10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

MB PostsWhen Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a few things I either lacked the clarity or courage to share until this season of life. I want to share the 10 things we as pastors don’t really want you to know about us. Now in doing so my aim is not to rat out my fellow pastors. Nor am I doing this so congregants sleep with one eye open regarding their leadership. My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this:

  • Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges.
  • Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations.
  • People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.

Therefore I give a glimpse into what we as pastors don’t like to admit about ourselves.

#1. We Take It Personally When You Leave The Church.

It’s just a straight up fact. We pastors eat, drink and sleep the local church and with that have a deep desires to see it thrive. Therefore when you leave to another church because…

  • you’re bothered by a recent decision, but didn’t ask about it…
  • the new church has a bigger and better kids wing, youth group, worship team, building space, (fill in your blank)…
  • your friends started going there…

… it hits us personally.

For us it feels disloyal, shallow or consumer driven. People affirm that church is a family, thus when you up and leave because the church down the road has Slurpee dispensers, a fog machine or it’s just cooler, well it jams us pretty deep.

#2. We Feel Pressure To Perform Week After Week.

The average TV show has a multimillion-dollar budget, a staff of writers and only airs 22 weeks out of the year; that’s what we feel we’re up against. Where the pressure is doubled comes from the previous point. We know there are churches near by with a multimillion-dollar budget or a celebrity pastor who have the ability to do many more things at a much higher level. From this a sense of urgency is created in our mind to establish the same level of quality, option and excellence to meet the consumerist desires of culture.

Now if this were exclusively in the hopes of reaching new people this wouldn’t be so bad, but increasingly pastors feel the need to do this just to retain people who may be stuff struck by the “Bigger and Better” down the way.

#3. We Struggle With Getting Our Worth From Ministry.

When the numbers are up, the complements are flowing and the people are lively we feel great. When everything is level, it feels like it’s in decline. When things are actually in decline, it’s a full-tilt tailspin in our soul. We almost can’t help but equate the growth of the church with our ability/inability to produce growth. Therefore if there is any appearance of waning we feel defeated and wonder how long before the church board wises up and trades us to another team. The “Idol of Ministry” comes on and off the shelf pretty regularly in a pastor’s office.

#4. We Regularly Think About Quitting.

This comes in two very different forms.

One form is the variation of perhaps leaving ministry all together. While there are some really great things about vocational ministry, there are also less enjoyable realities such as: pastors’ families are noticed (i.e. judged) routinely, pastors’ purchases are observed (i.e. judged) overtly and pastors’ words are weighed (i.e. judged) consistently. Therefore the ability to hide among the masses and not be noticed is very appealing.

The second form comes with the desire for a change of scenery. Pastors are shepherds, thus we love greener grass even more than sheep. To leave for a bigger budget, better building or a place with less difficult people (yeah, we get delusional sometimes) stands out as lush Kentucky Bluegrass when contrasted with the dusty patch of ragged earth called “our current church.” This “Greener Grass Gawking” usually occurs when we become too proud (“My gifts are better than this place”) or too insecure (“I stink and just need to start over”) and flows from #3.

#5. We Say We Are Transparent – It’s Actually Opaque.

Today pastors are generally more open about their struggles than previous generations, but we still sense there is a threshold that is not to be crossed. People want open, honest and real, but not too much. Generally churches want just enough so they feel safe with you, but not so much that it spoils the expectations they have of you. Unfortunately the threshold is a blurry line by which pastors never know how much is too much until its too late. After a couple of infractions we learn that opaque is safe – even if it’s isolating.

When pastors’ wives are polled on how it feels to be the spouse of someone in full-time ministry the #1 answer is one profound word, “Lonely.” They are around hundreds of people every week, but they never feel they can let their guard down because they know people have opinions on how a pastor’s wife should be. Now I know people say they don’t, but literally every church I have served in has shared unflattering stories of the previous pastor’s wife. Many of these stories came from the spiritually mature leadership who considered the pastor and his wife to be their friends. The real irony comes in when later in the conversation I would be told, “But don’t worry, we don’t have any expectations on your wife. We just want to love on her.” Right! Now I don’t blame people for this natural human tendency, but being aware of how things are keeps you relationally opaque. And it’s not merely pastors and their wives who insulate. Pastoral families at large feel alone because there is a certain level of unknown expectations buried like landmines through the field of the church and so there is a constant mode of mostly transparent.

#6. We Measure Ourselves By The Numbers.

Numbers don’t matter! Yeah right. No matter how badly we want to slap that bumper sticker on our Ford the reality is that numbers matter to us. And they matter to us it part because they matter to God. The problem however goes back to #1-3. The absence of growth in our churches can cascade into an internal turmoil by which we begin to scrounge for “The Next Big Thing” that will bring “Radical Growth” “Guaranteed.” So we read books on how to be a “Deep & Wide, Vertical, Purpose Driven, Radical Reformission, Creature of the Word, Big Idea, Center Church.” Then we jet off to a conference with thousands of other pastors who are seeking to glean the secret of success. And what is the first question we ask one another between sessions? “So, how big is your church?” Yep, we measure ourselves by the numbers.

#7 We Spend More Time Discouraged Than Encouraged.

