Hi Pastor… Can we talk?
Hi Pastor! My name is Mike and I’m glad to meet you. I direct a Christian non-profit and I’ve been doing some reading about what it’s like to be a pastor today and it doesn’t seem like a lot of fun a lot of the time. I’m sorry if you’re having a rough time. I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be so rough, and in fact, it shouldn’t be so rough. The statistics on Western pastors are brutal:
- 70% of pastors say they have a lower self-esteem now than when they entered ministry.
- 70% constantly fight depression.
- 50% feel so discouraged that they would leave their ministry if they could, but can’t find another job.
- 80% believe their pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families and 33% said it was an outright hazard.
- 50% admit to using pornography and 37% report inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.
If any of this hits home for you, I want you to know that I’m praying for you and as a way to hopefully come alongside you and help you, is it OK if I ask a few questions? I know that what you do for a living is hard, and you may seem like you are being pulled in a million directions, and I honor your sacrifice and commitment for the sake of the work you’re doing at your church. First, how is your devotional ‘quiet time’ with Jesus? We know from Scripture that Jesus asks us daily to ‘abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.’ It’s so easy to try and ‘do the ministry’ while barely skating by in your dedicated time with Jesus, and I speak from past experience here. With so much to do every day, it’s easy to let this one slip, but I have to tell you (and you already know this), don’t let it slip. Nothing good is going to happen in your ministry unless you’re closely connected to Jesus. Take the first hour of the day to get time with Him BEFORE you do anything else. Being solidly connected to Jesus going into the business is so helpful!
Also, I’m also curious about how you’re doing in the area of pride. I’d love to get some time to do a deep dive in this area, because it’s an area that gets pastors in trouble all the time. And it easy to see why. You’re the man at your church, preaching most Sundays and leading a team of people and it’s so easy to think it all depends on you. But Proverbs 11:2 rings too true for many pastors, ‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.’ Having everyone hanging on your every word is intoxicating! I’d ask you to spend some time checking in on this area… It’ll do you a world of good and could prevents disaster down the road.
Finally, I’d like to ask you about your ‘why.’ Why are you doing your ministry? Is it for you, to feed your ego or out of a sense of calling in your life? This may seem silly for me to ask you, but you’d be surprised how many pastors struggle in this area. In asking your ‘why,’ I’d also encourage you to probe with your top leaders if the purpose of your church is to do everything you can to make sure that people are coming back or is it, as we read repeatedly in Scripture to make disciples that make disciples? And these two ‘whys’ are two very different things. Todd Wagner, in his excellent book Come and See: Everything You Ever Wanted in the One Place You Would Never Look, has a fantastic illustration about this. He states that people select churches much like they would a cruise ship. ‘Whether consciously or otherwise, they ask certain questions that reveal their expectations. Do I like the music in the ballroom? Do I like the captain and his staff? Do I get good service? Is it pleasant and comfortable? Do I like the experience enough to sail with them again?’ It’s easy to feed these expectations as a leader, thinking that you have to make everything nice in order for people to come back. But I tell you that this is leading to the stats I mentioned about pastors. If you’re always trying to ‘do more’ to get people to come back without the meat of the biblical purpose of the church, there’s no way you’ll ever keep up. You put yourself and your team on a hamster wheel that you’ll never get off of and far too often, burnout and discouragement prevails.
Pastor, as you answer these questions, let me give you couple of quick encouragements. First, let me encourage you to have men in your life that are asking you these questions, and are holding you accountable to growth in these areas. It’s crucial. Second, I’d encourage you to do a deep dive in John 15:1-8 with an eye toward how you’re doing at abiding in Christ. And thirdly, if you don’t know your ‘why’ that you’re in ministry, it may be time to go do something else with the rest of your life. Full-time ministry is far too hard and the sacrifices are far too great to be going through the motions. There’s no shame is stepping away, maybe even for a season. And through it all, please know I’m praying for you!
 John 15:4-5
 Wagner, Todd. Come and See: Everything You Ever Wanted in the One Place You Would Never Look. Colorado Springs, David C Cook, 2017. p. 79