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5 Ways to Deal With DIFFICULT People

deal with difficult people

Every pastor has to deal with difficult people, those who don’t listen. This may be due to them being unteachable and prideful, or it may be an outworking of some insecurities that they have because of their past or a combination of both. There are probably many reasons why people might not always listen to you. And in reality, this isn’t exclusive to pastors, it’s a problem that most leaders deal with. If you are in a place of influence (leadership), you might find that some people aren’t interested in what you have to say.

It gets frustrating when you find yourself telling various ministry leaders that they need to do certain things for the health and effectiveness of the ministries they serve in only to find out that other people are essentially telling them to ignore you.

I want to lay out five practical ways to demonstrate the Fruit of the Spirit when dealing with these people and this problem.

5 Ways to Deal With Difficult People

1. Even though it is deeply personal, don’t take it personally

I won’t pretend that it doesn’t really bother me when someone tells our church’s gifted music leader to disregard what I’m saying. It does.

But I have learned not to get offended because I know that bitterness can distort my ability to interact with our music leader, but also distort the way that I interact with others. You have to remember that the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

This does not mean that you don’t lovingly confront people when they are perceived to be rebellious (they might not be), but that you can’t go about confronting people if you are always offended at them.

With my example, I have to assume that the enemy does not want any of our worship, whether it is through music or other means, to be glorifying to God. Therefore it makes perfect sense that there would be spiritual attacks occurring in relation to our music leader or any other leader or ministry. If it doesn’t happen, I need to ask why! 

I know some will balk at my advice to not take it personally because they tell us that rebellion is something that deeply offends God. That’s reading too much into my point. What I mean is that you shouldn’t take it personally and then respond with unrestrained anger and bitterness.

2. Take time to communicate to those who don’t listen to communication.

If there is one thing that drives me ape nuts, it’s wasting my time. I hate wasting my time doing things that are pointless. If there isn’t a purpose or function in mind, I get frustrated.

So you can imagine how I feel when it appears very obvious that I’m wasting my time talking to someone and they aren’t listening. Ape nuts is a polite way of saying that I want to punch someone something.

But if I’m honest, over the past few years I have “wasted” my time on a lot of people and you know what? I found out that the time spent wasn’t wasted.

There are many people and situations where at one time I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere only to find out that I was wrong. Plus, if I’m honest, I am the product of people never giving up on me, even though I was probably a “waste of time.”

This just means that we need to embrace due diligence when dealing with people who don’t seem to listen. Maybe if we take the time to explain ourselves just one more time there will be a breakthrough and they will finally get it! People can be stubborn, and maybe they just need to experience or discover something for themselves before they can be supportive. Only the Lord knows.

Yes, there are times when we can “move on,” but I think that we need to be very cautious in jumping to that conclusion. God doesn’t “move on” from our failures, and we can actually live out a false gospel if we give people the impression that we’ll only work with people when they are perfect. That’s an upside down understanding of God’s grace.

So be cautious and patient and gracious and merciful as you deal with difficult people. It’s worth over-communicating.

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Luke Geraty has been lead pastor of Trinity Christian Fellowship for the past six years and is a member of the Society of Vineyard Scholars. Interested in missional theology within the rural context, Luke loves all things espresso, hockey, hip hop, and fly fishing (what a weird combo!). He and his wife have four children. He blogs regularly at ThinkTheology.org.