Pastors in Hiding

Ministry friend, are you struggling? Do you want to quit? Are you carrying a heavy load? Do you feel all alone? Need a friend to help you, listen to you, care for you, and give you hope? Please read the post below and reach out to us. You are never too far gone that the Lord cannot restore and refresh you!!! Let us help point you to the One Who is our Living Hope!!

Nearly Two in Five Pastors Have Considered Quitting Full-Time Ministry

With pastors’ well-being on the line, and many on the brink of burnout, 38 percent indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This percentage is up 9 full points (from 29%) since Barna asked church leaders this same question at the beginning of 2021.

There are many reasons for pastors quitting the ministry, but one I am concerned about is pastors in hiding.

Continue reading “Pastors in Hiding”

But We’ll Be Late! | The Pastor’s First Ministry

There she was, sleeping so soundly. After a very draining week emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, my wife was snuggled securely in bed in a deep slumber.

“What time is it? What day is it?” Those were her words when I awakened her.

Slowly she crawled out of bed and began to make herself ready for the day.

What day was it? Sunday.

What time was it? Suffice it to say, she had overslept!! Didn’t hear her alarm either.

We have pre-service prayer meeting on Sundays at 8:30. As I watched the clock and began to fix her a to-go breakfast, she came down the stairs. My wife was ready to go to church on the outside, but I could see that she was not on the inside. And based upon my ever present “I’ll fix this situation” manhood, I declared, “I’ll go on ahead, and you can come in your Jeep.”

Wait a minute! It’s raining, she’s fighting off a migraine, and she is definitely not crusin’ along on all eight cylinders.

It was then and there that my first ministry captured my attention. Serving my wife was more important than being at prayer meeting on time. She had no business driving by herself. She needed her husband. She needed her pastor. She needed her friend.

Pastors, Christian leaders, missionaries, we are so prone to put the ministry above our wives, leaving her in the dust with her brood as she carries seven diaper/book bags, Bibles, a purse, and wearing her “running shoes” to keep up with you. I mean, after all, you are the pastor and you must be there to open the door and lead in prayer! What will people think if you are late!!!

Men, you know the words of Matthew 22:37-39 quite well. May I encourage you to remember that your wife is your neighbor. She is to be loved more than your church congregation (Ephesians 5:25). Your ministry to your wife, and your church member, I might add, is an example to all the other believers. She is your first ministry.

Fighting the urge to drive a bit more aggressively and take some of the curves on two wheels, we had a nice, easy and enjoyable journey.

Interesting enough, folks gathered for prayer as always, and . . . we were the second ones in the parking lot. No harm done. Compassionate, caring love shown to my wife.

Thank You, Lord, for stopping me in my tracks and reminding me what is of greater value.

“C’mon, Hon. Take your time. I’ll wait. Let’s go together.”

Let’s Just Settle Down

My dad had many sayings. When my friends and I got rowdy as a kid, he would sometimes utter, “You boys need to settle down.”

Now in my 60’s and having been exposed to so much in the Christian and religious world for these years, could we as pastors/Christian leaders just settle down?

My background is one of . . . growing up in a pastor’s home (My dad was Church of the Nazarene until his Army days in Korea, and then came to understand the security of believer in Christ, thanks to a godly chaplain who taught him the Word!); The Wilds Christian Camp (Doc Hay, Rock Royer, Major Brooks, etc.); Bob Jones University (college and seminary plus a host of its graduates including all of its presidents to date, Bible Conference speakers, faculty, etc.); Tennessee Temple University graduates; the Sword of the Lord crowd; my Southern Baptist grandfather who pastored in Kentucky and southwest Virginia; the GARBC; the many men who fellowshipped in what was for years known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (Now Foundations Baptist Fellowship); Dallas Theological Seminary grads; being mentored personally by the likes of J.B. Williams, J. Robert Martin, Randy Patten, Reynold Lemp and many others; plus being influenced from a distance by the likes of Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Henry Blackaby, David Jeremiah, and more.

