You need to thank your pastor. In your prayers, in person and more.
What follows is just the tip of the iceberg as to why.
The burden is enormous. When I was in ministry (9 years), the weight of your responsibility as a servant of God and people, whether folks really care that much or not, is enormous. I mean, sure we are all serving God no matter what we are doing. I believe I am even unemployed. And we are to do all we can as serving the Lord, not man (Col. 3:23 and others), but whether it’s a cultural demand in America, the world at large, or just something I self-imposed (thought I think not), it’s really tough.
Some pastors are probably used to the pressure, so it’s not as difficult. Others have delegated the tough stuff. And still others are not in it for the right reason, but there’s always something. I’ve had people tell me I should never be a pastor again and others ask how I could not be. Yeah, I wonder what it is God has in store, but there’s this lure to the ministry almost as if I can’t not do it. In fact, in May and June, when I was still contemplating stepping down from ministry, I remember saying, “I know it’s not good for me, and maybe I can’t handle the demands because of how I’m wired, but I have to do this.” In many ways I still feel that way. It’s as if I can’t do it in the context I was because of so many circumstances. But I know I need to wait. I need to, “Be still and know He’s God” (Ps. 46.10). And actually it’s kinda fun. I appreciate the time, the contemplation, the reevaluation of myself in a healthy way and the quiet. That’s something that’s nearly impossible to get as a pastor.
Some pastors are appreciated very well. Others aren’t at all. Some have support inside the church. Others outside. Some are willing to let folks in to their life. Others have boundaries. Some let folks in too much, often times getting burned. Others refuse to let anyone in, because they were burned or they are scared to be. Some pastors know their flock is part of their body because of them, and they like that. Others recognize it and see the unhealthiness of it. Some know people are a part of their body despite them. In fact, I think each of the sentences I just wrote is probably true for every pastor. It may be true as a whole in some churches, but for every pastor who’s been in ministry at least a year, each know what I mean.
Ministry isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a calling, yes, but it’s a presence. Ironically, in this culture, it’s not that big of a deal to treat pastors like just anybody, but those who sense the calling have an internal reminder that it’s not just some job but a high esteem.
The ups and downs in ministry can be by the hour. The brokenness you hear about is overwhelming. And the drama some people bring is ridiculous. It’s really tough to discern between the two. Compassion and discernment are challenging when they play at odds with one another as you attempt to be more like Jesus. And there’s so much that goes unnoticed. Not just the time on your knees, the tears you shed for others, or the thoughts you have for people you know you just can “get to” but they’ll never know it because you didn’t send them whatever or visit or call, or you forgot what they told you on some Sunday morning in between the 26 conversations you had going on at once. And then there’s those books you have to read because they are so life changing & the disbelief that you haven’t heard of this idea, concept or heresy.
See what I mean? Thank your pastor. Write a letter, send a text, buy a cup ‘o joe, give a call . . . and say thanks. I mean, I was just a glorified youth pastor and I sensed all this. Imagine if you were seen as the lead guy or gal?
It’s an extraordinary calling. The anointing is real. But despite the constant anointment of the Holy Spirit, the encouragement from other saints helps leaders to press on. Be genuine. Think of loving how you would like to be loved while understanding if he or she wouldn’t receive it well. But do something.
It will give them hope