How to Be An Encouragement to Your Pastor During Trials (Part 3)

Pastors will face incredible difficulties in leading the church. Clint Leiter shares some of the fiery trials he went through after Bob Jennings went to be with the Lord. He also shares some of the things that greatly helped him through those dark times, that will hopefully be an encouragement to other pastors who find themselves in similar situations.


James: After Bob died and you were left just the only pastor in the church, what has been an encouragement to you? It's not like these last years have been easy. There have been difficulties. How has the Lord kept you going in the midst of those trials?

Clint: They were difficult years immediately following Bob's death. We had plenty of controversy. And I was now facing it alone. God surrounded me with good men. There's something very uplifting and courage building to realize that you're not in the struggle alone. Even though my best friend and my co-pastor was gone. And in that sense, I was a sole pastor at this church, this location. Still, there were these other men that I knew in Kirksville, in Denton, in Texas - all around. And that was very courage building and uplifting. That helped me. As far as God was concerned, what helped me more than anything else - I kept being brought full circle back to the love of God - the unchanging love of God. There were times at night when I would lie there sleepless. That's the way that I am. I imagine other guys to be stronger than that and able to put those things out of their minds and sleep, but I lose sleep. Sleepless nights, the Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 11. But there were times at night when I would be laying there wide awake, my heart pounding with a fresh problem that had come up and all I could say under my breath over and over again was, "Thank You, Lord, for loving me." And that was from God's end a life saver for me. In the way of practical things, having someone to talk to was very important. You can't hold these things in. They'll eat you up. You've got to have someone to talk to. And for a pastor, that means another pastor. Not someone in the church. I mean, I had brothers in the church that I would have coffee with and it would be more lighthearted. But to bear my soul - to say what do I do in this problem or that problem, that's a place that only another pastor has been in and can really sympathize with. So, I was again helped by these men that are in other churches that were able to console me. Brother Mack, he always manages to show up in his tour through Missouri whenever some difficulty has just happened. And Brother Mack, many many times was just such an encouragement to me and an uplifting presence in my home. And Charles with his wisdom so many times, his experience, would talk me through things and help me. So those men were very valuable. I learned during that period of time to pray the Psalms. You find in the psalm writers the very same feelings, distress and fear, and those kinds of feelings, discouragement - and they come out in the Psalms all the time. I learned to pray those Psalms - turn them into prayers. You can take a psalm - off the top of my head, Psalm 23. Lord, You say You're my Shepherd. Would You shepherd my soul? It's Your job to feed me, to protect me, to guard me, to lead me. Would You do that for me? You say in Your Word, Lord, that I'll have no want. Would You satisfy me completely in You? Would You lead me by those still waters? Lord, I long for those still waters. Would You cause me to lie down in green pastures? I need that right now. Would You restore my soul? I'm languishing. I'm wasting away. You know, turn it into a prayer like that. So practically, it was very useful for me during those seasons. My wife was an incredible help for me. Adam was given Eve. She was a helper suitable for him. My wife is my best counselor. She knows me inside and out. She could tear me down with a word and crush my spirit, or she can build me up with a word. She was my best counselor. She was right in all of the situations and knew them well. And so she was very much able to help me. You know, Job didn't have that, did he? He was going through those difficult times, incredibly painful, grievous times of affliction. What was his wife's counsel? Curse God and die. Manoah, Samson's father, on the other hand he and his wife saw the Angel of the Lord in that miraculous encounter there. The Angel of the Lord taken up into heaven by fire from the altar. Manoah fell on his face and he said, "We have seen the Lord. We will surely die." And he was very pessimistic and I'm like that oftentimes more than I care to admit. But it was Manoah's wife who had the word of faith and the word of comfort. She said if God had intended to kill us, He would not have accepted our sacrifice. He would not have shown us these things. And we would not have heard these things at this time. And so you see, right in all of that, it's very reasonable, very logical progression based on faith. And that was the word for Manoah. So my wife has been that for me. She's been my best counselor.

James: What would you say to another pastor's wife if her husband is going through a deep time of discouragement and trials in the church? What can she do for her husband to help encourage him?

Clint: I would tell her first off to recognize that he's not himself. He's got things on his mind that are just churning. And if he's sitting silent on the couch staring out the window, don't hold it against him. It's not that he's upset with you. And I would say to her take over as much as you can in the way of responsibilities so that he's not juggling matters of God's people which are very burdensome, troubling matters in his heart and his mind, and at the same time having to take on other responsibilities if she is able to do them. That would be helpful. I would say maintain an attitude of cheerfulness in the home. Go about your day cheerfully and with a glad spirit because that way it would tend to uplift him rather than two people who are struggling emotionally. And it's always such a benefit, isn't it? When I was down, my wife was up. And so I'm very thankful for that. My wife goes about humming. She hums plenty of songs. I suggested hum hymns that I can recognize because I recognize the tune and it's contagious. Gladness, cheerfulness of heart is contagious. So I would say that. Those are practical things.

