A Peek Behind the Curtain of Pastoral Ministry

I’m far enough now in my pastoring journey to tell you from experience that the long hard years of struggle are worth it. Not everyone is called to this, and not everyone should desire to be called. But to this, I am called. And there’s nothing I’d rather do.

If you’ve never had an opportunity to peek behind the curtain of pastoral ministry, you’re likely unaware of some of the darker experiences of this vocation. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, and pastors who stay in one place long enough inevitably experience seasons of discouragement, fatigue, turmoil, and attack.
 
During these times it is easy to look elsewhere for love and affirmation. Another church calls, for example, and asks you to be a guest preacher in their worship service or at a special event. There’s nothing wrong with accepting, of course, and as long as your motives are pure it can be a refreshing adventure.
 
When you step onto a stage and face a group of people who have invited you, this one time, to speak to them about something, you know there’s probably a lot of affirmation in store for you afterwards. But this can (and often does) quickly turn into a kind of spiritual adultery. Not to stretch the marriage metaphor too far, but you might see an attractiveness in them; they might see the same in you. It’s like flirting, and it’s just as dangerous: you imagine possibilities you shouldn’t; you entertain thoughts better left unexplored.

Those who’ve invited you to speak don’t know much about you. They’ve probably heard some good things and want to check you out for themselves – possibly without an additional motive, possibly not. They might just be looking for a good guest preacher, but it’s also possible that there’s a vacant pastoral position at their church.
 
All you really know is that they thought well enough of you to invite you to speak and now here you are speaking, and there they are in front of you, attentively listening to your words.
 
The Clean Slate Illusion
Unlike when you look out at your own congregation, you have no idea who’s struggling with bitterness, battling substance abuse, thinking of leaving their spouse or addicted to pornography. Maybe none of these people are struggling with those things, but most likely some of them are. If you lack the insight and experience to know that this is true, it can make this new group of people an appealing avenue of potential escape from your current troubles.
 
At the same time, they look at you and see someone with a clean slate and tremendous potential. They don’t know about the things you struggle with as a human being and a pastor. They don’t yet see your annoying habits or your character faults.

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It seems like a match made in heaven, but as long as it’s based only on what we’ve presented to each other as our best selves, it’s probably doomed to failure.
 
Other Opportunities
And there are other opportunities to make an exit from a painful situation. There’s the lure of publishing and subsequent speaking opportunities on the conference circuit. No doubt some are called to this form of itinerant ministry but some pursue it as an escape from the rigours and limits of local church leadership.
 
The truth is, with all this affirmation from people who don’t know you as well as your own congregation does, it’s quite easy to succumb to the temptation to be impressed with yourself too! And when you’re a pastor and it’s been a rough week (or month… or year!) it’s quite easy to start thinking about these other things you do on the side that seem to have a considerable upside and virtually no downside.

But in the end, this is an illusion. Being a best-selling author and travelling speaker has an appeal, but the truth is I would miss the daily strains and pressures of pastoring. I would miss the discipline that it builds into my life and the time and opportunities it affords me to take long looks at God’s word on a regular basis.
 
I’m far enough now in my pastoring journey to tell you from experience that the long hard years of struggle are worth it. Not everyone is called to this, and not everyone should desire to be called. But to this, I am called. And there’s nothing I’d rather do.

Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)


 

A Christian View on Psychedelics, Should Pastors Have Friends?, and How to Spot a Wolf – Points of Interest for August 8, 2022

Pastors Should Have Friends in Church. Do They?

This is an oft-reported problem in churches. I am grateful that I pastor a church in which so many of the congregants are also my friends. Clearly, this is how it should be, but too often it is not. Give this article a read to understand why.

“Yes, pastors and their wives should have close friends within the church, but this doesn’t mean they will. Such a sentence is hard to write; it is an even harder reality to face. Friendships within the church are so often difficult for pastors and their families. The loneliness is even enough to drive some to despair.”

A Christian View on Psychedelics

There is increasing interest – and therefore conversation – about the use of psychedelics. This article takes a look at the phenomenon from a Christian perspective.

“The Judeo-Christian heritage… teaches us that there is danger in such things, and that practices such as the ingesting of psychoactive substances put us in contact with a world of spirits that is not our assigned place. And yet Christianity fully validates that longing for a connection to the spiritual. The Scriptures make clear that this God-given hunger for the transcendent is meant to be satisfied by God himself, through Christ his Son, as mediated by the Holy Spirit.”

