Monday, July 05, 2010


LIE NUMBER FIVE..They are difficult people..I would be better off if they were gone.

Someone has said "I'd love pastoring a church if it were not for the human beings in it." I know and understand the sentiments. There have been times when I thought pastoring would be a snap without other people involved.

Just re-reading what I've just written with mild sarcasm reminds me how utterly silly those statements, in fact, are. But, let's just be honest here. Some times my pastoring seemed to have had more than it's share of obnoxious people. I'll bet yours has also if truth be known. Let me describe some of those difficult people I've pastored.

The Mean-spirited Christian.

Have you noticed that some people seem to take delight in demeaning others, especially leaders? Why are they so mean? Who knows!! I don't.

It could be someone like this is a frustrated pastor wanta-be who never got the call/chance. Sometimes they were viewed as a called minister early on. Maybe even licensed [so they could get a Baptist discount on college costs] but were never ordained or trained for pastoring ultimately.

It could also be that they were hurt early on in their church-life experience and "hurt people hurt people" is a cliche for a reason. Or sometimes even something as simple as not liking leaders because of a parent that was controlling and domineering can be the cause. And now they can make sure that never happens again. To them at least.

The reason people often hesitate to confront this kind of mean person is that most church folks desire to be agreeable and are totally intimidated by the prospect of confrontation anyway. Besides that a biblical approach to such confrontation has NEVER been talked about by anyone. So it seems to just be, unfortunately, normal.

The divisive-spirited Christian.

The basic difference in the divisive person and the mean person is that the former can actually be a charming individual with a perennial smile on their face and have a soft comforting tone to their voice, while the latter is recognized because of a pervasive anger. But the divisive individual will, through comments usually spoken softly and out of the presence of all others, as someone said, "fan the flames of hurt and jealousy between people for the very purpose of creating factions."

In some ways the divisive person is far more dangerous than the obviously mean person. He or she can cause extensive damage to a church or organization through gossip and suspicion before anyone in leadership is aware that a situation exists. But you WILL find these folks in any fellowship anytime, anywhere, trust me here.

The righteous-remnant Christian.

Oh these wonderful folks CAN be problematic. Many of them ARE dedicated to a study of the Word and have a desire to please Him in ALL they do. No one, least of all this writer, would fault their desire. But they can create problems nonetheless. Being so set on wanting to do what's right they will take a position on minor doctrines [Those having nothing to do with salvific issues.] and fight someone to the death as to the correct [In their opinion.] meaning of EVERY verse that says anything about such doctrines. Forget about being agreeable in disagreeing, that would deny the faith once delivered to the Saints.

Now remember, we're not talking about the deity of Christ here or the nature of Grace. We're talking about who should take the Lord's supper or whether a woman should work outside the home or not. You know, things like that which will sink the church unless answered accurately.

I could mention others. The Annoying Christian. the Clueless Christian, get the idea. I have pastored ALL these people..sometimes all at once.

[I got this list from somewhere I cannot recall which I've adapted to name these certain kinds of Christians but all were in my pastorates. So it's MY list.] :)

Well. Maybe it isn't a lie to believe that I'd be better off as a pastor if these difficult people were gone. Maybe we'd ALL be better off if they just disappeared.

Maybe not. It could be there are purposes that exist that we need to be alerted to in the Providence of God. So you would ask a question I'm sure. Like what purposes?

This story appeared in Leadership Journal way back in 1993. It says a mouthful

"Pachomius was an Egyptian soldier won to Christ by the kindness of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pachomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit."

"In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse, dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. These hermits wandered the desert alone-fasting, praying, and having visions. Many went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash."

"Such was the popular image of holiness: solitude, silence, and severity. And such was Pachomius's early spiritual training. But he began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors."

"How can you learn to love if no one else is around?

How can you learn humility living alone?

How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?

How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?"

In short, what he concluded I've also concluded and that is that the development of spiritual fruit [Love, joy, peace, longsuffering...the stuff the Spirit Himself produces in us.] requires being around people. Ordinary people. Even ornery people.

Such fruit is not produced in a vacuum but in the heat of handling difficult people. That's what pastoring is all about.

There is no denying the scriptures give some guidelines to facing say a divisive person and confronting such an one for the health and safety of the body. Finding those procedures is for another post. This one is to dispel the lie that difficult people make my pastoring impossible. Quite to the contrary, it is, in fact, what real pastoring is all about.

No one is saying "grin and bear it." No one is saying "just be a martyr." No one is saying there won't come a time for the "shaking of the dust." But I am saying if you face difficult people where you pastor, don't waste your sorrows. Learn to love. Learn to be courageous spiritually. Learn to apply scriptural principles when possible.

Can there come a time when, for the sake of sanity and the family I leave. Of course there can come that time. There will perhaps come a time when God removes you from that difficult pastorate in His timing. He has even removed difficult people on occasion. Some difficult people have changed along the way. But so can we as Pastors and that's the point. But, above all, learn that we are not greater than our Master.

Paul B.


Rex Ray said...

I had a terrible time figuring out what “ult people” meant as this old brain didn’t understand the vertical writing. Please don’t do that.

See, I’ve just established myself as one of your subjects of telling the preacher what to do. :)

How did you find my baby picture when my twin brother had all my toys?

I’ve had the same feeling: ‘I’d just love teaching school if it wasn’t for the kids.’ I tried it five years, but had nightmares for years. I should have known I didn’t have the ‘calling’ when my mother asked me as a tenth grader to keep her fourth grade class for ten minutes. She found me in a corner trying to keep kids having fun kicking me.

Me not being a pastor, I realize I’m on the other end of the shotgun, but I agree I’ve known some people you’ve described.

