Confession of a senior pastor

In a recent Facebook post, I wrote:confession

“As senior pastor of a large Church, I often wish I could be more directly involved with many needs in the body, but I am grateful that God has raised up so many people who minister compassionately and effectively at our Church. This is the way God planned for His Church to grow. As I’ve answered my calling over the years to “equip his people to do the work of the ministry, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12), I find great joy in continually hearing about how many among us do those works of ministry.”

“I am also grateful for the pastoral staff and elders God raised up. As my focus has shifted to ministering to and through these leaders, I have watched God multiply His work in many places. Although I cannot be directly involved in all the areas of need and with each person, I am grateful to minister through others as they reach out. My fellow leaders do a great job keeping me informed about important needs and other areas of ministry as we pray together for the Church. Whatever our role in God’s work, it is to be done “so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 4:11).

Response from a member

It is a good thing that you have been able to delegate this responsibility otherwise I cannot see how you would last more than a few months without complete burnout let alone all the years that you have been faithfully serving Millersville Bible Church.

My response

So true, but sadly this perspective is not always widely understood. Although I have the privilege of ministering to everyone each week through pulpit teaching, I cannot be personally involved with each area of ministry in the church. Some place misguided expectations on senior pastors to be there for all situations and they wrongly criticize them as uncaring when they cannot personally be involved. Thankfully, I don’t get much of this criticism because we’ve worked hard to teach people God’s plan for the Church based on Ephesians 4:11-16. When it does come my way, God has kindly granted me grace not to take it personally but to use it as an opportunity to teach. If I allowed myself to be controlled by the misguided expectations and demands of people, I would burn out in a short time and the Church would suffer as a consequence.

Additional thoughts — two dangers

As I am soon at the 30 year mark at our Church, I’ve observed two dangers with longevity of ministry. First, you can expect to be taken for granted. The old saying is true, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” But it’s not always contempt. Sometimes it’s more an issue of complacency and assumption. When this happens, it can hurt or even offend, but I must guard my heart lest I think more highly of myself than I ought (Romans 12:3). I must hear Jesus words, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty'” (Luke 17:10).

Secondly, there is a danger in me taking for granted the many blessings that come with longevity. I too could become complacent and allow assumption to breed ingratitude. I must remind myself of God’s call to be extravagantly grateful — “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

Someone warned that it’s a sign of mediocrity when you express gratitude with moderation. A moderately grateful person is not one who does the will of God. G. K. Chesterton said it well, “Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

When we take things for granted we lose the wonder of it all. I must heed the wise warning from Clyde Kilby, “Stop being unamazed by the strange glory of ordinary things.” “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

At the same time, people must be taught to, “honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other” (I Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Steve Cornell

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