In more recent years, my background continues to be of the many mentioned above plus Men’s Prayer Advance, 9Marks, T4G, CoRE Conferences, plus many, many books authored by Tripp, Ortlund, Wells, Bridges, Payne & Marshall, Thomas, Huegal, Ryrie, Walvord, Pickering, etc.

“What’s the point?’, you may ask.

Well, I want to say that for all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out; none of us knows all the facts about everyone or every situation; none of us know more than our God; none of us have the absolute right methodology; none of us are the standard; and none of us have arrived!

For all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out . . . none of us have arrived!

We all come from various backgrounds and are all influenced by a diverse group of people, churches, institutions and movements, but we are saved by grace through faith alone in the cross work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ. We are made complete in Christ. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are children of the living God!

Therefore, understanding that there are clear, biblical points of separation and the application thereof, such as preeminently, the Gospel (Galatians 1:1-10), may I say that we need to . . .

  • Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
  • Be gracious and kind.
  • Stop making fun of our brothers on social media whether you agree with him or not. (No wonder the lost world doesn’t want our Jesus, seeing the way we lampoon one another.)
  • Throw away our Pharisaical microscope.
  • Give one another space to grow in sanctification.
  • Cheer our brother on when he’s down. When revival breaks out where he pastors but not where you serve, rejoice and praise God with him!
  • Personally call up the brother we have issue with instead of talking about him behind his back or on social media.
  • Exchange the time of criticizing and posting for time on our knees in prayer.
  • Let God handle error by His righteous standard rather than us being “the enforcer.”
  • Meet with your brother for coffee; get to know him and disciple each other.
  • Confess and repent of our arrogance and pride.
  • Exercise grace.
  • Remember, we will live forever together in Glory!

Throw away your Pharisaical microscope.

In times past, I have jokingly said, for instance to a group of four men, “There are only four people in the world that’s perfect. That’s me and you three, and . . . I am doubtful about you three!”

Proverbs 22:4 recently challenged my heart again . . . By humility and the fear of the LORD (not man) are riches and honor and life.

May I suggest that we soak our soul often in the truths of Colossians 1:15-18 and go deep in meditation and prayer in Philippians 1:1-2:18?

Let’s join Paul in prayer . . . And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

Let’s just settle down.

“I Don’t Care Anymore!”

“It’s time for me to quit!”

“I’m so weary and tired.”

“I need a break from the ministry!”

“The past two years have been my worst ever in all these years of ministry.”

“What’s the use?”

“The financial struggle has gotten the best of me.”

“I didn’t know so-called Christians could be so mean!”

“My family has gone through hell!”

“Loneliness in ministry is severe.”

These and a hundred more statements have been heard and made by pastors over the years, some recently and others frequently.

Pastor, I am right there with you.

Many years ago in a ministry in another state, the deacon chairman lived directly across the street from the parsonage. He and wife watched us “like a hawk.” They rose up against my wife and me, even leading others to join them. At seemingly my wit’s end one morning, my wife standing in the bedroom with me, I grabbed a pillow from the bed, hurled it across the room, and yelled, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!

Now, some thirty years later, many more blessings than battles, I can say, “I made it, and we are continuing to make it, take it, move forward, . . . all by the sufficient grace and unfathomable love of God, plus the multiplied “ravens” (e.g. Elijah, 1 Kings 17) He has sent our way.

Pastor, may I help you today?

Perhaps one of the things that is “killing you” today, breaking down your body, and harming your marriage and family as well as the ministry is your own set of expectations.

Psalm 62:5, My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation (my hope) is from Him.

Can you honestly say that?

Who or what sets your expectations?

  • That “To Do” list that never is completed?
  • Some church members/board or your perceived/assumed viewpoint of the church members’ thoughts about you?
  • Your false identity that you think you have to live up to as being the “man of God”?
  • Your own deceptive heart?
  • That “super conference” you just attended and heard of many success stories?
  • Your Twitter feed?
  • Your recent track of success that must be continued or you will look like a failure?
  • That text notification you just received?
  • Your idea of being “superman” pastor who never takes a day off?
  • A sense of guilt when you do take a day off?
  • Wanting to perform every Sunday, being on your “A” game?
  • Fear?
  • Pride?
  • Lust?
  • Criticism?

