The Weight of Being a Pastor

The Weight of Being a Pastor October 12, 2018
Francesco Ungaro/ Pexels

Do you have a Bible verse that jumps off the page at you every time you read it? No matter how many times you have come across it, you always stop to ponder it. This verse is a never-ending wonder to you. You might be encouraged by it, convicted by it, or perplexed by it, but you always stop when you see it.

2 Corinthians 11:28 is that verse for me. To understand what is so startling about it, you must read what has come before. To prove his apostleship, Paul boasted in his weaknesses and cataloged the trials he had faced. He received thirty-nine lashes five times endured three beatings with rods. A mob stoned him. He was shipwrecked three times, faced countless dangers, and spend nights in cold and hunger.

Then, as if these things were not enough, Paul said, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” That this line occurs in a litany of Paul’s difficulties and sufferings speaks volumes about the weight that pastors carry in caring for their churches.

In one sense, pastors have a difficult job just like everyone else in the world. We all work in a world marred by sin and know the experience of work being hard, uncomfortable, and unenjoyable. At the same time, because of the unique calling involved in leading a church, proclaiming God’s word, and caring for souls, the pastoral ministry carries a gravity that is difficult to explain.

Every serious pastor labors under a heavy weight. This is not belly-aching or an embellishment, but rather this is the reality of being a pastor. The work is serious and the work has eternal ramifications. We have the burden of walking with people through the most difficult times of their lives, the pain of sleepless nights because of anxiety over the church, the task of preaching God’s word on a weekly basis, and the joy of seeing God use it all for his glory.

In this post, I want to highlight six weights that pastors carry. I do this not to elicit sympathy, but to remind pastors of the appropriate sense of responsibility that we carry and the danger of carrying the weight on our own. If you are not a pastor, my aim is to help you understand how to pray for and encourage your pastor in the calling God has placed on him.

Pastors Carry the Weight of Modeling Godly Living

Every Christian has the call to live a godly life that is worthy of the calling with which he has been called. The pastor sits in the unique position of this being his primary job requirement. Ungodly men may draw crowds or wow audiences. Only godly pastors fulfill their calling in a way that brings genuine honor and glory to God.

The roadblock for the pastor is looking at every setback in the church as a verdict on the deficiency of his own godliness. “If I walked with Jesus more faithfully… If I spent more time in prayer… If I were a better man…”

Pastor, this is difficult, but remember that you are a Christian before you are a pastor. Your identity is found in Jesus’ work for you on the cross and your union with him by faith. Uncouple your joy and how you think God looks at you from the apparent fruit or seeming lack thereof in your church. Enjoy being a Christian, read your Bible, spend time in prayer, put your sin to death, grow in godly virtue, work hard in your calling and trust your Father with the fruit.

Pastors Carry the Weight of Leading Their Families

God calls pastors to be an example to their church in the way they lead their families. The pastor is to be a committed, loving husband and a man who faithfully teaches and trains his children. Again, every Christian man carries this responsibility, but it is in the pastor’s job description. He must be this to function as a pastor in the local church.

Carrying the weight of leading our families can be tricky. I have four children between the ages of thirteen and three. Some days, it feels as if every word that comes out of my mouth gets ignored. They argue, they disobey, and I wonder how I can lead anyone else when my own children won’t listen to me. Then, suddenly, something will happen that shows you that what you are teaching them is getting through and God is using it to bear fruit in their lives.

Pastor, faithfully lead your family but resist the temptation to take the spiritual temperature of your family every day. There will be days that no matter how faithfully you lead, your children will show ample evidence that they have a fallen nature within them. Other days, you will see obvious evidences of God’s grace in their lives. Look at the whole of how you are loving, teaching, disciplining, and spending time with your children and do not let one poor snapshot discourage you.

