5 Fights Pastors Must Forfeit
Today I learned of a pastor in California, who took his own life after a long battle of depression. My heart goes out to his family and to his church, and they remain in my prayers. On the outside looking in, It looked like everything was perfect and on point. But that is the surface. Over half of pastors are discouraged right now. It’s similar for all kinds of ministry leaders. (You may not consider yourself a “ministry leader” but if you think about your relationships as a ministry of being salt and light for Jesus then I’m sure that you will relate to the problem of discouragement in ministry.)
If you’re a discouraged pastor or ministry leader then you know that it’s hard to preach, lead, and care for others when you’re discouraged. Many pastors deal with internal demons of comparison, self worth, perfection perceptions and it can leave you depleted trying to keep up to unrealistic expectations. I want to cover 5 fights a pastor must forfeit if he wants to really thrive in ministry.
1. Trying to please everyone There will never be enough hours in the day to meet all the needs in your congregation. It is unrealistic to think you can. There will always be another visit or call you wish you made, and you will feel the weightiness of this at night when you should be sleeping, you'll find your mind wandering on all the things you didn't do.
2. Believing the critics I wish this was easy. I don't know why pastor's do this but we do, no matter what is going right; we tend to focus on the few critics complaints and believe they are valid. Fight this temptation, of believing the critics because they don't have your wellbeing in mind. Some of them want to see you fail.
3 Listening to the fans On the flip side of the critics is the group that will tickle your ear with flattery and empty praise. On one level it sounds good and genuine but reality they won't tell you what you need to hear. It was said that the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius had an official walk with him when he entered into the cities where he would be greeted with shouts of praise. It was said that the official would whisper in his ear, "they are only men" to remind the emperor that the people was not his audience, God was.
4 Imitating rock star pastors Pastors are notorious for comparing their church or pastorate to someone else. And many think that if they had the stage set, lights or other props that their ministry will take off to new heights. Here's the truth IMITATE CHRIST and be yourself. You are the one Jesus gave to that church and he has uniquely equipped your church to reach the people in your community.
5 Your family has to be perfect One of the greatest challenges a pastor will have is living up to the perceptions of what others believe a pastor's family is like. Let's face it, generally speaking we expect our pastors to live a little bit better than the "regular family". Its a fight we must forfeit. We fear that if they see all of our dysfunctions then they will lose respect for us and won't allow us to speak God's Word in their life. On the other hand they need to see that you struggle the same that they do, they are more interested in how you handle your issues with God's help.
Do Not Be Discouraged!
If you’re discouraged about your ministry hear Jesus’ invitation to those who are experiencing troubles: “Take heart!” (John 16:33) He’s saying the same thing that the Lord said to Joshua through Moses and to Solomon through David: “Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 and other places; 1 Chronicles 28:20 is similar).
The Lord is with us. He understands how we feel. He cares. He wants to lead us in the path of life.
The Lord knows that as we minister to others we’re prone to neglect the care of our own souls. Even though we may be around people all the time we may isolate our true self. It’s in isolation that we’re most prone to discouragement. This is why his way of leading us out of discouragement is to help us trust that he is with us.
The first and most basic way that we learn that God is indeed with us is when a brother or sister listens to us in Jesus’ name. Each of us need a “God with skin on,” one of Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), who offers empathy and compassion, without judgment, advice or reassurance. Having someone be with you to hear how discouraged you feel and why is huge.
Reminding Ourselves of What’s Most Important
Personally, I have found over the years that when I feel discouraged about my ministry what helps is to remind myself that Jesus’ Greatest Commandment is what’s most important: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). So I ask myself, Am I devoted to Jesus Christ, loving the Lord God who loves me? Am I sharing God’s love with the people around me?
To be faithful to love God and others as God loves me is a life of great significance! I have found that when I am finding my soul satisfaction in Jesus and sharing him with the people in my circle of influence that God expands that circle. Caught up in a love relationship with Jesus feelings of discouragement don’t weigh me down and sidetrack me. Unconcerned about ministry success God seems to bring me more success.