A Plea on Behalf of Pastors

I’ve met some–happy pastors that is. But if you spend enough time with enough pastors, you find that the bulk of them (us) are discouraged, depressed, or dreaming of some escape from the madness otherwise known as ministry.

Ministry’s tough. It’s especially tough because most people think they have a right to tell you how to do your job. I imagine it’s a lot like being President, without the personal helicopter. Everyone knows better than you–you just make an easy target.

I started preaching through the book of Philippians a couple of weeks ago and spent week 1 reveling over the ridiculous affection Paul had for these people. He was a happy pastor…at least with this crew.wve-white-flag-260

Depending on what source you check out, statistics show that pastors generally have a shelf life of 2-5 years. That’s not per church…that’s per career. By that standard I would have already been done and moved into another sector.

And I was close.

I was going to pursue teaching or modeling, but most likely teaching since “pasty and pudgy” isn’t a high-grossing category. But I was done. Yet here’s Paul, most likely writing from prison in Rome, brimming over with joy because of his relationship with the Philippian Christians.

So what’s the difference between Paul’s experience and that of so many pastors out there? Well let’s consider why Paul’s affections were raised so highly.

Philippians 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy (Okay we get it, Paul. You’re happy and joyful and sing-talking as you write this, but why?)…verse 5 because of your PARTNERSHIP in the gospel from the first day until now.

You catch that? The Philippians were partners in ministry. They didn’t just pay a pastor to do ministry; they joined alongside and took responsibility. They bore one another’s burdens. They served and gave and sacrificed and prayed.

When I preached this sermon I dared to draw a distinction between partners and parasites. It seemed harsh to me at first, but I felt the Spirit saying, do it. Plus, if I tell people the Spirit made me do it, how can they be mad at me? Win-Win.

Parasites take, consume, and contribute little to nothing to their host. In this case, the host is the church body. The parasites are people who do very little to help the church be the church. They may be faithful attenders, but as far as being contributors, not so much. They’ll point out when their preferences aren’t met and when someone else messes up.

I wonder if it’s such people who end up causing pastors to wave the white flag? Sure, there are other factors that contribute to pastors jumping ship, but it’s not like they go to other churches. They just leave ministry.

So let me encourage you, church member/attender, partner with your pastor(s) in ministry. Fulfill the commands of Hebrews 13:17 andObey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with JOY and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

You don’t want a grumpy pastor; so don’t be grumpy, greedy people. Beyond that, if the love of God has been poured into your being, how are you showing that in your local church?


  1. Alex Stuart · October 23, 2013

    This was a well written article, and with all due respect but from where I’m sitting, you are sounding like yet one more paid religious professional blaming their congregation on their job burnout.
    Here is my challenge to you if you are still reading (if your not, I suggest for you to go ahead and quit your job now, there is no hope). Throw out all you have learned in church, bible college, seminary, whatever. Just in your imagination, throw it all out. Examine it all piece by piece and ask yourself, if I adhere to this teaching, will it make me a better husband or father, or man in general. If it doesn’t chunk it, if it does, keep it.
    What you will find is fascinating, most of what we do in churches, doesn’t really matter and to be the leader of a congregation that does things that matter, you have got to be a better man.
    You, as you open your heart to new things, will discover things that are leading to your stated problem such as:
    Baptism. No where in the bible does it state that a PRP has to be the one doing the baptism. When they are the only ones that people see conducting such, said people are sent a silent message saying “this is a religious thing. You don’t have a seminary degree, so you can’t do this”. So they don’t. Nor do they do many other “religious” things that would mean so much in their walk.
    Alter Calls. No where in the bible. Started in the last century. The fact is most people are NOT going to the front of a church for anything. No amount of saying they are wrong is going to change that. Why not have a time to pray with the hurting and ones questioning their salvation in the back of the church? They are much more likely to go there.
    Salvation. Heres a heresy according to modern Christianity. Most of the time the bible talks about salvation, it is asking God to rescue the speaker from the hell they are living in now. Until your Christianity deals the the hell everyone on this planet experiences every day, well, you will continue to write articles like the one above.
    The Word of God. If the last one didn’t get you steamed, this one might. MDC’s worship the bible like its the fourth figure of the trinity. If you take a good look at scripture, like i said, without what has passed through your brain heretofore, you will see that in all the passages about the word of God, there are about at third that deal with written scripture, a third that are nothing but and cannot be interpreted any other way than it it talking about Jesus and then a third that can go either way. How you deal with this can make ALL the difference in your peace of heart.

    These are just a few instances of rejecting MDC that causes pastors to burn out left and right. Is it their fault? No. Is it the congregation’s fault? No. It is the fault of a steady erosion of the real deal over the last two thousand years.

    I wish you well on your search. If you do it the right way, it will cost you comfort, security and the esteem of people you don’t need to try to impress anyway. What will you gain? Well, that’s where faith comes in.

    For your Freedom!

    • patricklmitchell · October 24, 2013

      Alex, I assure you I read until the end! You bring up some good talking points as well. I’m actually not burnt out. I love my church. In fact, they are making it a joy to pastor them, and I tell them such. Part of what I’m trying to do as someone who ALMOST left it behind a couple years ago is that sometimes-not all the time-the people put unrealistic expectations on the ‘paid staff.’

      You are 100% on point when you talk about the things that tend to cause pastors angst (altar calls especially!). There is plenty of responsibility on the pastor to not focus on that which is more about his/her own ego than about the good of the people and God’s kingdom.

      You didn’t get me steamed, by the way. I appreciate feedback and value conversations. So thanks for your thoughtful words!

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