Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Responding to Failure

 Leslie Basham: Do you realize how hard it is to lead a local church? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You and I don’t realize the burden that so many pastors carry for their people. Every pastor has to deal with difficult people, difficult situations. To bring all kinds of different people together and try to mold them into one flock is a tough thing. But we don’t realize how much so many of our pastors really do love their people and carry the burden for their flock on their heart.

Leslie Basham: It’s Monday, October 3rd, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Every human being fails sometimes, including your pastor. How do you respond when he does? We’ll get some pointers on how to respond as Nancy continues in a series called Follow the Leaders.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: A pastor who’s a friend of mine showed me a letter recently that he received from another pastor, a pastor of a small church that is in a difficult situation right now. The small-church pastor was writing my friend to ask for some counsel about how to deal with this situation. I want to read you a portion, with permission from that pastor, of what was in that letter.

He said, “One of my men believes every night of the week is family time, and he won’t bring his family to Wednesday night ministries but instead plays in a recreational bluegrass band with another man in our church, thereby resulting in his wife and five children not coming—family time. Another member believes that kids should never be away from their parents when at church, so they won’t let their kids go to Sunday School, nor will they come on Wednesday nights. Another man, although he is a very close friend, is so critical and gossipy that it often hurts to hang around him even after repeated friendly reproofs.”

This pastor says, “I have a hyper-reformed Presbyterian and his wife attending who believe that only hymns should be sung in church, with an organ. He and his wife sit in our Welcome Center with their two daughters while the music is playing and do not come in until I start preaching.” Then he says, “I’ve got a brainy Latin/Greek scholar who loves the fellowship but hates me preaching past 12:00, and whose little five-year-old boy tells me each Sunday morning that I preach too long.”

Then this pastor said, “What’s so funny about all this is that I absolutely love all my people. I am so in love with them that I don’t know what to do. But I’m so ignorant about how to bring us all together that it’s driving me crazy. I’m losing sleep, constantly praying and thinking about it.”

As I read that letter, I don’t know this pastor but I thought, “There’s a man with a shepherd’s heart. He loves his flock even though sheep can be messy, dirty and stupid. But he loves his flock! God, bless that pastor who just has a heart for his people.”

It reminded me that you and I don’t realize the burden that so many pastors carry for their people. Every pastor has to deal with difficult people. To bring all kinds of different people together and try to mold them into one flock—that’s a tough thing. But we don’t realize how much so many of our pastors really do love their people and carry the burden for their flock on their heart.

So we’re talking during these days about the importance of appreciating our pastors and spiritual leaders and what are the biblical exhortations toward us as followers. Biblically, what are our responsibilities toward our spiritual leaders? I want to talk about one today that comes from 1 Timothy chapter 5, verse 19. I’m going to read only one part of this passage. We’re not going to get into the entire passage but just the first part of it.

The apostle Paul says, “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” (NKJV). Now the passage goes on, and the part we’re not going to talk about today goes on to discuss the process of dealing with church leaders who sin. There is a process. It is important that sin in the church leadership be dealt with. It needs to be dealt with biblically. It needs to be dealt with God’s way. It has to be dealt with. It should not be swept under the carpet. That’s where we need to understand the fullness of the teaching of God’s Word on that subject. However, that’s not my point today. I want to just stick with the first part of that verse.

“Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.” Now it’s not assuming here that these leaders are perfect or sinless. They’re not. We know they’re sinful. We know they’re human. All men have feet of clay. They are sinners saved by God’s grace like we are. So it’s not assuming that they are perfect.

But it is saying that we are not to attack or confront spiritual leaders to make careless charges against them. “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.” If there are serious charges, biblical charges to be made, they need to be done in a biblical way.

And for a woman or a man, a church member, to go through the church saying things we think about this pastor that are not biblically substantiated and that aren’t handled in a biblical process, is to sin.

(And let me just say parenthetically here—I’m not going to go into detail on this, but as a woman, if you believe there’s a biblical issue at stake, I would say first go to your husband. Then pray and seek the Lord together. Get your husband’s leadership about how this should be approached by going to the other church leaders.)

But here’s what we’re not to do. We’re not to plant seeds of disloyalty or dissension by giving evil reports to others about our spiritual leaders. And we are not to listen to others who want to give a negative report. It says, “Don’t receive an accusation.” Direct them back to the source. Don’t discuss it among yourselves. This creates in any group of people—a family, a workplace environment, and in a church in particular—it’s deadly to have people talking among themselves about things about the pastor or spiritual leaders that they don’t agree with.

