Archive for September 6th, 2018

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To my beautiful friend who is starting to study for work as a pastor,

you have been on my mind for over a week now …

ever since I heard of the suicide of Inland Hills Church, Chino, California Lead Pastor Andrew Stoecklein.

You see, my friend, your intended profession is a stress-filled one, and though I would never argue your giftedness or calling, I do feel the need to say, with great love … tread carefully.

  • Living a life as a pastor means living your life as a pastor.

It is not nine to five, it is not Monday to Friday. It is six days out of seven (which often becomes seven out of seven), many hours a day. It does not just employ you, but everyone in your household, for it is, effectively, a common path that must be taken.

  • Living a life as a pastor means bearing unrealistic burdens.

You will be asked to give counsel that is well beyond your studied knowledge of the spiritual. Honestly you will be asked to give counsel far more often on that which is outside of your scope of professional practice and training of the spiritual. Encourage those people to seek counsel from one who is trained to meet those needs.

  • Living a life as a pastor can be a lonely life.

Though the ideal is that a church is a family, and relationships are transparent, friendships among those who effectively pay your salary and are your employer have a limit. People in other professions … counselling, medicine, law … generally do not befriend those who they assist professionally, making this particular job reality one that is truly unique to the life of a pastor. The struggle is exacerbated by the fact that much of your time is spent with people in your congregation, leaving little time and opportunity to find relationships elsewhere.

Then there is something else that can make life (whether you are a pastor or not) even more challenging. If you struggle with anxiety and depression.

I read an article called 5 reasons pastors get depressed (and why they don’t talk about it), a week ago that you need to read.

After the announcement of the death of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, Orlando pastor, Paul Valo posted the following on FaceBook:

“Depression is real and pastors are not exempt or defective who experience it … In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, and if a pastor doesn’t quite measure up to someone’s expectation at any given moment, they are given a two out of five star rating on Google. Wow! We have reduced the ministry to star ratings on Google! Let me recommend that you pray for your pastor and support your church faithfully! You’ll probably never realize what they walk through privately. ”

Being called to pastoral ministry will not make you immune to depression. Actually, I think that it is even more of a struggle for a pastor, when one considers the three realities of living as a pastor, mentioned above.

Even my favourite (okay, second favourite) preacher, Charles Spurgeon is presumed to have struggled with depression.

“I could say with Job (7:15), ‘My soul chooseth strangling rather than life’. I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself, to escape from my misery of spirit.” – Spurgeon

Spurgeon frequently preached on how Jesus had compassion for the hurting. He said, “the sympathy of Jesus is the next most precious thing to his sacrifice.” There is comfort to be found in knowing that Christ himself “was a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Sweet friend, I hope this is not all dark and dire, for a life in pastoral ministry also has so many sweet spots, so much fulfillment and joy and love. I just want you to know that I get it, when the dark and nasties come your way. That I have your back, that I will lift you up to God. Know that I am only a phone call, a text, a message away … even on the darkest night.

Know that I love you … not for what you do for me, not for your gifts or talents or calling. I love you … that soul that God made you to be.

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