“Ministry has been lonely at times, exhausting at times, and most days, I feel like I am failing.”
I have been a lead pastor now for about six years, and it has been a crazy journey. Throughout the course of ministry, I have been a part of 15 church plants, have helped lead over 1,500 people to Christ and have watched churches grow.
However, in the midst of all that God has done and continues to do, I must say that ministry has not always been easy. It has been lonely at times, exhausting at times, and most days, I feel like I am failing.
I wanted to write this piece to encourage pastors who are in the midst of the fight. I want you to know that you are not alone. I wanted to share some confessions of pastoring a church.
After serving for six years in full-time ministry, I have some confessions to make about life as a lead pastor. Here are five confessions of a pastor and ways that I seek to overcome each of them.
1. Balance is hard to maintain.
While I am great at preaching about taking a Sabbath, and I am great about teaching on the importance of putting my family above the church, balance has been a struggle. I try to take days off to rest, but I struggle with this. I try to put my family above ministry, but I struggle with this. Maintaining life-balance is a struggle.
Thankfully, I have an amazing wife who helps me find balance. She makes sure I rest, she makes sure I invest in my children and she makes sure I take her on dates. If you struggle in this area, I want to challenge you to find someone to hold you accountable to living in biblical balance. I believe that balance is hard for every pastor. Because of this, we need strong accountability to stay balance. I love what Proverbs 27:17 says: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Have someone help in this effort to live a balanced life.
2. It’s hurts when people leave your church.
Every church where I have served, people have left for one reason or another. One time someone left because they said I cared more about people outside the church than inside the church. One time someone left because of my preaching. One time someone left because of the music. And the list could go on and on.
Every single time that someone left, it hurt bad. I lost sleep over every person. Please know that people will leave your church. Remember that everyone didn’t like Jesus when he walked this Earth. He had enemies. If not everyone liked Jesus, then not everyone will like you or your church.
I have learned a secret to help me get through people leaving my church. Every time someone leaves my church, I have a practice that I do. I go out and find someone who doesn’t know Jesus, and I share Jesus with them in hopes of winning them to Christ. Satan tries to give me a black eye by discouraging me when people leave, and I want to give him a black eye in return. I go out and seek to depopulate hell by winning more people to Christ.
3. I don’t have all of the answers.
I have counseled so many people over the course of my ministry. I have done marriage counseling, grief counseling and conflict counseling. So often, people just assume that I have the answers to all of life’s problems.
When counseling, I sometimes say things like, “I don’t know why or how this happened.” I have learned to know my limitations in helping others. I try to be an ear for people’s problems, and I try to help where I am able.
However, there are times when I need to just recognize that the person I am counseling might need better help than I can give. When helping others, I also seek to have them turn their attention to Christ. While I do not know the answer to all of the life’s problems, I do know the Someone who does. It’s OK to not know the answer, but make sure that you direct them to Christ and you direct them to someone (a more experienced or qualified counselor) who can help them.
4. The burden of ministry gets overwhelming sometimes.
There have been days that I have been so overwhelmed by ministry, days with countless meetings, or the sudden death of a person in the church, or just the typical problems that come with ministry.
While the burden of ministry is overwhelming at times, we must remember that Christ says to bring to him the burdens that we carry. We don’t have to carry these burdens. We are not strong enough to carry these burdens ourselves. However, Christ can handle them. I want to challenge you to give your daily ministry burdens to Christ! In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
5. I feel like I am at the front lines of the attacks of the Enemy.
On a daily basis, the Enemy tries to trample me with temptation. He will sometimes lie to me, he will sometimes try to trap me and he will sometimes put roadblocks in front of me. I feel like I am at the front lines of the attacks of the Enemy, because I am at the front lines.
The Enemy wants to destroy us. However, I want to challenge you to not believe the lies of the Enemy. Don’t listen to his nonsense. Get alone with God every day and listen to his voice. Go to God for protection. Satan may want to destroy you, but we don’t have to let him destroy us. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
While ministry is difficult, it is an amazing journey. If you are a pastor, you are called by God, and this is an amazing calling! In closing, I just want to encourage you to keep fighting the good fight and keep running the race. And please know that you are not alone!
Kevin McDonald is the lead pastor at Gateway Church of the Nazarene in Murrieta, California, and a veteran church planter and speaker.