Being a Pastor is Complex!

After reflecting on my growing up years as a pastor’s kid and now with 12 years of pastoral ministry experience myself, I have concluded that being called to pastor a local church is incredibly complex. Mind you, this is not a new revelation but the reality of this truth keeps on hitting home regularly.

There are so many variables at work in pastoring a church. The local church is a volunteer based organism filled with people from a multitude of backgrounds and perspectives, all with their own unique wrestles and challenges. As a pastor you can’t make people do anything, and yet God has entrusted you with the responsibility to shepherd, feed and lead people into the full stature and image of Christ, who often don’t want to go where God is calling them because of the pull of the sinful nature. At the same time you don’t have the leverage of $ to assert your authority and when you do ask for people to give faithfully to the creator of the universe, it’s met with all sorts of skepticism and suspicion. You are expected to change the world and everyone in it with limited practical resources at hand and when anyone has one of life’s deep questions to ask, of course, the pastor is going to be able to answer it perfectly because they have spent the last 25 years studying just to answer that one question.

As a result of all this complexity, my dependence on God is growing daily and I know that God has asked me to plant and lead a church, as much for my own sanctification, as for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. I know more than I did 12 years ago but I need God more each day than ever before.

Planting a church from scratch adds to the complexity. I never wanted to plant a church but in God’s sovereignty he called me to this work and it has been both a privilege and a painful experience to answer that call. Over the last, nearly 6 years we have seen Activate grow from 13 people meeting together in a lounge room to now over 400 people connecting with our wider church community every week, complete with a much larger budget, a 400 seat auditorium, offices, meeting rooms, guest lounge, kids city facilities, cafe, and op shop as well as extensive missional activity in the wider community, including feeding the homeless, life groups, activate academy, gender based ministries and the list goes on.

Pastors deal with all sorts of expectations from people, from God and from themselves. Some of these expectations are real and some are simply perceived. At times you feel like you have to be all things to all people from counsellor to fund-raiser to wedding planner to professional mourner to career advisor to worship leader to administrator to teacher to evangelist to wise sage to mentor to business guru to everybody’s best friend and the complexity compounds. Coupled with this are the personal issues in your own heart you wrestle with daily and the dreams and desires you have for your own personal future.

How should we respond to this? So glad you asked.

Begin with the Bible, not your feelings! Passages like 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9, Ephesians 4:11-16, 2 Timothy 4:1-8, Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Peter 5:1-4, Matthew 20:20-28, Philippians 2:1-11 are foundational to a biblical understanding of the pastor’s role and vision for local church ministry.

God never called you to be the Messiah! This job has already been covered by Jesus. You haven’t been asked to die on a cross to reconcile man back to God. Jesus was and his work is now finished. This truth helps you keep the burden of responsibility in check.

God is Sovereign! This grand truth helps me sleep at night when I end a day with doubts, uncertainties and loose ends. I believe that God’s sovereignty are the bookends of life and ministry and as a result, I stay mildly sane. I planted, we are all watering but God gives the growth.

Do what God has called you to do, not what everyone else expects you to do! You will lose the plot if you try to be all things to all people to gain their approval and favor. Enough said.

Enjoy the journey, not just the outcome! Pastors love results. We get a spiritual high when the dashboard comes in and all the stats are heading north but are you enjoying the journey or just enduring it?

Create a healthy release valve! Exercise, friends, movies, dates nights, hobbies and holidays are all important aspects of life that need to be incorporated within your weekly, monthly and annual rhythm.

Keep loving God and people! Ministry is about connecting people to Jesus and Jesus to people. Don’t get distracted from the main thing – the GOSPEL works!


Recommended Reading: Church Planter

I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book titled ‘Church Planter’ written by Darrin Patrick who pastors ‘The Journey’ in St Louis, Missouri and is a part of the rapidly expanding Acts 29 Network.

The book focuses on the Man, the Message and the Mission of the Church Planter. From the outset it is challenging as it addresses the issue of ‘men only elders’ in the context of the New Testament teaching on the subject (1 Tim 3:1-11 and Titus 1:5-7). This is quite controversial in light of the current liberal trend of interpreting the bible, particularly in western churches. The issue is rooted in how you read the bible, rather than in what is the popular cultural opinion of the day.

The first section is on the Man – The chapters in this part of the book focus on the type of man required to plant and lead a church. Because I have planted a church and continue to pastor the same church, I could identify with both the challenges and requirements of a church planter. At the core a church planter needs to be rescued by Jesus Christ, called by the Holy Spirit, qualified in character, dependent on God, skilled in preaching, pastoring and leading, with a Shepherds heart and determined to never quit.

The second section is on the Message – The preaching of the Gospel in our current culture has been so diluted that much of the original message has been lost to accommodate itching ears, lusting after a self-serving gospel (2 Tim 4:3). Darrin calls us back to the historical, salvation-accomplishing, Christ-centered, Sin-exposing and idol-shattering message of the Gospel.

The third section is on the Mission – As the church is God’s missionary to the world, we need to be on mission contextualizing the gospel in such a way that people can get a living, breathing, authentic encounter with Jesus that will transform their lives. Darrin shares from Mark Driscoll, “Contextualization is not making the gospel relevant, but showing the relevance of the gospel.” (Pg192)

The book summarizes by focusing on Jesus being the Man, the Message and the Mission. Darrin shares,

  1. “Jesus is the Man. The ability for us to change into the men God has called us to be is dependent upon our surrender to the Man who has perfect character. All of what we hope for in the men who lead our churches is found in the perfect life of our Lord.
  2. Jesus is the Message. The power for others to change is rooted in the gospel, which both rescues the sinner and grows the saint. All that we need to know, experience, and proclaim is found in the person and work of Christ.’
  3. Jesus is the Mission. The hope we have for this world to change is rooted in the resurrection, which both empowers the church to live and proclaim the gospel but also previews the to the world how God makes all things new. Our only hope for a broken, jacked up world is restoration, and our only hope for restoration is found in the One who forever conquered the radical effects of sin through his resurrection.” (Pg236)

This is a Christ-exalting, Gospel proclaiming tour de force on the Church Planter and I would encourage any pastor, leader, church planter and potential church planter to read voraciously with an open heart and mind to be shaped by a biblical reflection on one of the most important needs of our time, Church Planting.