Pastor friend, may I suggest two things?

  1. Please take some time to rest; learn to rest. Most pastors do not know how to “take their foot off the accelerator.” Ministry is 24/7, even on vacation. Nevertheless, you need to set in your calendar a morning or day to rest during the week as well as at least four times a year go away to a cottage or some other get-away to, yes, get away! You are worn out! Even when you do take a vacation, it takes three days to unwind, then you haven’t taken the upcoming Sunday off, so you are back in “get ready to preach, get prepared for Sunday mode,” and you have not properly rested your body and soul. If you don’t learn to rest, you are headed for potential failure, a downfall in ministry. I will write more about this in the days ahead.
  2. Wherever you go to rest, take a list of any of the expectations mentioned above, adding those from your own personal collection and lay them before the Lord in honest, crying out, transparent, conversational (you talk and then listen to God) prayer. Find a place by the lake, along the hiking trail, at the dock, on your back deck, someplace you can be alone. undistracted. Wherever you are, honestly talk out loud to the Lord about each one of these. Christ is your Shepherd and the Head of the Church. He’s your intercessor. Let Him redirect your focus, your motives, your goals, your passions, your dreams, your heart!! Be sure to write in a journal what He reveals to you and add the scriptures He brings to your mind for each one. Don’t be in a hurry! Leave your cell phone alone, please. Don’t use it to search the scriptures. Bring a printed Bible with you.

Pastor, go to the cross, then the empty tomb, and settle in at the Throne. Don’t be in a hurry at either place. Rest there awhile and soak your soul in Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 8 and Hebrews 12:1-3.

You see, when your expectations come from God, He gives grace to accomplish His will (Philippians 2:13), and He’s responsible for the outcome.

It’s Friday . . . and Sunday’s Coming!

Preacher, are you ready?

May I share three things to encourage you toward Sunday?

1. Prepare your heart

In this atomic age when forces are being released that stagger the thought and imagi­nation of man it is well to remember that prayer transcends all other forces. (F. J. Huegel)

Men, Jesus said, Without me, you can do nothing (John 15:5)! Preparing your heart through prayer is more important than delivering your sermon. Passionate, dependent, scripture-filled prayer says, “Lord, You are able, I am not!”

2. Prepare your message

Men, we have been challenged to Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2) since the day we sensed God’s call to the ministry. Those folks who gather to hear you Sunday need hope and to see Christ. Therefore, preach the Word under the control of the Holy Spirit from a heart set on fire by God!

Give the sheep good grain, a message from God’s Word, not just a sermon.

3. Prepare your family

Saturday evening, gather your family together and share what the Lord has taught you and what you will deliver in the message on Sunday. Have them pray for you and with you.

Make your family a vital part of the ministry team!

Preacher, will you be ready?

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:27-29)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #11

Two marriage failures. One sexual abuse. One suicide.

I heard about these four tragedies in a two day period. These were all ministry leaders.

Only the Lord knows all the facts about each of these scenarios, but the following is for certain:

  1. These sins could have been prevented.
  2. The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.
  3. Men in ministry are not above temptation.
  4. The root cause is unbelief in God which leads to discontentment which leads to discouragement which leads to despondency/depression which leads to despair.

This is why I have written these several recent blog posts about overcoming discouragement in ministry. As I heard of the aforementioned moral failures, my heart ached. I wept. I realized again how susceptible I am in my own heart to fail. Everyone of us is one decision away from bringing reproach on the name of Christ, destroying our testimony, marriage, family and ministry.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

Ministry is made up of two worlds, public and private. Public ministry life has its share of hurts and struggles which brings the temptation to deal with it in a sinful way in the private world, where there is no accountability.

Will you read the following from Paul Tripp and soak your soul in the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ Who has brought deliverance and rescue to us all?

“Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over again, and how can I break the cycle?”

Someone submitted this question not too long ago. I could feel their discouragement through the email. Have you ever felt stuck in a cycle of sin, seemingly unable to break a pattern that dishonors the Lord and reaps a harmful harvest?

