Overcoming the Pressures and Temptations of Pastoral Ministry
I became a youth pastor when I was 18 years old. I had a heart and passion to go into vocational ministry but I never imagined that I would start at such a young age. It had only been two years since I had given my life to Christ and became a Christian.
Nevertheless, there was an unceasing passion in my heart to see God move. I wanted people to experience the same love and transformative power of Christ that I had come to know.
Because the lack of experience and training, it was only a matter of time before I found myself incredibly discouraged and eventually depressed. Two years into ministry, I was already struggling with intense anxiety, nervousness and deep insecurities.
On the outside, everyone thought I was strong and confident in my calling as a pastor, but I was hurting. I was hurting bad.
I would have thoughts of suicide and battle internal thoughts such as, “What did I get myself into?” “I don’t have to do this, I can just quit.” “God, can I just get extremely sick so that I don’t have to pastor anymore?” These are the exact questions and thoughts that would go through my mind on a weekly basis.
However, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, He has broken off so many of these chains and bondages that I used wrestle with. Through experience and surrendering myself to the Lord, I have found much healing and power from the Lord.
Below are the things I tell myself everyday as a pastor to run this race as faithfully as I can. Hopefully it can be an encouragement to all pastors and leaders serving in vocational ministry.
Stop Being a People Pleaser
The earlier you learn and make this a goal to live by everyday, the sooner you will find freedom and breakthrough.
As pastors, we are bombarded with the needs and opinions of man. Opinions of our congregation, staff, volunteers, parents and those around us. We will be tempted to preach for man’s approval. We will be tempted to lead for man’s recognition.
It is in these moments that we must remember to preach, lead and live for God’s approval and God’s approval alone.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. -Galatians 1:10
Stop Placing Your Identity and Worth in Ministry
Often times, pastors and leaders find their worth and value in how well they are doing in ministry. It happens subtly. And when it does, it is extremely dangerous.
We can be deceived into thinking we are serving the Lord because we are doing church work, but in reality we are building our own name and kingdom. We find our joy in how well we preached rather than the glory of God. We find our security and worth in how respected and admired we are. Our sinful hearts have latched onto something other than Christ.
As a minister of the gospel, our fountain of life must be drawn from the Lord Himself. Pastoring is what you do, but a child of God is who you are.
All of ministry must be an overflow of our relationship with Christ. If our preaching and leading ever brings an overwhelming sense of anxiety, it is likely that ministry has become an idol that we've place above the Lord.
We must fight with every ounce of strength to stay rooted and established in the love of God.
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Stop Taking Yourself so Seriously
Some of the most egotistical and selfish people in the world are pastors. My wife tells me this all the time. In fact, as I was writing this, I read this portion out loud and she said to me, “Yup! I’m looking at one right now.” Thanks wife :)
It comes with the nature of our job description. We think we are saviors. We think we are counselors. We think we are leaders. We think we have to know all the answers to every problem.
But at the end of the day, as pastors, we are sinners.
We must stop thinking too highly of ourselves and remember the grace of God. We were not called because we were able, but because we were so utterly broken by our sins. We responded to the call of ministry because the beauty of His grace moved us to want to share the Good News with the world. The moment a pastor starts taking himself too seriously, the joy of serving the Lord will begin to dissipate.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment. -Romans 12:3
Stop Being so Impatient
We do not become great pastors overnight. We will not see salvation and transformation in a matter of weeks. God invites us into valleys and hardships before we bear any lasting fruit.
We watch youtube videos of mega-church pastors and admire them more than we admire Christ. Our hearts covet greatness rather than faithfulness. We want immediate fruit, change and transformation without the refiner’s fire.
When God calls a man to His work, He must first rid the man of all his selfish ambition. Our impatience is a reflection of our self-glory, self-ambition, self-centered leadership.
We must give our best but leave the results up to God.
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
-1 Corinthians 3:5-7
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
These are the truths I still remind myself daily. Pastor or not, as a sinner I am prone to forget the reasons I entered into ministry.
I am tempted on a daily basis to build my kingdom and my name rather than His. I pray and hope that God would receive glory from all His servants who build His Church and His people until the day we see Him face to face.