Now as you think about the issues that do surface, that are concerns, let me just give you some thoughts, some suggestions. First of all, remember again that they’re humans, that they’re sinners. Give them room to fail. Now I’m not talking about failing to fulfill their biblical responsibilities, but give them room. You know, when you hear a pastor discipline his three-year-old publicly in a way that’s a little sharp, don’t jump all over him. You do the same thing, or you have. Give them room to grow as leaders.

Don’t place unreasonable expectations on your pastor. Some pastors are not great administrators. That’s not a sin. Some pastors are better communicators than others. It’s not a sin not to be a spellbinding communicator. It’s not a sin to not be as eloquent as Charles Swindoll or John MacArthur. Most pastors aren’t. To put expectations on your pastor to meet qualifications and expectations that are unrealistic is not a fair thing to do.

Ask yourself, “Does he love the Word? Does he teach the Word?” I want to tell you, I can get so much out of any sermon when the man opens the Word of God and all he does is read it and make a few comments about it. He doesn’t have to be scintillating as a communicator.

We’re such an entertainment era that we think pastors have to entertain us. They don’t have to be entertaining. Now I’m for pastors and communicators, myself included as a communicator, honing our skills, developing, becoming better communicators. And the pastors I know take that seriously and are wanting to develop in those areas. But we need to be sure not to put unrealistic expectations on them.

Distinguish between things that would disqualify them from being a pastor or a spiritual leader, biblical issues that would make them not qualified. If they’re not men of moral character, if they’re not beyond reproach, those are things that disqualify them from spiritual leadership. But distinguish between those things and things that are a matter of preference.

Maybe we’re going to two services instead of one, or we’re switching the Sunday School format, or (God forbid!) dropping Sunday School or changing an evening service, maybe the format of the services, things like how loud the music is.

Now I’ll just tell you, I have opinions on most things. People who know me know that I have strong opinions on most things. I have a lot of opinions about music, for example. But it would be wrong, I believe, to make preferences into issues that divide a church.

Listen, it’s a very serious thing to attack someone who is in a position of God-given authority. Scripture talks about this very clearly. Psalm 105 verse 15 warns us, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm” (NASB). Now again we’re not talking about cultic leadership here, blind obedience. But we’re saying there is a respect and an esteem that we’re to accord to those God has placed in positions of spiritual leadership.

I think about how David, when he was being chased by King Saul, had that opportunity to kill Saul. He cut a little piece of his robe off there in the cave. And the Scripture says in 1 Samuel 24:5, “It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe” (NASB).

A little thing, but David said, “Saul is God’s anointed man at this time in this kingdom.” Saul had a lot of problems, he had a lot of issues, but David said, “I’m going to let God deal with him. I’m not going to take matters into my own hands. I’m going to let God deal with him in His way and in His time.”

Do not receive an accusation against an elder except by two or three witnesses. Don’t you be the person who destroys the oneness of the Body of Christ over issues that are secondary, that are matters of opinion or matters of preference.

Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss helping us realize how destructive our criticism can be to the local church. She’ll be right back to lead us in prayer. We are called not just to hold back from criticizing our pastors, but we also need to actively bless them. We’d like to help you do that by giving you a free calendar called Thirty-One Days of Praying for Your Pastor. You can get your free prayer calendar by calling 1-800-569-5959.

Would you also make plans to honor your pastor’s wife? October is Pastors’ Appreciation Month, and we hope you’ll make plans now. We believe in honoring pastors’ wives so much that we’ve created a packet you can give to her. It includes a signed copy of Nancy’s book Surrender. It also has a specially designed travel mug, some gourmet coffee, and a purse-sized calendar. To make this gift-giving as simple as possible, we’ll also include a gift bag, tissue paper, and a special card.

You can order the Pastor’s Wife’s Appreciation Packet online at or call 1-800-569-5959.

When is it okay to leave a church? We’ll get a pastor’s perspective tomorrow. Now Nancy will take us back to today’s important topic: Don’t pull down the spiritual leaders in your life through gossip or discouragement.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we pray I just want to ask if God has been speaking to your heart and there may be anything that you need to confess, to repent of as a follower. Perhaps you have touched the Lord’s anointed leader in your home or in your church; you have sown seeds of dissension and conflict, maybe in subtle ways. You’ve listened to gossip; perhaps you’ve passed it on.

Would you just confess that to the Lord? Repent of it and ask God to make you a godly follower and to help you support and encourage your leaders in such a way that they will be motivated to become the men of God that they want to be.

Lord, I pray that You would show each of us in our situations . . . we know there are so many situations represented among us, but Lord, show each of us how to deal with those issues in a biblical way with humility, with charity, following the principles of Scripture, that we may encourage the oneness of the body rather than in any way ever contributing to conflict or dissension in the church of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.