Pastors Carry the Weight of Preaching God’s Word

The Scottish Reformer John Knox once said, “I have never feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit.” The weight of taking God’s word, proclaiming its message to people, applying it to their lives, and calling them to trust in Christ should lie heavily upon us. It is no light thing to speak to people on God’s behalf.

The weekly grind of preaching can be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting if you are taking it seriously. Every week, we wrestle with a passage of Scripture, seeking to understand what it means and how it should change the lives of the people who hear it. We labor over the Bible, commentaries, word studies, and possible points of application. We plead with God to take what we will say and use it for his glory. Then we preach with all of our heart and get up on Monday morning to start preparing to do it again.

Pastor, view the work of preaching like a craftsman, who is constantly sharpening his tools so that he might be more effective at his work. Grow in your knowledge of Scripture, develop a deeper understanding of the lives of the people you preach to, think carefully about structuring your sermon so that people will want to listen, and work hard to state old truths in fresh and compelling ways. Here’s the hard part, though, not one word will be effective unless God’s Spirit is at work through your words. Pray for the Father to take your labors and use them for his glory.

Pastors Carry the Weight of Shepherding the Church

If you think about the ministry and picture standing on a stage talking to people, you are only visualizing two percent of a pastor’s week. The pastor studies and preaches, but he also stands under the divine mandate to care for the church.

We show pray with people in pain, walk with people facing difficulty, and counsel people dealing with difficult decisions. We answer knotty theological questions and explain truths we have explained time and time again. This is not glamorous work, but it is the simple means that God uses to show love to his people and build up his church.

Pastor, do not neglect your personal ministry. We serve in the ministry of the Chief Shepherd, who loves his people and purchased them with his own blood. (1 Peter 5:1-5) We cannot neglect to listen to them, pray with them, and walk alongside them. Jesus shows his love to his people through our ministry and uses our personal presence to care for his people’s souls.

Pastors Carry the Weight of Reaching Their Communities

I pastor in the most unchurched county in Alabama. While many of you may think that places don’t exist in the Bible Belt, only 14% of the people in my culturally conservative town attend church on a typical Sunday. For the whole county, that number is 16%. When stretched out for an entire month, barely 30% of the over 215,000 people in our area are not connected to a local body of believers.

The numbers will be different for your community, but the point is clear. Our churches exist to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) As pastors, God calls us as pastors to lead our churches in reaching their neighbors and to model it personally. In the qualifications for the pastor in 1 Timothy 3, Paul says he must be “hospitable.” That is, he must welcome outsiders in the name of Jesus.

Pastor, you cannot reach your city alone, but you can look for opportunities to speak about the grace of Jesus throughout your day. Get to know your neighbors, develop a routine where you are meeting new people, engage people in genuine conversations, and pray for opportunities to talk about Jesus. Then, teach the people in your church how to do the same. We want people in our communities to come to know Jesus, so we practice evangelism and pray for God’s blessing on our efforts.

Pastors Carry the Weight of Carrying the Weight

Confession: writing this post terrified me. Knowing all that God has called me to do overwhelms me. It should. The work of the ministry is too great for a man to bear in his own strength and it is too much for him to carry in his own power.

When we feel the weight of being a pastor, it should drive us to work hard for the glory of God, but it should not drive us to work alone, in our own strength, or by ignoring the command to rest one day out of seven. We work in the strength that God supplies. We serve alongside godly elders who carry the load with us and one day a week we shut down because God’s Spirit is completely capable of working even when we are not.

Pastor, if you try to carry the weight on your own, it will crush you, your family, and the people around you. Your joy will be sapped and your walk with Jesus will suffer. Trust me about this. I speak from experience. Work hard, but trust the Lord for the results. It is not your church; it is his. He bought it with his own blood. Give responsibilities to your other leaders. You do not have all the gifts. Jesus’ body does, though.

The weight of pastoring can be heavy, but it can also lead to joy. We serve under the Chief Shepherd. He will give us strength as we work. He will bring fruit from our labors. He will glorify himself through our efforts. You may not see it all now, but when the Chief Shepherd appears, we will see what he has done through us and then give him the glory because he did it all.

