, Clive Cussler, Ted Bell, etc. Since I spent a great deal of time studying, I did not feel it was a hindrance to the ministry.

One day, Sheila told me she thought I was reading these adventure novels too much and should pray about giving them up. At first I was reluctant, but I did pray about this and the Lord spoke to my heart. I have ‘x’ number of hours in the day and years of life left. Was I being a wise disciple with all of my time? The answer was no. The more I prayed about this, the more convicted I became that I wanted to make every bit of my time count for the Lord.

Since giving up the adventure books, I still read a great deal (Christian biographies, revival documentaries, and KEH books). I do not miss the adventure books and thank the Lord for a good wife.

Pastor Duane Hanson – Mendota Heights, MN

Years ago, when I finally acknowledged and accepted the call of God on my life, I faced the greatest challenge that could have derailed my ministry. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was basically handicapped by the fear of man.

Most of us have heard the truth revealed in Proverbs 29:25:

The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. [NKJV]

As a new believer, I became aware of the “snare” that had captured me and hindered much of my young life. I was so intimidated by the thought of standing in front of a group of people, that I actually took a failing grade in High School, rather than fulfill a required speech assignment. Instead of dealing with this emotional roadblock, I did my best to avoid any situation that required public speaking.

As I studied the Scriptures, I came across this amazing truth, and recognized how much the fear of man had dominated my life. Looking at other translations, I could see the damage the fear of man had accomplished without me knowing it.

  • Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety. [NLT]
  • The fear of human opinion disables, trusting in God protects you from that. [MSG]
  • Being afraid of people can get you into trouble. [NCV]
  • Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back. [PNT]

It wasn’t until my late 20’s and early 30’s that I came to the full understanding of this truth, recognizing that I had allowed the fear of man to hold me back. I realized I hadn’t been trusting the Lord, and I certainly didn’t feel “safe” standing in front of a congregation!

I also learned that the fear of man could mislead me. In Matthew 22:16 Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders of His day, and from a human standpoint, could have been snared by their desires to entrap Him. Notice that their statements were true about His character, even though their motive was probably one of deception when they made them.

Matthew 22:16
So they [the Pharisees] sent to Him their disciples together with the Herodians; who said, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and that you faithfully teach God’s truth; and that no fear of man misleads you, for you are not biased by men’s wealth or rank” [WEY].

As a mature Christian, I hope my life exhibits the same characteristics that those religious leaders supposedly recognized in Jesus. Their words may have been filled with flattery, but Jesus actually was truthful, faithful to the Word, and not misled by the fear of man. If we are honest with ourselves, and faithful to the Word, I believe we can avoid being misled or affected by those around us. I hope that every Christian Leader can learn to not become biased by men’s wealth or rank!

For me, the answer to my greatest challenge was found in a truth that is actually the exact opposite of the fear of man. The fear of the Lord was the only way I could break the bondage I felt when I was faced with obeying God’s mandate to stand before His Church and minister the truth. I studied and spent time meditating on every scripture I could find related to the fear of the Lord. I could fill pages with scriptures that bring this truth to light. One specific verse that I found very challenging was Isaiah 8:13-14.

Isaiah 8:13-14
The Lord of hosts—regard Him as holy and honor His holy name [by regarding Him as your only hope of safety], and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread [lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him]. And He shall be a sanctuary [a sacred and indestructible asylum to those who reverently fear and trust in Him]… [AMP]

Becoming established in the biblical truth of the fear of God set me free! I realized that the fear of man was offensive to the Lord, and when I gave place to it, it revealed my own lack of faith and trust in Him. When I learned to walk in the fear of God, I didn’t struggle any longer with the fear of man. The truth is, the fear of the Lord brings wisdom, knowledge, and freedom, from the fear of man!

It seems so obvious to me now, but whatever challenges we’re facing that might be hindering our ministry, once we’ve identified the source, then search out and apply the Word, and that truth will begin to set us free!

Pastor Jann Butler – Tacoma, WA

Over the years I have been able to overcome a trait that was a great challenge to my ministry. This was always wanting to please everyone (people pleaser). As a result, I found myself listening to many other opinions instead of listening to God. It was very difficult to make major decisions while continually relying on others. Many bypassed the chain of command to get their way.

However, over a period of time, I have gained confidence in myself by being led by the Spirit of God, which is the ultimate answer.