Director of Church Strengthening, Converge North Central
Church & pastoral health
Discipleship & spiritual formation
May I share some findings from a 2021 survey of 1600 evangelical pastors completed by Lifeway Research. The survey was conducted from August 17-September 21, 2021.
38% of pastors agree they feel isolated as a pastor.
50% of pastors agree they often feel the demands of ministry are greater than they can handle.
63% of pastors agree their role is frequently overwhelming.
71% of pastors feel they must be "on call" 24 hours a day.
39% of pastors have experienced significant personal attack in their church.
Pastoring is hard. You know that because you are living it. Hopefully your call to ministry and to the specific ministry you serve is strong. But even the sturdiest call has been tested over the past couple of years. Most likely you have felt the strain of ministry during this time. You don’t need the research to confirm it.
In light of this, is it possible for pastors to minister effectively when their tank is empty? Leading on an empty tank is unsustainable and it leads to a loss of joy and a lack of health.
Perhaps now more than ever, your resiliency is being tested. Getting up after being knocked down by adversity is harder. Recovering from crisis and disruption takes longer. Personal resiliency is needed to navigate and effectively serve your churches. But how?
A starting point is in your perspective. Where is God in your perspective?
We are emptied in many ways. It may be broken relationships, loss, or abandonment and betrayal in critical moments. They all sap our ability to be resilient. Consider the biblical perspective that we see in the prophet Jeremiah, who was emptied in many of the ways listed above.
Loss - My sons (i.e. children of Israel) have departed from me and are no more. (Jeremiah 10:20)
Conspiracy - they have plotted against me: Let’s destroy the tree with its fruit; let’s cut him off from the land of the living. (Jeremiah 11:19)
Abandonment - Even your brother-your own father’s family-even they were treacherous to you. (Jeremiah 12:6)
But even before Jeremiah wrote these words, God had given him a solution to his emptiness in Jeremiah 9. But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understands and knows me—that I am the Lord, showing faithful love, justice, and righteousness on the earth, for I delight in these things. (Jeremiah 9:24)
Read the first part of that passage again. Read it slowly. Let it soak in. But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understands and knows me. That’s it! That’s our measurement of success. Every day, pastors are challenged with a myriad of metrics that revolve around attendance, budget, programs and more…and they are all important. But our resiliency and filling our ministry and personal tanks begins with understanding and knowing God. And if you are still with me and reading these thoughts, maybe this is what God wants you to hear.
Understanding and knowing God is the most important thing that will determine your success. Here at CNC, we care about you and desire to strengthen this perspective in your ministry and your life.
The rest of the verse is simply God giving us some insight into who He is-giving you additional perspective to fill you!
Here is a final story to encourage you as you faithfully serve God in places where the spiritual soil is hard and a time when growing a church seems difficult.
In I Kings 20, we have the story of King Ben-hadad of Aram. He leads the Arameans in battle against Israel but before the battle even begins, God tells the King of Israel that He will lead Israel to victory. Which he does.
When Ben-hadad returns to Aram after being defeated by a smaller army, his advisors propose two things they need to do before returning to fight Israel again. First, unlike the first time, they were not going to fight them in the hills because their gods are the gods of the hill country. (I Kings 20:23). Their strategy is to fight them on the plains where they will be superior. Second, they propose not having the king lead them into battle, but instead have military leaders take charge. The king agrees and they spend the year rebuilding their army and preparing their new strategy.
When the time comes for “Israel v. Aram: The Rematch,” things don’t look good for Israel. The Israelites camped in front of them liked two little flocks of goats, while the Arameans filled the landscape. (I Kings 20:27)
The man of God approaches the King of Israel with a message. This is what the Lord says: Because the Arameans have said, The Lord is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys, I will hand over all this whole huge army to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord. (I Kings 20:28)
The battle lasted only one day. 100,000 Arameans were killed on the battlefield. 27,000 more who retreated to a nearby city were killed when the city wall fell on them.
Outnumbered and outgunned. God did this for Israel. He came through.
Our God is the God of the mountains and hills. But he is also the God of the valleys and the plains. In times when you feel empty, cling to that perspective. No matter how high the mountain or how deep the valley, God is still God. Maybe things have changed for you. You feel as if you’ve been stuck in the valley far too long and you hope for a previous day when your world seemed more civil, your ministry seemed more sustainable, and it was easier to get back up. God has not changed. Whether you harken back to how it used to be three decades ago or three years ago the same God who was there with you on the mountain top is there to sustain you in the valley.
Converge North Central desires that all of our pastors live and minister from this perspective. Whether it be Staff of the Pastor, coming alongside to consult or help deal with conflict, or just lending an ear to hear your story, we want to be here for you. We care about you…your well-being, your family and your ministry. Send me a note and let me know how we might be able to help.
Joel Nelson, Director of Church Strengthening, Converge North Central