Related Posts:
What Do You Do When You Preach a Bad Sermon?

When Pastors Walk through a Dark Night of the Soul

For Further Reading:
The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine

Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by R. Kent Hughes

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The Weight of Being a Pastor
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The Weight of Being a Pastor

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Rich

    I look in vain for any Scriptural support for a pastor having these roles.

  • Carl_Vehse
  • Rich

    1 Timothy 3 is not referring to pastor, it’s referring to “overseer.” An overseer is an elder. according to 1 Peter 5:1-2.

  • Carl_Vehse

    The Greek word is episkopon, from which bishop is derived. The word is used to refer to the called and ordained bishop or pastor of that congregation.

    Some denominations still use the word “Elder” as the title for their pastor. Other denominations, who use the term “pastor” or “bishop,” then use the term “elder” to refer to non-ordained laymen who assist the pastor in some of his duties. But such a title for these layman does not mean the same thing as in 1 Tim. 3.

  • Rich

    episkopeó in 1 peter 5:2 is closely related to episkopé in 1 Tim 3:1. They are both referring to elders.

    There is no such thing in the Bible as ordination. Nor is there any such concept as lay people.

    Nor is there any mention of pastor. In fact, the entire idea of a pastor leading a church as the credentialed authority is not found in Scripture.

  • Carl_Vehse

    No one claimed there was such a thing in the Bible as ordination. Previously explained was that pastor (derived from the Latin word for shepherd) was used as a title by some denominations instead of “elder” or “bishop.”

    It’s not clear what you mean by “credentialed authority.”

  • Rich

    Sir, it was you who brought up ordination. I only noted that it was unbiblical to have a credentialed class of leadership known as pastor.

    Biblically, the local church is to be lead by a team of elders, not a pastor. That is the point regarding the author’s presentation above.

  • Carl_Vehse

    In referring to ordination, I did not state or imply that it was commanded in the Bible. Typically ordination is used by the Lutheran Church and other Christian denominations to publicly recognize the call of a pastor to a congregation. The Roman Church, of course, treats ordination as a sacrament.

    The author’s presentation covers the pastor modeling godly living by leading his family as an example, preaching God’s Word [also, though not mentioned, administering the Sacraments], shepherding [from which, in Latin, the word “pastor” comes] the congregation, and evangelism. These are responsibilities of a pastor and he is helped or assisted by the elders (or trustees) in the congregation, according to the structural organization of that congregation or denomination.

  • The Bible uses “elder,” “overseer,” and “pastor” interchangeably. We most certainly see that this is a group of people set apart to lead the entirety of the church and for some of these men to be paid by the church.

    As to the main point of my post, from Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, we see that there was usually a leader among the leaders. All pastors, elders, or overseers carry this weight, but the pastor who serves as the lead typically carries a little bit more.

  • Rich

    I thank the author for his comment.

    The word pastor appears but once in the NT, in Eph. Chapter 4. Yet for some reason we think that a pastor is some sort of CEO at the top of the pyramid. Perhaps you could explain that to me, because it isn’t in the Bible.

    A pastor is an overseer is a shepherd is an elder. 1 Pe 5:1-2: “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight…”

    Again, it is elders who lead, elders who shepherd, elders who oversee. Not pastors.

    The elders pastor and teach pastoring, other elders evangelize and teach evangelism, yet other elders who are prophetic, there are those who teach, or who are apostolic.

    It doesn’t matter who, if any, get paid.

    Paul requires all these to be in operation. It’s a team in leadership. Otherwise you are forced to write articles like these. Sir, if you are a pastor, you are bearing weight that you shouldn’t be bearing.

  • Obscurely

    I know churches like the Church of Christ (for example) don’t use instruments in their worship because they don’t see any reference to that in the New Testament, and yet they have ordained credentialed pastors — do you know why that is? Honest question here from a pastor!

