Not only have I been a pastor for 25 years, but I also know several other pastors. Recently my circle of connection as increased as I joined some groups on social media designed for pastors only. One is very focused on the people who work in churches that are less than 500 people in attendance. Another is for leaders on groups with less than 200 people in the congregation.
My exposure to these Christian leaders has led to seeing a few things that all of us hold in common.
1. We desperately want to please Jesus. Every person whom I have ever met that leads a Church was deeply committed to Jesus. They want their thoughts, actions, and words to please their Lord and Savior. Now, some will fall to temptation, some will burn out and others will lose their way, but initially, most of us have surrendered our lives to the leading of Jesus.
2. We don’t understand why other people don’t want to please Jesus. The work of the Lord runs through our lives so completely that it is hard to grasp why the Church is not full of people like us. Pastors often talk about people who get “it.” They are these wonderful and rare people who are fully devoted to Jesus. They immediately become kindred spirits. Unfortunately, most people have no idea what we are talking about when we speak of commitment.
3. We love people but are unequipped to handle their issues. In Bible college, I took classes on almost every book of the New Testament. I learned how to interpret accurately along with reading the original languages. On the flip side, I had one counseling class. ONE! No one prepared me to work with people and all their issues. This is true for most pastors in the world. The only way we learn is by trying and failing repeatedly.
4. We want to be a part of a community, not just lead it. Most of us believe we received a special call from God to be a Church leader. We carry that joy and burden with us as move into a community to lead them. Soon, many of us feel all alone. People look to us for answers, but not for friendship. Many often feel isolated, and loneliness fills our hearts.
5. When you skip worship on Sunday morning, we feel it in our souls. Every Pastor I know feels the weight of Church attendance. When people miss a Sunday morning, it raises so many questions. We think things like, “Is everything okay?” and “I wonder if they are quitting.” The burden does not come from the pressure of trying to build our own kingdom. Instead, it is the weight of trying to help people grow in their faith. When someone misses worship, we know they are unlikely to do anything that causes them to grow in their faith that week. Pastors believe that we will stand before God and give an account not only for our own actions but also for the people we were called to lead.
Sunday nights and Mondays are hard on most of us pastors. The burden of Church leadership washes over us as we replay every person who was there on Sunday, everything that was said and everyone who was not there. We try to gloss over our inadequacies and insecurities, but the truth is that we struggle in our walk of faith just like everyone else. Every week is a roller coaster of emotions born out of our desire to serve the Lord and the people who follow him.