Occasionally people say to me, “Must be awesome to get paid to study the Bible all day.” Every time they do I think to myself, “Must be awesome to be able to give someone the finger on the 520 without people saying, ‘The pastor at Redemption Church flipped me off today during rush-hour.’” I’m not fully sure why that is the comment that flashes across my mental dashboard, but I think part of it stems from what I perceive to be the tone of the comment. Rightly or wrongly I infer they are saying, “Must be nice to have such a cush gig as a paid quiet-time.” In all honestly it is pretty awesome to be paid study the Bible, but it’s a major downer when people:

  • tell you – after 2 minutes of un-investigated reflection – that your 30 hours of study and 2 collegiate degrees were wrong.
  • tell you that they just couldn’t stay awake today during your sermon, but no offense. (How about I fall asleep at your kid’s graduation and we’ll call it even.)
  • tell you how you should have also said…
  • tell you how Pastor So-N-So says…

Aside from these particular examples I find that for most pastors it generally feels like the boat is taking on water more than racing with the wind – regardless of size or rate of growth. Lead pastors particularly suffer from this since much of their job is to focus on seeing things get better, which often translates into focusing on the broken, lacking or unfilled parts of the church more than enjoying what is right and working. Many of the most faithful and fruitful pastors in history have suffered deeply with anxiety and depression for the same reasons.

#8. We Worry About What You Think.

We’re human and we want to be liked. Therefore when we know we’re going to do or say something people won’t like, we worry about it. Now when I say that I don’t mean to infer that it causes us to avoid the hard things. There are some of my fellow pastors who avoid challenging topics or decisions out of fear of people, but most of the ones I run with still choose deliver the mail regardless of the popularity of its message. Yet we still worry about how you may take it.

#9. We Struggle With Competition And Jealousy.

We like to hold ourselves above the petty fray and reiterate, “It’s all about the Kingdom,” but in reality pastors are a competitive bunch. As soon as one pastor asks another, “How big is your church?” the game is on if the two churches are within 20 miles of each other (past 20 miles we lighten up a lot and think each other is pretty cool). Within 20 miles however we begin to assess one another’s style, focus, message, sophistication and marketing. We gauge to see if it’s a “Goldilocks Church” – not to deep, not too shallow, but just right (like us). If you’re too deep we benchmark you as internally focused. If you’re too shallow we brand you as consumer-driven. If however we conclude that you too are a “Goldilocks Church” we then figure out how our church is still better than your church. If you have lame amenities, we critique that you will never grow until you reboot that 70’s sanctuary. If you have awesome amenities, we criticize that you grow only because people are shallow and care more about stuff than Scripture.

Yes we know it’s not right. We know that it’s ego driven, but we still fall victim to it. We believe our church is the best church ever and we can’t understand why everyone doesn’t see it.

#10. We Feel Like We Failed You More Than We Helped You.

Most pastors will never be famous. Most churches will never break the 100 mark. Yet we all entered ministry to change the world and reach the masses. With this we know it is the expectation of churches that we accomplish this very thing. Every job posting reinforces the idea with the sentence, “We are looking for a man that will take our church to the next level.” Then when the next level isn’t hit in the way anticipated or within the timeline envisioned – we feel like we failed you. This is especially true in light of the reality that we are our own biggest critics. We came in with expectations higher than anyone in the church. You look to us for direction and when we feel like we failed to produce we feel like we failed you.

551 thoughts on “10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly”

    1. Why should we admire something just because it’s “real?”
      As sheep, my family and I have been hurt and criticized by clergy who insist that they were “transparent,” took it personally when we didn’t attend or give money “in envelope” due to cancer and other serious illnesses (didn’t believe it because we didn’t “look sick”), and couldn’t accept any ideas differing from theirs on “prosperity,”-not knowing my spouse and I went to college and studied our faith for decades…(not that college degrees are Christ’s qualifications anyway). I hate to think that I must choose a pastor who: will hide the fact that he’s actually an insecure, jealous man; mainly concerned with how big “his” church is, and who will judge me when my life is falling to pieces because his heart is really set on ego and privilages. Of course such a one feels he let’s us down! The pastors I’ve learned from do not fit this description, and Jesus certainly didn’t.

      1. Many American Pastors have blinders on. Pastors have never had it so good and wanted so much. It’s quenching the Holy Spirit.

      2. Annie, I’m not even going to try to defend all those who are in ministry. Being one myself I know there can be plenty of bad apples in the barrel, and there have always been men and women who join for all the wrong reasons. However, I think you’ve misunderstood the article, which is understandable, the most difficult part of ministry is just that, no one understands. What this post is about is the things that we in full time ministry struggle with. We don’t like it, we try very hard not to be this way, and many, if not most of us probably at the end of any given day feel like we’ve resisted these temptations fairly well. Somedays maybe not so much. The point is the constant stress we are under and the damage it does to us and our families. Even the New York Times ran an article (I think it was last year) how ministry was one of the top three most stressful and damaging professions in the United States, with ridiculously high levels of burn-out, substance abuse, and divorce. The reason we are driven to the issues or size and numbers, ego as you call it, is in part the security and well being of our families depend on it because those are the very issues the men who have been put over us most often turn to. It’s not always the case, but it is often the case. Try going home and telling your wife and children that they are about to lose their home and their friends just because some church leader doesn’t think your sermons are engaging anymore, or they don’t like the way you try to do your ministry, even though they have never tried full time ministry at all. They control your paycheck, therefore their opinions are more valuable than yours, even though your are the one who has made the sacrifice, seek out the training, and committed to full time ministry, you become their employees and your family is often treated as expendable.

        I know there are bad ministers out there too who persecute the church and it’s members, I’ve suffered under them at times myself, but it’s also true that the church often persecutes it’s ministers. You used Jesus as an example of ministry (the ultimate, I agree), but don’t forget at the end of just three years, his public ministry ended with him nailed to a tree.