  • Obscurely

    Pastor Slayton, with respect and affection, I wonder why you have ignored the pink elephant in the room? Surely all pastors find one of the heaviest burdens to be their private struggles with doubt about what they’re preaching and teaching — I know THIS pastor does …

  • This is true and might be the subject of a future post.

  • Obscurely

    I just personally felt your list was painting a little too heroic a picture of pastors — so maybe the pink elephant didn’t fit into that portrait?

  • Rich

    Good point. We do sort of pick and choose these kinds of things. This is known as making an argument from silence (argumentum e silentio).

    But in the case of church leadership, Scripture is not silent. We see several mentions of church leadership, including a team decision-making process of leadership in Acts chapt 15, for example.

    I should note I have no objection to a man being a leader of a church, if that’s where he has gifting. But he would still have to be part of a team of leadership, a “first among equals” in the group of elders.

    I have seen too many “pastors” fall over my 30 years as a Christian. A great deal of that was self-inflicted. A single man “carrying the weight” is a recipe for failure. I think it’s time for the Church to start moving back to the biblical model of elder leadership.

  • A Amos Love

    Hi Rich

    You write…
    “But in the case of **church leadership,** Scripture is not silent.”

    Have you ever wondered? Why? In the Bible?
    NOT one of **His Disciples** called them self “Leader?”
    Or church leadership? Or church leader? Or christian leader?

    Seems Jesus has a unique take on “Leaders” for **His Disciples.**

    “ONE”

    And, His Disciples must have believed Jesus… Because…
    In the Bible, NOT one of His Disciples called them self “Leader.”

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB
    Do NOT be called leaders;
    for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant”.
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Humble – a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.
    Know many, any, who take the postion of Leader…
    Or church leader? Or spirirtual leader? Or christian leader?
    Who are Humble?
    Having a modest or low estimate of their own importance?

    Jesus also said…
    John 5:41 – I receive *NOT* honour from men.
    John 5:44 – How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another,
    and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

    When someone aknowledges you as a “leader?”
    Or church leader? Or spirirtual leader? Or christian leader?
    Are you, “Receiving Honor” from men?

    Jesus also said…
    John 7:18 – He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory…
    John 8:50 – And I seek not mine own glory…

    When you let people know, you’re a “leader?”
    Or church leader? Or spirirtual leader? Or christian leader?
    Is that, “seeking your own glory?”
    ——-

    Isa 3:12 KJV
    …O my people, *they which lead thee*
    cause thee to err,
    and destroy the way of thy paths.

    Isa 9:16 KJV
    For *the leaders* of this people
    cause them to err;
    and they that are led of them are destroyed.

  • Obscurely

    We have a church council with seven members but as a group we deal mostly with business matters of the church. Certainly they would have a voice in any major decision of my ministry — I wonder if that satisfies the biblical model of elder leadership?

  • Obscurely

    Also, I’ve been thinking for years now about whether the church should go back to the house church model we see in the NT — small fellowships meeting in private homes, with rotating worship leaders, no salaries and maybe just a small group of elders and no “pastor”? seems to be also a question of stewardship as it’s hard to justify the huge expense of maintaining a church building?

  • Rich

    Amos, there are to be leaders in the church. This is quite clear from the Scriptures. Several places that use the word “leader:” Rom. 12:8, 1 Thes. 5:12, 1 Tim. 3:4, 1 Tim. 5:17. All refer to church leadership. And all use the Greek word “proistemi,” to preside, rule over, give attention to, direct, maintain, practice diligently.

    where your presentation becomes relevant is judging a leader does with that leadership, how he exercises it, and how he comports himself.

  • Rich

    Obscurely, there is something to be said for the home church model, but of course it isn’t required in order to have leadership by elders. And the home church certainly does not suit everyone. Francis Chan left his very successful church to be a part of a home church movement. He has some interesting things to say about this.

