10 Types of Pastors Who Fail to Reach their Ministry Potential


You probably can name a few talented athletes that showed potential early in their career but flamed out prematurely. “So-and-so had everything going for them, how could they not succeed?” A lack of discipline, focus, or humility might have caused them to miss a great opportunity.

Likewise, pastors are susceptible to not live up to their potential. Natural giftedness or previous ministry blessings are not enough to get you to the finish line in ministry.

You must be wise in both pursuing Christ and avoiding the snares of the devil that seek to trip pastors up (1 Timothy 3:6-7).

10 Types of Pastors Who Fail to Reach their Potential in Ministry

1. The Future-Focused Pastor.

Are you always thinking about your next ministry position or dreaming about other roles? Don’t let your future desires rob from the opportunity God has you in presently. The Lord has you where he has you for a reason. The grass is always greenest when it is watered.

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” Luke 16:10

2. The Anger-Prone Pastor.

Pastors often deal with stressful situations and difficult people and are prone to burnout in ministry. The right combination of people and stressors may prove dangerous for the pastor who is easily angered. Unruly youth and unreasonable congregants never give a pastor an excuse to lose their temper–even for a moment. Letting anger control you could lead to physically harming others and being found unfit for ministry.

“Therefore an overseer must be …sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable…” 1 Timothy 3:2

3. The Do-Everything-Yourself Pastor.

You may be tempted to see the ministry of the church as something you own and are responsible for. Pastors shouldn’t seek to control every aspect of ministry but rather should train others for biblical ministry (2 Timothy 2:2). Leadership Resources equips pastors to read and preach God’s Word with God’s heart and to train others to do so as well. Our Fellowship of the Word program will sharpen your abilities at proclaiming God’s Word and will give you the confidence to equip others for a ministry of the Word.

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Ephesians 4:11-12

4. The Insubordinate Pastor.

The insubordinate pastor might prefer his vision for ministry over his boss’s vision and refuse to submit to his authority. This attitude might cause division in the church or for others to discount the vision of the governing pastors. Pastor: God calls you to model Christ-like submission to your authority in front of your flock.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17

5. The Money-Loving Pastor.

Money is one of the three big sins Satan most often uses to cause pastors to fall (along with sex and power). Financial temptations abound and range from dipping into church funds for personal use to gambling. Guard your heart against the love of money and pray that God would help you model godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).

“…not a lover of money…” 1 Timothy 3:3

6. The Unhappy Pastor.

This type of pastor sees life and ministry as a glass half-empty. A pastor should be able to manage his spiritual life and spiritual affections well. Lacking Christian joy robs a pastor of one of his greatest weapons (see Nehemiah 8:10) and makes it tough to stir a passion for God in those under your care. Unhappiness may be due to lacking a robust view of the power of God.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

7. The Hobby Horse Pastor.

Special interest in certain Christian topics or doctrines can become a problem when that special interest dominates everything a pastor says and does. Pastor–resist the urge to saddle up your hobby horse to the neglect of your flock. Faithfully minister the Word to your people.

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2

8. The Loose-with-Physical-Boundaries Pastor.

Pastors walk a fine line with physical touch more than ever before. Without properly defined boundaries and safeguards, a pastor may find himself offending a congregant, losing his job, or doing time in prison. Don’t let yourself fall into even a hint of sexual misconduct or allow gestures and physical touch to be misunderstood.

“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” Ephesians 5:3

9. The Mismanaged Pastor.

With a variety of roles and responsibilities, pastors need to be able to manage themselves, his schedule, and his family. Pastors who can’t manage themselves don’t finish what they start or meet deadlines and cannot reach their potential in ministry. When Paul explained to Timothy qualifications for leaders in the church, he mentioned management three times (specifically in regards to his household). Why is that?

“…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5).

10. The Lazy Pastor.

Many pastors (especially those in small churches) enjoy flexible schedules with limited oversight. This combination can turn into laziness if not kept in check and lead to a variety of sins. Being careless about shepherding the flock, loose in stewarding money, or lazy in studying Scripture will hurt you and your people over the long run. Don’t be careless with your God ordained shepherding role–lead with zeal (Romans 12:8).

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly…” 1 Peter 5:2

Pastor, do whatever you can to avoid falling into any of these temptations. Stay committed to God in prayer and by feeding on His Word. Surround yourself with people who encourage you in the faith that you can be open and honest with and pursue the Lord together. Thank God for your salvation, your family, and your ministry.

If we abide in Christ, we will be guaranteed to bear fruit for Him (John 15:4-5). Not only will we bear fruit, but He can amplify our efforts to “do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20).

If this post was a wakeup call for you, get on your knees and ask for God’s help and guidance to more fully surrender your life and ministry to the Lord. This could be a moment God will use to transform you and your ministry forever.

Leadership Resources International equips pastors in the United States and around the world to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. Learn how the Fellowship of the Word program can help you reach your full potential by sharpen your skills in the Word, fellowshipping with other pastors, and training the next generation to follow Paul’s command in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “Preach the Word!”

Related Resources:
Audio Set: How to Flourish Now and Finish Well
Book: Finishing Well in Life and Ministry
Christian Ministry Burnout: Prevention, Signs, Statistics, and Recovery

**This post was adapted from a presentation given by Bill Bradish at The Orchard Network and has been used with permission.**

Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.