How to Spot a Wolf: Three Signs of False Teachers

Any seasoned pastor will find much to affirm in this article. When you see the signs listed below (and in the rest of the article) ring the alarm bell until somebody notices. You may be seen as the “bad guy” in the situation at first, but you will end up saving the church a lot of time and hurt in the long run.

“Watch for a pattern of pursuing church leadership positions that seems unhealthy. Watch for a charming charismatic personality that in the past has left a disproportionate number of disillusioned and wounded people in its wake. Watch for claims to and apparent demonstrations of the kinds of spiritual power valued in the church, but which encourage a troubling dependency on and loyalty to the leader(s). Watch for a group forming around a leader, noticeably comprised of susceptible, spiritually weak members, that begins to manifest distrust in godly church leaders. Watch for a pattern of conflicts with godly leaders and resistance to submit to leaders in general.”

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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)

“O God, You Know My Folly”

There are two passages of scripture that regularly come to mind as I go about my life and work as a pastor. These are warning flags and reminders of the sacred trust and serious responsibility I hold due to the work to which I have been called. 

One passage is Hebrews 13:17, where it says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” As church leaders, we carry a weighty responsibility; we will be held responsible for the spiritual well-being of those placed in our care.

The other passage that regularly comes to mind is Psalm 69:5-6:

“O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.”

Accusations and Revelations

The news cycle in the Evangelical world of late seems like a never-ending series of painful revelations of past and/or ongoing grievous sin in the lives of those who lead churches. Some are not big surprises while others result in a wave of new doubt, anguish and grief because they are so shocking.

In Psalm 69, David pleads with God that his past follies and sins will not result in shame for those he leads. That those who seek God would be brought to dishonour on his account is a thought that grieves him.

Here he’s not asking God to prevent him from further folly and sin; he’s asking that no harm will come to those he leads and loves due to his past folly and sin. To be clear, he is not asking God to give a free pass to sins for which he has not repented, but to minimize the damage that might come from sins already committed, repented of, and forgiven. Elsewhere he asks God to restrain him from sinning in the future: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” (Psalm 19:13); but that’s not his plea here.

Sinning Leaders

We are continually reminded of the sorrowful plight of churches, organizations and movements that are led by people of poor character and dark, even if subconscious, ulterior motives. Many are put to shame through the careless and often callous sinning of these leaders who will not heed warnings, receive correction or repent, even when they are found out and exposed.

Nevertheless, there are hopeful signs in some disgraced leaders’ post-fall stories. Tullian Tchividjian is known for, among other things, being a grandson of Billy Graham and a formerly prominent speaker and pastor in the Reformed Evangelical world. In 2015, he resigned from his church after admitting to an extramarital affair. More recently, he wrote of that experience with sober reflection:

“You would think that after all the damage my wickedness caused to myself and countless others I would fall down to my knees in confession. But I didn’t. Instead, I ran. I ran from honesty, I ran from repentance, I ran from God. Rather than feeling sorry for my sin, I was feeling sorry for myself. As is often the case when we get caught, things got worse before they got better. Flight from God oftentimes accelerates before it stops.”

The trajectory he describes is not uncommon; what is uncommon is to hear one who engaged in such denial and deception admit to it and express genuine remorse and repentance.

Now, not to be overly cynical, but who knows, he might currently be living one thing and writing another just like he did before. Only those who live in close proximity can validate this repentant tone. But it is a hopeful sign nonetheless, and a more refreshingly biblical response than the usual denials and obfuscations that often follow in the wake of a newly-revealed scandal.

Sober Reflection

Regular sober reflection will serve us well in preventing future catastrophes. As for follies already engaged in and sins already committed, we can do nothing more than confess, turn continually from ever doing the same again, and receive the forgiveness that Christ offers. 

We can pray for the Lord’s protection, as David did in Psalm 19:13: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!” And we can pray for the Lord’s grace in sparing others from any shame or dishonour that might come their way due to our past follies and sins. 

“O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me,
O Lord God of hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me,
O God of Israel.”

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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)

God’s Plan Was Better Than My Plan

 As we read through pages of the New Testament, we uncover stories of the lives of the first Christians and discover that even when people are clearly called by God to a specific mission, this doesn’t guarantee the kind of success they hope to have. This is still true: God calls us to a mission, but he doesn’t always call us to tangible or predictable results. 