    A church of any size can be governed by elders. In my opinion, the elders are responsible for the spiritual health of the church, the teaching, the ministering, the multiplication, the vision and direction, and the exhorting. They aren’t the only ones, of course. Elders should be identifying and discipling the next group of men who at some point will be elders. And, elders recognize gifts in others and call it out.

    Conversely, those who handle finances, facilities, and the other mechanics of the church, i would call them deacons.

    I would think your council could certainly function as elders beyond the title, if they’re mature, spiritual men of faith per 1 Tim. chapt. 3. However, if you as “pastor” regard them as assisting in your ministry or having input into your decisions, they are probably not real elders. Again, just my opinion.

    Elders should be “able to teach.” Thus, there are some who are teachers. If you are doing most all of the teaching, your more likely a teacher than a pastor. Or maybe you have a heart to care for the flock. You are more likely a pastor. Teachers are not pastors, and pastors aren’t evangelists, and prophets aren’t apostles. Sometimes there is gifting in more than one area (Paul is a quintessential example of this), but more likely than not, these are spread out among a group.

  • A Amos Love

    Hmmm?
    “The Weight of Being a Pastor”

    1 – Modeling Godly Living.
    Knowing the congregation is watching me.
    Will they see I’m NOT Blameless, Holy, Just?
    And, I do NOT meet the qualifications in 1 Tim 3, and Titus?

    2 – Leading Their Families.
    Knowing the congregation is watching my family.
    Worrying about managing my houshold well?
    Children in subjection? Obediant?

    3 – Preaching God’s Word.
    When NOT one of His Disciples was Hired, or Fired…
    As a Paid, Professional, Pastor, in a Pulpit.
    Preaching, to People in Pews.
    Weak after Weak.
    In a church.

    4 – Shepherding the Church.
    5 – Reaching Their Communities.

    Yes… Lots, and lots of weight.
    Could this be why? In the Bible?
    NOT one of **His Disciples** took the Title/Postion, pastor/leader?

    Could this be God…
    Trying to Warn these guys…
    God, trying to get their Attention…
    Causing pastors to question this calling…
    To research the scriptures about being a pastor…
    And realizing NONE of His Disciples had the Title pastor…
    And realizing NOT one of His Disciples called themself pastor…
    And realizing almost nothing of what todays pastor gets paid to do…
    Is in the Bible. Oy Vey!!! 🙁

    And realizing they do NOT meet the 17+, tough Qualifications…
    In 1 Tim 3, and Titus, for elders who desire to be overseers…
    And to keep their “Titles,” their Power, Profit Prestige…
    They just “Ignore,” or “Twist,” the Qualifications…
    But, their conscious keeps convicting them…
    And the fear of someone finding out…
    They do NOT really Qualify…
    Becomes Foreboding…
    Highly Depressing…
    A heavy weight…
    ——-

    Jer 22:22 KJV
    The *wind shall eat up all “Thy Pastors,”
    (*wind = ruwach = breath, spirit.)
    ——-
    Shouldn’t pastors, elders, overseers…
    Who do NOT meet the 17+, tough Qualifications…
    Remove themselves? And be a good example? To His Flock?

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  • A Amos Love

    Rich

    Thanks for the reply.

    I’m familiar with the verses you mentioned.
    And the Greek, proistemi.
    I was ordained, a part of “church leadership.” Oy Vey!!! 🙁

    Thayers has “proistemi” as…
    1- to set or place before. 1a- to set over.
    1b- to be over, to superintend, preside over.
    1c- to be a protector or guardian. 1c1- to give aid.
    1d- to care for, give attention to.

    The Dictionary has Leader as…
    The person who leads or commands a group.