  1. Im glad you wrote this. My pastor is a genuine pastor and would probably agree with all you wrote. I am close to my pastor, I am not his best friend of course and I am not his first choice for anything, but the reality is he is human, he likes what he likes, does what he does as another human being. The calling of “Pastor” does not diminish the humanity that God must work through. I have seen first hand some of the failings and fleas my pastor has yet, he is a much better man than I am and for that I am thankful I have a mentor. Truth is, for all my pastors human frailties there is nothing I can think of more painful to see than my pastor crying his eyes out in front of me asking God to forgive him. What did he do? He trusted someone to help him with his financial investments…instead they stole all that he had. His tears were over his disappointment in himself for feeling angry and resentful at that “so called christian”. If I was half the man my failing pastor is I would consider myself the apostle Paul.

  2. I think it’s dangerous to equate church building with kingdom building. When we measure our success according to the numbers, we remove ourselves from God’s will. Abram and Sarai had only one son. How many people today would FEEL satisfied with a church membership of just one? But when we honor God in the way we live our lives and conduct His business, that one member just might grow to become greater in number than the stars in the skies.

  3. I have spent 35 years looking for truth and what I have not found yet is someone who takes what they read and actually puts it into practice. I jumped from church to church to church asking questions and not getting straight answers. So then I took 4 years of theology at 26 graduating in 2 1/2 years as you could say I doubled up but I have never stopped studying and find new revelations all the time.
    I was asked why I do not become a preacher many, many, many times and I said I would be known as the foul mouth preacher. This has a lot to do with my upbringing [Not a good one] But what I did do is follow the word of the scriptures by studying even harder. I took all the main religions into my head and found a more perfect picture, cementing The Words even harder because now the puzzle makes more sense.
    If I say I do not sin I would be a liar and be of no true help to anyone and by sticking to the truth off the scriptures I then can help everyone. If you know you are not doing what is right only because all the rest are doing it and it is the accepted norm, it must only then be for money, [ The root of all evil]! These then are the churches of Rev 17:5 The Eternal Lord Begs us to come out of them.
    I have not glossy lips with a sweet savior, I have a bitter message that is of truth and not of [ you are ok I am ok ] we are NOT! If we do not stand up and stand out we are are then like wolves in sheeps clothing not a shepherd who truly leads his flock away from the damnation of the cliff that most do not see until they are being pushed by the whole herd to head right over without a chance of redemption.
    The preacher is held accountable for his sheep! The fire and brimstone is on its way and all I know is most of all the preachers have gone astray, hunting wolves for their pay not taking care of the meek sheep of today.
    Numbers do not matter as in reality those with the most numbers are those with sweet lips [ They sink ships]! Narrow is the path and wide is the road to damnation. I am only glad for those the Eternal gives ear that will hold themselves accountable stand up and say the truth and help other to understand it. [ The others must be willing and want to understand it ] !
    All the evidence is there but because of what is now normally accepted most refuse to preach it. This is only because there is no money in it! The money is supposed to fill His storehouse for the needy and the preacher should not be needy nor taking from but always adding to the storehouse!

    1. Just a reminder, money is not evil-for we all need money-but the love of money!! When you jump from church to church you are really missing out on the whole point of a Biblical church. Nobody is perfect, including the pastor and including you!! The point is to learn to serve The Lord together through it all-good and bad! May I say, knowledge of the Bible is not the same as having the Bible in your heart!!! God is the God of the impossible!!! We will all fail and fail often, but when you learn to let Christ live through you God can use you in ways we are not able to imagine!! When I just worry about MY relationship to God everything else falls into place-put our eyes on CHRIST not on others!

  4. I am not a pastor for say. I am a missionary in Guatemala. I love what you wrote and thank you. I been feeling a lot of the top 10 in my ministry. I been wondering lately what is wrong with me. Why I been struggling with some of these issues. After reading I see, I am not alone.

  5. Thanks for putting into words a struggle many of us pastors have. In the comments here, I have seen a number of people express the sentiment, “It’s not about me.” I agree. In fact, I recently wrote an article on my blog about that. If you have chance, check it out, and let me know what you think. Thanks!
    http://364daysofthanksgiving.com/isnt/

  6. Some of these lessons were actually eye-opening. I am so appreciative of my pastor, who leads a rather “small” church in Trenton, NJ. It is a special, intimate and Beloved time when we worship together. We will never be a mega-church, nor do we strive to be. We’re really okay with that. The needs of the congregants are being served on levels that truly matter – in the spirit. There is no pomp and circumstance or pretense, or even desire to battle with the rolls of churches that are larger than ours, yet devoid of meaningfulness. My pastor Toby is a remarkable and prophetic man of God. If you ever get the time, you can find some of his writings at http://sevenquestionsofjesus.wordpress.com. In the meantime, I will keep both your wife and you in prayer, as well as the families of other pastors. Your work is appreciated; your service makes all the difference!

  7. Just to comment on #9.
    Maybe there should be a limit on how large a church can grow.
    That way there could be more churches and it would do away
    with the megachurch.
    We have the same problems with corporations, they get too big and have monopolies and too much power, they control government and are anti democracy. Overly large churches are not more spiritual. A lot becomes lost when numbers are a priority.
    Pick a number ? when a church gets to that size it could split into two smaller churches.
    Maybe this would end the numbers game. And would tone down jealousy and pride, and greed.
    Celebrity status is not godliness.

    1. There is wisdom, I believe, in what you say, even if implementing it would be impossible in most denominations. In many protestant churches, individual congregations are autonomous, and thus it is impossible to require them to do what you describe.

