Anonymous question 1 of 2 —
I would like to become a pastor. How do I get there, would you say? 🙂
Hey my dear friend: I say this with all grace and respect for you, but I’m not entirely sure this is the correct question. I know you asked this without bad intentions, but I just want to gently push back for a moment so you know what you’re getting into.
I don’t know any pastor who began with “I would like to become a pastor.” When someone tells me this face to face, I tell them they have no clue yet and they should really consider something else. Being a pastor is not a job you apply for: it’s your whole life.
I’ve had to shoot down several young men who felt like being a pastor would be cool or interesting or a unique career or a one-day-per-week job — and as mad as they got at me, they did end up realizing they were just in it for themselves.
Being a pastor means you’re giving up your entire life for people. You will never ever get back what you give until glory. You will probably die poor or hated or early. You get the tougher judgment (James 3:1). Hours of hard work can result in very little fruit for years. Ministry will bring heartbreak nearly every day.
I’m saying this the same reason doctors want med students to man up: because the pastoral call is not built on a whimsy. It’s a crazy hard life. Please know I’m not judging you or your motives. I’m trying to love on you by saying how hard it is right upfront, and if you think this is a downer or “speaking death,” then you’re still too sensitive in all the wrong ways for ministry.
God also appoints pastors. You’ll almost feel like it’s an interruption or an unwanted pull. This isn’t true for all pastors: but mostly you’ll have a burden for people and for God’s kingdom on earth. You’ll have a burning for God more than you care about your own name, recognition, church size, book deal, or blog. You’ll point to His glory, not yours. You won’t be scared of people. You won’t entertain in your sermons to get validation for your skill.
So before you think about the “how,” which is just as easy as serving a church and applying for seminary, please consider the “why.” Pray very hard through this. Ask others what they think of you and let them dig in. Listen. You’ll get both an internal and external confirmation.
If enough people look at your life and say “No,” then please don’t take that as people “holding you down.” They’re trying to help you and help those future church members that you might abuse for your own glory. Or they’re saying to wait a bit until God actually calls you into those deep waters. It’s okay to wait.
Having said that: The confirmed call to ministry is a beautiful thing. The joy I get to experience being interwoven with other broken lives is just incredible. It took me about two years of ministry to really understand what I was doing (and I’m still learning), and I’ve found it’s ultimately about living with others in their journey towards God. It’s a messy organic journey that breathes and breaks, and it will usually be ugly and dirty. But there’s nothing like the glory of seeing another person’s eyes light up and the Spirit breathe new life into them. Nothing like seeing dead bones get up and dance.
That’s only if you can endure the many nights of loneliness and rejection. God appoints certain people to do that, and you could be one of them: so I am only telling you what I wish others had told me before seminary. Pray hard, my friend.
Anonymous question 2 of 2 —
I’m on the route of full time ministry (but not becoming a pastor) and it’s been a journey of trusting & learning process (still is) of what it means to take up my cross & follow Him. One thing people have told me is that ministry is the loneliest things someone can do. So, based off that, how have you experienced loneliness during your journey towards becoming a pastor? Thank you so much and God bless you! May He give you strength & pour into you so that you’ll be able to pour into others!
Hey my friend, thank you for this question.
There are really two kinds of loneliness that every pastor and every Christian servant will feel.
1) The loneliness of following Jesus in the church.
2) The loneliness of following Jesus in the world.
If you’re a pastor or Christian servant who is never lonely in the church: you’re probably too comfortable and complacent.
If you’re a pastor or Christian servant who is never lonely in the world: you’re probably too comfortable and complacent.
For example: When I gave away half my salary in 2012 to fight human trafficking, I got the most backlash from fellow Christians. Almost my entire church at the time looked at me like an alien. I thought maybe it would inspire a few people to follow harder after God: but it did not. Most of them called me a show-off or thought it was a waste of time. I was totally alone. Not a single person in my church really commended me or cared. I wasn’t doing it for that, but I’m still saddened by how much I repelled other brothers and sisters in the church.
Most pastors also live in a brutally punishing culture in which you’re expected to perform at a maximum output all the time. Pastors are often seen as Pope-like beings instead of brothers in Christ, so they’re very rarely encouraged by others. It’s easy to think a pastor has it all together, when we forget that pastors are still learning and still trying to follow Jesus like everyone else in the church.
But I need to say: Pastors are expected to be lonely sometimes. It’s part of our calling. So while I sound like I’m tooting my own horn, I also know that loneliness is part of the package. I don’t expect pity or false sympathy.
Every pastor and Christian servant has been appointed by God to fully give their lives over for His mission: so of course, there will be lonely days when no one understands us, when we enter hostile places, when we are misunderstood by our church members. Jesus told us it wouldn’t be easy to follow him in this world. But he also told us it would be worth it: and I’m privileged to be adopted into his Kingdom. I am never truly alone.