Your immediate, heart-felt response is your honest answer. If it’s “yes,” you probably don’t have much to worry about. But you might want to keep reading because there might be something here for you.
If you shrugged a little and thought, “maybe,” or said a firm, “no,” then there are a few things you might want to consider.
I don’t want to discount the fact that pastoring is a very difficult job. And when a minister has been at a church for a while and has things running well, has it fine-tuned, and knows the people, it’s can feel like a well-oiled machine. It can really feel that way when the pastor has taken on responsibilities that no one else will do or he’s started programs that only he knows the inner workings of.
A minister can even feel more irreplaceable when he has done things that he feels no one else will do. For instance, I know small church pastors who clean toilets. Who wants to do that? I know mega-church pastors who are so well-connected in their state and national conventions that they feel they are at the top of their game. No one in their church could do that kind of thing.
When we’re pastoring, we do a lot of tasks that are difficult and unseen. We visit the sick, we hold the hands of the dying, we visit people in prison, we pray for the lost, we counsel members going through difficult situations – things people never hear about. And that’s fine. But pastors are often frustrated by complaints of, “Why didn’t you visit my aunt when she had her knee surgery?”
It’s a difficult job to keep up with so much and to stay on top of the preaching of the Word.
And don’t get me wrong. Most pastors are extremely valued by their churches. I post a lot of statistics on here about ministry burnout and cautious warnings about failure. But ministers are in the ministry because they love Christ and they love people.
When I wrote my book about fallen pastors, I found four factors that weakened ministers that led them to consider adultery. One was unrealistic expectations. Most of those unrealistic expectations come from the minister himself. Over time, a pastor gets so locked in to performing the act of routine ministry that he loses sight of personal worship, his family, and chasing after Christ. He can also begin to inflate his own self-importance within the church.
It doesn’t happen to everyone. But it’s slow and seductive. It can very mildly with thoughts like, “Look at all I do and I don’t get any appreciation for it,” “These people don’t ever thank me,” “All I do is bust my rear end around here and people just complain and nag,” “I can’t even remember the last time I got a raise. I’d be happy with a thank you card.”
There may even be some truth in those statements. But behind them is bitterness. Bitterness stems from anger. But who are we angry with? The ministry? The church? God? Ourselves? When we find ourselves in such a place, it’s a good time to return to God and His Word and begin asking questions of ourselves.
That’s why the question, “Could your church survive without you for two weeks?” is so important. Because the answer is, “yes.”
I remember having some of those same thoughts I just listed. I know a lot of pastors feel that same way. And in moments of anger, there were times I would answer that question, “No, they couldn’t. Who would put together the bulletin, make phone calls, make visits, preach the sermons, counsel, etc.?”
In my case, it was frustration. I remember reaching out to a mentor of mine and sharing my feelings with him. He said, “Ray, every pastor I know has felt the same way. What you need to do is let go of trying so hard. You have to let go of trying to let programs fix everything. Just use the Word of God and concentrate on those who want to grow. Christ said He would grow the church. You’re trying to do it for Him.”
He was right. That’s what I did. Not only did it work, but it took a great weight off me.
What would happen if you were gone for two weeks? The church would function. Even if you were gone tomorrow, it would function. You are there by appointment from God. There to minister the Word of God into the lives of the people. Allow Him to work through you. I promise He doesn’t want you burned out, stressed, screaming, angry, full of anguish, and preaching with venom every week.
He promised us peace. Live in it and share it with those in your fellowship.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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