    So, “proistemi” is a little different…
    Then how “Today’s church leadership” often promotes “leader.”
    I’m your leader… You’re my follower…
    I’m your God ordained authority… Obey me…

    Ouch! Tried that one already…
    Thinkn, I’ll stick with the “ONE” who calls Himself…

    The “ONE” Leader

    {{{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}}

  • A Amos Love

    Rich

    You mention 1 Tim. 3:4, One that ruleth well his own house…

    Which is part of a list of 17+, very tough Qualifications….
    For elders to meet who desire to be overseers…
    Found in 1 Tim 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-8.

    Eventually, I had to admit…
    I never did meet these very tough Qualifications…
    And was one of the reasons for cutting up those precious papers.

    Seems, “most” congregations do NOT know… Or Ignore…
    The tuff Qualifications for elders who desire to be overseers.

    And, “most” “pastor/leader/elder/overseers,” who do know the “Qualifications,” will just “Ignore,” or “Twist,” the 17+, Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-8, so they can maintain their “Titles,” and the Power, Profit, Prestige, Honor, Glory, Reputation, that comes with those “Titles.”

    If a “Titled” pastor/leader/elder/overseer…

    Does NOT meet the 17+, tuff Qualifications?

    Shouldn’t they remove themselves?

    And be a good example to the Flock?

  • A Amos Love

    Here is a look at just three Qualifications from Titus…

    Most congregations, pastors, elders, overseers, “Ignore,” or “Twist.”
    1 – For a bishop (overseer) “Must Be” *BLAMELESS.*
    2 – JUST. 3 – HOLY.

    Titus 1:5-8 KJV
    5 …ordain elders in every city…
    If any be *BLAMELESS,*
    the husband of one wife,
    having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.
    For a bishop “Must Be” *BLAMELESS,* as the steward of God;
    NOT self willed,
    NOT soon angry,
    NOT given to wine,
    NO striker,
    NOT given to filthy lucre;
    a lover of hospitality,
    a lover of good men,
    sober,
    *JUST,* *HOLY,*
    temperate;

    1 – *Must Be*
    Strongs #1163, die. – It is necessary (as binding).
    Thayer’s – necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.

    This *must be* is the same Greek word.
    You *must be* born again. John 3:7
    Seems to be a small word but very important. Yes?

    1 – BLAMELESS
    Strongs #410 anegkletos – unaccused, irreproachable, blameless.
    Thayers – cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused.
    Dictionary – Without fault, innocent, guiltless, not meriting censure.

    2 – JUST
    Strongs #1342 – dikaios {dik’-ah-yos} from 1349;
    Thayers – righteous, observing divine laws, innocent, faultless, guiltless.

    3 – HOLY
    Strongs #3741 – hosios {hos’-ee-os}
    Thayers – undefiled by sin, free from wickedness,
    religiously observing every moral obligation.

    Now that’s three tough qualifications for elders, overseers. Yes?

    How many pastors, elders, overseers, today, who honestly examine themselves, seriously considering these three qualifications, can see themselves as BLAMELESS, JUST, and HOLY, innocent, without fault, above reproach, undefiled by sin, and thus qualify to be an pastor/leader/overseer? And, if they can see themself as *Blameless?* Is that pride? And no longer without fault? 😉

    If WE, His Ekklesia, His Body, His Church, His Sheep, His Kings and Priests…
    Take seriously the many tough Qualifications in 1 Tim 3:1-6, and Titus 1:5-9…

    The number of Biblically Qualified, pastors, elders, overseers, is quite small.

    But, will these UN-qualified, pastors, elders, overseers…
    “Remove Themselves?” And be a good example to the flock?

    Does your team of elders, overseers?”
    Meet ALL these 17+, very tough Qualifications?

  • Unhiddenness

    Alabama would be a much better place if it had no pastors at all.

  • Chris Hogue

    They’ll always have the Clergy Project when the burden is too much.

  • soter phile

    on the contrary… check the very next verse.
    he boasts in his weakness. then he shares his biggest cowardice in ministry.
    then… we get the thorn in the flesh & “power made perfect in weakness.”

    that to me is the most encouraging point of Paul’s ‘foolish’ boasting.