I know I have, and when I do, my mind immediately jumps to Romans 7. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (vv. 18-19)

So what do we do when we hit that wall? I think Romans 7 provides us with some practical steps and encouragement to break the cycle of sin.

The first is this: Don’t sign a premature armistice agreement with our sinful nature.

As believers, the Bible declares that our heart of stone has been removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Yes, we are new creatures, and yes, the controlling power of sin over us has been broken … but the presence of sin remains.

I think many of us have seriously underestimated the drama, the power, and the depth of remaining sin—how deep it is inside of us and how it infiltrates every aspect of our being. There is a tremendous moral and spiritual war still raging on within us.

I am surprised by how many Christians, myself included, live with a peacetime mentality. While we might be active fighting our culture or protesting outside evil, some of us seem to expect the luxuries and leisure of peace in our heart—where the war rages most fiercely.

And then suddenly, we get surprised or discouraged when sin starts winning!

Don’t misunderstand: because of the wonderful atoning work of the Prince of Peace, the war between God and us has ended. And when Christ returns, our struggle with sin and the Enemy will be complete. But until then, a battle of hostility inside us still rages. Perhaps the problem is that we think that the adversary within—remaining sin— has been conquered long before it actually has.

In the middle of this spiritual war, there’s a second thing you must do: Don’t argue for your own righteousness.

Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our most significant problems exist somewhere outside. This is partially true because, in a fallen world, people sin against us and we experience bodily pain and suffering. The Apostle Paul experienced both of these and doesn’t minimize them by writing about them elsewhere in Scripture, but in this particular passage, he’s only concerned about his own sin and heart. He doesn’t argue for his righteousness.

On the contrary, in Romans 7, Paul locates his struggle inside himself. He knows that when you argue for your righteousness, you convince yourself that you don’t need the grace of God—the only thing that can protect you from sin.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Are you feeling discouraged in your battle with sin? At first glance, Romans 7 can be a pretty discouraging passage! Paul exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

But the passage doesn’t end there: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Eternal rescue has been supplied, but rescuing grace is still necessary every day. What we have received in Christ, we still desperately need. Romans 7 calls us to be aware and serious; the war for our hearts is not over. Our need for a conquering Savior has not ended.

Reflection Questions

  1. What sin have you conquered or left behind by God’s grace since becoming a believer? How have you become a new creation by being in Christ?
  2. What sins or weaknesses do you find yourself still struggling with? When was the last time you wrestled with the flesh because of it? What was the outcome? Do others know of this consistent battle?
  3. Are you more committed to fighting the sins of the culture than you are fighting remaining sin in your heart? Why is the latter more of a danger to you?
  4. Consider a recent time when you deceived yourself by arguing for your own righteousness. Who, or what, did you blame? How did you justify your selfishness or sin?
  5. What does the daily rescuing grace of Christ look like in your life? How can you pursue it today? Be specific.

Ministry friend, if I can be a listening ear for you with a heart of compassion and truth, please contact me at bcbcpastor@comcast.net. Let me help you before you become a statistic.

From a pastor’s heart!

dale

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#6)

Friends!

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:11-15)

What a statement from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ, No longer do I call you servants, . . . but I have called you friends. Oh the blessedness of being a friend of Christ! And, you are already ahead of me, . . . and we know that Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), and He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

Obviously, the greatest friend anyone can have is the Lord Jesus Christ Who gives us access to the Father who knows us intimately and completely (Psalm 139:1-16), is our compassionate High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16), and our life (Colossians 3:2-4). Therefore, it goes without saying that one of the greatest ways to overcome discouragement is to soak your soul in the reality of the friendship and relationship you have with the Lord Jesus Christ. Go ahead. Stop reading right here, and sing with all your heart, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”!!!

The second level is daily enjoying and developing your friendship with your wife. Beyond the Lord Jesus Christ, your wife should be your best friend. She should be the one with whom you share your heart, your sorrows, your joys, your burdens, your heartaches, your dreams, your passions, your time, your recreation, your meals, your life. She is the other half of you!! You are one! Take her alone for the ride! She’s not Mrs. Pastor . . . she’s your wife, your companion, your sweetheart, your friend! When you are discouraged, let her pray with you and encourage you!!

