The other day I attended an informal pastor’s breakfast that I participate in once a month. It is a great joy to meet with such men of God and learn from them. It is very encouraging to share with each other our struggles and our victories. At the breakfast there was some conversation in regard to feeling inadequate as a pastor and the need that we have to be encouraged by our congregations. The question was raised as to what encourages us as pastor’s the most. Some of the answers included: seeing someone use what we preach in their daily life and sharing it with others, encouraging notes, people sharing that they are praying specific things for you, and the congregation being engaged in your teaching/preaching and in the life and ministry of the church. Personally, seeing people engaged is the most encouraging thing for me. I like to see people excited about being at church and sitting on the edge of their seats with their Bible, notebook, and pen while they listen intently to the sermons that I preach. As a matter of fact, I am most encouraged when I see people at church. Empty pews that should be filled with faithful church members does not help in the encouraging department. It is encouraging to hear of conversations that people have during the week that relate to what was preached on Sunday. All pastor’s need such encouragement on a regular basis.
One of the biggest reasons why pastor’s need such encouragement is because of the nature of their job. I do not have to list all the burdens that pastor’s bear, we all know the struggle it is to be in such a role. However, one of the biggest struggles that pastor’s face is often not with those in their congregations but it is with themselves. I was talking to my wife the other night and asked her, “what if I am wrong?” What if the way I lead the church is wrong? What if what I tell people in counseling is wrong? What if what I preach is not really the right interpretation of scripture? One day I will have to stand before God and give an account for the truthfulness of my preaching and for the ministries where I serve. That is a very scary thing. If I preach something that is not right, I will have to answer for it. If I allow false teaching to permeate a church where I serve, I will have to answer for it. If a church falls apart and is divided under my watch, I will have to answer for it. I think this is the biggest burden a pastor bears. Knowing you will have to stand before God and give an account for how you handle the Word and for the condition of the church or churches where you serve is a very scary thing. This is why many pastor’s get discouraged.
It is difficult to open up and share such inner things with others, but I believe sharing such things is helpful. Pastor, you need to know that you are not alone. I for one understand what it is like to go through seasons of depression. I understand the seriousness of the role of a pastor. I understand the burden that you bear. I know what it is like to feel inadequate. Sometimes I feel as if no one takes me seriously. I often feel unqualified, unworthy, and completely inadequate for such a position. Pastor, I know you feel the same way too. However, after thinking on these things and working through my feelings, I have discovered that such feelings is somewhat normal. None of us are worthy to serve as pastor. None of us are really qualified. None of us are adequate enough. It does not matter how much seminary training you have or how much experience you have, you will never measure up.
Chip Ingram in his True Spirituality study talks about the need to have an honest self assessment. We all (not just pastors) need to understand who we are in Christ. Apart from Christ we are useless and unworthy. With Christ we are so much more. God created each of us in His image. He also created each of us individually different. You have a God-given personality that goes along with God-given gifts and talents. We have God-given strengths and we have God-given weaknesses. Feeling inadequate about yourself is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s how we handle that feeling that is the issue. You see, we are inadequate. None of us measure up. However, God has placed us in a such a way that we can be used by Him even in our weaknesses. The key is to realize that we belong to Him. In Christ, we cannot mess things up. He is perfect. He is holy. He is right and true. We should simply be who we are in Christ. Pastor, you do not have to please everybody. Pastor, you do not have to be perfect. Pastor, just be real. Be who God made you to be. As you allow Christ to work in and through you, He will use you in amazing ways no matter how inadequate you may feel. Do not allow your feelings to overtake you. Use such feelings of being inadequate to trust and depend on God more. You cannot do it all. But, through Christ you can be the pastor that He has designed you to be. Stop trying to measure up. Stop trying to be like that other pastor that seems to have it all together and that everyone loves. Just be who you are in Christ and God will use both you strengths and your weaknesses for His glory and for the building of His kingdom.