      That said, I wish more of our larger churches would consider buying up church properties of congregations that are closing their doors and starting new churches in these locations. I have seen too many communities where you have one really successful church and a bunch of really small churches that are ill-equipped to reach out to the area around them.

      It would be better to have several medium-sized, healthy churches in such a community.

  8. Preachers are full of pride don’t preach sin anymore and could care less about the lost–not about programs–Books of Acts said it all in !:8 the church has no love— all about preacher and raises and numbers and most of them are gossipers–The Bible says in the last days that even the very elect will be deceive and they sure are —-hope they repent b4 it’s to late—most of them don’t preach Sin.

    1. Velma – I’m struggling with figuring out if you have the spiritual gift of mercy or encouragement. As a Pastor I always enjoy being grouped in with ‘all other Pastors’. Just as I’m sure you enjoy being grouped in with all other church attenders when someone is making a comment about people. 😉 😦
      #7 We Spend More Time Discouraged Than Encouraged.

    2. Velma, you said in your last post, “…the pastor I had he said preaching sin offended ppl and all he knew was dollar signs–”

      The problem is you took one experience with your preacher and used that one experience to condemn all preachers in general. If a preacher were to judge all church attenders based on one recalcitrant individual who attended a church somewhere you would be right to call that unfair.

      Preachers like everyone else are a mixed bag. Some are good and some are not. All of them have mixed motivations just like everyone else. Many know their motivations are mixed and it truly bothers them.

    1. your right Gene–30 yrs of church life and seeing how Christians really live–not like Jesus or your comment–u must be a sinner to. Good at throwing stones—u without sin cast the first stone—where is your love?

      1. Velma, I offered you EXACTLY what you asked for. Do you deny that I spoke the truth?

        We are all sinners. Pastors are aware of this. It is true of both ourselves and our parishioners. We neither deny nor ignore this, but generally we don’t rub people’s faces in it either (unless of course they specifically ask like you did), it isn’t particularly effective at leading people either to Jesus or to change their behavior. Sometimes we point out where we all collectively fail with suggestions on how we can do better. But some people don’t seem to notice. I don’t know a pastor who doesn’t preach on the subject of sin in one way or another. It isn’t the only topic I preach on, but it is certainly a topic I do preach on. Yet, when I do, it is amazing how many people approaching me thanking me for doing so and asserting that they can’t remember the last time they heard a sermon on sin. That just tells me they either aren’t listening or attend less frequently than they let on, for in every one of these circumstances I’ve have preached on the broader issue of sin before. So, when I hear you raise that same complaint again, it makes me wonder which it was, did your pastor really not ever speak to this issue, or did you just not hear it?

        But, at least now you’ve heard the message you thought was lacking. Given that you appear not to be so enamored of it, perhaps we ought not to be so quick to criticize the frequency or way in which you own pastor delivers it in the future?

      2. maybe I judge u harshly but for the pastor I had he said preaching sin offended ppl and all he knew was dollar signs–and growth wants a mega church and when my husband was having back surgery he didn’t even have 5 mins to call and have prayer and he was a gossiper and spread rumors–they might of been the truth but he needed to pray and quit spreading.–sorry u been hurt Christians need to look more like Jesus.

  9. It was very interesting to understand a pastor’s perspective on these topics. Sometimes we wonder, but never really know.

  10. As a recovering Catholic I always had a hard time relating to our church leaders. Thank you for your honesty and bringing a welcomed dose of humanity to the church. Remembering that leaders are no more than men and women doing their best, with insecurities and fears, makes them far more relatable and no less holy or wise, if anything, your humility creates space for those around you to grow. Thank you so much 🙂

