by Robert Earl Houston
Due to the nature of our vocation, there comes times when all of us are pastoring under pressure. For some it’s due to a misunderstanding in biblical authority within a local church; For some it’s a miscommunication or misunderstanding by a member toward the pastor or vice-versa; For others it can be a continuation of a fight that began years before your advent as pastor and now you’re caught in the middle of a “Hatfield vs. McCoys” battle that has killed other pastors throughout the history of the church; For others it’s an old fashioned personality conflict or even, spiritually, a battle between two spirits.
The end result is that the Pastor is angry.
I am far from exempt from feelings of anger. However, I’m thankful for the congregation that I pastor that understands that their pastor is growing and that the church itself is growing – both are maturing in the Lord. Whenever there has been occasions of correction, it is done quickly and I never repeat it again. Honestly, I try not to even bring it home – and I live next door to the church. That way the church doesn’t have an angry pastor on its hands and the pastor doesn’t have to needlessly continually fighting a battle.
However, there are times when a pastor gets angry. I want to make five suggestions on what to do when you find yourself filled with anger and these suggestions are borne on the tightropes of tension that I have experienced in 34 years of ministry and 21 years of pastoral experience.
#1 – FIND SOMEONE TO TALK TO QUICKLY. Anger within a preacher can be a dangerous thing – especially when you don’t utilize wise counsel. I have found out that the mistakes I’ve made were due to the fact that I reacted without talking with someone who could have given me another way of looking at an issue. In San Diego, that person was Dr. Willie James Smith, pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, who is now in Glory. Willie (please forgive the informality) was great because he was a Mississippian with a heavy southern drawl and he had pastoral experience, a summa cum laude from Bishop College and had a doctoral degree in dealing with church conflicts. He would remind me “Houston, that ain’t worth a hill of beans” or “Houston, slow your roll,” or “Houston, stand your ground.” A pastor needs another pastor – not a person who would sign off on everything that comes to your mind – but someone who will be objective enough to say “NO” or, when needed, “HELL NO” without risking losing the relationship. Sometimes, that person has to be found from without your immediate ranks. But find someone to talk to before you say something you will regret for the rest of your ministry.
#2 – DON’T PUT IT IN WRITING. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake that some pastors make and take the fight from the church and finish it off on Facebook. That NEVER works. Repeat, that NEVER works. For the hard of hearing THAT NEVER WORKS. Here’s why: What may be a one on one clash can now become a “Twilight” fight. In the movie series, “Twilight,” fans were either Team Edward or Team Jacob. Fans chose Team Edward or Team Jacob even though they would never engage in personal combat. That’s how some people will view a pastor’s rebuke online – they’ll be Team Pastor or Team Member instead of becoming Team Jesus. I’ve had the opportunity lately to counsel several pastors, some who I don’t even know, when I read their “blowing off steam” posts on Facebook. Even in a private room for preachers, you have to be careful. The best quote is this: “You can’t misquote silence.”
#3 – DON’T TAKE IT TO THE PULPIT. Never, ever make the pulpit into your personal battle station. I know that’s the inclination but remember, the pulpit does not belong to you. It belongs to the Lord and on Sunday morning people come to hear a word from the Lord. Now, that’s not to say that there are not times when a pastor has to do some rebuking – that is biblical. However, you can rebuke outside of the context of your sermon and not try to take a scripture out of context to hammer somebody over the head. Now, if someone in the church tries to “read between the lines” that’s on them. But if you’re preaching the gospel without a fight in the back of your mind, the Holy Spirit will stand up and protect the preacher. Dr. Melvin Von Wade, Sr. is an advocate of this and several years ago in our State Convention in California, he recommended preaching from the gospels during a fight – but leave the personal stuff out of the sermon. Remember, there are those who gather every Sunday to hear us that really don’t care about church politics. They come there to hear a word from the Lord and not from the Lord’s angry preacher.
#4 – DON’T MAKE YOUR FAMILY PAY. I know a pastor who went through a hellified business meeting. His wife was at home praying for him throughout the meeting. He came home and when she asked how it went, he proceeded to curse her out and beat her up. When taken to the hospital and the doctor was examining her, he asked her what happened and she said, “He couldn’t beat them, so he beat me.” Pastors must make sure to draw a line in the concrete, not in the sand, that no matter how angry the parishioners make you, that you don’t make your wife or your children or even your pets become surrogates for your anger. The spouse has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO with your fight. Your children have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR FIGHT. When its all over, you wind up with a bigger scandal on your hand than before. If you feel a need to strike or hit someone – hit the books. If you feel a need to step to someone, step to the Lord in prayer. If you feel the the need to curse someone out, get in a room BY YOURSELF, grab a mirror, and CURSE YOUR OWN DAG-GUM SELF OUT, get it all out of your system, and love the family that God has blessed you with.
#5 – GET A LIFE. I don’t mean any harm but many pastors are just . . . pastors. They have no hobbies. They have no interests. They are pastors 24/7, 365 days a year – and there’s nothing wrong with that – except, you need some time to yourself. You need to grow as an individual. You need some interests. I’ve seen pastors who you couldn’t talk to them about football because that’s “unholy.” Or talk to them about jazz because “that’s the devil’s music.” Please. Every pastor needs an outside of the church interest. For me, it ranges from travel to sports to politics to horseback riding to movies to cooking to architecture. When I was in San Diego one of my best friends was (is) Dr. A.B. Vines. Vines was a pastor in the community and both of our churches were rapidly growing even though we had different backgrounds. I was National Baptist, he was Southern Baptist bred. He’s from the East Coast, I’m from the West Coast. He had kids growing up in his house, I didn’t. I was a hooper, He was a lecturer. We were (are) best friends. We would call each other on Sunday nights to compare notes on how our services went and we were competitive with each other, but in a non-threatening way. We would laugh about the craziest things. However, we were movie fans and we would go to opening nights of movies together and hang out. I remember one night we went to see Star Wars Chapter 3 on opening night and we were dressed casually as we sat among Princess Leia and several Wookies and Chewbacas. You cannot keep your sanity without having an outside interest. So get a life – learn how to swim, learn how to play the piano, drive in the country. But please, get a life.
I hope that this will help some pastor, somewhere to keep cool when others are losing their minds.