The following is based partly on my personal experience as a pastor but mostly on conversations I’ve had with other pastors…
In my congregation I’m held up on a pedestal. I’m the spiritual guy after all. I hate this. It leaves me feeling guilty. I don’t have it all together. I rarely have time to pray and when I do I find it hard. The only time I really get to read my Bible is during sermon preparation. Sometimes I don’t even want to go on Sunday because I feel like a hypocrite. I will tell you to read your Bible and pray more, but I don’t. And yet here I am, looked up to and relied on to help you with your walk with Jesus.
You don’t need me to hand feed you. There’s a place for sermons, teaching and encouragement. It frustrates me when you solely rely on me for your spiritual nourishment. When will you take responsibility for your own walk with God. Deep down I love you and I want to you grow in your relationship with God. I want to help you do this but please don’t become dependent on me. I am inadequate for this. I can teach you. I can pray with you. I can encourage you but I need you to work with God.
I’m too busy. I go from service to service, conference to conference, meeting to meeting. I’m always on the go. Some people think this is because I’m important. It’s not that. I’m just doing what needs to be done, as Eugene Peterson puts it, to ‘run this damn church’. I don’t want to sound bitter. I thought it would be different. I thought God was calling me to make a difference in people’s lives. I thought I would have time to cultivate my own walk with him. I thought I would get to lead people to Jesus. I thought I would see the Holy Spirit changing people’s lives. Instead I’m too busy.
It all has its costs. My family suffers. At times my ministry is a strain between me and my wife. I don’t spend as much time as I need with my children. I pour so much of my heart and soul into the Sunday sermon that I’m left emotionally drained on Monday. Of course this is my day off and so my family-time is often when I’m lowest. I feel guilty because I know the sacrifice my ministry has on them.
I struggle with stress, anxiety and depression. I feel like a canvass that has been stretched too tight and I don’t know who to turn to. I don’t really have many close friends. I am lonely. I struggle to know how much to share with you because I’ve heard the stories of betrayal. I want to be authentic but I know pastors who have had their stories used against them.
I love God. Despite my frustrations, I love the people God has called me to serve. At times I wish it wasn’t so costly and I didn’t feel guilty. I really believed God has called me to minister to you. Sometimes this is what I hold on to.
A significant number of pastors leave church ministry prematurely. Often this is because of burnout, unrealistic expectations and relational demands. I think this is a tragedy. Don’t let your pastor be one of them. Look for ways that you can bring encouragement and enrich their walk with God.