I'm by no means a veteran pastor, but in my short tenure I've made enough mistakes to challenge the length of Barth's Dogmatics. So, I thought I might summarize a few of them and how I'm learning to overcome. 1. Confusing Sermon Prep for Spiritual Sustenance The sermon is a great privilege of pastors. We get to spend lots of time in conversation with great men of God from generations past, pouring over the text, and engaging their genius as we prepare a sermon. But preparing a sermon is not the same as spending time with God. That's like the chef never eating on the basis that he's cooked food all day.
2. Saying Yes to Everyone We pastors can be people pleasers. So, when one of the faithful comes forth with an idea, it's hard to tell them no. Early on I didn't do a good job of this. Just one more meeting. One more initiative. One more ... whatever. Saying yes to everyone is a sign of insecurity, fear of man, and an emotional neediness that we shepherds need to get over.
3. Being Nice Instead of Deep So many people, so little time. Instead of making the hard choice Jesus made as to the few men into whom I should invest my life, I've made the mistake of being nice to the hundreds instead of being deep with the twelve. It's not wrong, to be nice, of course. But if I'm going to have a lasting impact like Jesus did, then I must be deeply involved with the few.
4. Not Confessing Sin Quickly Enough Putting the word "pastor" in front of one's name can make you begin to believe in your moral impenetrability. Or, perhaps more accurately, the image of your moral impenetrability. When I've struggled with sin as a pastor, I've hidden far too often. I must confess sin more quickly. Pastor, get yourself a confessor.
5. Refusing to Rest Refusal to rest is what a Messiah Complex looks like. "The church is so busy," I'll say. Or, the more Christian sounding, "It's a busy season." Jesus ain't buying it, and neither is my family. Refusing to rest puts everything at risk, lighting fuse of burnout for an any-day-now explosion. Pastor, rest.
6. Preferring Platform over Pastoring I've been on stage since I was 5. I like stages, and the bigger they are the more I like them. But chasing a bigger and bigger platform is neither a moral good, nor helpful to my being a better Pastor. I've had to learn the difference between allowing God to open an opportunity for me and me striving for a thing I shouldn't have. God has called me to pastor, not to platform build.
7. Venting My Anger Like any job, Pastoring can be frustrating. The unique twist of pastoral frustration is that I can trick myself into thinking that my anger or frustration with my job or my church may be righteous anger. And hey, maybe sometimes it really is. But venting my anger is not righteous, it's foolish. I've had to learn that I can actually vent to Jesus in order to love his people, and that's really liberating.
So, there you go. Some of my issues for you to learn from. Please do, and figure out to leap past your own pitfalls.