The reception of pastors in the parish is almost similar to the prophetic office in the Bible. We may categorically conclude that it is not the reception of the prophet that determined his faithfulness. Rather the obedience of the prophet to God. At certain times, it was extremely dangerous to be called a prophet of God in Israel. The periods of Jeroboam and Ahab were quite unfriendly to the prophetic ministry. When Jeremiah was called to prophesy, he lamented, “To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it” (Jer. 6: 10).
The fact that the prophet was called by God was not a guarantee that his message would be received by the people. Prophets were ridiculed, persecuted, and killed by the same people they served. Jesus was not an exemption. He lamented over Jerusalem, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt. 23: 37). If any person would have been received without a question, that would have been Jesus. It never happened, at least in His time. The Son of God, the Word of God, the Saviour, and the ultimate God’s appointed medium of salvation of the world, was rejected (Jn. 1: 11), called names (Lk. 7: 34; 11: 15; Jn. 8: 48) and, eventually killed (Acts 2: 36).
We may be reading these events as stories of heroism today but in their own time, it was a failed mission before the people. Why didn’t the people receive the prophets? Why did they kill the Son of God?
A pastor may as well face similar demise like that of the prophets. There would be round of criticism and gossip about your ministry. Some will dare question your methods. Others may question whether you’re called at all. And in most cases, you’ll face strong opposition. These only happen when your directives collide with traditional beliefs and methods. When you feel threatened in your ministry by opposition, ponder over the following:
1. You’re not alone: You should know that this is not new, and it will never change. If they did it to the prophets, they’ll do it to you. If it happened to Jesus, then who are you? God never promised a smoothed ministry.
2. Live a godly life: Paul wrote to Timothy, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3: 12). Godliness will bear a testimony of your ministry.
3. Blessed are you: Jesus said, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matt. 5: 11). If God called you, certainly your reward will come from Him not from human beings.
4. Forgive and pray for everyone: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5: 44). The pastor represents Christ and therefore should treat others the way Jesus will treat them. Don’t take matters into your own hands.
5. Be firm but tactful: Jesus advises on how His apostles should behave in the world, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). A pastor should be wise enough to handle crisis.
6. Don’t quit your vocation, seek for transfer: This is a bold step for a pastor to take. Seeking for a transfer should be the last resort when faced with uncontrollable opposition. This is not a defeat. It’s for your wellbeing and the church. Jesus had to quit several occasions to avoid confusion (Lk. 4: 28-29; Matt. 13: 58). At some point, Jesus advised his disciples to flee from persecution (Matt. 10: 23). There is nothing to win, and nothing to lose. Allow God!
As pastors leading the church, our endorsement should not come from the people. The pastoral ministry is first of all a call, and the one called should wary whether his calling is sure in the sight of God. It is before God a pastor ministers, and he’s to be faithful in all things to God. An attempt to seek approval of human beings, could lead to a disapproval of your calling. To think of not facing difficult times in the pastoral ministry is not being realistic. Of course there are smooth moments too. When you’re faced with difficulties, never quit your ministry, seek after guidance from the Lord.