For years, I’ve heard the old adage from Pastors: I quit my job almost every Monday
Honestly, I get it….but please stop.
(From the get-go of this blog for pastors, I want to speak into this thing of “The Calling” upon your life. The greatest calling you can have upon your life has nothing to do with a title or position per se…
…the highest calling is obedience.
I don’t give a crap what title you have. Obedience is the highest calling. That is to say: If you are where God wants you, you are no less “called” than ANY minister in ANY position regardless of size or notoriety. Now that I’ve got that established…back to the blog.)
Pastoring can be frustrating. According to ChurchLeaders.com, the numbers come in at around 1,700 pastors leaving ministry a month. Pastors resign for a number of reasons. Most articles I’ve read list criticism, failure, loneliness, burnout, discouraged, and frustration as reasons pastors hit the “eject button.” Of course it would be naive to not mention leaving ministry because the Lord is leading in a new direction or your church has changed Lead Pastors and the “fit” as an associate is no longer there. Pastors leaving a position doesn’t have to be a bad thing and/or a sin thing. But stats show that most are leaving a bit more fractured than when they started.
If you are in this place right now, today, Monday…HANG IN THERE!
Why? From what I see in scripture, most mistakes come when people act out of fatigue and hunger. From Moses weary from the murmuring, to Esau selling out for a bowl of soup, examples abound of leaders who acted out of a desperate place (David, Sampson, and Elijah are a few more examples). Are you feeling weary? Are you famished internally? I get it. Especially on Monday after you’ve studied, counseled, prayed, preached, and served on the weekend.
For a glimpse moment 17 years ago, I was at my threshold. In just year 2 of ministry, I was exhausted. The passion was gone. I felt beaten up and useless. Thoughts of “is there anything else I could do with my life?” came through my mind. I wasn’t ready to give up a position. I was wondering if I was cut out for ministry. I was tired. I was empty. And I sat at my computer wiping away my tears trying to type a letter of resignation.
I get it.
But after 19 years of this ministry thing, I can say: I love being a pastor and there’s nothing else I’d rather do. Not only that, but I get to wake up ever day and pastor Kfirst. I’m a different beast from 17 years ago. And there’s a thing or two I had to learn along the way that has not only fed my love for Jesus, but has helped feed my love for pastor ministry. So I thought I’d share a few of them:
Release fractures to Christ. Brokenness sucks. And if we do not completely give it over to God, it can be the identity we embrace and take from position to position and/or church to church. I’ve known pastors who have stepped out of ministry positions who have yet to get past the fracture of the past. I’ve been there. It’s an easy place to stay. It’s also a hell-hole to live in. Don’t just give your fractures to Jesus, release them completely to Him.
Find a “Paul” (or two). Pastor’s who isolate themselves are easy targets. Find a “Paul” (a minister who has more experience and wisdom) for mentoring and accountability. I’m eternally grateful for men like Curt Demoff, Joel Stocker, Hal Barringer (my dad), and a load of others who have been sources of encouragement, wisdom, and (when needed) were willing to kick me in the rear on issues. Remember: the enemy works in isolation; God works in community. Surround yourself with quality mentors.
Get a “Barnabas” (or two). As stated before, get into community. Mentors are great, but you also need peers who are in the same/similar situations for you to encourage as well as for your own encouragement. I love talking with my best friend (Aaron Hlavin) in ministry and don’t know what I’d do without him. My peers mean the world to me and continue to be “iron sharpening iron.”
Find your identity and your joy in The Lord and not your church. I hear it from pastors all the time. From attendance numbers, finances, to issues rising from the loud minority of people in the congregation, there are always going to be things that want to speak into your identity and joy (or steal it for that matter). The congregation wasn’t meant to feed who you are nor are they equipped for you to draw your joy from. Live in the Lordship of Jesus and not of people. Just that little tip can be a game-changer. I was for me.
Enjoy time with your marriage and family. Your family isn’t an accessory to your ministry. They are your first and most important ministry. Ministers who develop unhealthy marital habits (no dating, inconstant sex, zero healthy communication, etc) are setting themselves up for failure. On top of that, your kids need you more than the congregation. A healthy marriage will pave the way for healthy family. Healthy family will help pave the way for healthy leadership.
Feed yourself. Two things. First, Sermon prep is no substitute for person time with God. One is preparation to serve the needs of others. The other is serving the needs of your own soul. A starved pastor is a vulnerable pastor. And starvation, if not cared for, can feast on the wrong things. Second, never stop learning. Find some great authors. Listen to podcasts. Get to a conference (in person or online). Search for ways to deepen yourself from deep people and deep resources. Learn from everyone.
Be Teachable. If you don’t walk in humility, you’ll never grow past where you are at. Pride will callous you from teachable moments. Every encounter you have with people will always be an opportunity to grow. Even if the method was not correct, look at the heart and/or issue behind it. Is there some way you could grow from the situation? If anything, maybe you learned how NOT to approach issues of offense and frustration.
Get proper rest. Perhaps the most fruitful thing you can do for your ministry is rest. To the chagrin of some pastors I’ve encountered, “burning out for Jesus” doesn’t glorify Jesus. It’s driven by pride because it draws more attention to you instead of our Savior. If Jesus, in his 3 and a half years of ministry took time to rest, perhaps you can get some too. I’d rather be humble enough to rest than be humbled into rest by stress and fatigue. Be a steward of your body and your emotions. Get rest.
The list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a few of the things I’ve come across that have helped me. I think of the words of Paul,
“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.” Philippians 3:12
Unless the Lord has released you, don’t move from where you are. Fix your face like flint, humble yourself before the Lord, and seek after the Kingdom. Be faithful where God has placed you. I believe in you. I’m praying for you. And I expect great things in you because of how great Jesus is.
Press on faithful servant.
Thanks for letting me ramble…