One was a big supervisor of a company. In the three churches he joined in ten years, he always became superintendent of an adult SS department, and chairman of the deacons. At the first church he told the preacher if the maintenance man wasn’t fired he was leaving the church. (The man was fired.)

At the second church, he left because of friction with the pastor. And the third church he left after trying to get a petition to fire the pastor.

I know I’ve been thought of as ‘a trouble maker’ for pastors. One that I love dearly said the treasurer and I caused him more trouble than anyone. That was the year I was selected to be a deacon, and the only vote we took was not to do anymore voting as we were moved from administration to service. (Each had 15 families as ‘their deacon’.) The church hired a ‘promoter’ to teach the ‘Arise and build program’ to build a family life center. The program was not to borrow money (18% interest) but pledge and start when we had the money to pay cash.

The man spoke twice to our church, and we paid him $12,000. I told the preacher I had heard of guys working harder and longer and their job was robbing banks. After spending $100,000 on blueprints, core samples etc. the building committed refused to borrow the money from the bank (I wasn’t on it), and the preacher left the church as he didn’t want to wait to build.

Well, it’s almost midnight and that will start our 53 wedding anniversary.

Aussie John said...


Have you ministered in the same churches as myself? Well, I thought I had all of these people, and then some, when I first began. Thankfully,early in the piece, I found out I was one of them.

"Such fruit is not produced in a vacuum but in the heat of handling difficult people." Oh, yes, BUT, we're not there yet! At least I'm not.

What happy memories you bring back: The man who resented me preaching on the Holy Spirit, who, after the meeting, was in such a rage that he literally foamed at the mouth, spraying foam over me as he shouted and raved in front of shocked folk. He's the one who told me at a deacon's meeting, that,"I am no man's servant!"

Chris Ryan said...

Our lives would certainly be easier without those people (unless we are one of them - and I tend to be the know-it-alll Christian - in which case we really can't live without these people).

Our growth would, as you pointed out, be next to impossible. I wonder at what vices we would slip because we had not been honed by the iron of these folks...

But even if our life would be easier, these people are there because the church needs them and they need the church (for more reasons than just exercising their ego, too).

Paul Burleson said...


I spent the day yesterday on a pond catching fish. Ten bass caught altogether but threw thme all back. The were not BIG and did have to be cleaned.

Rex, "I had a terrible time figuring out what “ult people” meant.." Sorry, I'm not following here.

I hope you had a great anniversary celebration.

Aussie J,

That's one of those moments we don't forget. Yikes.


Interesting comment. You don't come across as a "know it all" kind of person to me. But you know the thoughts inside your head when people say some things, so, you may feel you know more than those people. [You probably do.] But at least you don't make the rest of us suffer by broadcasting those thoughts. Thanks. ;)

Rex Ray said...

Under the picture of the baby reads: “ult people..I would be better off if they were gone.”

Paul Burleson said...


This......"They are difficult people..I would be better off if they were gone." what appears under the picture when I look at the post. It may be the configuration of your computer. If someone else sees it only oartially let me know.

Paul Burleson said...

Make that "partially."

Rex Ray said...

On the right of my screen in single letters is:
“They are diffic”.

I made a mistake when I said, “computers don’t lie.”

Christiane said...

If Our Lord could see something in Saul, perhaps we can look for the potential in difficult people and ask His Guidance to go beyond where we can on our own.

Just a thought.

Paul Burleson said...


Good thought.

I do believe that were there nothing to be seen of any good in Saul, God would have perhaps chosen to love Him because it's in the character/nature of God to love.

Then perhaps, when we know His love for us, we are able to give that love to some who have nothing of any good in them. That may be the greatest expression of God that can be shown from us.

I do know that Christ and His Cross is where we first experience the love from God. [Though He's loved us with an eternal love.] It is only THEN we have the wherewithal to love Sauls isn't it. Wow.

Well, His love IS something to rejoice over that's for sure.

Steve Miller said...

Thanks Brother Paul,

Your comments remind me to focus on never lowering the standard but also to be mindful that in that process I might have to lower my expectations of others and yet still increase the love for them.

You once shared with me if "I can talk you out of the ministry, then don't enter into it." Thanks for not being talked out of the ministry and the pastorate when that might have been the easy path while dealing with some so difficult.

Thanks again

Steve in San Antonio

Aussie John said...


It is my belief that most of the problems caused by the so-called "difficult people" touch on your last reply to Christiane.

Both sides of the equation seem to forget that we belong to Christ, NOT because of any worth in ourselves, but because of the absolute worth of our Substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I have spoken to so many who are so very busy trying to prove to God that they are worthy of His great gift of salvation, by being religiously correct, demanding that religious correctness in others, or penalizing themselves in one way or another.

If all who name the precious Name of our Lord Jesus Christ could catch a glimpse of the degree of righteousness required to spend eternity in God's presence, we might sing Rock of Ages with the mind of the author Augustus Toplady:

Could my tears forever flow?
Could my zeal no languor know?
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring;
Simply to thy cross I cling.

Paul Burleson said...


Evertime you comment it produces a rise of some of the fondest memories for me personally. It was a good time we shared together at Southcliff wasn't it!!

Aussie J,

A moving and biblically asute comment. Thanks as always.

Anonymous said...

Did you write this post, or did he write this post?

Paul Burleson said...


Oh I wrote the post. But as I said in it.."[I got this list from somewhere I cannot recall which I've adapted to name these certain kinds of Christians but all were in my pastorates. So it's MY list." :)...

You have given me the link that I read and jotted down the list from but could not find my reference. I'm glad to give reference to that link. For your assistance I thank you.