  11. Although I can see your point on so many of the issues above, I would like to respectfully add some things that some pastors may not have realized. First of all, I am thankful for your honesty. I have always suspected as much, but am glad to see it from the viewpoint of a pastor. I have never been a pastor and I am not married to one, but maybe it would help to see some things from the standpoint of someone like me.
    I will try to keep this as short as possible, but maybe if I can give an outline for why some people leave a church, it would help in some way.
    MOST of this is from my own experience, some of it is from the experience of friends of mine. Please understand I love God and I love people. In no way is this meant to criticize these hard working men and women in the pulpit, but the other side must be told. I will not use actual names but will point out this is what happened over the last 20 years while I was a member of an Assemblies of God church. I KNOW no church or pastor is perfect; I never expected that. I really was not a high maintenance member and actually would have preferred to serve quietly.
    I read the bible and believe it. If God said it, so be it!!! But I understand the promise of grace…God loves the sinner even though he hates the sin. I was verbally abused by the pastor for 15 of the 20 plus years I attended. Lest anyone say I was too sensitive, I would say no one stays with a church after repeated abuse and be labeled too sensitive. The first time it happened I was stunned but felt God said to not give up. Over the years I felt he was trying to reach the pastor; others had been treated the same way, but had left after a while. I was to stay while God continued to attempt to reach him. I saw over the years that this pastor had an issue with insecurity and found reasons to dismiss some who seemed to be a “threat” to him. Reading the above article only shows me that what I suspected was probably right on.I was berated publicly on more than one occassion. Once he even pointed at me in front of everyone on a Sunday morning and proclaimed that God was going to “send a curse into my life” if I did not quit what I was doing. (What I was doing?) To this day I still don’t know what he was eluding to. Yet even then I did not leave. I knew in my heart the word of God says I am
    redeemed from the curse of the law. His words hurt but they could not
    touch me because God says He is for me, not against me. Imagine the pain that caused coming from my pastor, who claims to be speaking for God. A pastor can say anything from a pulpit but that does not mean it comes from God. Many have left for ridiculously petty reasons. I know that. But sometimes there are legitimate reasons for leaving a church.
    I LOVED that church and those people were my “family”. I did not take leaving lightly. I prayed about it and had a confirmation from a friend,
    who called with the exact same scripture God gave me the night before…to “wipe the dust off my feet” and leave. When I attempted to try again at another local church, the new pastor actually, believe it or not,
    verbally abused me after I was there only a few weeks. Remember, his
    public accusation was untrue and unfounded. I was so puzzled I could not understand why this would happen again, until it dawned on me that the former pastor contacted him and, afraid to lose a member to the “competition” down the road, spread those same lies to him to discredit me. This was confirmed by a dream the Lord gave me a few weeks later. Neither pastor had ever taken me into his office to discuss anything in private before attacking me publicly. I would have gladly met with them and if they had a legitimate complaint I would have been happy to acknowledge my behaviour and change what needed to be changed. I love Pastors and pray for them, but my experience has been one of frustration and hurt. My main ministry in the first church was
    cooking meals for funerals, or when people were sick. Other than that, much of my time was spent working as a counselor in a neighboring town, to teen girls in crisis pregnancy centers. There were questions behind my back about “why I was not in real ministry”, I was fighting the fight against abortion. I was also in prison ministry, yet unless we were doing something “in the church” I guess it did not count. I always thought the church was made up of people and not a building somewhere. I was following what the Lord told me to do. Just because someone does not brag about what he is doing for the Lord, does not mean they are not working diligently to bring others to God. In fact, the bible says not to do things strictly to be seen by men. Even if God has us out in front for some reason, our motives had better be right.
    Sometimes the fault is not always with the members, even though I am
    sure members could contribute greatly to the problem. By the way I am
    blessed and my family is blessed and always will be. I pray that your
    situation turns out well and you have many fruitful years in whatever God
    has called you to do. Sorry this is so long but I felt there was not much
    I could omit to show what I’ve gone through for years. I am now in a
    bible study group but have yet to find a church home.

    1. Dear Blessed, wow! I actually understand what you have been sharing here. The pulpits are full of men like the one you described ( NOT ALL ) but way too many. I thank God for this pastor who shared his heart and wants us to see what he has to walk through on a daily basis. Bless him. I believe God is waiting for that pastor or pastors who desire to constantly walk in a contrite and broken spirit. The Lord does His best work through weakened vessels who yield everything to .Him so that His power and Glory can be manifested. God is not interested in 10 steps programs. It’s all about the heart. Imagine a pastor or any believer who walks in complete surrender to the Lord focused only on Gods heart. I long for a place of worship where the pastor understands he is merely here to show the lost the way to the cross and nurture and feed God’s sheep…….. a most honorable and sacrificial position that the Lord has called many of His servants to fill. I think maybe the various programs that have been instituted into the church today have been for the most part distractions especially if they fail to produce the outcome they were meant to. I think some pastors get caught up with numbers and games and get sidetracked. I could only imagine the feeling of responsibility that pastors deal with daily. I can only say as a lay person that I want to see the church become the” dwelling place” of God once again.

    1. Is your problem with ministers or is it because you are to greedy to give financially to the spreading of the gospel?

      1. Not sure if you’re talking to me, RJ.

        First, my husband and I made the decision, years ago, to give sacrificially to the work of the Lord – and we still do that. We have made cuts in our budget and, consequently, lifestyle in order to do this. We believe very strongly in the call of all Christians to deny self for the cause of Christ.

        We have focused that giving on what we see in the Word: giving to missionaries, the poor and (usually part of the poor), orphans and widows. From what we can see, there are exactly zero paid, full-time pulpit ministers in Scripture – like the kind we have here in the American church. We see collections taken up for the needy – and for supporting missionaries. We see that the local body of Christ was an every-member-functioning kind of thing – with all men contributing to the worship service and no one man being the paid preacher.

        Back to my original point, the Bible knows nothing of a paid, full-time
        “pastor” or regular pulpit minister. Perhaps our deviation from this is why our brothers in Christ who have taken on that role have these challenges foisted upon them by we who expect mere mortals to fill this role that God never authorized.

  12. Enjoyed your message very much, brother. You said it. And it hurts. Never been a big church preacher. Took some time out in the midst of a successful ministry to complete my skills as a people helper. Now I find I can’t preach in a church that offers me full support anymore. Hey Velma, you can criticize us for being money-grubbers, but the Scriptures do say, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is treading out the grain.” Preaching for a tiny church in the shadow of bigger churches all around us. Yes, when members leave, we do take it personally. Deal with doubt all the time. Frustrated and trying to achieve balance. Whatever that is. But I just had an epiphany: If God could use the family of Abraham to work His wonder of salvation, He can use imperfect pastors and imperfect Christians to change the world. I’m going to sleep better on that thought.

  13. Should be called 10 things pastors should not admit publically. American pastors have it so much better than now than at any time in the history of the WORLD – and yet I keep seeing blog after blog about the persecuted American pastor.
    I don’t think the authors really understand how self centered they appear to be.
    No one in a church has more support than the “average” pastor no one. The pastor will always have someone in his corner the average member may not have anyone.
    I read these posts and the comments from others in the ministry all chiming in about how bad it is and I think to myself – is this how low we have sunk. We really don’t believe that God is all our strength and power so we have to nudge people to pity the poor American Pastor.

