The Pastor & His Person
W. Wilbert Welch

By W. Wilbert Welch, Long President

Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College & Seminary

By no means should it be implied that a pastor's problems can all be traced to the church family. His major struggles will find their roots in himself. Having been a pastor, I find we have some reluctance to acknowledge any alleged weaknesses even though our staff members may have long ago noticed them. Recently I read that a reporter once asked the great evangelist D. L. Moody which people gave him the most trouble. He answered immediately, "I've had more trouble with D. L. Moody than with any man alive."

If we wish to be honest, most pastors (and most people) would agree, "I am my own worst problem." The Apostle Paul turned the spotlight on himself and not upon the carnal members of the Corinthian church. He wrote, "I so run….so fight I….I keep my body under…" (I Corinthians 9:26-27). A pastor must be alert to the devices of the enemy as warned by Paul, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (II Corinthians 2:11).

We are aware that the media highlights any known moral failure in the clergy, and we deeply regret the serious blight such features bring to the ministry. Our church families should be aware that their pastor faces a number of less visible ministry snares that can diminish his effectiveness. Of course these never make their way to the front page of the local news. May I gently identify some of these snares and at the same time encourage churches to keep their pastors near the top of their prayer lists so that together by the enablement of the Holy Spirit they may enjoy a fruitful ministry.


Shouldn't a pastor be professional in ministry? Certainly. Yet he must guard against any lessening of a shep-herd's heart. Paul was a professional, but his motivation came from his heart (Philippians 1:7). Professionalism is the subtle diminishing of the pastoral heartbeat. This is not easily detected because experience has taught the pastor the correct ministerial procedures. His sermons are well structured and delivered. He makes the proper calls on the members of his flock. He counsels wisely and relates well to his own family.

It was not until I had resigned from the pastor position that I realized I had unintentionally slipped into this trap. Yes, I did the right things. I practiced ministerial leadership and structured the church for performance. I visited the sick and taught a growing young adult class, but in all this activity the heartbeat had diminished. Without any awareness on my part, I had slipped into a professional trap.

Two years later I returned to that pulpit and asked for forgiveness from my former people. In grace they freely forgave me. I should have recognized the subtle device of the enemy. Now, as I look back and review this period of my ministry, I recognize that this diminished shepherd's heart could have been avoided if I had cultivated an ac-countability partnership with a fellow pastor.

The Trap of Privilege

We could identify this second trap as the subtle sin of expectancy. Our old nature enjoys the honors and benefits of being a pastor. In general, we are not required to punch a time clock. No one knows (except our neighbors) the hour we leave our home for the church office or study. At the restaurant, who usually picks up the tab for the din-ner? Not the pastor. Who is invited to be the first in line at a buffet banquet?

Unwittingly, a well-balanced and godly pastor can slip into this trap of expecting perks and privileges associated with a leadership position. Naturally, the more the pastor is beloved by his congregation the more his people fertilize and water this trap of privilege.

The Peril of Pride

Pride was the sin of Satan and the downfall of Adam and Eve. It is today a poison in the bloodstream of the hu-man race, whether Christian or non Christian, and pastors are not immune. I had identified this particular flaw of our flesh because pride so quickly destroys a pastor's ministry (Proverbs 16:18). Pride stacks the power of God against us (I Peter 5:5). In Peter's letter to pastors-elders he entreats them to clothe themselves with humility and then writes, "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God" (I Peter 5:6). Pride is an inherited affliction, but humility is a choice.

At no time does pride surface more quickly than when the Lord is richly blessing the ministry with growing at-tendance, new buildings and financial prosperity. The greater one's gifts, the greater the temptation. The late evan-gelist Dr. John R. Rice illustrated this tendency with reference to a woodpecker that propped himself on an old tele-phone pole. Just as the bird pecked at the pole for his breakfast, a bolt of lightning struck the pole and split it from top to bottom. The woodpecker was knocked in the ground some distance from the pole. He straightened his fuffled feathers and then, noticing the pole was split from top to bottom said, "A person just doesn't realize his own strength, does he?"

