Feeling inadequate? The good news is you’re not alone and you don’t have to stay there.
Being a pastor is such a demanding and challenging job that it’s normal to feel inadequate—like either God made a mistake and called the wrong person for the job or you made a mistake in thinking he called you.
You are trying your best, but maybe you aren’t as “naturally gifted” as the pastors you idolize. Things seem to come naturally to them, but you keep learning from your mistakes.
Maybe you’re a smart person, but you didn’t go the traditional seminary route. You were working a different career when God called you to ministry, and you feel like you are a behind in your education.
Perhaps you are doing everything that you have been told to do, but your church still is not experiencing growth, and you wonder if you are the problem.
If you feel this way, you aren’t alone. There are a lot of things I wish I knew before becoming a pastor, and one is the constant struggle I would face of never measuring up.
I get questions about this feeling of inadequacy that pastors get every now and again. Just last week I received the following email (posted with permission):
“I have a question, how do you get over feeling inadequate? Especially when others including your spouse may have been TRAINED for ministry and you were just called.”
Here’s a real pastor with a real struggle that I think we can all understand.
I shot back a quick reply with a few thoughts, but I felt God pressing me to write a bit more about this to encourage the rest of us.
So here are five things you need to know if you are feeling inadequate:
1. FEELING INADEQUATE ISN’T ALWAYS BAD.
Acknowledging your inadequacy can drive you to a greater reliance on the God’s Word and the Holy Spirit to power your ministry.
Many pastors trust too much in their own abilities, training and tactics that they barely have room for God’s help.
Now, a debilitating feeling of inadequacy can go too far and be unhealthy. At some point, you need to deal with it.
But if you are convinced that God has called you to the work of ministry, then lean on him and his power to accomplish his mission, whatever that may be.
2. YOU MAY NOT BE TRAINED, BUT YOU CAN GET TRAINING.
In the early church, all people had access to for training were a few scraps of letters from the apostles and maybe some hands-on training with them if they were lucky.
Today, with the power of the internet, we have access to more training and resources than ever before.
That’s one of the reasons I write books and create courses and other resources. I want pastors around the world to have access to affordable resources.
And if you don’t use mine, that’s OK. There are other great ones out there as well.
The best pastors have a drive to never stop learning. We are all still in training.
3. YOUR CONFIDENCE WILL GROW WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE.
The longer you do ministry, the better you’ll get at it If you stay hungry to learn and humble. Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint.
Too many pastors burn out in the first leg of the race. The goal is not just to start well, but to finish well (2 Tim. 4:7).
So take the long view of ministry.
Look back at where you started. Are you better today than you were a year ago?
Then, look where you need to go. What habits do you need to start doing today so that you’ll grow even better in 10 years?
Keep your eye on the finish line, and your confidence will grow with each step forward.
4. GOD RARELY CALLS PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY ARE QUALIFIED.
Look at the people in the Bible whom God called:
• David was a shepherd.
• Peter was a fisherman.
• Moses was a murderer on the run.
• Mark was a failure who quit his first ministry gig.
• Joseph was a slave.
None of these men had a resume that screamed success.
I’ve known a lot of pastors without proper training who have long and healthy ministries, and I’ve known pastors with all the credentials who’s moral failings destroyed their ministry.
Good grades in seminary mean you’re a good student, but it doesn’t mean you’ll be a good pastor.
There are so many things in ministry that you’ll only learn from on-the-job experience. We all start as wide-eyed rookies.
5. WE ARE ALL INADEQUATE.
We all suck. We’re all sinners.
Jesus is the only one who was ever adequate at ministry. He was a perfect preacher, counselor and disciple maker.
But the reason Jesus left heaven and took up the cross is that none of us is adequate.
On our own, we can do nothing. But with Jesus, we can do anything he asks us to do (Phil. 4:13).
Jesus paid the price for all of our shortcomings.
So if you are feeling inadequate, I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is you are right. You are an inadequate pastor.
The good news is you don’t have to be adequate. You just have to be faithful.
May all of our inadequacy bring us to our knees before our perfectly adequate Savior.
Brandon Hilgemann is a pastor, the founder of ProPreacher.com (where this article was originally published) and the author of Preaching Nuts & Bolts: Conquer Sermon Prep, Save Time, and Write Better Messages. This article originally appeared on ProPreacher.com.