When I speak with other pastors I am always interested to hear how they approach their calling. I want to know what their work week is like. How much do they preach? How much do they teach classes, Bible studies, etc.? How much time do they spend with family? How much do they engage with the congregation? You can see how much a pastor really loves a church by how much they put into it. You can get an idea of their attitude towards their calling in the way they carry out their days. Maybe they don’t get to preach that often, but they’re constantly with the people, old, young, chatty, silent ones, families, singles, etc. Or maybe they preach all the time and then they are never seen again.
Last week I met a pastor who taught service during the week, then on Sunday he taught a Sunday School lesson in the morning, preached a sermon, stayed till everyone was finished speaking him, went home and took a nap, then preached in the evening and stayed till everyone was finished speaking with him. You would think someone that went through that sort of day was a young, fresh out of seminary, single, man. But you would be wrong. He was a pastor of a congregation of 5,000 and he had been in ministry for over 30 years!
Compare that to another pastor I know, who only preaches once a week and doesn’t do a Sunday School, doesn’t preach in the evening, or any other time and leaves as soon as he can when the service is over and frequently misses Sundays for vacations. The members see the difference and they should, because it’s obvious. One gives the impression that they are doing what they love. They’re energized by the call of being a pastor, they preach and teach with enthusiasm. The other treats it like a job. They come and check the box, do the minimal amount and really have no interest in doing more.
The point is, that being a pastor is not for everyone. Some will come into the office and love being in it. Some will come with their talents and get by, but they will never find a joy in it. They will never be an encouragement for others either because they see the church as a means to an end. It’s a job that pays their bills, builds their retirement, and allows the flexible schedule that every person dreams of. The one that pays in the end though, is the church and the pastor.
The church may not see it that week. The unenthused and unmotivated pastor can get away with it for awhile because he is so talented that he is able to “just manage”. And that’s all he cares about, “just managing”. He is a manager not pastor. He’s the CEO not the Shepherd of God’s flock. He wants the respect of the office of Minister but he doesn’t want to do the work. At the end of the day, he’s a public speaker.
The pastor probably didn’t see it coming. He put all his heart and time into the church and initially they didn’t respond. He continues to put energy into moving what seems like a brick wall but nothing changes. The church became the slave master over the pastor who just wanted him to crank out sermons that weren’t too challenging, and were “nice”. The church grew and the numbers grew and so did his schedule. But there was never help, there was never a concern for rest, there was never a concern for rejuvenation. At the end of the day, he’s a public speaker.
Churches should watch out for their pastors. Over time, it wears a man down and most likely the church ends up getting the pastor they helped shape and form. The pastor ends up being a man who lost sight of the vision he once had. His eyes are greyed over. He may find a way to jump start the dying battery, but it’s too late. It’s too far gone. It won’t last.
Here is where we are called to rest in Jesus. If the pastor is willing, he has to humble himself and admit where he is. He has to take time and focus on what his office is and what he does. And he has to be honest with himself that perhaps this isn’t for him after all. Maybe it’s time to move on? That’s a serious decision he needs to answer with prayer and wise counsel.
The church also needs to rest in Jesus. They need to trust that God works through the office of pastor faithfully. They need to make sure they are taking care of the pastor, not just in compensation. But take care of his work load. Sometimes the pastor might let the load get too heavy then he is far too buried to say anything about it. Elders and Deacons need to keep an eye out for this. But they also should keep an eye out when the pastor is being lazy and absent minded (or physically absent).
It’s a two way relationship where the church needs to care for the pastor and the pastor needs to care for the church. It’s tough to reignite that spark when it’s lost.