  14. What the church needs is less of pastors seeking sympathy from each other and their church members and more pastors that actually depend upon the God who saved them. This woe is me attitude is from the devil and he is thrilled to see the lamentations of the modern spoiled clergy.

  15. Assuming that all ten of these characteristics of pastors are true, what can be done to lessen their impact? There seems to be two parts to the formula: pastor and congregation.
    As a pastor for 25 years I understand many of the issues. My advice is to build into your leadership, spiritually and relationally. Take your leadership on an annual retreat. Do not do planning or ministry business on that retreat. Help the leaders work together in cooking and serving the meals. I call this, “planning, execution and peer review.” Be sure to meter out the content and the recreation to the leaders. Have fun and grow together by building relationships.
    Do life with your congregation. I encountered a seminary student taking a part-time pastorate in a rural church. He asked me, “How do I relate to my new congregation.” I said, “Put on your work clothes and visit your congregants out on their farms.” I’m in the Washington DC area. The men always light up whenever I go on their turf at the Pentagon, their policy-making organization or help them pull wires on an IT job. Their jobs are where they spent about a third of their life; it impacts them, just like the pastorate impacts you.
    Pastors need to have “safe harbors.” As this blog shows, ministry is challenging and a spiritual battle. We all need the right person(s) to whom we can share these ten issues and more. Our spouses may be a safe harbor, but I don’t want to always burden my wife with the church challenges. Many people cannot handle confidential leadership content. I say they leak like sieves. Avoid them! A safe harbor maybe someone in your church, an elder, a peer, a fellow pastor in a nearby town and even out of state. These are individuals who understand you and can speak truth to you. They will tell you when you are stupid or they can say “Consider the source of the criticism.” Most importantly they will listen.
    So build relationships, relate to your congregation and develop safe harbors. Not the complete story, just part of the puzzle.

  16. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate you posting my comments.
    I also wanted to you to know that most church members already know about the flaws and failures of their pastor. You see we know that pastor’s are human because we see them in the flesh, before, during and after a sermon. We have watched them change their convictions over the years when trouble comes their way (family and money issues). We see them trying all the things their pastor friends are doing and how they can use membership like a multi-level marketing scheme. We see them rush off to a retreat or conference to get their “batteries recharged” and then ask members to give up their vacations to work in a church related event. We notice that they may be short on funds because somehow the information always leaks out in a sermon or third hand conversation. It isn’t lost on us that the pastor has built a resume by “serving” in several churches and is constantly bringing up his past in his sermons, but demands loyalty from current members.
    I could go on some more, but I am sure I am making the point. Pastors are no different than other believers. They can’t hide their flesh, their bitterness, their “issues” – we see them and are supposed to pity the pastor or give him what he wants.
    Now I am sure someone reading this may think that I am in flesh for bringing out what I have – may be so – but I am not a pastor and that is the difference and that is what is real too.

    1. Walt, we are waiting on you to describe ALL of YOUR weaknesses now too,.. By the way, if you feel so much disdain for the miserable wretch,.. Why are you still in that church? You sound like a real encourager,…

      1. I think Walt makes an excellent point substantiated by numerous (common) examples: “pastors” are humans. As I have added, perhaps the reason they struggle as noted in this post is because God didn’t design or authorize the role of the modern-day “pastor” – because no mere mortal can do what is expected of one.

  17. OK, this article, while detailing the angst of a human heart, dealing with other humans, is a product of the culture we live in. Far too many pastors have fallen into this trap and suffer daily for it. Their congregations and anyone else a person puts pressure on to validate them also suffer daily, leading to the main reason members of a congregation tend to go somewhere else. Most of their excuses for leaving can be boiled down to this, though they will not tell you so because your ego is already so fragile they feel they have the power to crush you and they really do not want to do that.
    My desire is for pastors to fully know the Jesus who said, “my yoke is easy, my burden is light”. For anyone seeking validation from other humans, this verse is a cruel joke. On the other hand, for anyone who seeks their worth from God, this verse is pure freedom. Your burnout is not caused by other people. It is caused by the pressure you put on those people to validate you because NOTHING in modern day christianity has taught us to do that. Here is an article I read today that sums it up pretty well. May you experience the peace God has in store for you. My heart hurts for men and women in this boat.Jesus said, “I do not receive glory from people. I know that you do not have the love of God within you.”

    Article by Donald Miller:

    Jesus said, “I do not receive glory from people. I know that you do not have the love of God within you.”
    If there was ever a statement that invited trust, it’s this one. In a sense, Jesus is saying “I don’t need you to affirm me. I’m not looking to you for any kind of completion. Your association or disassociation does not affect me.” And from there He tells the truth about our condition, and the more wonderful truth about His grace and our own forgotten worth.

    As creators, when we seek glory from people, we drink from a poisonous well. We can get love from other people, for sure.

    But love and glory are different.

    Love from our friends comforts, but glory, that is the love of God that will be poured through our souls upon our reunion, is what we are really looking for. If a child is not loved, the child will likely feel a wound for life. Love is that important. But God’s glory is what love speaks of only in metaphor.

    As a creator, we are better off pointing people toward glory than seeking glory ourselves.

    *Photo Credit: Dustin Gaffke, Creative Commons
    *Photo Credit: Dustin Gaffke, Creative Commons

    If you’ve got a gallery opening coming up, it’s going to be a miserable experience if you are hoping for glory. If you are hoping for love, have a ball; I hope people show up and affirm your work and your art. But let’s be careful about the glory part. People are human and flawed, and they cannot give you glory like the presence of God.

    So what do we do to get the glory?