Similarly it is difficult for anyone enjoying the blessing of the Lord to resist the temptation to be proud of his ability.

The Sin of Slothfulness, or an

Inactive Ministry

I take no pleasure in identifying this particular weakness. Naturally it is self-revealing, but may not be easily identified since the appearance of slothfulness may be rooted in something physical. The visible indications are a loss of drive, minimum hours in the study or in shepherding ministries, and no proposed targets.

Blessed are the sheep that are daily being led into green pastures by their undershepherd. The wise man entreated the sluggard to consider the industry of the ant and be wise. A congregation should exercise great caution lest a di-minished energy level is rooted in something physical, or possibly in an overstressing workload, or wrestling with some spiritual tension in the church family.

Loss of Compassion

This is the first cousin of professionalism. Compassion means "to suffer with." When I read of the Lord's com-passion, in each situation He responded with a helpful ministry. The Good Samaritan had compassion and responded to the needs of one who had been wounded by robbers and left half dead. A heart of compassion doesn't "pass by on the other side" (Luke 10:31-32).

The prodigal son returned to his father and received compassion, not the stern rebuke he deserved nor rejection by his mistreated father. Jude summed it up when he wrote, "Have compassion, making a difference" (Jude 22).

A pastor must check his compassion quotient frequently lest his ministry lose the motivating heartbeat of the Lord. Just as it would be dangerous to operate a car without an occasional check on the oil level, so a church and pastor should pause to measure their level of compassion.

Any ministry that has lost the motivation of compassion has also lost the joy and rewards of ministry service. Spirit-imparted compassion transforms the stresses of ministry from something boring and burdensome into joyful delight. Of our Lord I read, "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Hebrews 12:2). The cross was indeed painful, but His love and compassion for mankind transformed the pain into joy. A pastor must fre-quently check his compassion level.

A Solo Ministry

Moses may have been the busiest man in all Israel. With more than two million Israelites bringing their problems to him, I'm sure the end of the line was never in view. From early morning until dark, the people came with real needs and this meekest of men did not complain nor close the tent door and punch out at 3:30 p.m. He was a godly man, extremely busy and earnestly desiring to meet the needs of his people. At no time had the Lord said that Moses must carry his ministry burden alone. Many assistants were standing idle in the marketplace waiting for the opportu-nity to serve.

A minister very early falls into the trap of busyness. The shepherd's heart responds to the needs of his people. He feels he must knock on more doors, make more hospital calls, and spend more hours both in preparing messages and in personal prayer. He must comfort the sorrowing and assist the needy. Finally he closes the curtain on a very demanding day, but the unfinished tasks retire with him. Occasionally our churches unintentionally expect a work pattern that only an angel could deliver.

Moses listened to good counsel (Exodus 18:1-19) from his father-in-law and discovered he had a great army of capable assistants standing on the sidelines waiting to be challenged, enlisted, instructed, and commissioned. It is easy for a pastor to fall into the solo-performance trap. A servant's heart easily responds to the multiple needs within a growing church family.

The church body must be sensitive to this and when the members see their pastor slipping into an overloaded schedule, a prayerful approach should be made. Moses learned that God had filled certain of His people with "wis-dom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship… that they may make all that I have commanded thee" (Exodus 31:3,6).

Some degree of a solo ministry may be necessary when a pastor-missionary seeks to establish a new church. However, the sooner new converts and members become involved, the more rapid the growth. Paul's pattern was to train others so that teachers and leaders could be multiplied (II Timothy 2:2).

I remember so well my teen-age days on the farm. Often we placed too many eggs under the setting hen because we knew she would be a good mother. She never rejected the additional eggs because she was a mother hen. But when the little chicks hatched and began to grow, she had problems. Her heart was right, but her coverage capacity was limited.

A pastor has a servant's heart, but his people must be sensitive about eclipsing his primary ministry with activi-ties that others may be equipped to carry. A failure here will place a lid on the church's potential.

[This is a chapter from Dr. Welch’s helpful new book, THE MAN YOUR CHURCH SHOULD KNOW]