In pastoral ministry I have had many experiences where people approach me with this sentence: “Pastor, we need to talk with you.”
I can usually differentiate between a person going through crisis who needs help and a person who is angry with me over something I have done or said.
At first I had no clue how to handle these critical meetings. I wanted to focus this article on some practical things I have learned to remember before stepping into a meeting with a person or a group of people who seem angry about something you have done or said. I have made several mistakes in this area of pastoral ministry, and it has only made me a better pastor.
I hope this might be of help to you as a pastor when God’s sheep come at you with sharp teeth.
I can honestly say some of the most humiliating things can happen in meeting with angry people. People can lash out and hit you right where it hurts the most. People you thought were your friends can turn on you in the most personal ways in local church ministry. You can begin to develop a defensive and prideful heart after several years of pastoral ministry if you do not remember what humility is all about.
Remember: The local church is not about me.
2. God’s Sovereignty.
God is in complete control of the situation. He knows what you are walking into, and he will speak to your heart about it before, during and after the meeting if you will listen and trust Him.
Remember: Nothing that happens in this meeting will surprise God.
3. Your forehead.
God has a way of working problems out in these meeting. Some people need to hear their words bounce off of your forehead in order to identify the location of their hearts. People actually surprise themselves with some of the horrible things they say.
Remember: Sometimes people need to hear themselves talk, and that’s why God has given you a forehead … it’s a part of His process.
4. Your abilities.
At some point in meetings where sheep get cannibalistic … your abilities will be questioned. It is good to personally question your abilities and inabilities (strengths and weaknesses) all the time as a servant of God, and in these meetings people can speak to you in a very critical way … publicly.
Remember: No one has asked you to do everything. You are not the church’s “Leatherman” or “multi-tool.” It takes a whole group of people with abilities to make the church work. It is OK to remind your critics of your limitations as a human in these meetings.
Take control and open the meeting with the Lord’s Prayer. Before I enter a meeting, I remember or pray this very pastoral passage out of Philippians 1:9-11: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (ESV).
Remember: Love modeled by you in meetings like these will make an indelible mark on people.