(This blog is in no way a rant, or a complaint. It is written primarily to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ, alongside whom, I do ministry. It is also intended to help those in the church be a little more cognizant of the struggles faced by those in ministry, with the hope that it might elicit a greater understanding in order that we might better fulfill the charge in Hebrews: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you” [Heb 13:17].)
I recently sat with three other pastors with whom I am in a covenant group. We gather together several times a year to share our stories, our struggles and our joys, our needs and concerns, to commisserate together, but more importantly to encourage one another. It is good to be among colleagues. It is encouraging to be reminded that my struggles are shared by others. My takeaway from our last meeting is simple: Ministry is hard. Very hard.
I am not saying this to complain. I love what I do. In fact, everytime I am driven to consider doing something else, one thought comes to mind: “what would I do?” I enjoy very much what I do. More than that, I am doing what I am called to do, and what I am gifted at doing; and in this there is no greater joy.
One of the struggles of being in ministry is the self-imposed burden to make sure that I am doing first what I am calling others to do. I believe that I can’t exhort them to forgive, if I am not willing to forgive; to give, if I am not willing to give; to witness, if I am not willing to witness; to love the other, if I am not willing to love the other; and to study, pray, fast, and serve, if I am not willing to do all of these.
Not that doing all of these is a burden, or a task. For I truly enjoy following Christ. It is just that sometimes I believe we pastors put pressure on ourselves to live to some unattainable standard. I suppose that it is not that I am putting this pressure on myself, as much as it is the fact that I know deep down, that others are putting this pressure on me. I do my best to ignore them, after all, I don’t live to some standard to impress others, but to be faithful to Him.
Being a pastor is hard, because we see some many people who are struggling in life and we desire to help; we want them to be well. We believe so strongly in the Gospel and that it is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” and that the Gospel can change their lives; yet, so many refuse to trust. In baseball, if you get a hit 30% of the time you can be a hall of famer, but in ministry it seems that our rate of success is far less than that. Yet, we know that our success is not a game, but one that has eternal consequences. And so we grieve when we fail.
I suspect that for many pastors, and probably to a much greater degree for myself than I am willing to admit, being a pastor is also hard because of the constant struggles with those in the church. You might suspect that those within the church would be our greatest source of comfort, support, and encouragement. After all, we are all on the same team, working for the same Lord, trying to achieve the same goals. I suppose that it is this that makes it more difficult.
You see, I get it, though I may not like it, when someone from outside the church creates strife. The Gospel, even when presented in the most loving and Christlike manner, is offensive: “Jesus is Lord” means that I am not and neither are you. People don’t want to hear this. But for those who have agreed that Jesus is Lord, those who confess to be on the same side, for them to be the source of strife makes ministry very hard.
I suppose that I could continue for some space here. There are indeed many reasons why ministry is hard. But, for those in ministry, I wish to close with this encouragement: “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5).