“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?
Pastor friend, may I suggest two things?
- 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.
- 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.