When Pastoring Hurts Too Much
As a young, newly minted pastor I received a lot of advice. One piece of advice I remember someone giving me was that if I could do anything else other than pastoring successfully I should do it. The idea being that for one who is called to the ministry, God will not permit them to succeed at anything else they do.
I remember thinking that that kind of thinking was limited and foolish. It came from people with no talent and no ambition. Those that can’t, teach (or preach in this case). I later came to believe differently…
In my second pastoral assignment, I was placed as an associate pastor under a pastor who was under siege. We had a two church district. One had a membership of roughly 300 and the other a membership of 80. The senior pastor had been at the church for four years and over that time he had developed an adversarial relationship with the key leaders in the big church.
I was young and cocky and full of ideas and optimism for life.
I was young and cocky and full of ideas and optimism for life. My senior pastor, to his credit, gave me a long leash and let me start all kinds of initiatives. For around 6 months I was flying high. Enjoying myself and getting a good response from the members.
At the time I was subscribed to what was known as the Injoy Life Club. It was a monthly leadership tape ministry of John C. Maxwell. One of these tapes helped me to understand that my role as an associate pastor was to support the vision and plans of my senior pastor.
Shortly thereafter, I sat down with the senior pastor and asked him what his vision was for the church. His answer completely deflated me. He stated that vision was for young guys like me. He continued by saying that the church members were too narrow in their thinking and too set in their ways for any meaningful change to happen. The best one could hope for was to maintain the status quo.
This answer caused me to lose a lot of respect for my senior pastor. It poisoned my thinking. I began to feel trapped. I lost the will to make any serious changes or implement any new ideas. This new reality, along with a immature thinking on my part, led me down a road less than three months later of walking away from my pastoral calling.
Discouragement Sets In
Looking back, I realize now that the way I thought about myself and my ministry was flawed. I was young and cocky. I was also naive in my understanding of what it took to effect change. I misunderstood the nature of the pastoral call.
Somehow I thought that I was the master of my own fate. Like Jonah heading to Tarshish, I deluded myself by thinking that I could successfully serve God any number of ways besides being a pastor.
I spent the next 10 years in a self imposed exile. Drifting from job to job, from apartment to apartment and from one idea to the next. All the while I knew God was still pursuing me. I would occasionally be aware of it and would tell my wife that one day I’d be back in the ministry. I fought my calling for a long time.
Eventually, God won and I recommitted myself to my calling.
You’d think that that would be the end of it right? Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way. Ministry has continued to have hard moments of doubt and questioning. Through it all though, God has continue to be patient with me and to teach me. He isn’t done with me.
Ministry has moments of extreme joy and other moments of extreme pain. I am reminded of what Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24-25.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but
whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Obeying God has proven costly. It continues to be be so. There are easier ways to make money. Other things I would rather do. Other occupations were one is treated with more respect and care. None though with more eternal impact.
I know God is leading me. I know where I will end up. I just need to be reminded every once in a while that this world is not my home. This world is not my final destination. I am living and working to build something that will last forever.
What about you?