God has given an important, responsible position to every Bible teaching pastor. According to Ephesians 4:11-12, the gift of pastor (pastor teacher) is one of those given “…for the perfecting of the saints, for the working of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ….” Because of this, it is evident that Satan will seek to hinder or destroy a successful ministry any way he can.
There are many areas where Satan can set a snare or pitfall for a pastor. We list some of the more obvious ones using the alliterative “P”: Popularity, Prestige, Pay, and Passion.
Popularity is usually gained by pleasing man, and that is natural for most of us. But the desire to please can lead a pastor to avoid preaching anything that may offend, even though it may be sound doctrine. It is convenient for him to avoid controversial issues, especially if he knows that the congregation may not accept his teaching. Paul anticipated this in writing to Timothy. He admonished, “…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Tim. 4:2).
Paul set the example as he reproved the Galatian believers for their departure from the gospel of grace (Gal. 1:6-9). In verse 10 of the same passage, Paul says “…do I seek to please men, or God? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
As we continue through the book, we find many more rebukes to the Galatians, albeit given with love and longsuffering. Paul was so stern with them, it seemed he had become their enemy (Gal. 4:16), yet in every chapter he was only defending the doctrines of grace that were committed to him by the Lord Jesus. Paul, then, is an example of one who did not seek popularity as a “manpleaser” (Eph. 6:6).
When a person is given a position of leadership, the respect and encouragement of others often leads to adoration and praise. We tend to give undue honor and adulation, bestowing flattering titles such as “reverend” or “doctor,” making it more difficult for a pastor to realize that he is called to be merely a minister or servant. The more gifted a pastor is with speaking ability, writing ability, or organizational ability, the more he should be lifted up with prayer, lest he be lifted up with pride. Paul emphasized that he and Apollos were but ministers (servants) by whom the Corinthians believed (I Cor. 3:5). Then in verse 7 he added, “So then, neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.”
All the men of God throughout Scripture have shown meekness and humility in leading God’s people. Note Numbers 12:3: “Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” As we read through the books Moses wrote, we find him giving God the glory, as did all the prophets in the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus, though He was God the Son, said “…learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). In writing to a pastor, Paul said “…follow after…meekness…” (I Tim. 6:11). To Titus (3:2) he writes that we should be “…gentle, showing all meekness to all men.” As a pastor or minister considers such verses as these, he will resist the temptation toward pride or a superior attitude. If he has success in his ministry, he will humbly admit it was all God’s working and God’s grace.
The Bible teaches that a pastor is generally supported by the congregation he serves (I Cor. 9:14). Yet, in our day, we see large congregations giving such large salaries, plus benefits, that the pastor is often being paid more than the average member of his congregation. Most pastors have families to support, homes they are buying, and many bills, so they fear losing the large salary. When a pastor becomes dependent upon a generous salary, the Word is no longer preached with true freedom. The danger is that a pastor becomes greatly tempted to avoid offending anyone by “preaching the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), or standing for the truths that he knows. When Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy in I Timothy 6:10 about the love of money being a root of all evil, he was not only warning believers in general, but he was also warning Timothy. He didn’t want the love of money to cause Timothy to become the servant of men, rather than a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).
It would not be wise for any pastor to be completely dependent on support given by a church. Having a trade or profession or being able to “work with his hands” (I Thes. 4:11) would be a great asset toward independence in his preaching. He would be able to “reprove and exhort with sound doctrine” knowing that he could always “…provide for his own…” (I Tim. 5:8), even if he had to look for another place of service. Paul’s solution to this was that he made the gospel free of charge and did not ask for money. Instead he often worked as a tentmaker to supply his needs and the needs of others. Concerning the love of money, he advised Timothy, “…O man of God, flee these things…” (I Tim. 6:11).
Although passion can have many meanings, we are referring to the kind that leads to temptation to commit sexual immorality. How many times have we heard about an evangelical pastor getting involved with his church secretary or some other woman in the church? Many pastors have left their wives and children, yielding to their own sinful lusts or to a direct temptation from Satan. The result is not only a disaster for his family and the church, but also a dishonor to his Lord.
Paul’s advice to Timothy was to “Flee youthful lusts, follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace…” (II Tim. 2:22). Temptations to immorality are always there, and the pastor as well as all of us must be strong in the Lord, “…putting on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:10-11).
Pastors must be aware of these pitfalls and learn how to avoid them. Those he serves should always pray for him, that these things will not hinder or destroy his ministry. Help him in his work, encourage him, let him know you are praying for him, and remember to thank him from time to time.