Any preacher who has been working at the profession for long has had to endure the frustrations and depressions of the job. It is not that the preacher does not love the Lord, the job that he does, or the responsibilities he has; it is simply that the job is a high stress, high pressure profession that most, who have never had to bear the responsibilities entailed, cannot fully understand. That being said, sometimes the frustrations and depressions are caused because of the actions of those upon whom the preacher relies: the members of the congregation with which he works. Consider 5 ways to depress your preacher.
Come to Bible class without preparation
Preachers and Bible class teachers in general work diligently to prepare lessons that will benefit, strengthen, encourage, and uplift the hearer. Therefore, it is very difficult when those listening do not seem to care about the study of God’s Word enough to prepare and be attentive to what is presented. It is especially frustrating when the class is doing an expository study of a book of Scripture and nobody in the class but the teacher has taken the time to read the section of Scripture they know will be studied.
Our children have homework and assignments throughout their years in school that require preparation and work. If they do not accomplish the necessary work they are unprepared for their classes and their grades reflect their shortcomings. Unfortunately, many adults believe that once they have completed their schooling, there should be nothing that requires their preparation and attention to the level of “homework” any longer. But Christians are to be those who love God’s Word, study it, and prepare themselves to discuss it (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:11). Nothing is harder on a teacher than the belief that the hearer is not as interested and passionate about the Greatest of all Books as he is. When the adults in the congregation approach their Bible classes with anticipation, preparation, and consideration it makes the entire process more beneficial; additionally, it strengthens not just the hearer, but the teacher as well.
Request things of the preacher you will not do yourself
Preachers come to work with congregations of the Lord’s people, not for them. When a preacher is hired, it does not thereby alleviate the responsibilities the rest of the congregation have to love and serve one another, and proclaim the Gospel to the lost.
It is often depressing for preachers to have members, and even elders at times, come to the preacher desiring him to work in a particular area where they are not willing to assist. It may be a question of doing more visiting, working at the local nursing homes, starting programs for the congregation, or any number of other things. The preacher is often willing to help in these areas and has no problem with reaching out by many different mediums, but the preacher needs help. Preachers need those who are not just willing to tell them what needs to be done, but are willing to volunteer to help them do it. One of the fastest ways to burn out a preacher is for the congregation to expect the preacher to do everything while they set back in their pews and wonder why he is not doing more. It requires the work of the whole body to function effectively (Eph. 4:16).
Continuously remark about how much better another preacher is
All preachers are not created equal, and it is understood that there are some bad preachers out there, but there are also many good preachers and all of them have strengths and weaknesses. Some preachers are excellent teachers, but not fiery presenters from the pulpit. Some are great writers, while others work wonderfully on radio and television. Some are excellent speakers in Gospel meetings and on lectureships, while others thrive in the week to week service of the congregation. This does not make any of these various preachers better than the rest, it simply shows that each has a different skill set that can be used to the glory of God.
If you were to ask most preachers, they know their limitations and weaknesses, and will readily tell you what they are. This does not mean they are unwilling to work in areas where they are not as proficient, but that they recognize they may not be able to do the job as well as another preacher.
That being said, it is sometimes easy for members to focus on their preacher’s weaknesses instead of his strengths. Many have been the times I have heard members speak to a visiting preacher about how they wished he was always there to speak, when all the while the full-time preacher is standing there hearing every word. Whether the member realizes it or not, he is telling the preacher his talents, time, and desire are not on an equal plane in that member’s perception with the other preacher. Such is very hurtful when the preacher spends hours each week working to the best of his ability to teach, preach, and assist as many as he can – only to find his efforts are rejected and unappreciated because others can perform one aspect of the job more pleasantly than he.
Become angry at the preacher for preaching the truth
There is no preacher I know who relishes preaching those hard sermons; the ones that he knows the congregation needs and with which they struggle. The ones that require people to reconsider what they have believed and thought all of their lives to be true, only to learn it is not. Yet, the preacher is under obligation to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), and therefore cannot ignore topics and passages of Scripture just because they could cause problems or be misunderstood.
Consequently, the task is made many times more difficult when the preacher does not have confidence that the people will accept God’s Word as it has been presented, but will instead become angry, discontented, or outright belligerent toward the servant of God. Such an attitude shows the desire for someone to itch the ears of the hearer (2 Tim. 4:3) not hear the word of God.
The greatest encouragement a preacher can receive is the thanks and appreciation of God’s people when he stands for what is right on topics that are not popular. If you love God’s Word and the man that presents it, be sure to show appreciation for him and his work, take the things presented and apply them to your life as God commands.
Leave him as an outsider in the congregation
Most members do not understand how difficult it is for a preacher to work in a congregation. More times than not the people in the congregation have known each other for far longer than the preacher, have relatives in the congregation while the preacher does not and already have lives established while the preacher has to begin again. Therefore, the preacher and his family have a great need to be accepted as a part of the congregational family for the work to truly prosper.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Many times members are wary and standoffish toward the preacher. The preacher is supposed to visit, but is never invited over for a meal. He is supposed to get to know everyone in the congregation, but is never invited to participate in anything members of the congregation do for recreation and fun. He is supposed to be able to reach into the hearts of every individual to better their lives, but they will not open up their hearts to him and allow him to build friendships and relationships with those among whom he should be closest. This becomes one of the greatest hurdles for preachers to overcome and has caused more sleepless nights for preachers than many other things; for the preacher can only minister to people to the degree he knows their needs. If you want to increase the effectiveness of the preacher in the congregation, open the doors of family and friendship and help him strengthen the congregation from the inside out, instead of having to do it from the outside in.
I am convinced that most members do not intentionally hurt and make more difficult the work of the preacher; but that they simply do not know the impact their actions, and inactions, have on the life, mindset, and focus of the preacher on a daily basis. Any preacher who is worth his salt is always trying to find ways to help and strengthen those around him; to find ways to proclaim the Gospel to any and all who will listen; and to work that he, his family, and those around him will all spend eternity in Heaven. But no preacher can do it alone. He needs help, encouragement, love, and compassion as much as any other man. He is not perfect, but he is constantly striving to serve God and to cause others to do the same. May God bless the preacher, as well as the elders and members who aid, strengthen, and enhance the work he does.