Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 to not let anyone despise your youth. He says more generally in Titus 2:15 to let no man despise you.
I’ve often wondered how this was done.
In my time as a pastor I was despised by 75% of the people who came in and out of my church. I had visitors on their first day at church despise me. I had people who attended my church for years despise me.
I had board members despise me. I got little else other than despisement!
I always hoped that the way to stop people from despising me was to punch them in the face. But as much as I searched, I could not find biblical justification for this conclusion.
I think Paul’s intent is twofold:
1) don’t live in such a way as to cause people to despise you. He follows up the phrase in 1 Timothy with being an example.
2) don’t let their despising of you stop you from preaching the word, which seems his intent in the Titus passage.
As to the first, I felt I did ok with my example. I’m not perfect and I definitely grew in my time as pastor because I started immature. But if anyone hung around me over those years they saw my growth. The people despising me routinely had worse lives than mine. I don’t think I was a terrible example, wasn’t perfect, but wasn’t terrible.
With one exception: I did use self-deprecating humor. I think this led people to feel safe in railing on me. Perhaps my humor didn’t help the situation.
Oh, and another exception: my church was not fancy or formal. There was nothing close to being humanly respectable about what we were doing. I did not carry myself with authority, demand titles, wear special robes, or anything like that. I think our humble church helped people bash.
So, OK, those two things didn’t help, but I don’t know that either one was a bad example; it just led to people despising me.
As to the second, no amount of despising me ever stopped my desire and practice of preaching the Word. I felt I did pretty well there. I even purposely hit on controversial issues, knowing full well who would despise me for doing so.
The more despising I got, the more free I felt to let it rip! If I was going to get rejected anyway, might as well preach the Word.
The despising of me just became regular background noise and was never a major influence in determining what I would preach about or say to people.
Pastors should pursue godliness. We are not to give a reason for unbelievers to blaspheme. We should not act in a way that disparages the ministry. The testimony of the pastor should be blameless, as Paul says.
Again, we all slip up, we are still human, but we should actively be dealing with sin in humility and repentance.
The main job is to proclaim the Word of God. Don’t let anything stop you from that.
If you do these two things–maintain a growth in righteousness and preach the Word—you will still be despised. Marvel not if the world hates you. Anyone who desires to live godly will suffer persecution.
In fact, the people who will despise you the most will be the ones whom you make feel guilty because you are pursuing righteousness and preaching the Word.
You can tell who is guilt-ridden simply by listening to what they say about you and the church. Sinners despise, it’s what they do.
Some pastors deserve being despised because they aren’t pursuing godliness and they aren’t preaching the Word. I despise them too!
Don’t be a pastor who brings it on due to a terrible testimony, and when you get despised anyway, don’t let it stop you from preaching the Word.