Temptations in the Ministry

Does the minister have temptations? Surely not! He ought to rise above such things! Although sent from God, he is still a man.


There is first of all the matter of indolence. Impossible, you say. Of all professions, the ministry cannot have any lazy ones in it. There is always so much to do. When Saturday night comes, the pastor reviews what he has not completed, and hopes for more time next week. Furthermore, it is such a delight to study the Bible that there is never time enough. There are so many good books one ought to read. Of pastoral duties there is no end. Yet indolence is a real temptation.

One reason for this is the fact that the minister is the master of his own time. He has no supervisor to push him or to whom he is responsible. In some places and at some times he can get by with very little work. And then he is entitled to some free time for the pursuit of a hobby or a game of golf. A friend may drop in, and it is so pleasant to go bowling with him. The children also like to have Dad take them someplace and it‘s so pleasant for the family to spend some time together.

Another reason is that the preacher wonders whether hard work really pays off. He can labor hard and long over a sermon, but does he hear any appreciation? He may spend hours on exegesis and organization, only to hear people say absolutely nothing. Perhaps if there is a comment it is about something very superficial or rather practical that he has said. It may be that he will hear men bragging about his fellow cleric who whips out his sermons without very much concentrated study. Then why work so hard late into the night!

Furthermore, with all the pressures of modern life, it is difficult to engage in diligent study for any extended period. There are so many claims on the pastor’s time, so many situations that arise every day, and so many people in need of help, that good study habits may be relegated to a place of lesser importance. All these forces take one away from his desk, and if he does not have a stern sense of discipline, very little may come of the minister‘s studious intentions. Such conditions may very well lead to neglect of his primary assignment to study the Word.


The true preacher does not fear men, you say. Is that so? Surely, he ought to he oblivious to men‘s reactions! He should fear God so much that he has no room for the fear of men. Preaching calls for boldness, and the man of God does not chicken out because of people and their responses.

However, it is not so easy to act consistently on the basis of these assertions. The minister serves God, and not man primarily, but people have a lot to say about God‘s servants. After all, the preacher has to get along with people. If he doesn‘t, it is a real blot on his record and a stain on his name. Preaching in itself is a very difficult t ask, but in addition to that, the preacher has to speak to all kinds of people with all kinds of backgrounds, and with all kinds of preferences. Even if he delivers messages that are one hundred percent true to the Word of God, what does he gain if people are offended and “turn him off”? What has he won if they leave his church? And that is something men do very easily these days. It all makes the conscientious minister feel he is losing out.

This is not written to evoke sympathy or to excuse the pastor for his failing. The point is, there is a temptation to conciliate. If he can remain in generalities and objectivities in his utterances, people will not be offended. He would rather attract than irritate, win rather than alienate, and pacify rather than aggravate. After all, his reputation may be imperiled, and no one likes that to happen. So it seems the discreet course is to take it easy on people’s feelings, and maybe do a bit of sugar-coating now and then. And the servant of God is always reminded that there are some leaders who do exactly that, and they get along famously. It is especially tempting to soft-pedal such issues as Christian education and giving. On issues such as these it is the part of wisdom to tread softly on velvet slippers.

Besides all this, the preacher does not claim to know it all either. He wants to remain humble, and he realizes that the cultural and educational level of his parishioners is higher than it used to be. Gone is the day when the minister was the best educated person in the congregation. This is as it ought to be, and it all reminds him he must be a servant.

And then there is so much emphasis on youth today. Although the rebellious spirit of a few years ago has subsided somewhat, young people still have quite a bit to say. Ministers are very mindful of this, and they try hard to please and to win. After all, things are different today, and we have to bring about some changes! It is important that young people are won for Christ, and the preacher tries desperately not to lose them. To listen to the voice of men is a real temptation.


A besetting sin of a minister is personal jealousy. From a human stand point this is understandable. People talk a lot about preachers and evaluate them in various ways. All are not alike and all do not have the same gifts. One is an excellent preacher; another has a beautiful voice; still another possesses fine pulpit manners. One is a friendly person; another preaches brief sermons; still another is sensational. These are characteristics people talk about. It is so easy to become a bit envious of someone who has five talents while I have only one, if that much!

Any minister appreciates good attendance at the services, and he tries hard to keep a crowd on Sunday evenings. With all the innovations in the services, litany in the liturgy, and gadgetry in the pulpit today, it is easy to make concessions for the sake of a Sunday evening crowd. Any minister likes to see his church grow, at least not decline. So there is a strong temptation to gain popular appeal by stooping to new methods of worship, or to minimize the sermon.

