The Traps of Ministry

The Traps of Ministry The Francis Chan Conversation, Part 12

By Jonathan Allen, Tuesday 17th September 2019 at 11:30am

Francis Chan moves on to talk about the expectations that are placed on leaders that constrain their activities away from their real calling as the spiritual  leaders of the congregations.  Whilst many started ministry with hearts focused on God and a strong desire to serve Him and bless His people, they get trapped into doing other things that are not or should not be part of their responsibilities.  As we go through Chan’s list, consider you – or your leader – have been waylaid by one or more of these traps.

The Trap of Avoiding Criticism

Don’t leaders get criticised.  Tell me about it!  People can be particularly critical when they feel threatened or challenged by a leader’s teaching.  It is easier to criticise the leader and so ignore his teaching, than it is to hear the truth he teaches and change our lives.  But criticism hurts, so leaders sometime start preaching in a way that avoids criticism, rather than fearlessly proclaiming the truth.

The Trap of Fund-Raising

How many pastors and leaders get sucked into raising funds because their congregation is behind on its budget, needs repairs or some equipment, or wants to spend money of a new project, outreach or mission. Chan says, “I don’t know many pastors  who are not regularly worried about the church budget or building projects.”  Fund-raising should never be the responsibility or purvue of the congregation leader – it colours his relationship with every member of the congregation if he is seen to be involved with or concerned about money!

The Trap of Comparison

With podcasts abounding, videos and books galore by famous and gifted teachers and speakers, many leaders feel themselves being constantly compared with the latest and greatest out there.  Leaders can easily be discouraged and, frankly, so can congregants!

The Trap of Meeting Expectations

People come to meetings/services expecting so much: the right music for the right length of time, parking, coffee and bagels, children’s work, youth work, a good half-hour sermon … the list is endless.  Leaders can easily get so caught up trying to meet these expectations that they lose sight of, or have no time to pursue, what God has commanded.

The Trap of Popularity

No-one likes to be unpopular, to be (or thought to be) the reason for people leaving.  Conversely, it is easy to be a little jealous of the way celebrity leaders are feted at conferences or – worse still – when they visit your own congregation and draw in the crowds.  So some leaders try to be more popular, to copy the style of celebrity leaders and lose sight of the person God called them to be for their own people.

The Trap of Safety

Here’s Chan on this one:

We place our pastors in a church office surrounded by Christians for forty hours a week and then ask them to teach us about living by faith!

The Trap of Greed

Success means more.  More people, more salary; more books, more royalties; more conferences, more fees.  Leaders can be trapped by seeing others have and wanting for themselves, more.  This can introduce very mixed motives into growth, writing, speaking and ministering.

The Trap of Demonic Attack

The enemy of our souls is always on the prowl, seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Any of the above may open the door and leave your leader vulnerable.

Chan summarises:

You can argue that pastors should be strong enough to avoid these traps, or you can argue that people should stop setting so many traps.  Regardless of whose fault it is, it is clear that leaders are distracted and discouraged.  Can we really expect Spirit-filled disciples to be produced from that kind of leadership?  Are we unknowingly setting up godly men and women for failure?

You can read Francis Chan’s text in full in “Letters to the Church”, David C Cooke Publishing, 2018, 0-8307-7658-8, pages 107-109.