In the front of one of my prayer journals is written nine words, “This is the year I get my mojo back.” I had spent the previous two and a half years drifting; actually sinking would be a better way to describe it. After pastoring a church for five years, my soul was stuck in the equivalent of emotional quicksand, and by the time I realized, it felt as if I was too far gone to ever find my way back.
It’s difficult to pinpoint when exactly I lost my way. It could have been when my mom passed away, or maybe when some staff members left the church unexpectedly, but one thing was for sure; I wasn’t pastoring… I was pouting. My soul was toxic. I had lost the awe of the calling of God. I was bitter towards other pastors and churches experiencing what I deemed success, and I was pouting that God wasn’t doing what I expected Him to do. Worst of all, I didn’t share what I was going through with anyone else— It was all playing out in my mind.
Other people who know me best knew something wasn’t right, but I never talked about it. I kept preaching, leading staff meeting, posting positive updates on Facebook about how much I loved my church, but I had lost all confidence in myself, and in God’s calling on my life.
Have you ever been a pouting pastor? That was a dumb question, of course you have. Nobody throws better pity parties than church leaders.
I love the words in 1 Peter 5:2-6, and believe they are more fitting for church leaders today than ever before. I also love them because they were written by the Apostle Peter, who of all the disciples had the biggest drive to be important and successful. There’s something about the words coming from him that give it more validity in my opinion.
1 Peter 5:2-6
“Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.”
It’s interesting the words used by the Apostle Peter when he said: “Don’t do it begrudgingly.” It’s easy for pastors to hold a grudge. Sometimes, it’s a grudge against another pastor or church in town; other times, it’s a grudge against church members who have left your church. Or sometimes, without realizing it, many pastors hold a grudge against their flock.
If you’ve ever publicly pastored but privately pouted you’ve probably convinced yourself of things that aren’t true. Let me give you 4 lies pastors believe when they are discouraged.
1. If I pastored in a bigger city I would have a bigger church
Have you ever been guilty of thinking, “If I pastored in a bigger city I would have a bigger church.” I have. The danger comes when you believe the size of your assignment is dictated by the size of your city. The more you long for what you don’t have you begin to develop a complex; you feel like a minor league ball club doing minor work. Don’t let those thoughts take root. There’s nothing minor about your calling or the vision God has given your church. If you don’t believe it’s a privilege to serve at your church, why would anyone else?
If you really want to get technical about it, the opportunity you have to influence a city increases the smaller the city. What if you began to think of yourself not just as the pastor of your church but as the pastor of your city. Every time you walk into a restaurant, school, or place of business don’t resent the size of it relish the opportunity to make your mark.
“God forgive me for resenting the city you’ve called me to. If this is where you want me then this is where I want to be; I will choose to believe I am in the right place at the right time.
2. I would be a better pastor if I had more resources
Have you ever been guilty of thinking, “I would be a better pastor if I had more resources.” I have. I love the question the disciples ask in the story of the feeding of 5,000. Jesus asks them to feed the people, and they respond, “With What?” I’ve asked that question before; I bet you have to. Every leader loves the rush of fresh, God-given, vision. However, when you lack the resources to accomplish what you feel God is inspiring you to do, you wonder why God would be such a tease and only give you the burden without the bankroll.
When we lack the resources we feel we need, it causes us to have a limited point of view. The more time we spend looking at our limits, the more tempted we are just to survive. We embrace a survival mindset, hoping to pay all the bills and keep the doors open. But God didn’t call you to just keep the doors open; He called you to fill His house. As long as you believe you can’t be effective because you don’t have what you need you’re allowing your circumstances to define your calling. But if you’re willing to embrace a new mindset, and think beyond the status quo, you will often find your limits lead to your biggest opportunities.
“God forgive me for resenting the resources you’ve entrusted to me. I will choose to believe that I have the resources you want me to have to accomplish what you want me to accomplish in this season.”
3. I’m not the problem, the congregation is the problem
Have you ever been guilty of thinking, “I would be a better pastor if I had a better congregation.” I have. Our resentment disguises itself cleverly behind passion, vision, and evangelism, but we hold a grudge against the flock we currently have because they aren’t what we want them to be. They don’t give like we wish they would give. They don’t serve like we wish they would serve. They’re not as large as we wish they were. They don’t bring enough friends to church with them. They don’t appreciate your family enough. They don’t worship enough, or “amen” your preaching enough.
If someone recorded all your conversations about your church for the next 30 days would it be obvious you love the people of your church? Would it be obvious you love your staff or your church deacons? I’m not judging you; I know ministry is hard and sometimes you vent to your spouse or another friend. I would hate to hear what some of my conversations sound like. But the Apostle Peter challenged us to love and serve the flock we have right now, not with a grudge, and not for what we can get out of it for ourselves, but because we are eager to serve God.
“God forgive me for resenting the people you’ve entrusted me to lead. I will choose to believe you have given me the right people to accomplish what you want me to accomplish for right now.”
4. Growing churches must be compromising
Have you ever been guilty of thinking “A church that big must be doing something shady!” I have. I’ve never heard a pastor say out loud, “If Chris Hodges or Steven Furtick open another successful campus, I’m going to scream. Why them and not me?” but we think it.
Social Media is an incredible tool for ministry, but when you feel like you’re on the losing side, social media can be salt in a wound. As you scroll through your feed, you notice everything you feel you’re not. “Oh look, that church opened another campus. That church baptized another 300 people, and I haven’t baptized three people this year. That church broke another attendance record, and my church is in decline.” It feels like everyone else is winning and you’re the only one losing.
When resentment sets in we begin to believe that God has given us a “lesser” assignment than another pastor in another city. We think a lesser assignment means God thinks less of us, but He doesn’t.
“God forgive me for resenting other pastors and churches who are experiencing the results I desire. Help me to celebrate their success, believe the best in their motives, and give the benefit of the doubt when I disagree.”
When the leader gets better everybody gets better. My brother and I wrote a book called “Toxic Soul: A Pastor’s Guide To Leading Without Losing Heart” that talks about these 10 reasons at greater length plus provides solutions to help church leaders stay encouraged and recover their passion for ministry. If you find yourself in a season of frustration or discouragement, or maybe you know someone who is, pick up a copy of Toxic Soul today.