    You wait. And you love each other to comfort each other while you are waiting.

    May your work point to the glory that “will be” revealed.

    1. Alex, I think you missed the heart of the problem. I know of few in full time ministry who started with the struggles Matt describes, and I know of few that fell to these struggles simply out of pride and arrogance. I also know of few that got into ministry to find glory for themselves. Those that due usually don’t last more than a year or two at best. Here’s the reality (from someone else who’s spent 20 years in full time ministry), these issues are pressed on us. Most enter ministry with the vision of simply being useful to our God and glorifying him. We slip into the wrong focus most often because the leaders (and vocal minority) in our churches promote that focus. If I were to do it all again I would never accept a dollar for preaching, though I have no doubt I would still have to preach. But when the reality that one ungodly leader in your church can rob your family of their home and security for whatever reason they decide merits a change, the stress and focus can’t help but change. The sad reality is most of fall prey to our egos because our self-worth and sense of accomplishment (just wanting to give God the glory) is under constant attack, and unlike any other members or leaders in the church, our families suffer and are viewed as expendable far too often.

      Reading the comments actually shed more light on the problem in many ways than the original article did. The reality is, those who have not made the sacrifice to walk the path of full time supported ministry just really have no clue and no point of reference, apparently, to understand the stress and the pressure of the position.

      1. Ken, this is one of the better comments I have read regarding the post – thank you. I fully agree with you. I find the confronters of “the things pastors hate to admit” keep missing the fact that the list is an acknowledgement of a problem, not justification (which is why I wrote the sanctification sequel). I too have found the comments to be far more telling. In the end I’m not aware of any other job that is like a pastor (and yes, it’s perfectly ok to call it a job since it has a job description, a board to answer to, a paycheck tied to performance, is taxed at some level and you can be terminated from it outside of your choosing). Here are some ways I find it to be different:

        In any other job it’s ok if you don’t like it as long as you work hard at it – it’s just a job. If a pastor said, “I don’t really like my job, but I work hard and it pays the bills.” that person should not be a pastor. Thus you must love your job, not just work hard at it.

        In any other job your family and marriage is not in the job description. If I’m a doctor I never need to be concerned that my hospital administrator will sit me down and say, “Your 16 year old son has been openly rebellions for a while. That reflects on your ability to do surgery. After all, if you can’t keep your own home how will you keep a surgical room?” That will never happen in any profession except pastoring. If your marriage ends your job will be the next thing to follow. Now I’m not seeking to challenge these standards, the bar should be high and I affirm it fully, but it’s a dynamic not found in other jobs and thus mounts a stress others will struggle to understand. If a pastor goes to his elders or board and confides problems in the home, he may find help or he may find reaction. If reaction that in turn creates even more pressure, which is why some pastors avoid disclosure altogether.

        In any other job its commendable that you would strive to make more money and be successful, in pastoring it’s greedy.

        In most other jobs your work isn’t also deeply tied to your faith, family, friends and social network. When we as pastors are let go – for good reasons or poor – the feeling is still the same, you feel fired from your spiritual family. Many people when they face a termination or layoff turn to their church for solace, support and perhaps even to vent a bit, but a pastor is all together different. If they vent they are divisive and not trusting the sovereignty of God. If they seek solace and support others will run to their defense, thus causing them still to be seen as potentially divisive. It’s just never easy which is why most churches “encourage” a quick departure (and sometimes even threaten to withhold severance packages if the pastor doesn’t leave quick and quiet). There may be some other jobs that could run parallel to this, but the spiritual dynamic and biblical expectations of everyone needing to take the high ground muddies it a lot.

        Last, I’m not sure Satan is gunning for pilots, checkers, lawyers or stay-at-home moms in the same way he is gunning for the family and life of those who lead the greatest threat he faces on earth – The Church. Don’t miss me here, Satan guns for all who are a threat no matter what their occupation or status. But Jesus said the Church crushes the gates of Hell and thus those who lead in the Church lead the charge. When pastors fall, grow faint or loose focus a local church looses momentum at best or credibility at worst. It’s no wonder to me that every former pastor I have ever met speaks of being happier or more stress free being out of vocational ministry than when they were in it.

        Many of the confronters speak of just pleasing Jesus and not worrying about results. I agree with them on this. But it doesn’t go far enough. We should not worry about anything in life. Not politics, economy, crime, money, enemies, etc. Jesus was clear that worry doesn’t add anything to our life, but we still worry and seek to trust. I believe most pastors find worry to be their biggest battle, yet they really do seek to surrender it to Jesus – even in the face of feeling compared, critiqued or as you can see from many of the comments criticized by those who come across as smug, condescending or cliche. If a pastor responded to people who were confessing their challenges, like people have responded throughout this comments section, they wouldn’t be a pastor for long.

      2. PASTORBOZ, I agree fully, and your thoughts are very well articulated. As I’ve thought about this article, and the response it’s generated for the past few days, there are two other differences between ministry and secular work that those who have never tried full time ministry never quite seem to grasp, which in turn makes it harder on the minister.

        First, is the problem of job descriptions and performance evaluations. In the secular world these tend to be more clear cut and objective. And I know what I’m about to say won’t apply to every group and fellowship, but in my experience it applies to most. Ministers sit in a strange seat in that in most cases they have multiple job descriptions, or expectations. In fact they may have hundreds or thousands of different expectations as to their performance and responsibilities, as many different ones as there are members or attendees in their congregation. And before someone counters with, “well it only really matters what leadership thinks,” here’s the problem, leadership is often swayed by the loudest complainers. As a result I have seen and heard of situations where a minister goes in one week and is told, “here’s what we want you to do, here’s what we will hold you accountable for,” only to turn around the next week and be reprimanded because someone with a different expectation yelled louder or complained more.

