Sometimes It Really Sucks Being a Pastor
Okay, so the heading of the post is a bit of an attention grabber. I actually really love being a pastor.
Don’t surf away from this blog yet though! I wanted to draw attention to the ‘suckiness’ factor of being a pastor because sometimes it really is quite difficult. A good chapter I read yesterday from this book, Pastor to Pastor by Erwin Lutzer, really highlighted it. Chapter 2 deals with ‘A Congregation’s Expectations’.
So here it is. Pastors are in a Catch-22 situation when it comes to the expectations of the congregation. It’s often “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. As Lutzer writes:
If he should lose the congregation’s goodwill, his ministry might soon be over. But if he consciously attempts to establish and maintain a correct impression, he courts spiritual disaster.
I don’t want to care about how my congregation feels about me, but as a pastor, I know how important perceptions are. If they perceive me in a generally negative light, then no matter what I do they’ll read it through a negative grid. Whereas a pastor who is loved and trusted by his flock will be able to get away with “multitude of sins”. Who doesn’t want to have a congregation whose “love tanks” towards their pastor is full? And yet as the quote rightly points out, if you seek it, you’re seeking an idol.
So what’s the solution? Lutzer helpfully points us to Christ, who was the most complete and satisfied human being ever because he was completely free from men’s opinions about him. He sought the approval and audience of One person alone – his Father in Heaven. And if I could build on Lutzer’s point, we Christians ought to be as secure as Christ was. Why? Because of the wonderful doctrines of justification by faith, Christ’s imputed righteousness, our union with him and our adoption through him. In short, in Christ we are completely approved and accepted, completely apart from our merits. This ought to provide the fatal blow against the idol of others’ approval. My Father’s will is what I should seek; his approval is something I already have and can’t lose. This frees me to truly perform to an audience of One.
The implications of this for pastors, according to Lutzer, are:
- We wouldn’t let people push us into their mold.
- We would profit from criticism.
- We won’t be afraid to let our humanity (and failings) show
- We wouldn’t see the success of another as a threat to our own ministry.