Within the past week, I’ve read two articles about pastors leaving the ministry. One was a “mega-‘church’” pastor who had gotten overly stressed about the limelight. The other was a smaller church pastor that was stressed over the anonymity – at least, that’s what’s being suggested by various articles. If those things are true, they seem to have a foundational problem – ministry is not about you. Ministry is about other people.
Now before you pastors have a stroke, I’m not in any way saying that there aren’t stresses associated with the pastorate or that a good man may not have to step down because it’s more than he can take. There was a time I worked a full time job (45+ hours a week) and pastored a church. In fact, I did that for nearly 18 years. There were stresses more than people can imagine. And even now that I’m full time in the pastorate, there is stress. Though I’m sure since most people see that I only pastor a church now, they assume it is easy. Wrong…
I have friends in the ministry that have faced a plethora of problems – an uninterested membership, a dying congregation, traditionalism with no willingness to consider anything else, backbiting and gossiping in the church – you name it. And these aren’t problems that only characterize one size church. Often these problems are as prevalent or even more so in a smaller church than a larger one. These problems weigh heavily on a pastor’s mind and spirit. What a member sees as normal (constant gossiping) keeps a pastor awake at night. What a church member may not see as a problem (traditionalism) may be what a pastor is expending much energy trying to overcome. Preaching isn’t physical (well, I guess a few guys test that theory, but anyway). Preaching is spiritual. It’s emotional. I heard that a doctor told one pastor that it takes more out of a man to preach one sermon than to work an 8-hour shift. I can attest to that. When I walk out of the pulpit, I am spent. So please don’t think I am saying there isn't stress associated with the pastorate. There is. If there isn't, you’re doing it wrong.
A man that enters the pastorate needs to see problems coming. Jesus had opponents in the ministry. The early churches had opponents in the ministry. Paul had opponents in the ministry. It’s naïve to think you aren’t going to have any. And one has to wonder whether we are just ear ticklers if we never see any opposition. The Pastoral Epistles have pointed instruction on “fighting the fight” or suffering as a “good soldier”. These type phrases anticipate struggles in the ministry. Again, what Biblical minister didn’t have problems? I can’t find one.
So, when you see pastors quitting on social media, don’t come away thinking all pastors feel that way. Have I had times in my ministry that I struggled more than others? Absolutely! Have I had times that I wondered if my ministry where I am was drawing to an end? Certainly! Have there been times that I didn’t know how much more I could take? Without a doubt!! The average layperson doesn’t see the stress the pastor has on him, as they don’t see what the pastor sees. All that said, I still remain excited about sharing God’s Word with God’s people. This is the job of the pastor. And, it’s what drives me. It’s what drives men that have a love for their church.
May the Lord help all pastors to follow this teaching – “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). I assure you, there are pastors that get this. Every good Bible teaching pastor faces times that test him. But confidently I can say that not every pastor wants to quit.
Todd Bryant is the Lead Elder at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. He has pastored there since 1998. For more more information on the church and links to audio sermons and apps for electronic devices, visit www.sovereigngrace.net