Pastors are often fed.
Perhaps one of the greatest traditions in the long history of the Christian church is that people love to serve food to their pastors. With local pastors in India, I’ve been fed rice & curried chicken. With local pastors in Vanuatu, I’ve been fed taro and papayas. With local pastors in Mexico, I’ve been fed frijoles and tortillas. Universally, it seems, Christian people love to physically feed the pastors who feed them spiritually.
Yet undoubtedly, the meal I’ve been fed the most over the years is baloney.
- “You’re the greatest preacher in America.”
- “You’re a phony and have been deceiving this church for years.”
- “This is the most amazing church in the country.”
- “This church ignores the most needy and only cares for itself.”
- “You’re a liberal.”
- “You’re a legalist.”
- “Do your children know how lucky they are to have the perfect father?”
- “How do you live with yourself?”
- “You’re the best Christian I’ve ever met.”
- “It’s obvious that you are not a REAL Christian.”
Funny! Right? Okay, so… if you’re a pastor with a few years under your belt, you’ve probably heard each and every one of these statements.
Declared with conviction and certainty? Sure.
True? Not a single one of them.
Yet, I’ve been fed each and every one of these statements over the years. The problem is that I, more often than not, gobble up every slab of baloney that is set before me. I’m the greatest! I’m the worst! Our church is the best! Our church is terrible! God is pleased with me! God is upset with me!
And then there’s the Master Chef! The culinary artist who’s been feeding lies to the people of God since his early days in the Garden of Eden. That old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was a liar from the beginning.
And he is still lying to pastors today…
You’re a Failure
There are two perspectives in every ministry.
There are those who look at the ministry from the outside and those who look at the ministry from the inside. I’m amazed at the perspective of those who watch our ministry from afar. They often can see what I have trouble recognizing.
Where they see strength – I see struggle.
Where they see growth – I see attrition.
Where they see the ever-manicured façade presented on social media – I see the increasingly-tangled mess of an organization which I’ve created.
Neither what they see, nor what I see, are the most accurate representations of reality. The truth, as it often does, lies somewhere in between the extremes. You and I are merely servants of Christ, set on a specific course in which we are to run. At times, we see successes. Other times, we see failures.
The entire time we’re being told lies by an invisible enemy.
This is where SATAN comes in to play.
“You’re a failure! You were supposed to be successful by now! What happened to your 10-year-plan? What happened to those 2019 goals and resolutions? You should give up man. It just isn’t happening for you…and you know why. It’s time to let better people take your place.”
I’m amazed how the enemy can get away with such obvious lies. Hocking the same old tired tales he’s been selling for centuries.
I recently spoke with a highly successful church planter in the Midwest who has recently faced a string of personal and professional difficulties. In the last seven years he and his wife have built a congregation from scratch to over 250 in weekly attendance. They have seen incredible stories of God graciously saving sinners, lost sons and daughters of the Kingdom returning to the Lord, and an authentic community of believers form into a church that had previously never existed. Yet, when I spoke with him, he honestly couldn’t see the great success he and his family had become.
This was probably true because he believed the second lie…
You’re Not Making an Impact
Yes! Pastors can be a tiresome bunch. We are supposed to serve without recognition or congratulation but we continually crave validation and confirmation. The Devil knows this and loves to whisper this lie into the ears of the servants of Christ.
Here is an email I received from a truly godly man just the other day,
“I’ve thought many times, ‘God, why am I not at 300 or 500 in attendance?’ ‘Why am I not impacting more teenagers for Christ through my story?’ I battle with my selfish pride, knowing I have a message to share but not having the opportunities to share them. Along with this I’ve had to deal with one passing mess after another in my little pastoral world. Then it happened. The owners of the coffee shop I frequent approached me with an incredibly strange request. They were facing a very difficult situation regarding gun violence and murder charge in their immediate community. I agreed to help in any way I could. It’s been incredible. Yesterday I attended the 2nd hearing for this gentleman, he was released and will likely be cleared of all charges. I prayed with the family and the entire community who came out to support this man and verify his well-known character. I’ve spent hours talking, encouraging, and pastoring through this amazing opportunity. Last night I was sitting in that same coffee shop when the wrongly accused man walked in. Immediately, when he saw that it was me, he approached, shook my hand, came in for a hug and then said, ‘I can see that God is real and that everyone is praying for me.’ I’m not sure where all of this is going, but I can say that God is clearly trying to teach me a lesson. I am supposed to focus on loving and pastoring my community. The day will surely come when I’m able to see more in weekly attendance. The day will come when I’ll be able to travel more broadly and reach a younger audience. But for now, it’s apparent that God is using me right here and right now.”
The above email is astounding. Here is a man who has accomplished one fo the greatest revitalization projects I’ve ever seen in a church. I mean it. The previous pastor left in scandal. The debt to income ratio of this congregation was radically our of whack. Most of the members were leaving, and the reputation of the church in the community was suffering. The church was a disaster when God called him to take the lead in this ministry. But then, God performed a miracle through this man and his wife.
