5 ways pastors should respond to setbacks in ministry

April 13, 2021

Things don’t always turn out the way we desire. Oftentimes, we find ourselves asking questions about why something happened, or why we didn’t see it coming. We wonder why God allowed it or have difficulty seeing how God’s plan is being accomplished through it.

Phrases such as “setbacks are God’s way of molding us” are easier said than done. We feel the pain of setbacks, and it hurts. However, it is only after we walk through it that we learn more about who we are and whose we are. On the other side of heartache, we can see that trials are opportunities for us to grow spiritually.

Rather than roadblocks, setbacks can be pauses in life for God to carry out His divine plan through us.

Here are some biblical principles we can learn from Scripture and experiences of others who have gone before us.

  1. Recognize that setbacks are part of life
    “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2).

    Scripture tells us we will all face trials at some point. Expecting setbacks will prepare us not to react negatively but faithfully, knowing that God has a reason and plan to make us more like Him and bring Him glory.
  2. Have the right attitude
    “Count it pure joy” (James 1:2a).

    James tells us to have pure joy in the midst of suffering. Why? Because the testing of our faith creates perseverance. Our attitude can make all the difference. We may not have a full understanding or control over our circumstances and situations, but we can control our response. How we respond today as leaders will determine how we will lead and respond in the future. “The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4).
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you
    “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

    Admit confusion that often accompanies setbacks and our need for His perfect peace to guide us. Reflect on Scripture and pray about what God may be showing you. Allow the Holy Spirit to give discernment to know what is right and wrong. He may reveal character flaws such as the tendency to respond harshly, blame others or try and justify our actions. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
  4. Don’t be afraid to seek Godly counsel or advice
    “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise” (Proverbs 19:20).

    Seeking godly advice from spiritual people will help us see things from different perspectives. Looking at the options we have with godly counsel before making decisions can help us make choices that have a positive, rather than detrimental, impact on our future.
  5. Trust in God’s sovereignty and providence in your life
    “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)
    .

    Jesus Christ set the greatest example in what seemed to be the greatest setback when He was about to be crucified. He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Christ submitted to the Father’s plan and gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice so we might be saved. We can entrust our setbacks and future to the Lord.

Rather than roadblocks, setbacks can be pauses in life for God to carry out His divine plan through us.

 by Kenneth Tan  /  Leadership Development Team  /  Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

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