The expectations, hours, discipline, needs of others, and own dreams can cripple the new pastor. Being a pastor heading into his seventh year of ministry, I’ve made a multitude of mistakes, not known when to trust God, and wanted to throw in the towel at least three times. The simple fact is that only one in ten pastors will actually retire as such. Many of them don’t make it past year five. There are five mistakes that commonly are made that cause this significant mind change to leave the field.
The Messiah Complex
The rationale that you are directly responsible for someone’s salvation and relationship with Christ.
I remember leaving Bible college with a full heart to add multitudes to the Kingdom. As soon as I stepped a foot into my first ministry I forgot the most important aspect of serving God. It’s not me that does anything; it is only by the grace of God that people come to him and find grace. New pastors will sacrifice everything to save someone, even to the metaphorical point of putting themselves on the cross if need be.
We have to break that sadist mentality with the unchanging truth that it is God that saves, and if he so chooses to use us in that, then so be it. Ephesians chapter five says, We are to be imitators of Christ. We are not the advocate! We will not save people! Our only mission is to be the image, imitator, or reflection of God. If you are a young pastor reading this please take heart for if you are living out the faith, then you are doing exactly what God wants.
The Rockstar Complex
The arrogant notion that the ministry of wherever you are lives or dies on your actions alone.
New pastors love to back seat drive, or Monday morning quarterback. This is such a trap from Satan if I have ever seen one. I remember the first time this affected me; it was in year two of ministry. I didn’t like how slow we were moving with some changes that were needed in the church, and I thought my “do it now and my way” mentality was so needed. I was pulling upwards to sixty-five hours of work during the week. That whole time saying “look at me.” I even got arrogant enough to think I was better than those that God had put over me.
Then words of a former mentor and spiritual giant hit me: “Do you really serve God? If so then submission is desperately needed.” In my arrogance I thought to myself of course I am in submission to God. The truth was and is that I couldn’t be in submission to God if I was not in submission to the people God has placed over me. Humility set in, and the words of Max Lucado were never so true: “It’s not about me.” Pastors reading this I promise you arrogance will kill your ministry; it almost did mine.
Lack of Spiritual Discipline
One of the most common things that crumbles ministries all over the country is ministers not having a personal relationship with God. We have this notion that once we graduate with a degree and are put into a church that learning is now over. The Bible becomes a resource of the office, personal devotions take the back burner, and prayer is simply a necessity. Pastors are literally losing sight of their yearning for the Father. All this because we think that our job now is to teach, give, and inspire.
We forget that we need to be taught, mentored, and loved on always. There is always something new that God can show us in scripture or in devotions. For all that is holy, God desperately wants you to turn to him in prayer so he can encourage and love on you. Pastors, if you are not in check yourself then you are no good to anyone. Some of us just need to remember the Sabbath and make it holy again.
Counseling versus Spiritual Advice
One of the lines I hate to hear people speak to me when they enter my office is “Hey I think I could use some counseling from you.” This is one I’m still working on; people in the church need to be aware that most pastors are not trained and qualified to counsel. Many new pastors especially in smaller church settings can get caught in the web of part-time counselor. As I took a pastoral counseling class about eight years ago, one word needs to be always on my mind in these situations. That word is referral! There are plenty of resources out there for you to find someone to get the help or guidance they need.
Counseling has become a huge monopoly of the pastor’s time. Many new pastors out there need to train themselves in this sentence: “you know what I can’t help you, but I will help you find someone who can.” Before someone says well that’s kind of cold to pass someone off like that. I will reply with no, it is wise of me to know my limitations and know that they will be better in the trained hands of a psychologist. If someone comes and says hey I need to deepen my spiritual walk, then that is something meant for your skilled hands.
Family before Church Family
Can I just start with the simple fact that whatever your family unit looks like, the stewardship of that is more important than your church responsibilities. If you are a pastor, you can never let this one get away from you. Stand firm in your conviction that family time takes priority over everything excluding the death of someone. Our families need us more than our congregations.
I heard a pastor tell a story one time that as he was packing the car for some much needed family time, it was interrupted. A member of the church pulled in his driveway and said, “Pastor I need your help, my wife is gonna leave me again.” The pastor replied, “I will talk to you tomorrow for today I have promised to my family.” The man retorted, “What I said my wife was going to leave me and you’re too busy.” The pastor concluded the conversation with, “Maybe what I am doing right now is something you should have been doing a lot more of.” We need to be the living example, not the 911 phone call for help. Proactive is the key here, for if we are not proactive with the time we spend with our families, I promise you our families will be reactive to that and conflict will be had. The better shape our houses are in, the better shape the church will be in.
I challenge all pastors reading this, please reflect on all these points. For those of you that are not pastors, please love on them and encourage them.