I have served in the children/youth pastor role, sr. pastor role, assistant pastor role, worship leader role and Bible study and Sunday school teacher role. I've sat in board meetings and voted, I've led mission trips, I've planned events...I've worn many hats and assumed many roles in the church. I love the church! In spite of the many times I've been burnt, mistreated and criticized, I still love the church. In spite of the fact that my wife was once mugged during a church service by a couple of street thugs, I still love the church. I've written books for the church and I continue, with the Conversational Koine Institute, to teach ministers and pastors Koine Greek.
I'll say it again, just to be clear, "I love the church."
I have been teaching the last three years (almost) at the same church as a Sunday school teacher. I love doing it. I love not being paid to do it. I think that my class is probably the most unique class in any United Methodist church anywhere; they are a great group of people. Did I tell you, "I love the church"? I do!
But I, personally, didn't love being a pastor. Sure, there were great times and times that I enjoyed. But I didn't love it. And there were many reasons for that. I left the pastorate over 5 years ago and honestly, I haven't looked back. And honestly, I don't have any intentions of doing so. But I teach (and probably always will teach) people who are either in or considering being pastors. I love them too! I care deeply about them. I know firsthand many of the things they will struggle with or are struggling with. I've been there; I can relate. I want to help them and I also want to educate them, not just in educational types of subjects but also in regards to ministry- and pastor-related things. I've had many friends, Bible college friends, leave the ministry. And some of the reasons for that can be found on my list below.
When I was in Bible college, all I wanted to do was be a pastor. Once I got into it, however, I realized that there were many dynamics, variables and matters that I simply had no desire to be part of. So, why am I saying all of this? Well, this post was prompted, in part, by a blog post that Dr. David Murray of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary wrote titled "21 Reasons Why You Don't Want To Be A Seminary Professor." I think he made some okay points but, in fact, I think he overstated his case quite a bit (especially with all of his definitive "you will" statements). In conversation with a friend about this, I was asked if any of the things on this list were or were not experienced that led to me moving away from desiring to be a pastor. So, I wrote this post.
Basically, what I did was take Dr. Murray's 21 reasons "not to be a seminary professor" and pretty much in a "word for word" manner (except I changed his "you will" to "you may"), simply added on to them. Thus, in the list you'll find below, there first 21 "reasons" are his, except I've added the material after the periods of ellipsis ("..."). In short, I've taken his reasons "not to be a seminary professor" and used those same exact responses, all the while giving more explicit details, about why you might not want to be a pastor of a church. In addition, I've added 25 additional reasons (totaling 46). I could've come up with more, for sure, but I decided to push the pause button there. So...
I want to preface this list again by reiterating, one last time, that I love the church. I'm not bashing the church. All I'm attempting to do here is to give a list of reasons why folks who might be considering the pastorate, should question such considerations. So, please, don't make me "lose my faith in you" because you want to distort or misread what I say here, as if I'm bashing the church or pastors/ministers in general. That's simply not the case!
46 Reasons Why You Don't Want To Pastor A Church
- You may lose the joy of seeing souls saved through your preaching...when you later see them fall away.
- You may lose the joy of helping people in the toughest life situations...because they don't help you in yours.
- You may lose the joy of feeding and edifying God’s people...because they never feed and edify you (or are even concerned with this).
- You may lose the joy of shepherding children through teenage years and into adulthood...because you realized that, at the same time, you neglected your own children.
- You may lose the joy of preaching evangelistic sermons...because you realize nobody really, truly wants to do evangelism.
- You may lose the joy of building long-term spiritual relationships...because people often move away.
- You may lose the joy of taking responsibility for your own flock...when they bash, criticize and badmouth you over Sunday lunch and to others during the week (and sometimes to your face)
- You may lose the joy of developing and working with a team of leaders...because you'll realize they're not really leaders in their homes, communities or the church.
- You may lose the joy of helping people make massive life decisions...that can backfire and come back to haunt you.
- You may lose the joy of seeking a fresh word from the Lord for His people...who don’t really listen to that word; it just goes in one ear and out the other.
- You may lose the joy of preaching to a people you know intimately...and who, because they know those deep things, may hold what they know about you against you or for blackmail.
- You may lose the joy of seeing long-term spiritual maturity...because people in the church often just do not want to become spiritually mature; it's just too much work.
