Let me begin with a disclaimer. This post does not reflect my own state of mind. I am one of those fortunate pastors who has served two churches who have cared for and loved me. Of course it is possible that there is right now a contingent of people who want my head on a platter but so far ignorance is bliss.
I have been the teaching pastor at Church of the Saviour in Wayne, Pennsylvania since November of 2008. They have done a wonderful job of encouraging me and supporting my family. Likewise, my nine years as pastor of Metro East Baptist Church in Wichita, Kansas were a blessing. I loved being their pastor. Neither of these churches are perfect by any means and I am even less so. Indeed during my tenure at Metro East I sustained some deep wounds. And while I am still new at Church of the Saviour I have had a few shots fired at me. But in both churches the encouragement has far outweighed the pain.
In the last few days however I have been reminded once again of just how many pastors do not last in the ministry. They do not finish well. They drop out before the race is done or they spend their lives on the treadmill of moving from church to church every few years.
Why does this happen?
Some pastors should not be pastors.
No pastors are equal to the task of shepherding the flock of God. It is a calling that transcends personal qualifications. Pastors are called to do the impossible. That said, there are certain ways that some pastors disqualify themselves from this high calling. Some are not well studied and therefore not qualified to preach and teach and lead by God's Word. Some disqualify themselves morally. Many churches have been deeply wounded by the moral and ethical failings of their pastors.
Some churches do not deserve a pastor.
I know this sounds harsh but it is true. There are churches that have a reputation for eating their pastors for lunch. They cannot seem to keep pastors for long which has caused them to be even more cynical and as a result nearly impossible to serve and lead.
Some pastors are much like Jonah fleeing to Tarshish. They are convinced that somewhere there is a situation far more pleasing than where they are currently called to serve. They have witnessed the fame, popularity, and financial success of some pastors and believe they can have the same. Others dream of serving a church where revival breaks out, everyone loves God and each other as they should, and numeric growth explodes only to find out that they are constantly having to plow fallow ground. This later expectation is not wrong per se. All pastors should pray for those ends. However, it is not realistic to expect them in all cases. God calls most pastors to serve small churches (that will remain small); churches where encouragement comes rarely. Because of these expectations many pastors send out resumes with the same frequency as a new college graduate never staying in one church long enough to earn enough trust in order to lead well.
Churches on the other hand often expect the impossible from their pastor. He must be a gifted communicator, a skilled administrator, and a kind shepherd. He must be a strong leader but not pushy, well dressed but not proud, well educated but not arrogant, always available (to me), and an excellent husband and father. He must never get frustrated, must never offend (me), must return every phone call and email, and he must never ask for a raise. Under his leadership the church should grow numerically, financially, and spiritually. And some churches still believe that man exists. These churches are unable to keep a pastor for long amid their crushing demands.
It pleases God and suits His good purposes for those who shepherd His flock to be wounded healers. Being a pastor is not difficult by accident. The wounds pastors and churches receive are not arbitrary or the result of some cosmic joke. Our wounds are God's gracious means to make us more like our wounded Shepherd and Savior. If you have a pastor who you are not necessarily thrilled with ask yourself, "How have I loved and encouraged him? Have my expectations been urealistic? If he were my son or brother how would I want him to be treated by his church?" If you are a pastor of a difficult church have you truly loved them as they are? Have you placed unrealistic demands upon them? Do you find yourself scolding instead of preaching, pushing instead of leading?
In his good and wise providence God has paired the two of you. Will it be an occasion for God's glory to be magnified? Will the pairing result in the joy of God's people? Happy pastors are a blessing to any church. Loving churches are the joy of a God called pastor. It is a beautiful thing when the two meet. But this does not just happen. It is the result of God's grace through the means of joyful and disciplined obedience on the part of both churches and pastors.