FIVE MORE CONFESSIONS OF A MESSY PASTOR
Last week I took the risk of being real. I shared five confessions about myself and my feelings about ministry. Not because I’m in trouble or on the verge of quitting. But because ministry is hard, harder than those outside of ministry realize. I’m doing this in an effort to encourage other ministers who may be harboring and hiding some of these same thoughts.
Thank you for allowing me to be real. And think with me about five more confessions.
1. I am disappointed with myself when I disappoint others.
And disappointing others is inevitable. Part of my usual speech at our get-acquainted “Pizza with the Pastor” sessions is this: “If you attend here long enough, I’ll probably disappoint you. I won’t intend to do that. It will happen without malice. But sooner or later it’s likely I’ll do or say something you don’t like or understand. When that happens, just let me know. I want to make it right.”
2. I wish the approval of man was not more important to me than the approval of God.
It’s a given of leadership: we will make necessary and right decisions for the sake of the kingdom that some people won’t like. Sometimes I wrestle with whether to pull the trigger on a decision when I know my approval rating will go down. Sometimes I give in and sacrifice my approval rating with God for my approval rating with man.
3. I take every criticism to heart.
Every critical email, every letter full of accusations or name-calling, every shot taken at our team and our church—I wear each one. Even the unwarranted attacks go straight to my core. I wish it weren’t true. I’d love to say the criticisms don’t affect me. I wish I could let each one just roll of my back. But I can’t.
4. I struggle with being myself even though I want others to be themselves.
I debate whether or not to post pictures of my family on vacation. When I spend a little money to enjoy life, I wonder who will disapprove or misunderstand. This is true with any expenditure. I have heard from people numerous times “There goes my tithe money.” I’m going to Hawaii this year with my family for free—with airline and hotel points. But I’ll hesitate to post pictures lest I be categorized with jetsetter prosperity preachers.
People say they want you to be authentic and real, but sometimes they get offended when you show that you are. I struggle with that.
5. I have wanted to quit more times than I can count.
I’ve actually looked at the guy cutting grass in the median on a Mason street and thought, Now that would be a great job. Of course, I’m glad I haven’t quit. But those not preaching don’t understand the energy and emotion spent in preaching. Those not in ministry don’t understand the pressure of interacting with hundreds of folks in a variety of roles on a Sunday morning. (I tell the staff: Don’t make any major decision on a Monday. You’re not emotionally equipped to be thinking straight on Monday.) The suicide rate for ministers is increasing. The average guy leaves ministry after only 2.5 years. I understand.
But after all the above, let me repeat the conclusion I offered last week. I genuinely love Jesus, and I want to help as many as possible to love him too. Yes, the calling is difficult, but it has always been difficult. Throughout history the devil has been attacking most intently those with the greatest potential to move the church forward.
With God’s strength I can sustain the attacks. But it helps to acknowledge them. It helps to have someone to tell who understands. And I hope other pastors who could make some of my confessions are helped by hearing them from me.
Several readers last week contacted me to say they could identify with my list. If you’re one of them, or if a point this week could have been made by you, please join the conversation in our Comments section. What helps you move beyond such negative feelings with a positive result for God?