God heals relational wounds relationally. It is essential that pastors and ministry leaders be able to connect with others with whom they can experience this relational healing in trusted relationships.
The betrayal of Jesus Christ is one of the most poignant and painful sufferings he endured. One of the very people he had invested in ended up being an agent of Satan. Jesus promised if he suffered and was hated, then we should expect the same. For pastors, this often shows up in the experience of ministry abandonment or betrayal by those in whom we’ve deeply invested. While our mission in church planting is not the same as that on the cross, the pain all people experience in betrayal and abandonment is no less real. Ministers are not exempted from this pain.
This pain is compounded when people leave over matters which seem insignificant in light of eternity. The relational experience of being left alone, betrayed, or abandoned can be some of the most painful a minister and church planter experiences. They can unearth profound relational problems from the church planters family of origin and can cause the ministry to want to throw in the towel. There are generally three types of abandonment or betrayal that people experience in ministry.
Three Types of Abandonment or Betrayal in Ministry
There are those who think you’re crazy (Mark 3:21). The vision of planting a church can be hard to believe. This includes yourself sometimes as you want to believe what God can do but can struggle seeing how it can happen. Any time you lead others towards a new initiative, to start a new thing for God, there will be those who say you are crazy. If they said it of Christ, they will surely say it of you. Jesus’s own family believed he was crazy. It is easy to think that Jesus took this in stride but there is no doubt that being doubted by one’s own family is relationally painful.
When we planted The Well Church, there were pastors in our city who said we shouldn’t plant. There were Christians who said it would never work. Even some in our own families couldn’t understand why we would move to a place hostile to the gospel. The experience of our own families doubting the mission can cause church planters to wonder if it is really worth it.
While some will think you are crazy, there are others who say nice words but abandon you (Mark 14:72). Some people will speak kindly towards you and may even express their commitment to you. They will heap praises on the doctrinal clarity of your church. They will speak encouragingly of the direction of the ministry. But when push comes to shove, they will leave the church as soon as a better option comes up. This can make pastors become cynical quickly.