The NEed

When the Pastor Needs a Pastor

Can you imagine a pastor who was called by God into full-time ministry, who loves Jesus and loves people—reaching the point where he thinks about ending his own life? I couldn’t imagine such a thing—until it happened to me

Falling Into the Pit of Despair

I devoted more than two decades of full-time pastoral ministry to one church. Because of my zeal for serving the Lord, I violated the ministry boundaries I’d been warned about in seminary. I worked too many hours. I put the church before my family to please everyone I served. I always had energy to do more. But things changed on May 10, 1999 when I listened for hours to church members saying: “You can’t preach very well,”. . . “You can’t lead very well,” . . . “You don’t care about people very much,” . . . and, “The only ministry you really care about is Celebrate Recovery.” It didn’t help when several members concluded by saying, “But we love you.”
I was devastated! My heart was crushed. I fell into the pit of despair. After devoting my heart and soul to the church for twenty years—I felt torn apart by the people I’d worked so hard to build up. I was so deeply wounded that I found myself wondering if I could go on. Our daughter Sarah, who was away at college at the time, pleaded with me, “Dad, you’ve got to get out of there—they’re killing you!” My wife Sue was so wounded, she refused to be seen in public for a time. She avoided people, not knowing who to trust. For two years, Sue went through the motions of church. She continued leading the nursery, and leading the video production team. But she couldn’t worship next to people who so deeply wounded her husband and family.

Isolation Is Deadly

I felt so alone. I didn’t know what to do with my emotions. I was supposed to be a strong leader with unwavering faith—but I didn’t know what to do. I thought about ending it all. I didn’t know where to go for help, or who I could trust. I needed a pastor! I needed someone confidential, who would listen to my story, understand my pain, and minister healing grace in my life with tenderness, compassion, and love.
There were four pastors, (Roger, Paul, Diane, and Linda), who reached out and ministered to me in my brokenness. They were filled with God’s love, grace and mercy. Paul told me I needed to spend a week with Dr. John Walker at Blessing Ranch in Colorado. He even made the call to put things in motion. John Walker specializes in renewing and restoring pastors and missionaries who have been wounded in ministry. Without this intervention in my life and Sue’s life, I would no longer be in ministry, our marriage may not have survived, and it’s possible that I wouldn’t be here today. God healed and transformed Sue and me from the inside out through His ambassadors of grace, mercy, and love.  

The Pathway to Healing Is Forgiveness

On May 10, 1999, I was given a glimpse of what it may have been like for Jesus to be betrayed by those he loved and taught. Today I’m thankful for my small fraction of understanding of what Jesus went through when He was betrayed, judged, whipped, beaten and crucified.
God’s message to me was clear: “Forgive those who crucified you and receive forgiveness.” The journey of forgiveness was long and difficult. But it was the only way to experience the joy and power of resurrection with Jesus. True healing and freedom came only after I forgave each person who wounded me. God’s healing power brought resurrection from my brokenness. On January 6, 2002, when I was healthy and the church was healthy again, God called me to leave New Life Community Church and go to a new thing He would show me. On February 17, 2002, God gave me a new Dream Vision and He called me to become a pastor to pastors, spouses, and their children. June 24, 2002 was my twenty-third anniversary my last day at New Life.

Satan Attacks Leaders

Satan works every angle to destroy the church. Pastors, spouses, and their kids, are prime targets. He knows that if he can take out the leaders, he can severely damage the church. Satan sought to destroy Jesus by convincing one of His most trusted friends to betray him. He uses the same strategy in the church today. Satan seeks to destroy pastors by using temptation, isolation, conflict, and intimidation. He’s the master of deception and betrayal. Satan loves to attack pastors from the inside the church by turning trusted friends against them.
Satan delights whenever he can twist the truth and create conflict in the church. He entices Christians to act in unloving and hurtful ways toward one another. Sometimes it is the pastor who abuses power and control in unhealthy ways in the church. Other times it is church members who use power and control in unhealthy and abusive ways toward their pastor.

The Walking Wounded

When pastors receive votes of “no confidence,” experience forced exits, or are wounded in ministry, their calling and sense of identity are damaged, and they lose hope. They may continue to function, but the joy has been sucked out of their lives. When you look closely, you can see it in their eyes.
Heart wounds don’t heal as quickly as flesh wounds. The heart and mind demand conscious care to heal. Healing begins in the context of relationships with people who understand their pain and embody God’s grace and mercy. Healing and wellbeing ultimately result from their connection with God, the Father of love.
God is the Healer, and he embodies mercy and grace through wounded healers. I am so thankful that He has given me a passion to coach, encourage, and walk with pastors, spouses, and their families. God restored my hope and renewed my joy in Him. He has redeemed every painful part of my journey and He uses it daily for His Kingdom purposes in the hearts and lives of others. I minister best out of my brokenness.

Our hope is in the power of God healing, restoring, and transforming the hearts of His people.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (KJV)

When the Pastor is taken out — you can scatter the sheep.

Pastor John and Sue Smith