It should not be difficult for a servant of the Lord to be friendly. This should come naturally without the thought of popularity. However, short sermons are another matter. Ministers are made to feel extremely time-conscious. In the estimation of many, about the worst thing one can do is to preach five minutes too long. While we all realize that two very common and very bad faults of ministers are lengthiness and repetition, surely the greatest virtue of a sermon ought not to be brevity. But ofttimes one is made to feel that it is. As a result it is easy to yield to the temptation of catering to popularity.


The years have passed but never can I forget how our editor, Rev. J. Vander Ploeg, pointed out how discouragement is one of the most effective tools of the devil. It is his wedge. It works when nothing else does. This is not a call for pity, but the work of the ministry can be very discouraging. The preacher spends many hours at his sermons. He hardly takes time for his family or for recreation. In contrast to some, he feels he has no time for golf and bowling. His commitment calls for the best that is in him, and a lot more besides.

Fruits are very pleasant, but they seem so slow in coming. The pastor labors diligently and sows in tears, but he wonders when the day of rejoicing will be. The church decreases in membership, the young people leave, the evening attendance wanes. His best efforts seem fruitless at times. All work and no play makes him a bit dull. He cannot work well that way. So he can easily become discouraged, and the devil can win the day.

One of the features that brings this on is the current attitude of many. Nothing seems to grip them anymore. It is not so much that people are worse or that sin is more in evidence, but so much of the respect is gone. In former days the Lord’s servant was received for his high office. Now he feels he has to earn that respect by being so careful and so nice to people. Then still to preach God’s Word, which doesnt exactly pay compliments to people, is quite  task indeed! The cleric is apt to think he is failure. His messages do not seem to penetrate to the hearts of the people. He is not received well by some. So he grows weary.


This is oat the complete analysis however. Thank God, such is not the final picture. When we think this way about conditions sometimes, God speaks to us as He did so long ago, “What are you doing here, Elijah? Go forth and stand upon the mount before the Lord” (I Kings 19:9, 11).

How can one be slothful when he sees all the work there is to do, when he looks at all the people who need the Lord and His great salvation? God is our Sender and we are laboring for Him. Thank the Lord, we can still preach His Word and minister to souls. He still charges, “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season; convince, rebuke. and exhort; be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (II Tim. 4:2). Because we are stewards of eternal values we need this admonition. “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:11, 12).

How can one fear men when he ought to be fearing God? We are in the great business of the Word for His sake, and cannot be swayed by the reactions of men. Remember God‘s word to the great apostle when he met opposition in Corinth, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid but speak, and do not be silent’” (Acts 18:9). Paul pays tribute to the Philippians when he says that “most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear” (Phil. 1:14). Again the apostle’s charge is, “Declare these things, exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:15). Such declarations in God‘s infallible Word leave no place for fear of men!

How can one cater to popularity when he realizes his lofty calling from God? 1n the day of days we will be judged by the Lord, not by men. There is another side to this picture which should not be forgotten. There are still many good members in the church who love sound preaching of the Word. Not all are waiting and itching for the sermon to end. Even in these days some say, “That time went by so rapidly; I could have listened longer.”

Not all are clamoring for gadgetry and innovations; some say. “We need more sermons on the doctrines of the Bible.” Not all are demanding sermons that speak only of God’s love; some declare that “more attention should be given to God’s wrath and the doctrine of hell.” Many members in Christ’s church appreciate a preacher who echoes the word of the prophet, “If I say ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name: there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot!” (Jer. 20:9).

How can one become discouraged when God says, “And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9). Maybe ministers should weep more tears today about conditions in the church and in the world. After all, Paul said to the Ephesians, “Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:31).

When we preach God’s Word we are on the winning side. Our Lord has said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Remember this Scripture over against many words that all kinds of people speak today, “But the word of the Lord abides forever. That word is the good news which was preached to you” (I Pet. 1:25).

These temptations in the ministry must be faced like any others, and victory will come in the same manner.

Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin; Each victory will help you some other to win.”

Thank the Lord, true preaching of the Word is the foremost mark of the church of Jesus Christ. God help us to preach more dynamically than ever! “Is not my word like fire, and like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29).

“Dear Master, Thou callest for service, Then show me the work I should do; Since courage and strength Thou wilt give me, I’ll work with a confidence true. Too late, if I tarry a moment, a help me at once to obey! I may be in heaven tomorrow— So gladly I’ll serve Thee today.”