I read an article today by Matt Boswell from Redemption Church, called, “10 Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly.” I had two distinctive reactions when I read the post.
- Wow! How did he get inside my head?
- No Way! It shouldn’t be this way when you are privileged to serve Jesus Christ as a leader of the church. Is this kind of insecurity, frustration, anger and even dismay a necessary part of ministry?
Boswell makes 10 points. I’m not going to copy the entire post here – not sure what the ethics of that are, but it annoys me when I see articles from Voices copied in toto on other sites. But I will interact with his 10 points – each of which strikes me as both true and troublesome.
Each of these things is a daily reality in the lives of men of God who serve the people of God, but they are also admissions of our sinfulness and frailty. They represent what is but ought not be. The points below are from Matt Boswell’s post. The comments are mine.
#1. We Take It Personally When You Leave The Church.
I’ve had families that were nothing but trouble, but when they finally left the church I felt a personal sense of injury. Of course, there might be a little bit of relief that the are now someone else’s problem, but that wound is still there. I’m not SuperDave after all – able to leap tall Deacons in a single bound.
#2. We Feel Pressure To Perform Week After Week.
I know (and regularly preach) that we are accepted by God’s grace because of the righteousness of Christ, not our own. But I also feel this internal pressure (and sometimes external) to perform well week by week. I sometimes feel like that guy with the plates on the old Ed Sullivan show. He keeps all the plates spinning on top of poles, but if he he stops his frenetic spinning, everything comes crashing to the ground.
#3. We Struggle With Getting Our Worth From Ministry.
If things go sour at Southern Hills, will I be any less loved by God, any less worthy as a person? Of course not. I was never worthy anyway. My worth is in Christ.
Why is it that if I know that and preach that, how come I struggle so much to FEEL that!
#4. We Regularly Think About Quitting.
Sometimes I want to quit, sometimes I want to quit Southern Hills. Regularly. Not quite weekly, but almost. A couple of months ago I had a difficult meeting where unfair accusations were made against someone I care a lot about. I was so mad I went home, got out my computer and sent my resume to about 10 or 12 churches on sbc.net that listed job openings
Really, I just wanted to run away. The good news is that at my age, churches just throw my resume in the trash (that’s another post entirely!). So, I’m stuck with SHBC and they are stuck with me. But that sense of wanting to run away comes often for me, as it does for many in ministry.
#5. We Say We Are Transparent – It’s Actually Opaque.
I used to revel in my transparency, putting my faults and failings out there for everyone to see. When my transparency was used by members to try to destroy me, I gradually became a little more opaque.
Here’s what I think – churches want you to admit that your clothes get dirty but they don’t want to see your dirty laundry in public. They want me to admit my imperfections and struggles, but only in general terms. No details.
I have found it best to have my closest friends outside the church.
#6. We Measure Ourselves By The Numbers.
I have Facebook friends who humblebrag their numbers – to the glory of God, of course! “Rejoicing today that I got to baptize 3 and 2 families joined the church. God is good.” Others have become almost obsessive about disdaining numerical growth – as if it is a sign of shame that people are being baptized and the church is getting bigger. We Baptists have a tumultuous relationship with numbers, don’t we?
But there is in each of us a tendency to measure our worth by our church’s key numbers. It is sad, but true.
When I was pastor in rural Virginia, we had weekly associational pastors meetings with lunches. We’d go into the sanctuary for the meeting before hitting the fellowship hall for fried chicken. Each church had one of those number reporting boards, and you could almost see everyone staring at the board and calculating how their numbers compared to that church’s.
When the meeting was at my church, I had a little fun, switching the numbers around. Our attendance had been 139, but that became 931, etc. I switched all the numbers around. Drakes Branch had really had a GREAT week. After the meeting, as we were walking out, I said loudly, “Wow, somehow these numbers all got mixed up.” Yep. They’d noticed!
I wish my church’s current numbers were better than they are. I wish we baptized more, attracted more, lost fewer, collected more. There is a not a number at Southern Hills I wouldn’t like to see on the rise. But my worth is in Christ, not the numbers.
#7 We Spend More Time Discouraged Than Encouraged.
What an amazing privilege it is to preach God’s Word and lead God’s people. It really is. But the way we preachers whine, you’d think that we were tasked with cleaning backed up sewer systems.
But the fact is that even though I realize what a great privilege my job is, I hate it pretty often. Some of my people read my blogs, so I won’t get specific, but there are many times that I do not love what I do.
You need not offer pious platitudes. I know that admission is neither spiritual nor honorable. But it is what I feel from time to time. Why is it that we who are tasked with such a glorious duty spend so much time in discouragement and despair? Should it be that way?
The pressure can be intense and the stakes are high. This is not a new experience either. Read biographies of great leaders in church history and many struggled with depression.
Why? Why do the undershepherds of Christ spend so much time struggling with anger and discouragement?
#8. We Worry About What You Think.
This has been one of my biggest struggles – the fear of man and the desire to be liked.
I know I ought to care only about what God thinks of me and my ministry, and someday I hope that will be true. But today, I still care about what people think.
#9. We Struggle With Competition And Jealousy.
This was a huge issue for me, one God’s Spirit deal with me strongly about. I still struggle with it at times. Other pastors in town who preach the Word are not my competition, but my fellow-laborers in Christ.
Too often I forget that. How about you?
#10. We Feel Like We Failed You More Than We Helped You.
Guilt. Daily guilt. Did I do enough? Could I have done more?
A couple of weeks ago, I woke up on a Friday thinking, “I need to go visit Mrs. Whomever.” I am sure it was a prompting from the Spirit, but I got busy with my day and procrastinated the visit. I was awakened the next morning by a phone call that she had died. I went over and visited with the family, apologizing for not going the day before, but feeling guilty all the while.
I could analyze this all day, but my point is much simpler than that. I’ve talked to enough pastors to know that my feelings are not unique. We struggle with these identity issues, satisfaction issues, self-criticism and all the things that Matt Boswell mentioned. These issues are real.
But why? Why can’t we find our security in Christ and trust his sovereign work in the church?
I wish I had the answers.