It was an innocent question. I’m sitting at a pastor’s retreat acting as one of a team of four mentors seeking to encourage 15 pastors, with one exception, the oldest of whom is 50, most of which are in their 20’s or 30’s.
“What will you take away from this week?”
I’ve listened to a lot of young pastors talking about the trials and anxieties of their lives, their ministry lives, the family lives, their marriage lives, their health issues, their mental health issues–the whole gauntlet of pressures faced in our politically divided, culturally stressed, sexually confused moment in time. Their ministries are trying to navigate ministry in a post-Christian, rapidly moving toward anti-Christian culture and it is not easy. They have been honest, sometimes, brutally so. There have been more than a few tears. And there has been a theme, a thread, thicker in some than others, but a bold thread of commonality in much of their struggles related to ministry. Impressions:
- 1) These are some good men.
- 2) These are men, to a man, who love their flocks.
- 3) These men love Jesus.
- 4) These men are bearing, in many cases, heavy, heavy burdens. And many of them are burdening them alone.
The thread: Many of them are struggling with variations of an old enemy of people in all walks of life–comparison to others. They don’t feel they measure up. They don’t feel like they are successful enough. They don’t think their church is big enough, or hip enough, or young enough, or as giving as others, or as on board with the mission. They feel like they should be more appreciated, more dynamic, more clever, more creative, more cutting edge, more up and coming, more . . . a dozen other things that they don’t think they are or their church is at the present time. And the comparisons are eating their souls. Too few of the people around them are speaking life into their lives to combat the beast of comparison.
This picture leaped into my mind:
“If ‘comparison’ was a predator, he would be having young pastors for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
“Comparison” is an apex predator hunting their souls.
My heart weeps for these men. I know the beast that hunts them. He is like a ravenous lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is a wicked and hell-damned liar but he has a mighty roar that is hard to ignore. Over the last three days, we have done our best to try to strengthen them for battle, to listen to them, and to nurture their souls in Scripture and conversation, rest and laughter. They are a good bunch; I think most of you would love them. Can I ask you to do two things?
One, stop right now and pray for them. Ask God to overwhelm them with the magnificence of His love and acceptance of them. Ask God to surround them with men and women who will encourage and nourish their souls with affirmation and support.
Two, would you pray for me. Shepherding pastors is in many ways, one of the hardest things I have ever done. I feel so inadequate in almost every moment. It is hard sometimes to not be crushed by vicariously being burdened with all the sorrows of these servants of Christ. Pray that I would be faithful and hold tightly to Jesus with every ounce of strength I have and that I would lean into the Spirit of Christ for the wisdom to care for them well.