Presbyterian Pastor Alexander Lang caused quite a stir recently when he published his blog, “Departure: Why I Left the Church.” Lang never imagined how many hits he’d get when, with full transparency, he laid out the pressures and unrealistic expectations of the pastorate.
One commenter wrote, “Whiner.” He hasn’t walked in Alexander’s shoes. I have, maybe not in his specific circumstances, but I can certainly relate.
Lang joined what researcher George Barna called the Great Pastor Resignation that followed the pandemic. His national survey of pastors found, as of March 2022, 42% considered quitting because of these top five reasons: the immense stress of the job; loneliness and isolation; current political divisions; the effect of pastoring on the pastor’s family; and “not optimistic about the future of my church.”
If a pastor claims he’s never had a moment in which he asks God, “Is there anything else I can do?”, he’s the rare exception.
Somehow, by the grace of God, I’ve served a total of 42 years in fulltime Christian service, 38 of those years in three pastorates. It’s not been easy, but it has been rewarding. Here are seven reasons why I hang in there:
• God’s call. When I was contemplating a “nudge” towards vocational ministry, one wise older minister told me, “If you can do anything else and be happy, do it.”
I couldn’t. Other vocations caught my attention, and I explored other avenues, but God kept drawing me back to ministry. Then that call to ministry evolved into God’s call to the pastorate. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
I still can’t, though some days I’m tempted to try. Yet, God’s call remains.
• God’s sustaining power. Somehow, God has given me staying power. Through various seasons of ministry, through the ups and downs and peaks and valleys, through the pettiness, control issues, criticisms, and sometimes ugliness of flawed, imperfect people, God has enabled me to stay the course and love the flock, warts and all.
Most of them have loved this imperfect pastor, also, warts and all.
• The joy of preaching the Word. I love to preach! Like Paul, I’m compelled to preach! (I Corinthians 9:16). As tedious as it is sometimes, I love to study, explore a text, develop a sermon, let it mature it all week, and then deliver it on Sunday.
I’m blessed with a very attentive and responsive congregation. They carefully follow along, fill in the blanks on the sermon notes, and take the challenge to heart. I enjoy the rhythm of the week that leads to another Sunday and another chance to preach.
• Pastoral ministry. People’s sharing life with you brings tremendous blessings. There is a massive responsibility in knowing inside info and carrying family secrets, yet it’s a privilege to know your people and assist your flock.
• Making an impact, sometimes unknown. Out of the blue, a former parishioner messaged me about his father being in poor health and requesting me to call his mother to encourage her and pray for the dad.
I had a hard time placing them as that pastorate was over 24 years ago. However, he wrote, “Out of all our pastors we have had, we have always held you in the highest esteem and we continue to speak fondly of our time with you as our pastor.”
I called, and the mom shared how much my ministry meant to her family during those years. I pray I’ve made a difference in someone’s life along the way. And I pray God has used me to enlarge the population of heaven.
• Sharing Good News! We have the best news ever, and it’s a joy to share it through personal conversations, from the pulpit, and through the written word, such as this column. The world needs to hear God loves us so much that He sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.
• Contributing to something bigger than myself. In one recent revival service, our evangelist said of the many who made decisions for Christ, “You may not get them all, but heaven will get them all!” Sometimes it’s not about what we get out of our effort and investment; it’s about the Kingdom of God. We have to learn to focus on the bigger picture.
Pastoring is not for the faint of heart, but, overall, it’s a joy and I love what I do.
[David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, GA. Visit www.mcdonoughroad.org for online viewing options and more information. Visit www.davidchancey.com to see more of Chancey’s writings, including his books.]