In the past 18 years I’ve rubbed shoulders with more pastors than I can remember. I’ve talked with pastors of large churches, small churches, and every size in between. I’ve hung out with black pastors, Hispanic pastors, Episcopal pastors, Republican pastors, and yes, to my shame, even pastors who are Yankee fans. You name ‘em, I’ve probably picked up their lunch tab.
When our conversations move past square footage and per capita giving and other things that keep God up at night, we slowly let our guard down and begin to talk from the heart. Inevitably, that’s when a well-guarded secret is shared. For most pastors, it’s a secret they’ve never shared with their colleagues, their churches, and sometimes even their spouses. I know I can count on one hand the people I’ve shared it with. Until now.
Regardless of how betrayed my fellow colleagues in the trenches might feel by me spilling the beans, I can’t hold it in any longer. I’m coming clean.
Here it is: sometimes we wish we could quit.
There, I said it. That felt pretty good. Pastors, say it with me, “Q-U-I-T. Adios. See ya. Hasta la vista. Outta here.”
I think you get my drift.
You want to know what surprises me? Every time I hear about a pastor getting ready to quit, there’s always two things that drove them to that point.
First, many pastors say they’re tempted to throw in the towel or move because of people. Problem people to be exact. I remember the first church I served. After a few months I was approached by a man who felt called by God to be my accountability partner--without asking me. He offered to take me out to eat one day, so I accepted. Little was I prepared for what was about to happen. Setting down his sandwich he said, “Brian, there are a number of things you are doing wrong, but for the sake of time I’ve kept my list to ten.” I made the mistake of saying, “Start with number one.” Two and a half hours later I left with two things—30 percent less self-esteem and a really good case for why first cousins should never marry.
Like most ministers, I’ve regularly felt the sting of difficult people. Looking back on some of these situations I’ve come to one conclusion: in every congregation there are always 3 or 4 blessed souls that are there because no other organization in town will put up with them. Yes, I agree that it’s hard to overestimate the damage some pastors have done to churches. I own that. I know I’ve caused my share of pain. But it’s also healthy to acknowledge that many of God’s servants walk with a limp because no-one in their congregation had the guts to stand up to a divisive person and protect their leader. It’s at those times it becomes easy to question whether the price is too high, at least for me.
Second, many pastors want to quit because they have simply gotten tired of the “same ole, same ole.” One pastor confided in me that he thinks most pastors change things in their churches simply out of boredom. If most pastors are telling the truth, they’ll admit there is more fact to that than they’d like to admit. Now, before you start rolling up your sleeves to throw stones, think about our typical week. Go to office. People. Problems. Study. Lunch time. More problems. More study. More people. Leave office. Not exactly the job for second-career NASCAR drivers. We Pastors get into ruts. We get bored. We lose energy. We read the church openings. On Mondays you’ll find us on the mountaintop ready to tackle the world, but by Friday at 4:45 p.m. we’re cruising www.idon’twanttospendmydayoffworkingonanothersermon.com. Ultimately, after years hiking back and forth from the mountaintop to the valley and back, we ask ourselves, “Is this it? Am I wasting my life doing this? That’s not the kind of thing you want to hear out of the person leading the charge, but more often than not it’s the truth.
First Thessalonians 5:11 tells Christians to “Encourage one another and build each other up.”
Maybe the person who needs encouragement most this week is the person you think needs it least: your pastor.
Sign up HERE to get my articles delivered straight to your inbox.