Revelation 2:1-5 teaches us that we as leaders can work hard and grow weary for the Lord and yet fall away from our first love. According to Jesus this is a sin and needs to be repented of.
According to Matthew 22:37-40 the first and great commandment is to love God. Thus, falling away from our first love in this passage of Revelation is referring to the possibility that Christian leaders can love the work of the Lord more than the Lord himself!
The Ephesian church was a backslidden church, even though they were a church involved in many noble works!
Satan tempts leaders to push themselves so much in the work of the Lord that they have no energy to truly meditate on the Word and seek God’s face.
2. To read the Bible only for sermon preparation
God calls for His people to be hungry for Him (Matthew 5:6; Psalm 63). Often, pastors can get caught up in only reading the Bible when they have to prepare a sermon. This takes away from the personal depth and knowledge they have with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and relegates studying His Word merely to a profession!
The greatest preachers are those who minister to their congregations out of the overflow of what the Lord has been revealing to them in the secret place!
Satan attempts to wear out the saints with dry preaching and wear out pastors by tempting them to approach God only for ministry and not for personal enjoyment and fellowship.
3. To grow weary “of” the work of the Lord instead of getting weary “in” the work of the Lord
Often, because of the many hardships and relational challenges of overseeing a local church, Satan tempts many pastors with bitterness and discouragement of soul so they become weary and tired of the work of the Lord.
This is never God’s plan for a leader. While it is normal for a pastor to have a difficult schedule and work hard, getting sick and tired of both the people and church is one of the biggest open doors for Satan to come and rob a pastor and his or her family of the joy of the Lord, and with it their passion for the kingdom.
Many pastors even preach out of an empty soul replete with internal anger, frustration, and presumption resulting in their imparting a spirit of condemnation rather than a spirit of faith during congregational messages.
Moses was not able to enter the Promised Land because he continually ministered out of anger and frustration (Numbers 16:15; 27:12-14; 11:10-15).
4. To mortgage the future with presumption in the present
One of the temptations Satan brought to Jesus was to presumptuously jump off a cliff to show that the Word of God is true regarding protection and deliverance (Matthew 4:5-7).
Likewise, pastors are continually tested to move ahead of God because they believe Scripture teaches them that God is somehow obligated to protect and provide for all of their needs.
The problem with this is that God is under no obligation to provide unless He is the one who is guiding! God will only give provision to that which is of His vision!
I have known countless pastors who went out on a limb and got their churches into great debt so they could purchase bigger and better buildings. Many of them have lost their buildings, their ministries, and their health because of taking this satanic bait of presumption–primarily to satisfy their own ambitions, egos, or to gain acceptance and acclaim from their peers and congregations.
In the same way Satan successfully tempted Eve by promising her better things, he is still tempting us to be like God by going after things God never gave permission to apprehend.
5. To build one-generational ministry built around the senior leader
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for the future health of any church is when a pastor doesn’t make room for the gifts of faithful, proven, emerging leaders. Some pastors are a one-man show, not wanting to delegate preaching and important ministry tasks to anyone else. This is partly because there may be a fear that someone will get too much power or popularity and will replace them.
Truly, there is no success without a successor. Also, the greatest proof of a successful leader is that they nurture people to become better leaders than they are! The greatest goal of a leader is to prepare the next generation to enter the Promised Land and accomplish even greater works than the previous generation (John 14:12).
6. To build a ministry reflecting only the personality of the pastor and not the image of Christ
Satan tempts pastors to be one-generational leaders by enticing them to build their local churches primarily on the personality and gifts of senior leaders instead of leading with a multiplicity of leadership. Satan does this because churches and ministries built merely upon one great personality usually fail when the great personality passes from the scene, thus ensuring only temporary success and impact.
Satan also encourages this kind of leadership style because leaders like this usually only gather a crowd of sheep who follow without thinking and leading others. This results in a congregation filled with people merely being entertained by the pastor instead of being released into their calling according to 1 Corinthians 12.
7. To sacrifice their children on the altar of ministry
One of the things Satan attempts to do is shown through Pharaoh, when he told Moses the children of Israel could be free if they would just leave him their children and only let the adults go and worship the Lord (Exodus 10:8-11).
Lest anyone think Satan doesn’t tempt in this manner today, they need only look at the small percentage of preachers’ kids who follow their parents into the ministry and the faith.
One reason for this is pastors sometimes fall into the bait of putting ministry before their families in such a way they hardly have any quality time with their kids. What good is it if through our hard work and successful ministry we win the whole world and lose our children to the devil? Church members come and go but our children are our responsibility as our heritage from the Lord (Psalm 127:3-5) and will be with us until we pass into the next life.
8. To be non-confrontational in key relationships
Due to the nature of local churches there will always be numerous relational challenges. Pastors must hold people accountable and uphold a standard of integrity and transparency in order to bring people to the next level of their purpose in the Kingdom of God.
Often, the issues of the people they are attempting to disciple will flair up. It is very tempting for a pastor to continually overlook the low standards of some of their leaders and key members, especially in regards to the paying of tithes and offerings, church attendance, personal devotions, raising a family, and in ministering to the needs of the people in the church. As hard as it is for a pastor to continually deal with holding secondary leaders and key church members accountable, the worst thing they could do is ignore issues and just hope they go away!
I have found that pastors who are non-confrontational and hold in feelings of hurt, anger, frustration, and betrayal–and who refuse to confront people when they are missing the mark in a key area–wind up having incredible stress, depression, and pent-up frustration that can destroy their personal walks with the Lord, their passion for the church, and their marriages.
First John 1:7 teaches us that we need to walk in the light with one another in order for us to have true fellowship. Pastors who don’t walk in the light allow a spirit of darkness and deception to come into their local churches which could eventually result in church splits and the collapse of the leadership.
9. To get other pastors to believe that their church is the only church that will bring revival to their region
Thank God, in my city most pastors believe it will take the whole body of Christ working together to fully transform a city the size of New York.
Satan tempts pastors to think that their local church is “the church” in the region, or “the only church” God is going use to bring revival. This puts enormous stress and pressure upon the pastor to perform every week, including hyping up services, and fall into exaggerating the influence and number of church attendees they have on Sundays when speaking to other leaders. Eventually, even the congregation will become sick and tired of hearing these declarations because they won’t see the fruit! The result is the pastor being humbled by God until they come to the conclusion they must work for the glory of God and the promotion of His kingdom, not just the expansion of their local church.
10. To view ministry merely as a profession rather than a calling
Satan tries to get pastors to serve in the ministry merely for money, which makes them hirelings instead of true shepherds (John 10:10-15).
God wants us to love Him and His church so much that, if it were possible, we would preach and serve Him in the local church for nothing! Of course, that is not practical and not even biblical (1 Corinthians 9:14) but it should be the attitude of our hearts.
Satan loves hirelings because they don’t really love the sheep but serve for monetary compensation. Thus, they love the things of this world more than the Kingdom of God.
Any person who views the pastorate primarily as a profession instead of having received it from the Lord as a calling is not a true shepherd and will not have the grace and power of God to have a long, successful ministry.