Pastoral Danger Zone #7 – You are smug.
The sign reads: Self-satisfied in your achievements? Smug in your contentment? Do not be surprised if you are blind-sided by some highway obstacle. You will be in the ditch gasping for air and never know what hit you.
The Apostle Paul said, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). There is such a thing as too much confidence.
The trick for the servant of the Lord is to find the balance between courage and confidence on the one hand and humility and a sense of dependence on the other. The cocky young preacher–they are not an endangered species, unfortunately, but seem to arise anew with each generation–would do well to study II Corinthians 12 where Paul admits to a thorn in the flesh that would not go away. Eventually, he learned the hard lesson that His grace is sufficient and “when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Pastoral Danger Zone #8 – You are depressed.
The sign on the roadside reads: Feeling blue? Don’t take it out on the rest of the world! Look up!
Everyone gets depressed at one time or other. Mondays seem to bring depression for many in the ministry.
It helps to remember that some of the Lord’s best workers have battled depression. Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Elizabeth Elliot come to mind. Mrs. Elliot wrote in one of her books that when she was depressed, she would be unable to make elaborate work plans for that day. “I’ve learned just to do the next thing,” she wrote.
She would make the beds, then ask herself, “What is the next thing?” If that was to wash the dishes, she did that. And so on. At the end of the day, she had been productive.
What she did not do was let her depression rule her life.
Pastoral Danger Zone #9 – You are discouraged, maybe even defeated.
The sign on the highway of ministry reads: Beware of low places! Watch out for unexpected blowouts, failures, setbacks. They can wreck you permanently.
You’ve seen this happen: someone has a blowout on the highway and while working to repair the damage, gets hit by a passing motorist.
In the small town where I was pastoring, US Highway 90 dissected the business community. Traffic moved through at 70 mph, as I recall. One day there was a fender-bender. Nothing major. The parties were standing around, inspecting the damage. All of a sudden, a car blew through at the speed limit or above and killed a lady who was standing beside her car.
Breakdowns are bad enough, but often they bring other, more complicated problems. So, when you get a setback in life, be careful. Things could get far worse in a hurry unless you are careful.
Never forget that discouragement is one of the devil’s great fields of play. You must not linger there long. Find out the source of your real encouragement and go there as quickly as possibly.
Pastoral Danger Zone #10 – You are on a high. Have just had a great, great success. Watch out!
The sign reads: High place ahead! Alert. You may be distracted by the view or the thin air. Pay attention.
Remember the line in a couple of places in the Old Testament about “walking on my high places”? (Habakkuk 3:19 and at least one other) Whatever else a high place in life is, we can think of it as an “Everest” experience. The view is magnificent, the feeling is exuberant, but the air is thin and the footing is slippery.
So, after your great success–that wonderful growth, the publication of your book, the doctorate, whatever–be careful. This is a vulnerable time for you, minister of God.
Be on the alert, man and woman of God. Be sober. Be vigilant.
Your enemy, your adversary, your opponent, the original slanderer, the one who hates you with a passion and would love nothing better than to sabotage your ministry,
He walks about like a roaring lion. Hungry, prowling, relentless, powerful, deadly.
Seeking whom he may devour. He comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.
Resist him, steadfast in the faith. (I Peter 5:8-9)
“But the God of all grace, after you have suffered a while, perfect you, establish you, strengthen you, and settle you.
To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 5:10-11)
This article about the 10 signs of the pastoral danger zone originally appeared here, and is used by permission.