Have you ever been weary? Most of us if not all would answer that question with a resounding yes! I mean with all that is going on these days, it is easy to get weary. Paul ends his second letter to the people in Thessalonian with a warning about growing weary. He says in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well-doing.” Now, this seems odd because how can a person get weary doing good. Well, it happens more than you think. You see the word weary in the Greek means to be disheartened, discouraged, or to lose spirit. This week I heard of a pastor that resigned his church and got out of the pastorate altogether. I thought about how sad that was that someone called and anointed had grown so weary that they had walk away. The truth of the matter is that around 1500 pastor a week, according to some studies, leave the pastorate. Now maybe it is not as high as that, but the thing is that more and more pastor is leaving the pastoral ministry to do something else. They grow weary, they become discouraged, and before long, they give up and go on to do something else. With this comes, churches without shepherds, and many go the long length of time without a pastor leading them. Many pastors quit only to find what they thought would be better is not because they realize that pastoring is not a job; it is a calling, and it is not something that is so easily quit.
So why do they do it? Why do they quit? Well, there are several reasons, and everyone is different and unique to the individual. The truth is that pastoring in 2019 is not easy. The majority of pastor will never pastor a church that runs over a hundred people in morning worship as most of the church in America is under that mark. I know we see all the mega churches and think wow one day I am going to be like that, but the truth of the matter is that most pastor will never even see two hundred. This leaves a mark as we have come to believe that the only way that we can be successful is by putting more people in the seats. The pressure of feeling that it is our responsibility to make the church grow can cause a pastor great stress, and that leads to becoming weary. One study found that 90% of American pastor work more than 50 hours a week. On average pastors have a shorter life expectancy than the average American, and most of it is because of the stress that comes from pressure.
Now when I state this, I am not wanting anyone to feel sorry for us as a pastor because the truth is that pastoring can be the most rewarding position in all the world. I think there is no higher calling than that of a pastor, but the truth is there is a great deal of pressure. Now I find for me it is not the hours or the problems that come with being the CEO of the church that you pastor that brings so much stress, but it is their spiritual burden that is carried by the pastor. Think about it, when you clock out in the evening you go home, and more than likely never think much about the job until the next morning. On the other hand, a pastor is all ways thinking about the welfare of his/her church. The pastor is all ways on the clock. The pastor is all ways thinking about the spiritual growth of those in the church. When you have a problem, it is usually just your problem that you have to focus on, but for a pastor, they know the difficulties of many in their congregation, and they live out those problems. Watching people grow in their faith is one of the greatest things in the world, but watching people with spiritual potential never reach it is the most frustrating thing in the world. This is not to mention that pastors have lives outside of the church. Many are working secular jobs, raising kids, and working to make their marriage better. We have not even talked about the outside forces of the enemy that comes against the pastor who is the leader of the church, knowing that if he can harm the shepherd, he can scatter the flock. The truth is that pastoring is hard work physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and it is very easy to grow weary.
So how do we stop from burning out? Well after twenty-five years as a pastor, I have found for me the first step is to remember you are a Christian first and a pastor second. So many times, as pastors, we are so busy helping everyone else grow spiritual that we fail to work on our own faith. With time it becomes easy to neglect our spiritual and physical wellbeing. As pastors, there are times when we have to stop ministering to others and do for ourselves. Have you ever flown? You know just before you take off the stewardess gives you a lesson on how to use the oxygen mask. The first thing they tell you is that before you help someone else make sure you put your mask on. You see, they realized that you could not help others if you are not fully breathing yourself. The same is true with the ministry. You will never help those in need if first, you have not helped take care of the needs in your life. The needs of a pastor are the same as anyone else. Studies show that many if not most ministers do not take care of their physical man, which leads to physical problems in their life because of the demands on their time. As a pastor, we have to be aware of our own needs and make sure that we are taking time to be the best that we can be. As spiritual leaders, it is easy to neglect oneself, but if we are going to benefit the kingdom, we must learn to care for our spirit, relationship, emotions, and body. This means taking time to rest, taking care of our body, our mind, and our spirit.
Second, I think pastors have to reevaluate what they call success. If success is large numbers and giant bank accounts, then I am afraid there will not be much for many. The truth is we have to rethink what we call successful in ministry. As a pastor, my job is to follow Jesus and be obedient to him and give my best. Do not get me wrong I think we should have goals, and we should push to bring people in the church, but that is not the only way to measure success. I mean if that was the only way to be successful, then we would have to say, Noah, Jeremiah, and most of the prophets were failures. There is nothing wrong with a large number, and most of us would admit that is what we would love to see because that means people are coming to Jesus. But there is more to pastoring than just that. Pastoring success is seeing families serve God and watching as children grow up and stay in the church. Success is helping people find their place and purpose in the kingdom even if that means they have to go somewhere else to achieve it. Success is knowing that in the end, you have fought a good fight. Knowing you have done all that God has commanded you, and you have done it with all of your strength. Success is working hard every day to please God and God alone.
We cannot gauge our success on what someone else has done. Every field is different, and every calling is different. For every Peter that preached and three thousand were saved, there is the disciple that no one hears anything about. Think about it we know the results of Peter, Paul, and a few others but the mass majority of the hundred and twenty we never hear about. Does this mean they were not successful? Does this mean that only Peter and Paul made a difference? Not at all! When you look at the church in Rome, it was started by ordinary people, and yet it was doing great works for the kingdom. Success comes in all different type of packages, and it is time that we in the church stop minimizing what is being done in the kingdom of God. We have no idea of the lives that are being touched just by us doing the will of God and being obedient to His calling. No matter if you are a pastor, a church leader, or a worker in the church if you are operating in the will of God, then you will be successful in the work of the kingdom. Success may not look like you want it to look, but it will be there.
Lastly, the laity can help the pastor. The congregation can help their pastor not grow weary by looking after the pastor. The more the laity get involved in a ministry they more it helps the pastor and the church to grow in faith. When members start getting involved, it takes the load off the pastor and helps them to focus on what their calling is, and that is studying the Word of God. The great modern theologian Walter Brueggemann said, “A pastor should do only three things, pray, study the bible, and read all he/she can.” Now I am not sure that is possible to do only those three things, but I do think the more of the load the members take on the more pressure is taking off of the pastor and the more he/she can operate in the gift that God has given them. Many churches in America have placed all ministry responsibility on the pastor or the paid staff of the church, but that is never what Jesus intended. He said that we are all called to make disciples. Paul said that we have all been given spiritual gifts that are to be used to build up the church. By working together hand and hand with the pastor, you will help lighten the load. I also believe this is the fastest way to church growth is by all the church working together for the good of the kingdom and everyone finding their purpose in the church.
The church is at a critical point in our history. The leadership is under attack, and we all have to work to make sure that we do all we can to help one another stand tall. We have to work together to make the church a powerful place where no one is growing weary in well-doing, but we are all working together to make sure that the will of God is being done on a daily bases.