Ever since Bill Hybels said that church leadership was the hardest form of leadership the question of how much pressure there is on Pastors has been brought to light.
On Sunday night I was chatting with someone who has been in and around pastoral ministry all her life. She told me the story of how when she was a teenager there was a discussion at a church meeting which revolved around the Pastors salary. One man stood up and said that the pastors salary needed to be low because he could not be allowed to earn any more than anyone in the church. They discussed how the Pastor needed to be a humble servant, like Jesus. If they earnt more than someone else in the church there might be resentment or even worse, pride in the heart of the pastor.
Now this post is not about a pastors salary. It is about the pressure on the pastor. In those days the pastor was expected to visit everyone in the church, to be involved wholeheartedly in their lives. Things have changed. The pressure comes at a different point.
The pressure is now on the pastor is to be overseeing a large growing church. To be, and here is the contentious word, succesful. Along with the wonderful resource that the internet and media has brought us has also come examples world-wide of your pastors failing. How come the worship is not as inspiring as Hillsong? How come the preaching is not as stirring as Furtick or as deep as Ortberg? How come we are not growing like Saddleback or Willow Creek?
Even pressure to be like the church down the road. The worst words a Pastor hears on a Monday is, ‘this church is just not meeting our needs”. As the family you have cared for takes themself off the roster and moves on to the shiny building down the road your heart sinks.
Reality is that success also brings pressure. To continue to grow, to make each year bigger than the last. And more people with more needs and their own desire to be successful are attracted to you. It can also cover up the need for character. All is forgiven if the pastor is successful. We eat on the fat of success and forgive character flaws because of it.
Everyone has pressure in their work. Everyone. And how could I as a pastor know what pressure there is being something else? From the CEO caring for multiple employees to the nurse caring for grumpy patients to the teacher trying to impart knowledge to disinterested teenagers. Perhaps a unique challenge in being a pastor is that everyone who calls themself a Christian really truly deeply care about their faith, their spirituality, their children’s faith.
And a pastor who is worth their salt will care about that too. There should be pressure on us. We are leading what is meant to be the primary organisation in the world. If Apple corporation does not get the next iPhone right they might fail financially. If the Church does not get its role right, the world will be in even more pain than it is.
So I suppose I am calling for a radical middle. A radical balance. No one wants a pastor who doesn’t care about their church and their community. Who isn’t aiming to be effective, skilled and fruitful. But equally, no one wants a pastor who fails, drops out, burns out and is rendered ineffective. Perhaps what a Pastor needs is grace. Grace to do their ministry, grace when they mess up, grace when they are not as good as the pastor down the road. Grace which resources.
And this is something we can all relate to.