The third level is having friends within your congregation, but especially outside of your congregation. Pastors are notorious for not having friends! We may have some surface friends, but we need some David/Jonathan friendships! You say you are too busy. Then you are too busy and that needs to change! Close friends (2-5 at least) are those you can call and be transparent. They are not the ones who want to know “How many’s your church runnin’?” or “How’s your church doing?” They are genuine friends who care for you, ask heart questions, and can hold you accountable. They can laugh with you, recreate with you, pray with you, share scripture with you, preach to you in a loving way when you are down, and identity with the rigors of ministry life! Who are these men in your life?

This week, enjoy the friendship of Christ, your wife and some other men! They can help you stay out of the ditch!

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#3)

So you have completed a full day of ministry. You have proclaimed and taught the Word of God, perhaps as many as three to four times. You have praised the Lord with all your heart! You have listened to many burdens, heard maybe a complaint or two, and sought to encourage and edify many. You have worked through a power point failure during your third point, a crying baby, and on the way home, a flat tire. As you ease into your chair in the family room and take a deep breath, you can still hear all the “noise” of the day in your mind, even if you are catching up on Sunday night football and Facebook.

Be careful! Your mind and body are worn out! You are reliving the day. Thoughts of “what if” and “if only” and “I should have” start to permeate your mind. You are a prime target for the flesh and the devil to lie to you. It’s a set up, friend!

May I encourage you . . . and remind myself?

First of all, instead of listening to yourself, preach the Truth to yourself . . . instead of just to those who gathered to hear the message. You proclaimed the Truth with passion and conviction all day. Now, believe and live out what you preached! Rest in it. Lean hard into it. His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). Your failures of the day are a good reminder that you are frail and totally dependent on God’s grace and mercy all the time. Your successes, and only God determines that, are what they because Christ worked through you to build His Church, to do His work, not yours. So rejoice in Him! Praise Him! Thank Him!

Second, start counting your blessings from the day and record them in a journal or on your phone . . . even if it might have been a difficult Sunday! Satan doesn’t want you to remember the goodness of God that you experienced through the day. Most of all, remember your position and identification in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). You are accepted in the Beloved (1:6).

Third, track your thinking and what you usually do on Sunday nights. Make sure it does not feed your discouragements. Perhaps a good idea would be to put the kids to bed, and you and your wife enjoy some time alone! Act like you’re newlyweds! Hold hands, kiss, cuddle, and enjoy the wife your youth (Proverbs 5:18). Encourage each other. And, just like Saturday night, hold hands and pray before drifting off to sleep. You need her, she needs you and you both need the Lord!!

Sleep well, friend, and . . . let’s pray for one another to choose what’s right by God’s grace.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.
(Isaiah 26:3)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, . . . and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#2)

In this quest to overcome discouragement, let’s begin on the first day of the week, the “biggest day” of the minister’s calling.

How do you begin your Sunday morning? Do you make sure you get a good night’s rest? Friend, sleep is good; it’s needful. Sunday requires much from you mentally, spiritually and physically. Don’t underestimate the rhythm that God has given your body. Also, make it a habit to pray with your wife before you drift off to sleep.

Do you get up early and have a designated time with the Lord in prayer and surrender to the Christ in you as you prepare to join Him in His work? S.D. Gordon said, “The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is pray. It is not the only thing; but it is the chief thing. The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; not those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those people who take time and pray.” Also, “You can do more than pray after you have prayed but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Let me add that if you have a family, it’s a blessing to hear them prayer in the car on the way to church. Now that my wife and I are enjoying the empty nest, she always leads in prayer on our way down the road to church. It’s so sweet to hold her hand and share together in preparation for the day through intercession before the Throne of God! When our girls were young, we would have prayer in the van in the church parking lot before entering the building. These were some very precious times, especially hearing a toddler pray!