- You may lose the joy of seeking and recovering lost sheep...because you'll eventually be the only one in the church with that burning desire; it's just too much work.
- You may lose the joy of seeing God miraculously provide for the church’s financial needs...because the wealthy in the church may take care of it and when they do, gain some political power.
- You may lose the joy of being loved by young, middle-aged, and old Christians...because only one of those groups can really relate to you at a time and vice versa.
- You may lose the joy of learning from the least educated and gifted of saints...and they may hold that over your head, warning you of the dangers of (your) education.
- You may lose the joy of identifying and growing people’s gifts...because they may use those gifts to try to manipulate you for their own gain.
- You may lose the joy and privilege of bearing the scars of pastoral ministry...because we all know earning and bearing scars from those in your flock is a joy.
- You may lose the joy of winning over enemies in your congregation...because they may make your life hell and try to divide the church if it comes down to it.
- You may lose the joy of helping Christians die...even though in the years after the funeral, the family may forget all of the ways you helped and served them.
- You may lose the blessing of God if you are pursuing a calling God did not give you...and your congregants may remind you, maybe even often, that this might not be your calling.
- You may lose the joy of developing theologically because the church doesn't want you to change your views.
- You may lose the joy of deep, intensive Bible study because so many other things may demand your time.
- You may lose the respect you once had for elders because you see how they really speak, think and carry themselves both in meetings and in life.
- You may lose the respect you once had for deacons because you see how they really speak, think and carry themselves both in meetings and in life.
- You may lose the respect you once had for the church when you see its dark, political underbelly.
- You may lose respect for other ministers when you uncover their real motives and experience their frequent power trips.
- You may lose the respect you once had for congregants when you see how they treat your spouse and children.
- You may lose the fire you once had because everybody in the church expects you to do the work.
- You may lose time watching your kids grow up because every night of the week something's going on at church and you're expected to participate.
- You may lose your sense of self-worth because you feel pressured into taking sides with people to keep your job.
- You may lose the joy of ministry you once had because now that money is involved it is a job, not a ministry.
- You may lose out on family time because you can never really go away for the weekends.
- You may lose your patience with the hypocrisy of congregants when they consistently judge themselves by their motives but judge you by your actions.
- You may lose respect for your fellow brothers and sisters in the faith when you see and hear how they treat others both inside and outside the church.
- You may lose the desire to teach because you may realize that people don't want to mature spiritually and really don't care about the Bible.
- You may lose hope in people when they "switch churches" because they were too immature to deal with an issue.
- You may lose close friendships when people move away.
- You may lose your sense of awe for the Gospel because church becomes about numbers and statistics rather than spiritual growth.
- You may lose respect for yourself when you cave to the demands of others.
- You may lose your sense of pride and allegiance in God's Kingdom when you see everyone mixing it with nationalism and patriotism.
- You may lose the love you had for people when, after you leave, nobody reaches out to you, keeps in touch with you or continues ministering to you and your family.
- You may lose your desire to preach when people stand up during your sermons and challenge you in front of everyone (yes, this happens!).
- You may lose your desire to see the youth ministries grow because you realize that this so-called ministry actually perpetuates spiritual and intellectual immaturity.
- You may lose the friends you once made because once you go to another church the so-called "friends" now want nothing to do with you and have no time for you.
- You may lose heart because you will be criticized for being lazy and only working 1 day per week...and working a non-laborious job at that.
Hmm... and this list doesn't even include mention of scandals really, like the one I experienced as a member of the high school youth group where the pastor's teen daughter had an affair with the youth pastor. The youth pastor eventually left and divorced his wife, with whom he had two children, and married the girl. Sadly, he's still a music minister and his wife is involved in such capacities from time to time too. Yes, these sorts of things are real and disorienting and if you're going into the pastorate, you should not only be aware of them but ready for them.
If the pastorate is for you, that's great. If not, that's fine too. As I said above, "I love the church. I'm not bashing the church. All I'm attempting to do here is to give a list of reasons why folks who might be considering the pastorate, should question such considerations. So, please, don't make me "lose my faith in you" because you want to distort or misread what I say here, as if I'm bashing the church or pastors/ministers in general. That's simply not the case!" I wish pastors didn't have to face any of these things but that's simply not the reality.