        I don’t want it to sound like all Church leaders are bad, and that no one ever looks out for the minister, because that’s not the case. I have been greatly blessed over all in my ministry. In fact you will find few larger congregations where leadership doesn’t have at least some desire to protect their minister. But in smaller congregations, the vast majority of Christian congregations in the United States, leadership is weak and ministers are under constant fire from constantly shifting or unrealistic expectations. We all know the old saying, “You can please all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” One of the greatest stressors on American ministers is their inability to have an objective way to determine whether they are doing a good work for the Lord and his church or not, especially when the complaints are given such a loud voice at times.

        Second is the unrealistic expectation of work-load. Most good ministers that I know put in a minimum of 50 to 60 hours a week. And that usually doesn’t count “personal study time,” which by the way is a myth, every minute of study and even devotion feeds right into our ministry. 50 to 60 is the norm, and unless they are a prodigy or have a very light speaking load, much of that time will go into study and preparation. One of the most comical attitudes I tend to run into is the one that believes because I preach and teach multiple times every week (on average 4, three of which come on Sunday), then it is easier for me. I wish. Yes, it’s much easier for me to shoot from the hip in a tight pinch where I’m called into action without any warning, but to maintain a high(er) lever of teaching and preaching actually requires an increasing level of effort. I once heard it said, “The blessing of preaching is you get to do it every Sunday. The Curse of preaching is that you have to do it every Sunday.” Sermons aren’t written in thirty minutes, or even two or three hours, not good ones, anyway. And for most of us the sermons are just one part of the expectations, and in some cases not even the largest part, through they are the part we are most often judged on. When, then, people come up to us and say, “I think you need to take care of this task as well, or add this into your schedule,” what many of us hear is, “And I would like for you to have even less time with your family, for socialization, for recreation.” And if we say anything the answer is usually, “Isn’t the kingdom worth it?” Let me give a strange answer. No, it is not. It is not worth alienating our spouses or our children. What good would it do any of us to convert the world, but lose the souls our Father places right into our hands. And unlike secular jobs with high demands, the rewards don’t scale up with the demand or the time or responsibility. I once had a friend, who was also a church leader, and a successful business man tell me that I shouldn’t complain, he didn’t feel like he ever got any time off either. However, unlike him, my extended hours didn’t earn the least bit extra for my family. Ministers don’t receive over-time, and our support isn’t even based on how much we accomplish. All my family gains from my extra effort is neglect. Why do you think the term “preacher’s kid” has such a bad connotation.

        Ok, I think my comments have been longer than Matt’s original post. It must be time for me to shut up 🙂

  18. You really have to stretch scripture to fit in a special class of christians named the preacher or deacon class. Because of this concept and other deceptions the sheep are just as lost, now, as they ever were at His first coming.

    Read the “The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy” http://www.awildernessvoice.com/GEC.html

    Christ is coming back to gather his sheep who have been scattered by deception. And if you say YOU are not deceived you will be found to be wrong. All sheep have gone astray. This includes me.

    The reason Christ must come back is to rescue his poor sheep who have gotten lost. That is why there is no remedy for the problems we face except the coming of Yeshua.

    1. We don’t need to stretch scripture to identify those groups, we only need to read it. Here is just some of the passages on the topic where these groups are identified as people other than the congregation at large.

      Elders: Acts 11:30, 14:23, 15:2; 22, 20:17, 1 Tim. 5:17, Titus 1:5, James 5:14 & 1 Peter 5:1

      Pastor/Shepherds: Eph. 4:11, Phil. 1:1 & 1 Tim. 3:1

      Deacons: Rom. 16:1, Phil. 1:1 & 1 Tim. 3:8-10

      These are not classes, but roles and responsibilities that are predicated on gifts and qualities/qualifications.

      1. When I read the Word, it appears to me that “elders” and “overseers” or “shepherds” are all the same thing. In fact in Acts 20:17 & 28, Titus 1:5 & 7, and 1 Peter 5:1-2 the authors use the terms interchangeably for one apparent role.

        From what I have observed the modern-day pastor rarely meets the qualification for an elder and more importantly, we don’t see an authorized role for him in Scripture. (By the way, I love what you said about roles and responsibilities vs. classes.)

  19. Magnificent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you are just too great.
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  20. Thanks. I struggle with letting my people understand this, every time an elder brings a concern from someone in the church I feel like I have failed….Well put sir.

  21. I was thinking,

    1 Are these all signs of pastors only in post-Christian
    cultures?

    2 Are there just too many churches based on ego/narcissism, trying
    to get things from the church people shouldn’t try to get (jobs, networking, power,etc.) hence those people should have stayed in bigger churches making them stronger.

    3 Would my revival writings help pastors become better soul winners
    so that they would not experience these problems? More to be revealed on that one.

    Robert

  22. that’s why being catholic is better. our priests do not have to act a fool to keep us going there. we go to church to pay respect to God not to be entertained. Everyone come to to the light side, forget this fake churches.

    1. LOL.. You mean when they basically say nothing at the catholic church and people are half sleeping and know NOTHING of scripture?? And actually getting to speak to a priest is like having to jump through hoops? Most catholics are clueless of the Bible, pray to statues and go to church out of duty but then go right on to a sinful lifestyle.. YA.. I was one.. Incredible the catholic church does sermons that do NOT apply to every day living and never encourage Bible reading…

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