The Pastor - Burnout Part 1



The Pastor - Who is He? Part One


A common statement is made about how easy a job the pastor has. It goes something like this, “it must be easy since he only works 2 hours a week”. In other words the pastor only works when he is preaching on Sunday. When confronted with this statement I am quick to point out that I work 3 hours a week, they always forget about mid week Bible study.

Now most of this in fun and they recognize there is much more to pastoring than preaching a few times a week. However, it has been my experience that most people do not really know or understand the responsibilities of a pastor. Therefore they wonder what we as pastors do with our time.

For example, I had a member in the church I pastored in New Hampshire who was curious about that very thing. After all how hard is it to put two to three messages together a week? What does the pastor do with the rest of his time? This member was laid off a short time later and spent some of his days working at the church in an office next to mine. He saw the people who can and went. He noticed the number of phone calls that rang each day. He also took notice of all of the other things that needed tending too other than just message preparation. After a couple of weeks of this he came to me one morning and said, “Pastor, how in the world do you get everything done? I never knew a pastor’s job was so busy!” 

Yet, as time goes on and more and more church members are involved in activities outside of the church, more is expected of the pastor in order for the church to continue to run smoothly. Likewise more look primarily at the pastor to grow the ministry as well. This is reflected in job descriptions as churches look for pastors who are “visionary” and have a “deep passion for church growth”.

When I was growing up in the 60s, Pastors of churches 300 or more rarely had associate pastors on staff. The youth program and other ministries were cared for by the members of the congregation. Today once a church gets to the size of 125-150, the church starts looking at a youth pastor or associate pastor. They need to hire someone to do the work that the members used to do in the past. I have asked many retired pastors about this trend and every one of them has told me that the pastor today is carrying a far heaver load then ever before. This is reason that better that 75% of pastors struggle with depression more than once in their ministries and why over 50% of the men leaving seminary drop out of the ministry after only 3 years. 

In many church settings, the congregation drafts up a job description for the pastor based more on a secular business model than on the model set forth in Scripture. The pastor becomes like the CEO of a large corporation who has to report to a board of directors (elders) and stock holders (membership) as too whether he is meeting their “expectations” and needs. To illustrate this point, I went on the internet and checked out some websites where churches are looking for senior pastors. The following listing is becoming too often the norm for churches that have multiple staffs.

The Senior Pastor is responsible to provide leadership, shepherding and teaching in advancing the church’s vision and provide spiritual and strategic direction for all ministries of the church. Primary responsibilities include: setting forth visionary outcomes, while allowing the staff and congregation liberty in the execution of programs that support that vision; shepherding, by modeling a walk of faith and exhibiting a strong care and concern for the flock; teaching, by being an expositor of Scripture, able to rightly proclaim the word of truth and make it relevant to his flock.

The Senior Pastor’s Qualifications:

¨ A clear testimony of faith in Jesus Christ

¨ Consistent spiritual and moral character and integrity, fulfilling the biblical leadership qualifications of an elder as described in I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9

¨ Agreement with the doctrinal statement of the Church and Affiliation

¨ Exemplary Bible teaching and preaching capabilities

¨ A minimum of an MDiv degree with a passion to learn

¨ Suitably ordained and/or willing to transfer ordination to the Affiliation within two years

¨ Strong organization, administration, and interpersonal skills

¨ A recognized successful track record with a church of similar size or larger than this congregation

¨ Apparent good chemistry with other pastors, staff, congregation and culture

¨ The potential and desire to remain in a long-term ministry

The Senior Pastor’s Responsibilities

¨ Primary responsibility for the teaching and sustaining of biblical doctrines of this church, the ramifications of God’s word on the lives of each in the flock and equipping God’s people for ministry

¨ Pastoral duties

o Preach and teach the Word of God regularly

o Have overall responsibility for the public worship services form and content

o Administer the recognized ordinances

o Provide for or delegate pastoral care and nurture to the staff, leaders, members and others touched by ministries at the Church

¨ Leadership duties

o Provide overall vision for ministry

o Provide organizational and spiritual leadership

o Develop and nurture the Elder Board, Pastoral Team and Staff.

o Work with the elder board to organize and develop the ministry of the Church

o Provide visible support and encouragement to the core ministries of the Church including Missions, Local Outreach, Counseling, Adult, Youth and Children’s ministries.

o Oversee the development and implementation of ministry objectives.

o Encourage the development of leaders

¨ Management duties

o Supervise pastoral staff.

o Oversee or delegate oversight of day-to-day operations

¨ Kingdom duties

o Represent the church to the community – working with existing contacts in the community

o Provide ministry to the broader body of Christ.

The Senior Pastor’s Accountability

¨ The Senior Pastor is accountable to the Elder Board.

¨ This position description reflects the current position requirements; the Elder Board will review this position description annually and assure that the requirements meet current needs and expectations

I doubt many of you would be interested in such a demanding job. In fact I would doubt most pastors would feel up to the task! This hopefully illustrates that when it comes to the pastor and his responsibilities there are a lot differing opinions and ideas, some of which do not line up with the Scriptures. Over the next few weeks I want to address this matter from a biblical point of view. It will be my goal to determine who God says a pastor is and what He has called a pastor to do.

