Being a Pastor is a big deal! It is supposed to be.
Because it is, the devil takes immense pleasure in trying to minimize our effectiveness. And he does a great deal of that work inside our own mind and spirit. And, boy, was I ever not prepared for the struggles and the attacks of the enemy.
For example: I Must Not Be A Real Pastor Because A Real Pastor Would Not Get So Frustrated At Simple Matters In The Church
Things like being questioned as to why the flag was still at half-staff following a death, or being told the gutters need cleaning, etc. And absolutely no one ever comes up to a pastor and begins their comments with “Everyone in church is ________”, except that they do it five or so minutes before church starts.
Oh, there is nothing like distractions. The devil loves them. They take our mind off the real problem – him – and put it on other things. Things that, as it turns out, do not really matter much in the grand scheme.
We have the great responsibility by God to explain to His people the truths about His Gospel. When distractions attempt to sidetrack us, it is imperative that we recall that fact. Those seemingly trivial distractions threaten to keep us from the “main thing”, presenting the Gospel truth to those who need it. And if we do not get that job done, even if little trees continue to grow in the gutter (on the backside of the church where no one ever sees, by-the-way), then people may die and go to Hell. Or, at the very least, they miss out on something from the Word that could help them in their life.
How ‘bout this “goody”: I Must Not Be A Real Pastor Because A Real Pastor Would Not Want To Skip Church.
First things first: you have to go to church. After all, you are “the Pastor. But when the enemy tries to get us, as pastors, to have a disdain for church, we should, as James 1:2 says, count it all joy.
Why? Because it gives us insight into what our people might be going through.
If the devil can bombard you with thoughts about not going to church, how much more so can he do it to your flock?
Being a pastor means you never get a weekend off -- just like our folks who must work weekends just to make ends meet.
Being a pastor means you may have to preach when you have a headache -- just like most Moms routinely must work and parent when in less than optimal physical condition.
Being a pastor is a 24/7/365 proposition -- just like being a caregiver to a disabled child or an elderly parent.
Yes, we often log 60 or more hours per week – just like many in our church after giving the church 10-15 hours in addition to their 40-hour work week.
The devil does not want us to be there for each other. He wants us to feel weak. The pastor who can empathize with the congregation who goes through these same kinds of feelings is a real pastor.
You are not being a “fake” pastor just because you have the occasional (or every-other-week) feeling that you’d rather be anywhere else but in church. You are being a real person. And real people know how to help other real people. And that is what a real pastor is all about.
Let me throw one more at you: I Must Not Be A Real Pastor Because A Real Pastor Would Easily Be Able To Inspire Folks To Volunteer In The Church.
If you are like me, the pastor of a small church, this is an easy one for the devil to use. When I say small, I mean truly small. Some see 150 as small. Some authors define small all the way up to 3-400. But I mean small as in, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get to 45 today?”
In fact, I need one person to help in the nursery. One. Just one. Uno. And I cannot even get that to happen. I must not be a real pastor.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against big churches. A friend of mine pastors a church plant of about 125 as of this writing. Another friend pastors an established church of about 400. And one has grown his church to over 17,000!
So, no criticism of size here. And no envy either. I have enough stress with the 40 or so I have, I am not sure my mind could take 17,000.
Since every church-growth book makes it look and sound so easy to grow a church, like you can just snap your fingers and get 35 folks to volunteer for this-or-that team, I must be doing something wrong since I cannot get mine to grow. I must not be … say it with me now … a real pastor.
We let the devil judge us, and try to get us to judge ourselves, by results. And, yes, I am very aware that church and denominational leaders also judge us by results. And, yes, I am very aware that lack of results could well mean loss of our church. A move to another place to start all over. A “ding” to our reputation within our organizations. So, I understand why we get so very results focused.
Real pastor, all you can do is do your best in whatever place God has placed you. You cannot control the results, which unfortunately does put you somewhat at the mercy of those results.
Now back to the original point of trying to find that one person for the nursery. No promises here. No quick fixes. No sound strategies. All I can say is … keep trying. You are a real pastor if you just keep doing the job to which God called you.
This article was written for The International Ministerial Fellowship Facebook page and is condensed from our new book available through Xulon Press, I Must Not Be A Real Pastor. Karen has lived every moment referred to here, plus all the others in our book, and added her occasional thoughts of how she was feeling amid whatever issue I was writing about. So, we want to close this article with a few of her words.
Always know that no matter how big or small the task of the ministry at hand, God loves you and your family. He has equipped you to fulfill your call. So, take heart and look up. It won’t be long now until you hear the Lord say, as He told the profitable servants in Matthew 25:21 (KJV), Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
Look up real pastor and real pastor’s wife, today is a new day. If you have been crying, if you have been down, if you have been discouraged, look up. Today is a new day! As God tells us in Psalm 30:5b (NLT), … Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
It has been a joy to share with you the things on our heart. We sincerely pray for you as you pursue the call God has placed on your life.
Tim and Karen Johnson
WHY DID WE WRITE A BOOK
As a way of introduction, we have included the following personal testimony I wrote in response to the recent suicides of a couple of well-known pastors.
Ministry is not easy. We have an enemy who casts doubts in our mind as often as he can to make us give up, quit the ministry, walk away from the Faith, and maybe even check-out of life altogether.
I have been full-time in the ministry for almost 20 years now. And I grew up in a ministry home. But I was only the “Senior Pastor” for about 7 years. All of that as a Solo Pastor. And I almost did not make it this far.
My first pastorate almost did me in. It started only 12 weeks in. And as soon as the devil applied the pressure, he began ratcheting it up day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year.
And he does not play fair. By the time I left that church, he had effectively "turned the truth into a lie". Areas of my life that I took as much care as I could to be sure he could not attack, he attacked. My work ethic was attacked. My sermon prep was attacked. My leadership style was attacked. Ministry successes were attacked. My vision for the church was attacked. Even mine and Karen's relationship, which is and always has been rock-solid, was being used as a point of attack. And that was the "straw that broke the camel's back", so-to-speak.
It was withering.
And it was unexpected. I mean, I knew these types of things could happen (a man in one of my Dad's churches actually tried to kill us after all), but I went into my first pastorate with a bit of a Pollyanna idea in mind. But by the time that pastorate came to an end, Pollyanna was dead ... and I wasn't too far behind.
The devil made good and sure that I felt as isolated from anyone as possible. He made sure I felt like I was at the very bottom of other's priority list. He made sure I felt like I held little or no value for any of my friends, fellow ministers, or denomination leaders.
I wrote resignation letters almost weekly -- for nearly 3 years. On more than one occasion I had a resignation text written 10-15 minutes after church and ready to send, only to have Karen intervene.
Not only was I ready to leave that church, I was not so sure I wanted to take another chance as the Solo Pastor. I thought about just retreating to a job on someone's staff. But even with that the devil attacked and did everything he could to convince me that no one would hire me.
There was more than one time that I had the thought that I was done with "the church" completely.
And there was the thought twirling around in the back of my mind that I should just "chuck-it-all".
It was a fight. And the devil did everything he could to make it a fight to the death.
And that is why we wrote this book. We want to let others know that they are not alone. We have been where they are. We understand. And so does God.