I remember the conversation well. I had only been in full-time ministry a couple of years at the time of speaking with this seasoned veteran
of the pastorate, whom I respected highly. We were attending a pastor’s conference. Each of us had originally come from the same small
town and had known each other for many years. We had not seen one another in all that time and were now updating on the other’s life,
especially concerning ministry. I knew of his experience in the pulpit and wanted to tap into anything that might help me on my journey in
Kingdom service. So I listened intently at what he said that day – the young learning from the old.
One thing in particular struck me as strange; he said, “You know, I quit the ministry every Monday.” He said it with a joking giggle in his
voice, but I knew there was something to it. But for the life of me I could not understand its meaning. The reason that was a foreign word
to me was because I lacked the years he had of leading the church and encountering the many challenges that accompany it. As the years
went by in my ministry I began to understand what he said that day. I found myself at what seemed to be a crisis point of discouragement
most Mondays - sometimes my disappointment didn’t even wait ‘til Monday!
My hat is off to anyone who stands in that spiritual office and carries out the calling of God on his/her life. I believe the pastorate is the
most difficult job on the earth. I was asked by a class of young ministers in training why I would make such a statement about the pastoral
ministry. My answer perhaps shocked their idealism. The difficulty, I told them, comes in the fact that we pastors are human and possess
human emotions and needs just like anyone else. However, for whatever reason, those we lead most oftentimes are blind to this fact and
fail to reinforce us in this manner. Essentially, our humanity cries out, “Pat me on the back and tell me I am doing a good job for you!” But
this rarely happens. That leaves a support vacuum for the pastor. We realize the pastor should find his satisfaction from above, which is
the spiritual thing to say and think; however, that only goes so far with our humanity.
A situation comes to mind that emphasizes one of the strains on the pastor. It was a family with four children. They were perhaps a bit
below average in income and social status, but precious people all the same. They were some of the original church members my wife
and I had in the first church we planted. Over the course of years there was an inordinate amount of counseling time devoted to this
particular family. The overwhelming needs they oftentimes had drew them time and again to their pastor’s office for help. We were glad
to be there for them and to administer the anointing of God to them. Much of my wife and me were invested in this family.
One day I met the wife in a store as she was shopping; I commented to her that I was seeing a trend of absence from worship services by
their family and was concerned for their well-being as a result of it. With no hesitancy whatsoever, she smilingly told me of the wonderful
church they found and all the good things going on there they really enjoyed. She went on to say they had not “left” my church but they
were now dual-churched. Something way down deep inside me was hurt. I smiled politely anyway and we parted.
Several weeks went by without seeing this family at all, when I received a phone call to come quickly to their home that a crisis had
occurred. I went. On the way it was everything I could do to follow through with the call for help. My flesh wanted to turn the car around
and go back and call them to tell them to seek the help of the pastor of the church from which they were apparently a part. I could not do
that. The Holy Spirit ministered to the family through me and I was pleased to see His power help solve their problem.
I desperately wanted gratitude from these people – my flesh longed for it. Yes, they thanked me and we hugged and all seemed well;
however, they continued to attend the other church. In the months that followed there were several other opportunities afforded me of
ministry to that family. Each time I had to overcome the natural man and his carnal inclinations in order to fulfill the calling of God on my
One day I phoned the family and in the course of the conversation I asked why they continued to seek my pastoral help rather than go to
the pastor of the church they had chosen to attend. I was told they knew God would touch them through me, and besides that, the church
was so large the pastor did not know them. Of course I was blessed to receive that compliment, but it did nothing to fulfill the need in me
for some kind of reciprocal respect and love. I needed for them to see that I needed them as much as they needed me. I needed to feel
appreciated and affirmed by them, and the best way for that to happen is to be in my church on Sunday morning as one of our spiritual
family rather than just run to me when they needed me.
Time and again over the years I have returned to Colossians 3:23-24 in order to remind myself that it is God that I serve and it is from Him I
receive my rewards, not from those who receive my efforts in ministry. For a season I would find strength from that passage, but soon I
would be faced once again with pain caused by uncaring and unthankful parishioners; they reached out for help from me but gave nothing
in return. I was beginning to see why my friend Don quits the pastoral ministry every Monday. Those thoughts were becoming more
frequent with me as the years of ministry rolled by. I didn’t like what was going on inside of me, in fact, I was ashamed to think those
thoughts that seemed selfish and even childish, but they were there anyway.
So, the bottom line is this: Who is it we pastors are really trying to please, and from whom do we seek affirmation? If your answer is, “From
your congregation,” how miserable you will indeed be! They will let you down. Why? They are just people like you, and in their humanity
they too are prone to error. You must constantly remind
yourself that your service is to God Himself, it just happens to be carried out at the human level. Pastor, you must find fulfillment,
encouragement, and reinforcement from Jesus Himself and refuse to go the route of seeking these things from others. If you will, you won’
t consider submitting your resignation every Monday morning.
Be blessed in your service to Jesus.
Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and
not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive
the reward of the inheritance for you serve
the Lord Christ.