To begin this process lets ask the question, who is a pastor? 

The pastor is a believing man who has been called by God to pastor a congregation. Eph. 4:11 speaks that God has given 4 key positions for the benefit of the church. The positions are: apostle, prophet, evangelist (missionary), and pastor teacher. The position of apostle and prophet were established at the beginning of the church and continue to serves the church in the form of the written Word of God. The latter two positions, evangelist and pastor teacher were given after the founding of the church and serve to aid and strengthen local congregations, building on that which was previously laid by the apostles and prophets. The filling of these positions has been a continuous work of God as He calls out men of each generation of Christians.

Now Paul makes it clear that the position of an apostle was the result of the call of God. Believers could not become an apostle by desiring the position or by great effort on their part. They had to be called by the will of God Himself (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:1). Since the position of pastor teacher is included with that of the apostle (Eph. 4:11), it is logical to assume the position of pastor teacher is the result of the call of God as well. This was what Paul conveyed to Timothy, the pastor of Ephesus, in 1 Tim. 6:11-12 when he writes, “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Thus a man does not choose the pastorate, he does not earn the pastorate, he does not buy the pastorate, he does not inherit the pastorate. Instead the pastorate finds the man through the will of God and His call. This may, as it was in my case, take place as early as the age of 4.

This is an important point, for no man should enter into the pastorate unless he has been called by God. I have over the years encountered several men who wanted to be pastors but were not called. Paul speaks of this when he writes, “This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work,” (1 Tim 3:1) Paul does not stop there but goes on to give a very strict set of qualifications that a man must meet if he is going to be considered for the pastorate. In other words, many may desire the position, and some may even be qualified, but only those who are called are to serve in this position. Sometimes men desire the position because of idealistic ideas of what it is like to be a pastor. The opportunity to speak regularly in front of an audience, being there to aid the sick, giving good council to the hurting, and of course all the “financial perks” one gets as a pastor. 

I can tell you that all these forms of idealism wear off before the first year is up. Counseling people is very hard and demanding work. Preparing 2-3 fresh sermons a week takes a lot time and preparation and even after you have given it your very best, often you walk out of church wondering if anyone was really paying attention. And we can not forget the “financial perks” of being a pastor. I am still waiting for those after 30 years of ministry. I have never been able to own a new car and never had more than one car until some one gave me an old hand me down a few years ago. I have struggled over the years to pay my bills because the congregation either could not pay me what I needed or were unwilling too. My children have never been to Disney World or Florida. Most of our vacations ended being two weeks spent with our parents. Please do not get me wrong. I am not venting or complaining about what God has provided over the years. God has always met my needs and often my wants. I only mean to point out that the idea that ministers have an edge financially does not measure up to reality. If this is the reason a man is considering the pastorate, he would be better off being a lawyer or a CPA.

I remembered when I was still in seminary, that a visiting pastor made a bold statement to all who were present. He said, “men, if you can do anything else in life other than be a pastor and be happy, then do it and forget the pastorate.” He went on to explain, that the call of the pastor is one in which the pastor is given an inward drive to want to do nothing but be a pastor. This he said would be necessary as the pastorate is a position that is poorly paid, frequently criticized, often under appreciated, is very demanding of one’s time, and at times filled with heart ache and tears. 

This man was exactly right! I live with many scares inflicted in an unchristian like manner by the very people I sought to love and minister too. Often they have been people that I have at personal sacrifice poured out many hours of ministry only to have them stab me in the back at a later time. The ministry has been a struggle for me at times and often I have had the thought of taking on secular work and quitting the pastorate and putting the hassles behind me. As one pastor stated, the pastorate would really be a great calling if it were not for the people! However, giving up is not an option for me! God’s call to be a pastor is so deeply woven within my very being that to do anything else would bring remorse and unhappiness to my soul. (Acts 4:19-21; 1 Cor. 9:16-17) 

The importance of the call to the ministry is further evidenced in the fact that a man who feels called must be proven worthy of the call by a local congregation. Paul mentions that along with Timothy’s call was the “good confession in the presence of many witnesses,” (1 Tim. 6:12). This recognition is called ordination. Paul gives the qualifications and responsibilities of a pastor in 1 Tim. 3-6 and Titus 1 and expects the congregation to measure a man by these to determine if his call is genuine. If not, no matter how much the man wants to be a pastor, he is not to be ordained. Likewise if after he has become a pastor he fails in his calling, the ordaining congregation is to revoke his ordination.

The pastorate is a serious calling from God. The man who is called is the gift of God to the congregation he is sent to minister too. To many empty churches in America today are the by product of men who pastored without a call.

I am going to quit at this point and pick up here next week. In the meantime, I hope you will take the time to ponder what a pastor is and what are his God given responsibilities? Share this question with some of your friends or coworkers and see what they think. I believe when we are finished you will have a renewed appreciation for what the pastor is and what he does. This should help you understand why he and his family so desperately need your prayers, encouragement, support and fellowship.