I imagine Paul and others were, like we are, sometimes a bit discouraged about this. “Yes, I have my clear calling from God! I know what his plan is for me! This is going to be great!” And then the dreams you dreamed about how everything would go don’t come to pass. You discover that God has ways of bringing about his plans that are very different from yours. 

God’s Plans and My Sanctification

When God called me into full-time ministry 15 years ago, I had no clue what I was in for. I was not the Lead Pastor then but the Pastor of Worship, a role I thought would have me playing music, doing coffee, and generally spending pleasant time with people. And there was all of that, but I didn’t know at the time that our church was heading into a period of unprecedented upheaval. 

I didn’t know that I would see the highest highs and lowest lows of the church’s life. 

I didn’t know that I would be wiped out by a burnout that would take 8 weeks of rest and intense counselling to recover from. 

I didn’t know that I would experience almost constant anxiety over the state of the church and its people. 

I could not have anticipated the slander and opposition and spiritual warfare that awaited me. 

I didn’t know that there would be so much pain. 

But it’s also true that while all of that was happening, I didn’t see how God was using every moment of that pain to draw me closer to him and help me to become more like Jesus – a process that is still underway and one that progresses more slowly than I would like.

I didn’t know any of that. 

Answering the Call

All I knew was that God had – out of the blue – called me to become a pastor, and as I followed that call it led me to a place. It wasn’t a place I expected to end up, but in retrospect, I have no doubt that it was what God had planned for me. And despite all the hardship, I do not regret answering the call.

The same kinds of things will happen to you as you answer God’s call. And although you can’t see it while it’s happening, his plan will accomplish far more for him and in you than your plan ever could. 

These two things are true for anyone who wants to pursue God’s mission: First, God IS calling you to serve him; that is not in doubt. If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a mission. Second, you should know that if you follow where he’s leading you will find yourself in hard places and difficult situations. 

We Need Not Fear

But here is what’s also true: Jesus knows the fears of our hearts, even the unspoken ones. He knows the anxiety, the discouragement, the cynicism that creeps in, the sin that seeks to trip us up and bind us, and he speaks to all of that with a comforting precision. He loves us; we are his and we need not fear because he is with us.

Armed with this affirmation, this reassurance, this ultimate security, we should continue to go boldly forward with the mission to which he has called us. 

In the words of Elisabeth Elliot: “The will of God is never exactly what you expect it to be. It may seem much worse, but in the end, it’s going to be a lot better and a lot bigger.” 

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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,16). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)

A Good Leader Must Possess Certain Assets

In 1 Samuel 16:1-12, as Saul’s time as king is coming to an end, God reveals to Samuel what’s next. He sends Samuel to a man named Jesse, for, God says, “I have provided for myself a king from his sons.” Samuel follows God’s instruction and when he arrives on the scene he assumes which of Jesse’s sons God has chosen based, apparently, on his appearance and height.

“When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord ’s anointed is before him.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.’”

Humans seem hardwired to see people who are physically attractive and give the appearance of great strength as good leaders. We often look more at appearance than substance. If someone is attractive and has a decent level of charisma, we assume they will be a good leader. Many – MANY – disasters have followed in the wake of choices made by those metrics!

This is one of the many reasons God’s word gives us character qualifications for leaders. We ignore these to our own peril. We are easily impressed and then led astray by deceitful people of low character who possess charm and charisma.

God goes on to tell Samuel that he “sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” We, of course, cannot look on the hearts of potential leaders the way the Lord does, but we are to do our best to discern the Lord’s choice of leaders based not on their outward appearance or the amount of charisma they possess, but on the marks of character that are readily apparent as they follow Christ.

And yet in this scene, God looks on the heart of David and sees a man of faith, but David is also physically attractive. “Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’” (V12) From this, we learn not to overcorrect in the opposite direction; physical attractiveness and charisma can be assets, so we should not discount someone’s leadership potential just because they possess these traits.

In the end, the lesson is this old cliche: don’t judge a book by its cover. Look at the contents of the book and discern whether or not it is worth reading. A good leader must possess certain assets. Those assets are not found in the pages of GQ but in the pages of God’s word. 

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Michael Krahn is the Lead Pastor of the EMMC church in Aylmer, Ontario, where he has served for the last 13 years. He has been married to Anne Marie for almost 27 years and together they have three daughters (19,18,15). You can find more of Michael’s writing at www.michaelkrahn.com or connect on social media at @Michael_G_Krahn (Twitter), pastor.michael.krahn (IG), and Michael.George.Krahn (Fb)