Is it really improbable for someone to “like” or “want” to be a pastor? I just think that there really are people who understand what it means to be one and are really filled with passion to preach Christ, with compassion for the lost and with care for the flock, that they really “like” or “want” it whatever might be the cost.
Hey there my friend. I think you’re referring to some of the tough things I said about seminary and a pastor’s calling.
I believe it’s not improbable to just “like” or “want” to be a pastor, but it’s certainly unlikely.
Please hear me saying this in all love and grace for you. I know it will sound like such a downer, and when I talk to young dudes who want to be pastors, this is always the hard part. I feel like the harbinger of bad news or the crusher of dreams. I end up saying “No you’re not ready” a lot of the time, and usually the response is, “You’re just a hater, you don’t know me man, God’s gonna use me.”
I’ve hurt a lot of fragile egos who weren’t willing to undergo the honesty of self-examination. I get cussed out or cut off, and that’s okay. By now, I’m jaded by those sort of things. There’s a lot of triumphalistic tribal language about victory and haters and trolls, but really: I’m trying to give an honest accurate view of what pastoral ministry is really like. If I don’t do that, then I wouldn’t be a good friend. And even if that person “thinks” they understand what it’s like to be a pastor, they don’t. Seriously. I’m being nice here. You can’t possibly know what it’s like until you’re there, day to day, in the trenches of real people bleeding your life away to serve.
Simply: Ministry is downright impossible except for the anointing of God. There’s no way to simply “like” your way into ministry. The life of a pastor is extremely difficult, and if it’s not, you’re probably doing it wrong. I will never ever sugarcoat this or water it down to spare your feelings. It’s why doctors will tell you that med school isn’t for kicks and cred: they want you to man up and be ready. If you’re called, awesome. If not, wait.
I do see what you’re saying. There should be joy in ministry. Of course it helps to like what you do. Pastors must certainly “like” the church, even and especially when it’s difficult. But if that’s the sole motivation, it will never last.
I hate to be the jerk that says all that. It’s just that I’ve seen so many distracted half-focused jokesters in the pulpit that I realize: no one ever told them the true meaning of being a pastor. They don’t realize they have the lives of entire families in their hands who want healing and guidance and truth and a true picture of God. It’s like some of these dudes went to youth camp once and thought it would be fun and easy and so they sign up for seminary to have a “one day per week” job. And that’s not even close to how it really is.
Let’s consider how a pastor is sustained to do ministry for fifty years. He is called by God. That’s it. That’s the only thing keeping him going through the worst seasons. The church culture can be extremely brutal, punishing, and unforgiving to pastors. The pastor is under a constant microscope of scrutiny, and to some extent, he should be. To stay under that crossfire takes a certain kind of thick skin, one that isn’t based on your performance or cute photos or applause or approval rating.
Let’s put it another way. I want my future kids to attend a church where their pastor will safely, graciously, gently lead them towards Christ. Not perfectly, but passionately. I would be trusting my kids to the guidance of someone who is divinely appointed by God Himself.
But you’ve seen all the horrible abuses of the church. Like the youth pastor who raped a bunch of girls for several years. Or the youth pastor who had sex with every girl in his youth group. Or the pastors who molest the boys in their Sunday School. Or all these pastors suddenly murdering their wives. Those are extreme cases. Yet even in the less extreme ones, I don’t want some pastor who just “decided” to be a pastor. I’ve heard too many horror stories about pastors who didn’t get the accountability and gut-check they needed. Going into ministry is not some flippant fun decision to be a preacher and a buddy to your church. A pastor has to be absolutely willing to give away their lives as Christ died for us. Pastors always give more than they will ever get. Without that, they’re really just hurting the church. Any pastor who’s in it for self-glory or validation or just to fool around will never be near my children.
I’ll put it another way. If you want to get married or own a business or have kids because it looks “fun” or “I just want to,” then think of how much you’re actually hurting all those things. You’ll be dragging in all kinds of people to invest into your concepts of family and business, but all the while it’s been about your feelings and gratifying your own desires. This is why deadbeat dads run out on their families: because suddenly it didn’t cater to their false idea of family.
I know I’m simplifying what you said, and that’s probably not your motivation, and I’m making a lot of presumptions here. But so long as you do not correctly estimate the sweat and blood and tears of where you’re headed, the lack of seriousness will deplete the life of everyone involved. Then when you no longer “like it” or “want it,” you’ll mentally check out or you’ll run off, and do more damage.
So it’s my job as a pastor, as a Christian, and as a friend to keep it real about ministry. Whenever I plant a church one day, I will never hire the people who only “like ministry.” They better at least like ministry, but I’m looking for the calling. I won’t care if they’re good at preaching or have good church methodology for evangelism or can run programs. That’s like caring about someone’s abs to babysit my kids. I only care if they’re ready to die for these people.
I’m sorry if that bothers you. I don’t mean to be rude and I especially don’t want to confuse you if you’re truly called. I just hope you’ll actually circumvent any anger you have at me to spend that on looking at yourself instead. If you want to be mad, then by all means, please cuss me out or call me wrong or say I’m a troll. I just sincerely want the best for the church and for future pastors. I love you (and the church) too much not to tell you what you’re in for. And if you’re called, you’ll have to examine yourself even more, and not less.
6 thoughts on “The Pastor’s Calling: How It Really Is, Not How You Want It To Be”
Thank for this blog. I feel that I also have a calling in my life to become a pastor and are aware that it will not only be “fun”. But for me serving God in this way is something I really look forward too.
Absolutely, I think ministry is definitely the highest of joys. I remember serving with a fellow pastor before who constantly told me, “Remember the joy of ministry, it’s the first thing that goes when you’re caught up.”
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I heard a seminary prof once say “If you can be satisfied and fulfilled doing anything else, then don’t go into ministry. If serving people and giving yourself away is the only thing that satisfies and fulfills you, then proceed.” I guess that’s good advice.
I also remember hearing once, “If you’re called up for ministry, don’t stoop to the level of kings and aristocrats.”
I appreciate the honesty. I believe I was called to be a Pastor. I say that not because I love God and His Word, but because now I’m beginning to see all what it takes as our Pastor mentor to me.
What I’m learning don’t make me doubt myself but it does make me ask myself some honest questions. Reading this post helped me to also understand it takes more than what most people think. Thanks I needed to read this.
It’s a wonderful thing to be called to ministry 🙂
There’s a high cost, and it’s also the highest honor and joy. I’ll pray for you today, Vernon.
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