by Aaron Wilson
Christian pastors are unified in a commitment to preach the gospel, but they also share another trait—most work demanding schedules.
LifeWay Research found 8 out of 10 pastors say they’re on call 24 hours a day and more than half report they frequently find their role as a pastor overwhelming.
For this reason, it can be helpful to take a step back from ministry routines to examine unrealistic expectations that often accompany the job. Give yourself permission to be human today by meditating on these three things you don’t have to do as a pastor.
1. Pastors don’t have to be experts.
Congregants often expect their pastors to be theological sages—leaders who can speak wisdom into every life situation or area of concern brought up by a church member or guest.
But while pastors are certainly called to exhibit knowledge and wisdom, Scripture never asks them to be experts in all things.While pastors are certainly called to exhibit knowledge and wisdom, Scripture never asks them to be experts in all things.Pastors actually demonstrate wisdom when they outsource responsibilities to people in the church or community who are more gifted and better trained to serve in certain capacities. This can include allowing others to conduct certain types of counseling, oversee financial planning and accountability, and speak into issues that require framing a biblical worldview around a specific field of knowledge (e.g. legal advice).
The truth that pastors don’t have to be experts even applies to theology, a pastor’s specific area of aptitude.
Daniel struggled to understand the very book of the Bible he was authoring, causing him to consult other Scriptures (Daniel 9:2-3), and Peter wrote to the Church saying Paul’s inspired words were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16).
If biblical authors under the guidance of the Holy Spirit could admit they struggled with God’s Word at times, modern day pastors shouldn’t feel guilty for occasionally saying, “You know, I’m not too sure about that. Let me dig into it further.”
In the kingdom of God, there’s only One who’s an expert on everything. It’s to the glory of God that person isn’t the pastor (Proverbs 25:2).
2. Pastors don’t have to build a personal platform.
In the age of blogs, podcasts, and social media accounts, it can be easy to reduce the impact of leadership to the size of one’s digital fan base.
Pastors who aren’t digital natives also run the risk of platform allure—equating their worth to statistics such as weekly church attendance, the square footage of their facility, or even the amount of baptisms they’ve conducted or the number of churches they’ve planted.
While keeping an eye on metrics is important for measuring ministry goals, it’s also an easy way to drift into idolatry and a misguided identity.
A successful ministry platform will look different as God calls saints to serve Him in varied contexts. So what if Peter spoke God’s Word and 3,000 people responded favorably (Acts 2:41)? Jeremiah did the same and got thrown into a cistern (Jeremiah 38).
God’s heavenly commendation of “well done, good and faithful servant” hinges on gospel fidelity, not upon earthly markers of success such as platform clout (Matthew 25:21).
Platforms are helpful tools; they just make poor gods. If building a platform leads others to worship Christ as Savior, go for it. If a platform leads to self-worship, recognize it as a temptation to avoid.
Either way, pastors can breathe easy knowing their job description doesn’t include building an impressive personal platform.
3. Pastors don’t have to do everything with excellence.Human frailty actually demands that pastors be intentionally lousy at certain pursuits—even good ones—in order to better invest in what’s most excellent at the current time.Scripture passages like 1 Corinthians 10:31 call for Christians to do all things to the glory of God. However, this doesn’t mean pastors must do all things well.
Human frailty actually demands that pastors be intentionally lousy at certain pursuits—even good ones—in order to better invest in what’s most excellent at the current time.
Consider a few examples of occasions when Scripture gives permission to be strategically lousy:
- It’s OK to be strategically lousy at social media, lousy at following current events, and lousy with certain hobbies…in order to make the “best use of the time” for the things that matter most. (Ephesians 5:16)
- It’s OK to be strategically lousy when it comes to having a perfectly clean and impressive home…in order to better invest in what’s being built through that home. (Proverbs 14:4)
- It’s OK to be strategically lousy at over-padding a savings or retirement account…in order to better invest in Christ’s kingdom in the present. (Matthew 6:19-20)
The lie Satan told in the Garden of Eden—“you can be like God”—is the same one that propagates the need for perfection. Christ would rather pastors humbly admit they’re not God, and thus, can’t do all things well at the same time.
Wisely embracing limitations allows pastors to determine where they want to strive for excellence and where they’re content to be strategically lousy for the sake of God’s glory.
Evaluating ministry expectations
Whether you’re the sole pastor of a small, rural church or are running a mega-ministry with multiple campuses, your job likely requires you to wear many hats.
Take time today to evaluate the expectations you hold over yourself. It’s good news you don’t have to have all the answers, maintain an impressive platform, and do all things with excellence.
For the sake of your health and the wellbeing of your ministry, make yourself a “not to do list” today. Let go of the unrealistic burdens you aren’t supposed to bear in order to focus on the tasks that are most important to fulfilling your calling as a minister of the gospel.
AARON WILSON (@AaronBWilson26) is associate editor of Facts & Trends.