Just about every preacher deals with them. You know who they are in your life. They are those cantankerous, time-consuming, whining, lazy, difficult people. It could be the church member who seems to monopolize your time because something is always wrong. Maybe it’s a retired preacher who sits in your audience each week and tells you what you should have said, or what you misquoted in your sermon, or how he would have preached it. Maybe it’s a co-worker who refuses to carry his part of the load. You know, the guy who does as little as possible, just enough to get by. Or it might be an elder. The one who is always on your back, watching you like a hawk, secretly undermining and criticizing everything you do.
What’s a preacher to do? What if your life and ministry is overflowing with people like this? Allow me to share a few suggestions.
Preach the Word. I’m not trying to overstate the obvious here. At times when we are dealing with difficult people we may be tempted to lash out at those who have hurt us. We may be tempted to spend an overabundance of time on some issue or struggle that we are dealing with.
This is not the time to become a “hobby rider.” It is a time to focus on our study of and our proclamation of the Word of God. (2 Timothy 4:2) One reason that preaching through books of the Bible is valuable is because it keeps us focused on the word and we cover issues as the show up in the text.
Fulfill your ministry. Paul encouraged Timothy to fulfill his ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5) This would involve staying busy in serving others. One of the very best ways to handle difficult people is by serving them, doing good deeds for them, ministering to them.
As we remain busy in the Lord’s work we will have less time to dwell on the problems caused by working with difficult people. When we are busy helping others we have little time being concerned about those who difficult.
Turn problem people over to the Lord & remember who will be your judge, and theirs. When we are dealing with difficult people we need to spend a great deal of time in prayer for and about those who are difficult. We will do our best when we turn our attitude about difficult people over to the Lord.
When we realize that there are some people that we cannot change on our own it will be easier for us to turn them over to the Lord. Some people have been difficult for much of their life and they refuse to change. The best that we can do in these situations is to follow the example of Jesus. (1 Peter 2:23)
Learn from criticism. If we are not careful we will develop an attitude that says there is nothing I can learn from anybody. How can you distinguish between constructive criticism and bad criticism?
One way is to seek to consider the critic. Some people hardly ever speak to you unless it is critical. They are constantly criticizing. Be careful about putting stock in this critic. Typically if someone writes a letter, email, etc. and refuses to sign it the criticism isn’t valid.
Some people balance constructive criticism with positive affirmation. It is wise to listen to the criticism offered by someone like this. In addition if someone is a trusted friend who is speaking truth in love it would be wise to listen.
The wise man said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But *deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” (Proverbs 27:6)
Lean on those who encourage you. The truth is in ministry we will all be associated with difficult people. We can’t escape it. A couple of things to remember here: (1) Jesus spent time with difficult people. (2) Sometimes we might just be difficult for others!
It is a fact of ministry. However we don’t have to spend an excessive amount of time with difficult people. It is important that we find people that we enjoy. Find people with common interests, those who are in a similar life-stage. Find people who are positive, who build you up. Surround yourself with people who will help make ministry a joy and not a burden.
Dear Father, thank you for the many different types of people that You allow to cross the path of our life. Help us, dear God to be patient with and to learn how to deal with difficult people. Help us to learn to follow in the steps of Jesus. In His precious name we pray, amen.