James: As far as for the members in the congregation, what can they do to encourage their pastors?

Clint: There's nothing like a confirming word. The tongue of the righteous is a tree of life. So to tell a pastor, "I was really helped by this thought you had in your sermon. Thank you for that." That's uplifting. I've gotten cards from people in my congregation. I've had ladies show up at my front door with a plant that they bought, a flower that they bought that was on sale and give it to me. It's very uplifting along with a little card of appreciation. My congregation has been very supportive and they love me. I've never doubted that. They've been behind me. They have acknowledged difficulties and that's a thing that helps a pastor. If someone comes up and puts their arm on your shoulder and says brother, I know that you're going through a hard time. I don't have any real solution to what you're going through. And I don't know it as sharply as you do, but I recognize that you're going through a hard time right now and I want you to know I'm praying for you. That's very confirming and uplifting. And I've gotten that from my congregation. The seasons that we've gone though, and oftentimes it's the case, I've talked to other pastors. The seasons they go through, there is a difficulty that's very narrow and it's surrounding a small either incident or a small group of people and that's where the burden is at. Ten percent are drawing % of the pastor's energy and attention. All the others are very supportive. They're kind of in the background and they're not causing any trouble. Those are the ones that I regret that I've not been able to minister to during those seasons where my mind is drawn in to a very pointed, narrow situation. But they've been supportive. They've recognized it and have helped me with cards and things like that.

James: Do members of a church have responsibility to alert the pastors when they see divisions arising in the church? I mean, how important is communication of the sheep with the shepherds in order to maintain unity in the church?

Clint: Well, when there's a report given to a pastor, it's very much different than one person reporting to another person in the congregation. And I'm thinking along the lines of gossip or slander - things like that that are not good. But nonetheless, there are times when a pastor may be oblivious to something that's going on in the church and it could be very helpful in heading it off at the pass or dealing with it before it becomes a major issue for him to know that. I think of the Apostle Paul. . We've been informed by Chloe's people that divisions exist he said there. I think that's how he worded it. So here was a case where someone - Chloe's people - came to the apostle and alerted him something was going on. In another place, "it's been reported that there's immorality among you," he said in 1 Corinthians 5. And another place, 1 Corinthians 11, he speaks about another report of division. So there are occasions when that is helpful and I think maybe a duty. Someone might be duty bound to say something to the pastor. But there's a fine line between tattle-taling or being a gossip. So we'd have to definitely be on guard against that.

James: In these last few years, what have you learned from the trials you've faced as a pastor? Is there anything you look back on and think I should have handled that differently?

Clint: Well, I don't know about specific things that I could relate. But I do know in a general way I'm always second-guessing myself. I'm always looking back saying did I do right here? Did I not? And my wife is very helpful in helping me talk through things like that as well as other men. But it's difficult to know when you're in the middle of it what you should do; what you shouldn't do. You can receive outside counsel in the case of a single pastor, but it's a general counsel because the men you receive that counsel from are not a part of your church. They don't know the personalities. They might not know the issue at all in a very real way. They're not involved in it - the subtleties of it. And so the counsel is general and the decision falls to the man who's there. And it's easy to look back on it in the past and say, you know, I should have done this. I shouldn't have done that. There are times when I've let meetings between individuals happen that I had not been a part of. I elected to stay out of that meeting, that particular meeting, and just let the couples work it out or something like that. And I looked back to regret that, that I hadn't been there. But who's to know? I couldn't be faulted at the time for doing that I don't think. But it's something maybe in the future I would be more cautious about. I might have done it differently. Sometimes a person might let something go on longer than it needs to. And as a result, more damage done. Who knows? Those are difficult decisions. I tend to try and take the least invasive, the least heavy-handed approach that I can as a pastor. It just seems to be my philosophy I guess. Not shirking duty, of course. There's a real duty that a man has to confront sin and so on. But if there's an issue that's brewing or that's going on, I try and take at first - in the initial steps anyway - as least heavy-handed approach as I can. I liken it to a fire in a skillet on the oven. In the stove in the kitchen, an oil fire crops up in the skillet. There are a number of ways you can put it out. You can grab a pitcher of water and douse it. I mean, it might put it out, but it might spread it. It splatters and goes everywhere. They say you're not supposed to do that. You might grab the dry chemical fire extinguisher and spray it. You'll get it out, but it will make a huge mess that will take a whole day to clean out of your kitchen. Or you can reach over and take the lid. Set the lid gently on there and snuff it out. You see? There's least environmental impact. I tend to start out that way. And sometimes, it might let things go on longer than they need to be. When that happens, it's unfortunate. You look back on it and you say, well, it's proven out. I should have done things differently.