One of the things I have been both complimented and criticized for is my willingness to be vulnerable and honest, so today’s post is going to be just that. Let me NOT begin with a funny story or illustration, but with the bottom line of this post, All pastors, whether they want to admit it or not, are carrying around with them intense amounts of pain…sometimes it’s more, and others it’s less—but it is always REAL.
(NewSpring—this is NOT some sort of message from me to you…this is a post where I feel incredibly led to minister to pastors who may be hurting! AND God has an amazing sense of humor—this article was actually written last Thursday, before the local “excitement” from this past weekend.)
I have a heart for pastors and so today I would just like to share the three areas that I believe cause the most pain in a pastors life.
#1 - Pain From Loneliness
I served on staff for nearly a decade at two other churches before starting NewSpring Church, and I can remember thinking about the pastors I served under, “I do just as much as they do, and I don’t think they deal with any more junk that I have to deal with.” I made those assumptions because I was arrogant, stupid and wrong. Trust me when I say that only a pastor can understand the pain of a pastor.
This hit me right between the eyes one night when I was describing to Lucretia the pain I happened to be dealing with at the time and she looked at me and said, “Perry, I love you—but I do not understand how you feel. I hurt for you and I will pray for you—and I wish I could understand, but I just can’t.” I remember thinking how incredibly lonely I felt at that moment because my wife couldn’t even understand.
Pastors, trust me when I say that you need another pastor to talk to, to vent with, to pour out your heart to…they can understand better than anyone on the planet…because they, too, have experienced loneliness at your level.
#2 - Pain From Criticism
All pastors receive criticism—ALL! Sometimes it is warranted and other times it is not—BUT the thing most people don’t realize is that it always hurt. (Especially when someone begins by saying, “Now don’t take this personally, but…”)
I have had the type of car I drive criticized, the house I live in, the shoes I wear (seriously), how much I sweat and the gym, how I preach, you name it. AND when criticism comes from those who know me and love me I always receive it and see what the Lord would have to say to me through it. Wounds from a friend can be trusted—BUT…
Real pain is experienced when those who don’t know you at all feel some sort of mandate from God to attack you via their website or other venue…yet they’ve never had a conversation with you nor do they ever intend to.
Real pain occurs when people take a segment of what you said in a sermon and base an entire opinion about you based on a two minute segment of a clip from the internet. Pastors, you will be misquoted and misrepresented by those who lack the courage to take the time to get to know you…or MAYBE even hit their knees for you if they are so convinced that you are wrong.
AND…if you get angry then you are “worldly.” If you ignore it then they feel like they were in the right. If you defend yourself then you are just “insecure.” You literally can’t win here!
And someone can say that those things should not matter all they want—but trust me friends, the pain is real.
Pastors, please keep something in mind…someone who continually attacks you and/or your ministry just isn’t normal. Seriously, if they visit your blog or listen to your sermons daily and then actually spend time tearing you apart…uh…just ask yourself who in the world has the time to do that! That is why I simply refuse to fight with them—it’s a waste of time.
#3 - Pain From Unrealistic Expectations
Pastors can NEVER do everything right. If we visit the hospital then we either stay too long or not long enough. When we preach we either are too shallow or too hard to understand. When we are at the office we either need to be in deep study AND also be available for every phone call, e-mail and every random person that happens to drop by. When we walk through the crowd we spend too much time with some people and not enough time with others.
Every move a pastor makes is being watched—and by many, scrutinized. People will place expectations on a pastor that they would never be willing to live up to themselves…and if he asks for help or says he is going under he is often reminded that, “Pastor—we pay your salary, get it done!
This is why many pastors families simply fall apart—they cave in to the expectations placed on them by selfish, self seeking church members who expect them to do everything—but never lift a finger to help…and forgetting something that most people never actually stop to think about—pastors are human beings with real feelings and a real heart. SO…the pastor spends all his time at church functions, ignores his family…and when his kids become hellions the “prayer groups” in the church gossip about him and tear him apart verbally.
Let me be VERY clear…I am blessed to serve here at NewSpring Church. God has shaped me so much over the past seven years; however, one of the things He has used to shape me is pain. Pain is not avoidable as a pastor—it’s real. Anytime I fall into thinking that my life should somehow be easy I read what the Apostle Paul said in II Corinthians 11:22-29—AND the words of Jesus in John 16:33.
Pastors—we will experience pain—that is just a fact of life. BUT in those times is when I have found that Jesus becomes more real to me than ever before. There are times we have to do what David did in I Samuel 30:1-6, focus on verse six—David strengthened himself in the Lord his God—and then went on to accomplish incredible things for His name!
I love my job…I love what God has called me to…there is NOTHING I would rather be doing—BUT, with the calling to follow there is a calling to carry the cross. BUT…pastors, it’s worth it. It is so worth it to be faithful. It is so worth it when we see people come to Christ. It is so worth it when we see a marriage restored. It is so worth it when we see the excluded included. It is so worth it when we see people receive hope. It is so worth it when we see addicts set free. It is SO WORTH IT!!!
To the pastor out there who is struggling—HANG ON! As I have said here before (that I heard someone else say), one day we will stand in front of One whose assignment was much tougher than ours—and He didn’t quit—neither should we. It’s so worth it! Pain IS a part of the process of being a pastor—and when it comes we should ask the Lord to shape us through it so that we may be more effectively used for His glory.