Focusing On the Negatives: A Common Struggle Every Pastor Faces


by Ron Edmondson

There is one common struggle every pastor seems to face. I’ve seen it in dozens of pastors. I often hear it on Mondays—even after a great Sunday. I’ve been guilty of this one—many times. It was true in church planting and in church revitalization.

And this common struggle, I’m not sure, but it could be a common struggle for every leader, regardless of what they are leading.

The struggle:

We often let a few negatives overshadow many positives.

Things can be going great, but we can get one negative email—and our whole day is ruined.

We can have one season of struggle and we forget all the seasons of triumph—or all the promises for future reward.

We can miss the blessings God is providing all around us by focusing on the distractions of a few critics we may never please—regardless of what we do. We can live in gloom and doom about a present situation, forgetting how God has blessed us and how He has promised to bless us in days to come.

Are you ever guilty of this? Am I alone here?

The Bible is not silent about this struggle. Elijah—who the book of James tells us was a person just like us—fell apart with one threat from Jezebel after he had had tremendous success in ministry (1 Kings 19).

It really is a common struggle. A common temptation to see the negative immediate reality over the bigger picture positives of what God has done and is doing.

I don’t know, this is speculation on my part, but I think this struggle may have existed throughout the Bible with God’s people. For example, consider one of our “go to” favorite verses of encouragement—Jeremiah 29:11.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Put it in the context in which it was delivered. Notice vs. 10:

For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” (Emphasis mine.)

One of the greatest promises—a promise God is in control and has a masterful future planned. This promise fits well on coffee mugs and desk plaques. We love it so much.

But, what do you think the people heard when this great promise was revealed by the prophet?

Again, it’s speculation on my part, but don’t you think when the people heard those words it was the “seventy years” of captivity they were about to face which jumped out to them more than the “future and hope“?

Yet, which do you think was God’s intent—to encourage or discourage? (Hopefully, you know the God who is love enough to answer correctly.)

Again, everything can be going according to plan. God can be working in your life, but one setback—one season of decline in church attendance, one negative email—can destroy your perception of reality. Common struggle.

This is why, as pastors, as leaders, as people of God, we must keep our mind and focus on the bigger picture. A focus on what God is calling us to do—what He is currently doing—and, ultimately, what He has promised to do—rather than the voices of the negative minority.

The Apostle Paul said it like this, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Who is brave and honest enough to admit I’m not alone here in this struggle?


Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he’s been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

Ron’s Website