I’ve been a pastor for over 20 years and even now there are days when I’m tempted to quit. To be completely honest, I had one of those days recently. I’ve often been asked how I’ve been able to stick with it for so long. The short answer is that I’ve been able to sustain by God’s grace. The longer answer is made up of several phrases that I remember every time I feel like giving up. I’m going to share these phrases with you knowing that they may not initially make you “feel” better. Rather, my prayer is that they’ll encourage and empower you by helping adjust your thinking.
Romans 12:1 (NLT) says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Notice, that the “pleasing and perfect” feelings that flow from God’s will don’t come first. Rather, changed thinking comes first. In other words, right feelings follow right thinking. So today, regardless of how you feel, read the statements below. Repeat them to yourself. Meditate on them. Pray that God will make them part of your thinking patterns. In time, they’ll help heal your hurts and help you make it in ministry for the long term.
You’re Not Alone. Every pastor struggles. It’s part of the deal. Satan wants to take every pastor out, so remember that you’re not the only person out there with a giant target on your back. If you need to vent, call a fellow pastor and share your struggles together.
There Will Always Be People Who Don’t Get It. You’ll never be so good at communicating and leading that 100% of your parishioners will understand, embrace, and follow the mission. People are broken and Satan will do his best to exploit their brokenness and drag you down. Refuse to be dragged down by people who don’t understand your motivations. Decide now that you will not let grumpy people steal your joy. Whenever these people surface, just remind yourself that these people will always be around. Even Jesus shared this experience. Remember, the Apostle Peter was one of “those people” from time to time.
Sheep Bites Won’t Kill You. I remember reading a blog post from Brady Boyd once where he said, “Sheep bites can’t kill me, but the gnawing will make life miserable a few days each year.” That phrase has stuck with me and helped me through some pretty annoying times. When the sheep are biting, I try to think of it like a common cold. I’m gonna feel bad for a few days, but I’ll get well soon.
God Believes In You. Consider how powerful that statement really is. God called you to ministry, He will equip you, and He believes you are teachable enough to develop the character He wants for you. You may feel like you can’t keep going. You may feel like no one supports you. But that’s just not true. God believes in you and He’s in your corner.
There Are People In Your Church Who Love And Support You. It’s easy for negative voices to outweigh positive ones. Never forget the people God has put under your leadership who support you. Perhaps you wish they’d show their support more. The best way to elicit support from people is to be supportive of them. When was the last time you sent the encouraging people in your church a “thank you” card? When was the last time you took some of those folks to lunch just to show your appreciation? When you appreciate them, you’ll always walk away encouraged yourself.
It’s Worth It! The vast majority of pastors will never make significant incomes. That’s why you probably have days where you wonder if the sacrifices you and your family make for ministry are really worth it. The answer is “Yes!” People will experience Heaven because of your ministry. Lives will be changed, marriages saved, hope found and truth taught. Don’t give up, because you are making a difference. God is eagerly preparing a place for you in Heaven that will outshine anything you could ever have here on Earth. If you finish well, God will one day say, “Well done my good and faithful servant.” When He does, all of the struggles you’ve faced wil disappear and you’ll know for certain that it was indeed worth it.
What are some of the thoughts or phrases you remember when you’re discouraged and want to give up? What keeps you going?