I thought I would take a moment to share some of the things pastors are trying their best to address at the moment. Pastoring a church is a tremendous privilege and joy, and it’s not always an easy task. Indeed there is a reason why many pastors burn out after a few years and many don’t make it beyond 10 years in the ministry. This pandemic has bowled a googley at all of us, no matter our religious views, job, and life situation. Pastors are not immune from the daily stresses, troubles, and temptations that we all face. If there is a difference, face although it may be, there is an expectation that pastors will continue to work with a smile on the face, they will accept all the comments made to their face and behind their back, and push through whatever the cost.
There is a reason why many pastors burn out after a few years and many don’t make it beyond 10 years in the ministry.
In recent weeks numerous pastors have shared with me how they are going; most of them are barely surviving. This isn’t because our task is necessarily harder than others, but for this one simple reason, we are just like everyone else. It’s because of one such conversation I had today, that I thought, let me open a window and let people see inside to gain a snapshot of the kinds of issues and responsibilities confronting pastors in Melbourne churches at the moment (in no particular order). We are:
- Trying to pastor people who have undergone all manner of trials and hardships over the past 2 years.
- Trying to love and pastor people who are wrestling with all manner of non pandemic related difficulties.
- Aware that everyone is tired, run down, and desperate for a holiday, and we are doing more routine tasks to avoid burdening our congregations.
- Overseeing COVID-Safe plans.
- Planning the regathering of our churches after months without any in-person gatherings, and doing so under tight and changing Government directives.
- Doing more work as many people are preparing to wind down for the year.
- Counselling those who are nervous about returning to church, including those who are immuno-compromised and those who are fearful of being forced into quarantine through becoming a COVID close-contact.
- Counselling those who remain unvaccinated and who are feeling hard done-by as a result of Government rules.
- Navigating 50 different expectations and demands on what returning to church ought to look like.
- Acting as advocate to the Government on behalf of unvaccinated people (so that they can return to church) while also encouraging people to be vaccinated for the sake of the vulnerable.
- Working to uphold the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace while society (and parts of the church) are becoming increasingly fragmented and angry.
- Urging people to remain gospel-centred while political issues and allegiances cry for division.
- Writing and preaching sermons every week.
- Organising church services.
- Leading Bible study groups.
- Training leaders.
- Meeting with leadership teams.
- Keeping an eye on ever unstable finances.
- Having late nights away from the family because of another meeting or crisis.
- Processing Victoria’s new “Conversion and Suppression Practices” laws that target Christians—as well as writing articles and letters to raise awareness; appealing to the Government to overturn these unjust laws, and preparing our churches for laws that are a genuine threat to Christian freedom, belief, and practice.
- Reading, understanding and responding to legislation amending the Equal Opportunity Act which will further limit religious freedom in Victoria.
- Praying for the people under our care, for our community and for the world around us.
- Fast tracking reading of books and articles that are required to understand the theological doozies that keep popping up in our preaching and in our pastoral care.
- Preparing for Christmas! Christmas Carol services and Christmas Day services.
- Planning for 2022 (who knows what that will mean!)
- Welcoming visitors (and praise God for people who are checking out church).
- Rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn, correcting the wayward, and grieving those who depart.
- Burying the dead, visiting the sick, marrying couples, sitting with those whose marriages are falling apart.
- Loving our families and giving them the love, time and attention they need and deserve.
As I hope you can see, these things aren’t quick, easy or unimportant matters.
These are just some of the things pastors are working on this November. As I hope you can see, these things aren’t quick, easy or unimportant matters. Most of these activities demand an intellectual, emotional, and psychological gravitas that might overwhelm pastors at the best of times—to say nothing of the present time. This isn’t a cry for help or a request for praise. This is just a little message to share what pastors are up to at the moment. To our churches: we love you and we’re there for you in the good times and the bad. But understand, we are also tired and the emotional fuel tank is running pretty low.
We get tired and grumpy and worn out. The words, actions, and attitudes of others impact us too. We love the people whom God has committed under our care, but there is only one Saviour and we’re not him!
I am incredibly thankful for the saints at Mentone who, despite their own tiredness and troubles, are persevering. We are running the race together.
And that’s how it’s meant to work. This isn’t about pumping-up pastors with pride but about each member lovingly serving every other person, so that pastors are better able to give and serve as we ought. And indeed, as pastors do their work well, the congregation is released to ministry and to grow together. This is why, when one of my own congregation asks how they can be praying for me, I often ask them to pray that the members of our church would keep loving one another and serving each other with patience and grace. Then, everyone wins: God will be glorified and the gospel will be seen for what it is—stunning and beautiful and good.
The Apostle Paul put it like this,
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-5)
Pastors, let’s remember we are not supermen, iron men or whomever the current superhero is meant to be.
And pastors, let’s remember we are not supermen, iron men or whomever the current superhero is meant to be. And we are certainly not the world’s Saviour.
- Be content in not doing everything.
- Keep things as simple and straightforward as you can.
- Be willing to say no to people
- Be understanding that many peoples’ capacity for serving is reduced at the moment.
- Take regular breaks.
- Make sure you take proper annual leave over summer (otherwise you may not survive 2022).
- Do something fun.
- Refresh yourself daily in God’s word and in prayer
- Share and be accountable to a small group of peers (including inside the church)
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
First published at murraycampbell.com