Next, how about a time of prayer with others before the day of ministry begins. This could be an announced time set aside every Sunday morning to gather with the men, elders and deacons, church members, etc. Hearing others pray for you, calling out your name, can be a rich source of encouragement to you and your heart can be blessed as you pray for others, getting the focus off of yourself.

Have you noticed an emphasis here? How easy it is to “get in gear” and run 70 mph through a Sunday or any day because you have ministry to be done, people to see, etc. May I encourage you to soak your soul in Psalm 23 and let the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4) shepherd your soul throughout your Sunday? You need Christ to be all you need, to quiet you in His green pastures and still waters, to restore your soul and to lead you in His righteous paths (Psalm 23) throughout the day.

Perhaps one of the reasons we get discouraged is that we are so prone to think of ourselves as THE shepherd, THE pastor, THE man of God, and forget to surrender throughout the day to the CHIEF SHEPHERD Who dwells in us. He is the only One Who has the right to say, “I will build My Church” (Matthew 16:18).

Ministry friend, prayer is “the declaration of our dependence upon God” (Ken Collier). Read the Psalms, and you will see that when David was discouraged, he prayed and praised God. Please do not underestimate the need, the power, the fellowship, and the dependency of prayer!!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
(Psalm 34)

“A sermon steeped in prayer on the study floor, like Gideon’s fleece saturated with dew, will not lose its moisture between that and the pulpit. The first step towards doing anything in the pulpit as a thorough workman must be to kiss the feet of the Crucified, as a worshipper, in the study.” (Thomas Armitage)

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#1)

“I’m tired of letting mean people (in church) determine when we move.” These words were spoken to me by a pastor quoting his wife as they and their family are preparing to relocate once again due conflict, hurt, sorrow and discouragement in ministry.

Soul Shepherding Ministry posted “over half of ministry leaders are discouraged.”

When you consider the events of the last two years brought on by Covid such as shut-downs, divided congregations over politics and masks, and now the economy and the fear of war, no wonder this can be said of pastors (as well as thousands of others).

These are discouraging days. Pastors have battled discouragement for many years. Our day is not unique nor is the trial of discouragement (1 Corinthians 10:12-14). Ask King David (1 Samuel 21:15-22:2). I fight discouragement and have done so off-and-on for years.

What does it mean to be discouraged? What does it look like? What causes it?

Discouragement is defined by the Britannica Dictionary as “a feeling of having lost hope or confidence; something (such as a failure or difficulty) that discourages someone.” The FreeDictionary says it is “the feeling of despair in the face of obstacles.” Webster’s Dictionary gives it as “depression or weakening of confidence; dejection.”

If you want to know what it looks like, go home with your pastor on Sunday night or spend time with him on Monday . . . or Tuesday or . . . Wednesday . . . . The look and frame of discouragement is one of down-heartedness, lack of motivation, loss of joy and zeal, slumped shoulders, slower pace, procrastination, apathy, critical spirit, a spirit of Eeyore, mood swings, and more. Now, I’m not saying that every pastor is this way, but as noted above and from history, discouragement is a force that must be dealt with.

Discouragement comes from a fear of failure, “mean people,” lack of success, fatigue, not knowing how to rest or “turn off” the ministry demands, lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits and subsequent weight issues, health events, financial woes, focusing on people rather than Christ, acting like you are the “Messiah” of your ministry, a sense of not meeting up to other’s expectations, competition and comparison in ministry, reading other “successful” pastor’s Twitter feeds, frustration with people, feeling like you are never doing enough, not getting everything done, believing you have to be on your “A game” every Sunday, the attacks of Satan, wrong thinking, feeling forsaken by God and others, being misunderstood, always on the front lines, personal marriage and/or family issues, etc.

In the next few blogs, I want to be a genuine source of encouragement like a cold drink on a hot, humid day after reaching a mountain summit on the AT (Appalachian Trail) or a refreshing dip at the base of a 125 foot western North Carolina waterfall or the expectation of a multi-colored beach sunrise. I want to help you, my friend in ministry, with handling discouragement and rising up out of the despair!

I’ll end this post with Psalm 42:5 (NLT), a passage I have quoted so often over the years when my heart has been disquieted within me.

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!