The call from God to pastoral ministry came on the cusp of my conversion. Wild horses couldn’t keep me from partnering with Christ in doing for others what he had done for me. I said “yes” to the call and (almost) never regretted that decision. Admittedly, some of my ministry motives and expectations were warped and led to disillusionment. The most valuable lessons I’ve learned in ministry have come the hard way. Those lessons come in handy when I’m coaching aspiring pastors who are wrestling with the call. Before exploring reasons to become a pastor, we discuss reasons not to become a pastor. Don’t become a pastor if…
-You want your ego stroked. Ministry is perfectly designed for the crucifixion of the ego and if your ego doesn’t get crucified, your ministry will. No matter how eloquently you preach, there will always be sermon snoozers (people who nap during your sermon). No matter how much of a people person you are, there will always be some who flat out don’t like you. No matter how effectively you lead, there will always be some who don’t follow. If human affirmation is the fuel that keeps you going in ministry, you will eventually run out of gas. If you want your ego stroked, run from pastoral ministry.
-You desire comfort and convenience. There is no job more demanding than leading a community of broken people into alignment with the purposes of a holy God. Every church is full of people who have been inoculated to the Gospel by the gospels of consumerism, narcissism, racism, sexism, egotism, and a host of other “isms.” God calls pastors to partner with Him in prying people free from those lesser gospels and gods. Does this sound comfortable or convenient? You can’t punch out at 5:00 and forget that the Smiths marriage is hanging by a thin thread, that a kid in the youth group just committed suicide, that your demoralized church can’t seem to overcome the demons of her past, etc. If you want comfort and convenience, pastoral ministry is not for you.
-You hope to get wealthy. Wealth, of course, is relative. According to the American standard, pastors are not a wealthy bunch. A pastor with a Master of Divinity degree is educated at the level of a lawyer, but paid at the level of a blue collar worker. If you don’t have the stomach for financial sacrifice or the skills for stretching a dollar, you may want to consider another career path.
-You crave prestige and power. Representing and serving someone who was crucified like a criminal is more likely to lead toward obscurity and weakness than prestige and power. There was a time when pastors were held in high esteem. They were innocent until proven guilty. Today, due primarily to media portrayals of pastors, clergy are guilty until proven innocent. Do a Google search on “pastor” and see the scandalous headlines surface. Tell a stranger or old friend that you are a pastor and watch the conversation go downhill quicker than an Olympic skier. Cultural hostility toward clergy is a reality in a 21st century America context, unless you live in Mayberry. According to Philippians 2, Jesus relinquished what most humans are tempted to seek. Anyone who serves in His name will do the same. If you crave prestige and power, don’t become a pastor.
-You hope for a more predictable schedule. Saying “yes” to pastoral ministry means waiving “goodbye” to weekends. Even if you don’t have a Saturday service (and the church I most recently served did!!!), you are likely to experience the Saturday jitters that occupy the mind before the Sunday service. Midnight emergency calls will invade your beauty sleep. Conflict that can’t wait will interrupt your day off. Weekday funerals and weekend weddings will exhaust you. Preaching and teaching 3-4 times or more per week will necessitate burning the candle on both ends of the day. If you must have a predictable schedule, pastoring will seem like a plague to you.
What reasons not to become a pastor would you add to this list?
(Note: In my next post, we will explore some reasons to become a pastor.)