The Dangers of Being a Pastor (4)

This final blog on the danger of being a pastor will focus on

THE DANGER OF LOSING the JOY of MINISTRY…

Paul David Tripp writes to pastors,  “This is where it inevitably leads. You’ve lost sight of the gospel in your personal life; you feel a growing disconnect between your private life and your public ministry persona; your ministry is no longer fueled by your own worship; your feel misunderstood by the people around you… and you are increasingly spiritually empty because you are looking for spiritual life where it cannot be found. The impact of all these things taken together is that you find your ministry less and less a privilege and a joy and more and more a burden and a duty.” (Dangerous Calling, p. 37)

Pastoral ministry is tough and tiring and sometimes you just need a break from the constant feeling that you are like a snack machine into which people put their money, push the button, and get whatever they want. In addition, you are always on; the late night calls, the hospital visits, the death bed vigils, the marital interventions, going with a husband to identify his wife’s body and then going home with him while he tells his 5 little children mom is not coming home. I could go on and on with situations that have had happened in my ministry, but one humorous illustration reflects the fact that a pastor is always on the job. One evening I had to show up a little late from an elders meeting to one of my son’s basketball games. I came somewhere in the 2nd quarter when his team was playing a very important game against an arch rival. My wife had saved me a seat, right in back of another couple from our church. I greeted them and then got down to watching my son play, and I mean watch – my wife will tell you that I focus on the game and do not like conversation. After about ten minutes, the very sincere brother from my church turned to me and said, “Hey Dave, since I have you here, can you explain the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism?” (By the way, I told him we’d talk later.)

All of this is to say, pastoral ministry is often wearying and difficult. But don’t feel sorry for us because this is to what we have been called. I wouldn’t want to do what some of you do. Give us some vacation and study leave, and we will rest, recoup, and will be good as new. I always come back from vacations excited to get going in ministry again. However, there are some pastors who do not want to come back at all. They have come to see that ministry is a burden. They have lost the joy of serving their congregation and the vision of seeing what they will become in Christ. They no longer resonate with what Paul tells Timothy; “For this end we toil and strive because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Tim 4:10)

Pray that your pastor would never lose his/her joy in serving you or their vision and hope for what you can become in Christ.  Pray also that they would never lose sight of the gospel in their private life, that his/her ministry would always be fueled by worship, that they would keep their family as a priority so that their spouse or kids would never become jealous of the church, and that your pastor would take time off for rest and refreshment.

I am sorry to say that I preached a similar message for a pastor many years ago at his installation. In fact, I carry with me the bulletin for this service and my message was “The Dangers of Being a Pastor.” Within just a few years, this man had an affair, left his church and the ministry. The seeds of destruction were already in this man’s ministry, hidden and secreted away from public view. It is an ever-present reminder to me of how serious is the business of pastoral ministry.

I am not suggesting that your pastor has secrets that will do them in, but I am strongly suggesting that there are some serious dangers in the ministry that every pastor faces. We are in desperate need of the grace of God and the prayers of our people, lest we are left to ourselves and bring it all to destruction.

If I can be of any help to a pastor who is struggling in ministry, it would be my privilege. If you are that person or know of someone, I would be happy to talk to you/them. You can begin by emailing me at dave.mcdowell@wheaton.edu and we can go from there. It may not be much that I offer, but at least you’ll know that you are not alone. Blessings.

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