Posts Tagged ‘pastoral intution’

No pastor is infallible.

Sometimes I hear about pastors who act like they are faultless.  No matter what they say or do … no matter how many people they offend or wound … these pastors believe, “I am always right.”

Conversely, pastors are usually right far more than they know.  Due to an attempt to act humbly, many pastors don’t listen to what their instincts are telling them about certain people … especially potential troublemakers.

I once served in a church where a certain individual … let’s call him Bob … was teaching an adult Bible class.  Well and good.

But Bob’s goal didn’t seem to be to enhance the spiritual growth of class members.  Instead, he seemed to have something else in mind.

One Sunday, after Bob’s class was done, we met in the men’s room at church.  I asked Bob how his class went.

Bob proceeded to tell me how many people were attending his class, but his attitude aroused my suspicions.  I asked myself, “I wonder if Bob is using his class as a power base?”

So one Sunday, I visited the class … and my instincts were going haywire.

I decided to do something I had never done before.  I discovered the previous two churches Bob had attended and invited those pastors out to eat.

I told each pastor that my instincts about Bob had kicked into overdrive and that I wanted to know how Bob had behaved in their church.

The first pastor told me how destructive Bob had been.  He said, “Whatever you have to do, get him out of your church.”

The second pastor told me that Bob had indeed used his class as a power base … that Bob had challenged the pastor’s leadership in a public meeting … and that Bob and his class left the church en masse, resulting in the church going into a spiral from which it never recovered.

You can call my instincts pastoral intuition … spiritual discernment … the voice of God’s Spirit … or something else.  Those instincts were the result of years of biblical learning, ecclesiastical experience, and yes, strong feelings.

Pastors often fail to listen to their inner alarm systems when it comes to certain churchgoers.  They tell themselves:

“Maybe they’re just going through a hard time.”

“Maybe that’s just their personality.”

“Maybe they’ll like me the more they get to know me.”

“Maybe they’re having problems at home … at work … or with their health.”

“Maybe my suspicions aren’t justified.”

But pastors need to learn to trust their pastoral intuition … or they may find themselves out of ministry for good.

A little more than five years ago, I was the pastor of a generous, gracious, and growing church.  I’ve recounted what happened in my book Church Coup, but due to space limitations, a lot occurred that I didn’t put in the book.

I started wearing down … and my pastoral intuition went to sleep.

And while it was asleep, conflict surfaced … and because I wasn’t at the top of my game, I didn’t handle things proactively.

Here is what’s interesting: when the conflict finally surfaced, my instincts reawoke.

I trusted them again … and they were incredibly accurate.

I told my friends in the church what the purpose of the coup was … who was behind it … how things would play out … and that I would eventually have to leave.

In other words, I knew what was going to happen before it happened.

My friends would say, “No, Jim, you’re not seeing things accurately.  I don’t think he would ever do that to you … she would never say that about you … they would never plot against you.”

I don’t like saying this, but in the end … I was right … on almost everything.

To my fellow pastors, I say this: if you’re walking with the Lord … and if you’re suspicious of certain people in your church … trust your instincts.

To members of the governing board: if your pastor is walking with the Lord … and he’s suspicious of certain people in your church … trust his instincts.

No professor ever gave me such counsel in seminary.  I don’t recall anything about “instinct trusting” in my doctoral program.

But I learned the hard way that feelings … even negative ones … can be a sign from God.

Yes, you should test those feelings as much as possible.

A pastor might consult with his wife … with good friends … with pastoral colleagues … with a Christian counselor … and with wise mentors.

But never ignore your intuition about an individual or group.

It just may be God’s way of prompting you to prepare for what’s about to come.











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