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One of the most significant implications from Hebrews 13:17 (giving account for souls) I learned early in ministry was that I don’t have the right to dislike and refuse to care for someone’s soul that God has entrusted to me.  This is important to realize as pastors because we all have those who despise us in our congregations–those we have upset by something we said or did–that we will still give an account for when we stand before God.  At this point, some of you may be thinking these kinds of people are a good reason to leave and start over, but I submit to you they are actually a good reason to stay and endure.  Why are these difficult people a good reason to stay and endure?

Stay in the same place to watch God work through your ministry in such a way that those who once despised you may in time grow to love and appreciate you.

I was reminded of this several years ago as I went to the hospital to visit an elderly lady who almost died, but turned the corner and began to make a slow recovery.  She is someone who years ago publicly attacked and slandered me in front of the whole church.  Not my biggest fan.  Although the tensions had calmed down the last few years, I didn’t expect a great deal of warmth from her.

I sat with this woman and had the most encouraging and pleasant visit with her.  She was warm, kind, and gracious to me.  She praised me for caring for her and the church so well over the years.  Just as I started to intently look for the “candid camera” that had been planted, she reached to hug me as I left.  Unable to humanly explain anything I had just experienced, God reminded me of one of the greatest joys of staying and enduring with these people.

As we endure the criticisms, complaints, and verbal attacks, and try to love and care for the souls of those who attack us, God in his grace might just allow us to eventually win them over.

What a powerful testimony of the power of God at work in his shepherd and sheep when He does this.  This is not the first time God has allowed me to experience this and I can definitely say it ranks as one of the greatest joys I now experience in pastoral ministry with my congregation.

Pastors, hold fast to what you know to be true and right.  Love those who love you as you love those who don’t–at least right now.  However, don’t be surprised when you wake up one day (years from now) and find that a church member who has been cold to you for years suddenly has warmed up.

Consider these stunningly wise words from Richard Baxter on why we should especially care for the souls of those who despise us,

“Even the stoutest sinners will hear us on their death bed, though they scorned us before.”

Brian Croft is Senior Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  He is the husband of Cara and adoring father of four children—son Samuel and daughters Abby, Isabelle, and Claire.  He has served in pastoral ministry for 15 years and is currently in his eighth year as Pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church.  He was educated at both Belmont University and Indiana University, receiving his B.A. in Sociology.  He also undertook some graduate work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Stephen Belokur

commented on Feb 24, 2016

Thanks and Amen!

Lawrence Webb

commented on Feb 24, 2016

A man held a grudge against me for thirty-some years when I challenged him for dishonesty in a church-related athletic tournament. He played a youth who did not meet the tournament standards (attendance, etc,), and our team won, largely on account of this boy's playing. I left the area for more than a decade and then saw him from time to time when I returned to the town. I had moved on after the incident, but he continued to resent me for confronting him. Then, many years later, he approached me and confessed he had held this against me all these years. This was the most blatant example I was made aware of with parishioners, but there were others who did not like me and perhaps hated me. He was in apparent good health at the time. When he later became ill and eventually died, I visited him in the hospital and had prayer with him. So our last time together was positive.

John W Carlton

commented on Feb 24, 2016

I went to a church that approached me to take over when my predecessor moved in the middle of the night and slipped his resignation under the pastor's door. One lady made it her duty to let me know that I was not on her list of favorites. In one way I think that she thought I had something to do with my predecessor's leaving, which was not at all the case. For 2 years I made a point of being nice to her and speaking kindly even when she would scowl and give me looks that could kill. She took a trip out of the US and came back, filling in for the secretary who had to be away. When I saw her there I greeted her with "Welcome home world traveler." I then asked about where she had been and all about her trip. From that moment on she became one of my most loyal supporters, and really cried when I announced my resignation. The Bible tells us that when we repay kindness with goodness we "Heap coals of fire upon their heads." Thank you God for patience and understanding.

Mitchell Leonard

commented on Feb 24, 2016

Thank you Brother Brian, this was exactly what I needed to read tonight. God bless

Brenda Eldridge

commented on Feb 25, 2016

Thank you so much for this. It is really timely and fits my situation at this time.

Madalitso Dube

commented on Feb 26, 2016

This is great, I witnessed some members from my Church stopping coming to church because someone offended them.

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