At times I am asked for advice from pastors who are frustrated or hurting. I assume they ask for my advice because they have witnessed my mistakes and desire to avoid similar pitfalls.
Recently, I was privileged to have a man I greatly respect share some challenges with me that he is facing in ministry. The thrust of the challenge is the frustrating clash between biblical pastoral ministry and modern church ministry.
How would you encourage pastors who are neck deep in frustration but clearly have a strong love and devotion to the Lord, to His word, to His mission, to His church, and to the gospel?
Not knowing how to respond, I prayed and then shared the advice below.
- Church planting is not always the answer. No church is perfect, even the one you may plant. It will always fall short of your dreams and will be beyond your control and influence. This is because you are not Jesus.
- Theology matters. All of it. I understand that you may be fully committed to a theological system (see Calvinistic, TULIP, reformed, Armenian). Nothing wrong with loving and preaching your conviction. Keep in mind, theology impacts everything in your life and has a way of sneaking into areas that most never anticipate. Make sure your theology has settled before you make decisions to change.
- Live your calling apart from the machine. Most of us will deal with some level of frustration in ministry on a regular basis. I believe this is because many pastors have adopted a philosophy that modern ministry is biblical ministry (I.e., biblical service unto the Lord). Although this is the example we see in the bible and the first couple of centuries, this is not the reality gleaned from Christian history. If you serve a church, part of your “ministry” will always be a job. Don’t be surprised if the job portion is 70% or more. You are being paid to do a job whether you theologically agree with that or not. Do the job and look for areas where your ministry calling overlaps with the job and praise the Lord for His mercy and rejoice! I also work a job, with almost no overlap.
- Consider alternative ministry settings. If you are called to a more pure form of gospel ministry, consider a parachurch ministry (your own non-profit: I.e., DesiringGod.org, Living Waters Ministries RelevantGospel.org). In a parachurch ministry there is no church to shepherd and no meetings to discuss. It is almost purely apostolic.
- Trade your frustration for joy. This is not easy. Find what you enjoy in your ministry. What in your current ministry setting fills you with the Spirit? Pay close attention and give extra effort towards that area.
- Write your eulogy now. Either do this literally or metaphorically. What do you want your life to be about when it ends? Do you want others to look at the great books you have written? Do you want them to see dynamic, unapologetic children and grandchildren who are evangelists and apologists? Do you want others to acknowledge that you were an incredible worshipper of Jesus, recounting how you loved Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? Do you want your wife to be so filled with love and satisfaction that she lives the rest of her life filled with joy because of your love and devotion? Do you want others to hear a passionate preacher? Write your eulogy and then plan how to accomplish it.
- I’m embarrassed to share this, but it is from my own experience. Don’t forget the person of Jesus. Spend time with Him, just you and Him alone together. Love Him. Think of Him. Tell other people about His love and compassion for you and your time with Him; not motivated to “save them”, but to make Him famous. Don’t forget that when the dust settles and our life and ministry here concludes, we close our eyes and step into eternity with Jesus. Don’t neglect your relationship with Him now.