Between services this morning, I decided to sit down for a few moments on a bench in the new portico. While I was sitting there, a young man came up, sat down next to me, and asked, "What is the biggest challenge you face as a pastor?"

I didn't immediately respond because there really isn't one particular answer to that question. It depends on the day or the week because the challenges change all the time.

So before I could formulate an answer, the young man offered his suggestion: "I think it's the counseling." That probably wouldn't have been my first answer because these days I don't do much counseling. That's handled by other people, either other staff members or trained lay people.

Years ago I used to do nearly all the counseling myself, but in recent years I haven't done as much, which I'm happy about because pastoral counseling is not one of my gifts. We have gifted people who truly enjoy listening to people's problems and helping them find biblical solutions. When I do counseling, it tends to wear me out.

So the young man went on to offer this further comment: "I would imagine that it's frustrating to deal with people who don't want to change." As a matter of fact, that's often a problem. Sometimes people come to see a pastor, not because they truly want help, but because they simply want someone to confirm them in their own behavior choices.

Change is hard for all of us - and I definitely include myself in that. In a sense, the happiest and saddest moments of the pastorate converge at exactly the same point. Nothing brings more satisfaction than seeing lives changed by God's power. And nothing discourages pastors like dealing with people who choose to stay the same when confronted with the need to change.

Sometimes we see both things happen at the same time - one person who says yes to God, and another person who says no. That's part of the mystery of working with people.

And it's also part of the hope, because people who say no today may say yes tomorrow.

I suppose the real answer is that dealing with people is both the biggest challenge and the biggest blessing, and I think most pastors would say the same thing.


Dr. Ray Pritchard, Senior Pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, IL, has ministered extensively overseas and is a frequent conference speaker and guest on Christian radio and television talk shows. He has written 23 books, including An Anchor for the Soul, Man of Honor, What a Christian Believes, The ABCs of Wisdom, Keep Believing, and The God You Can Trust.

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here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at: raypritchard@calvarymemorial.com