When I was first considering becoming a pastor, I remember many wise men counseling me to “make sure you are called” and “if you can do anything else and be satisfied, do it.” After 20 years of ministry, now I know why. Wherever these thoughts come from, they are real, and from time to time make me want to just pack up everything and quit and just go wait tables…
I’m not sure I have what it takes. Churches need leadership. This role is bigger than anything I’ve done before and maybe it’s too big for me. I see the growth and success in other churches and I’m not sure I have what it takes to see that kind of success here. This church needs a pastor who can lead them to make a kingdom impact. I don’t know if I can do it.
I fear failure. All my life I’ve been trying to prove to myself and to others that I am good enough. But what if I’m not? What if I fail in ministry and lead the church not to growth, but decline? What if I try to lead but no one follows? What if I lead, but I lead down the wrong path? I want to be successful in ministry, but I fear that I will fall on my face.
I don’t want to fall. People see the godliness in me, but much remains hidden. I am a sinner and I think sinful thoughts and do sinful things. I don’t want to fall, but I know my flesh is weak. If I fall as a leader, it could destroy me, destroy my family, destroy my ministry. I fear bringing reproach on the name of Christ.
I fear being found out. Maybe I won’t fall in a big way, but I’m still not what others think I am. Being in the ministry means people are examining my life more closely. What if people find out what really goes on in my heart? That I struggle with pride and lust and anger and insecurity and contentment?!? I want people to see me as a godly man. What if people find out I’m a sinner?
Ministry is draining. The demands are great. The need is never-ending. The stakes are high. The complaints are many. The unity is fragile. The conflicts are continuous. The pressure is intense. The workload is overwhelming. The ministry is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. I don’t know if I can handle all of this for another 25 years.
Ministry is hard on my family. I want to be a good husband and a good dad. Ministry constantly pulls me away from family to the many needs of the church body. Having a pastor for a husband and a dad means their lives are lived in a fishbowl for all to see. At home, they often see me stressed, frustrated, or burdened. I want them to see a heart of joyful sacrifice, but sometimes I think I am asking/taking too much from them.
I feel so alone. I’m an extrovert, yet I spend many hours by myself. When I’m with people, I still feel alone. I have no one to really talk to, no one to confide in, no one to whom I can confess my secret sins. Lots of people think they know the pressures of ministry, but they really don’t. If I’m discouraged, I can’t tell anyone. The heaviest burdens I even keep from my spouse because they are too much for her to bear. I feel isolated.
I am prone to depression. I am not clinically depressed, mind you, but I have many melancholy days. Ministry can be disheartening. When my efforts in ministry seem to have no effect or people complain or someone leaves the church or it seems no one cares or I just have the Monday morning let down, I often get discouraged. Often that depression lingers. Further, I have seen several brothers in ministry end their own life or attempt to do so. That scares me.
Ministry is a heavy burden. The responsibility for the souls of others is a great weight. Few laymen can really understand – I’m not sure my wife even does. Pastoral ministry comes with a grave responsibility. I must preach the word, rightly divide it, boldly proclaim it, and humbly apply it. I am spiritually responsible as a shepherd of God’s flock. Eternity is in the balance and I am accountable. That’s a weight that seems too heavy to bear.
I want to be normal. I don’t want to live in a fishbowl. I don’t want to have to pray at every function, have advice for every situation, or have to be cheerful all the time. I want to be able to make mistakes, go to the movies, cut someone off in traffic, tell a joke, yell at my kids, eat at a restaurant, go on vacation, drive a nice car, wear a loud shirt or do any number of normal things without being judged, looked down on, or gossiped about. I want to be able to go out in public without everyone having a cow because I do something that supposedly a minister is not supposed to do. I want to be normal.
I’m being honest here, but I don’t think I’m saying things that are unique to me. There are biblical answers to each of these and none have thus far kept me from pursuing the call of God on my life. But the concerns are real. Pastors need to stay vitally connected to the Lord and to other believers who will encourage them. Christians need to pray for their pastors.
What would you add to this list?
What advice or encouragement would you give to pastors experiencing any of these things?