Yet, he still feels as if he isn’t making a big enough impact.
If you’re not a pastor, here’s what you’ve got to know. Every pastor, at some point or another, feels like George Bailey looking over that snowy bridge. And, where there are plenty of voices screaming that he hasn’t been enough, there is a deep need for someone (like Clarence) to step forward and remind the Pastor that they truly have made an impact.
If you are a pastor, here’s what you’ve got to know. Paul reminded us in I Corinthians 15:58 as his “beloved brethren, (to) be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Here’s a fact! Ministry leaders often don’t give themselves enough credit for what God has done in them and through them.
It’s Time to Quit
Here are a few statistics to consider…
- 72% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
- 84% of pastors feel they are on call 24/7.
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
- 78% of pastors report having their vacation and personal time interrupted with ministry expectations.
- 90% of pastors report the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
- 57% of pastors believe they do not receive a livable wage.
- 35% of pastors battle depression or fear of inadequacy.
- Over 50% of pastors state the biggest challenge is to recruit volunteers to help serve in church.
- 70% of pastors report they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
- 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider to be a close friend.
- The profession of “Pastor” is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above “car salesman”.
- Many denominations are reporting an “Empty Pulpit Crisis”. They do not have a shortage of ministers but have a shortage of ministers desiring to fill the role of a pastor.
- 1 out of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a pastor.
I know what some may be thinking while reading this list. “WAAA! WAAA! WAAA! Somebody call the WAMBULANCE! We’ve all got tough lives. Time to man up, right?”
Your sentiments are not unique. In fact, it will be pastors who are the most critical of the aforementioned statistics. It’s not that we disagree with the research, but that our answer will be to simply toughen up and quit complaining. I mean, it’s not like we are ministering in the days of persecution.
Yet there is still an undeniable truth. In a day when we need more missionaries, church planters, revitalizers, evangelists, and pastors all around the world – we are hemorrhaging ministry leaders.
Fellas, here’s what we’ve got to remember. We serve an incredible Master and we’ve not yet arrived at the end of the shift. Payday is coming! We must remember what the Apostle said…
Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
And here we see the Apostle Peter encourage us…
I Peter 5:2-4 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you…and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
Yes! Some ministers of Christ NEVER doubt, get discouraged, and think about quitting.
You’ve heard from men, far better than we, who have never doubted their calling, never considered leaving, never contemplated quitting. I cannot claim to be a man of such caliber. In contrast, I can remember only a few Sundays that I experienced the holy trifecta of being satisfied with my sermon, the people’s participation, and the church’s attendance. How few and far between these moments have been over the last 15 years.
Yet, as one of the guys in the trench with you, we’ve still got a long way to go. There is a cause greater than our difficulty. There is a Heaven sweeter than the Hell we endure. There is a heritage of disciples who have paved the road we trod. There is a Holy Spirit who comforts us in our darkest moments. There is a There is a brotherhood who stands with you AND for you!
Don’t believe the lie of that deplorable worm who’s already been defeated. You are a child of God, a prince of the Kingdom, and a servant of the Most High God. We don’t bow before idols and we don’t cower before castrated bullies. The Devil, though powerful in his day, has no power over you; no influence in your life that you don’t allow. His downfall began in the Garden of Eden and his conquest was completed at Calvary. It was there that Christ disarmed your enemy, making a public spectacle of him, and shaming them into utter submission.
Look pal! The Devil wants you to quit. He needs it! His entire plan is based upon the core idea that he can take down men and women of God. Same old game plan. Same tired playbook. We just have to keep going and NEVER quit. For it is God who is doing the work through us anyway.
Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
You’re All Alone
If you’ve made it thus far in this bloated blog post this one truth should be abundantly clear.
We’ve had the same struggles. We’ve contemplated the same thoughts. We’ve believed the same lies.
I think one of the greatest tricks of our enemy is to get us in a secluded place, isolate us from those with similar experiences, and convince us that we are the only ones out there like this. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve come across hundreds of men just like us who are deeply flawed like the original disciples, extremely passionate about the Lord Jesus Christ, and really susceptible to the lies of the enemy.
Look – here’s the truth! If you fit the description above – you have found friends in us. Heather and I would love to know you and welcome you into our little clan of friends who are committed to spotlighting the lies of enemy and boldly serving our Master into the future.
I’m serious. Reach out to us and we will stand with you.
In conclusion I’d like to ask you to do one of two things.
- If you’re a man or woman in ministry that is in need of a kind voice and ministerial encouragement – email us.
- If you know a ministry leader who may be discouraged – send them this, or part of this, blog post.
 Statistics provided by The Fuller Institute, George Barna, Lifeway, Schaeffer Institute of Leadership Development, and Pastoral Care Inc.
 Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what they believe the church has done to their parents.
 Genesis 3:15