Your pastor is in trouble.
At least, that’s what a poll said in the 2013 issue of the Leadership Journal. According to its research, 91% of pastors have experienced some form of burnout in ministry, with 18% saying they are “fried to a crisp right now!” Frequently overworked and underpaid, most pastors got into ministry out of a sincere desire to help people and see God move in incredible ways. So, why all the stress?
Another study by the Barna Group can shed light on the cause. In its 2020 examination of trends defining Americans’ relationship to the Church, it identified an increasingly common view of the Church that sounds more consumerist than Biblical. Church hopping is on the rise, as is a desire to feel impressed by church services. Most Americans seem to value the positive emotions they can get from attending a Sunday service more than anything else. All of this places undue pressure on pastors, who feel the need to put on a show for the masses.
So, given these challenges our spiritual guides are facing, it’s worth a look at ourselves to examine whether or not our view of the Church and the role of a pastor is adding to burnout in God’s house. Here are 3 things your pastor WISHES you believed about ministry and the Church…
#1: It is NOT a pastor’s job to reach the lost.
You read that right. If you’ve been going to church, assuming it is your pastor’s job to lead people to Jesus, you should ask him what he believes his job to be. More likely than not, he will say his job is helping YOU lead people to Jesus.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.Ephesians 4:11-12 (emphasis ours)
In the book of Ephesians, Paul teaches that the job of making disciples is for everyone, not just professional ministers or leaders. In fact, the entire purpose of a leader in the Church is to help average, everyday believers live out their calling as disciple-makers.
Many pastors feel so overwhelmed because they are the sole person that everyone goes to for spiritual guidance. If everyone in a church came expecting to be ministered to, AND depending on the pastor to convince their non-Christian friends to become followers of Jesus, few people would ever get a chance to be ministered to. Our pastors are wonderful people, but they are not God. There is only so much that one person can do!
#2: YOU are much better equipped to reach the lost than your pastor.
Along with the assumption that it is the pastor’s job to reach the lost is the assumption that ordinary Christians cannot. After all, they haven’t been to seminary. They don’t read Greek or Hebrew, and they can’t unravel the mysteries of our faith. But in reality, everyday Christians are the best equipped for the job!
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.Acts 4:13
In the stories of the Book of Acts, many of the Church’s best disciple makers were so effective because of their lack of religious training, not despite it. It was the fishermen who could reach the fishermen most effectively. It was the tax collectors who could reach other tax collectors. Even Paul—who was religiously trained—refers to his status as a Roman citizen as one of his primary advantages in reaching Roman pagans.
All in all, your pastor needs you to be the one to go into your community and reach people for Jesus. His training and expertise make him the perfect person to support you in your journey to bring God into your family and friend groups, but it also makes him an outsider in those spaces.
#3: The Sunday service actually isn’t all that important.
People love their Sunday services, as they should. It is a beautiful expression of our relationship with Jesus when we gather to worship corporately. But they’re not the best tool in our disciple-making arsenal. Now, you might be thinking of several memories where your pastor instructed “every head bowed and every eye closed,” and more than a few people raised their hands to indicate the decision to become followers of Jesus. Praise God for those times! But it’s important to ask ourselves if this is the best way to reach those decision points.
In his book, The Great Evangelical Recession, pastor and journalist John Dickerson notes that, when you tally up the total cost of one baptism in the United States, it costs about 1.5 MILLION dollars to lead one person to faith. He gets this number by quantifying everything involved. That includes the rent or mortgage of the sanctuary, the lights, the fog machines, the band equipment, the salaries of all the professional ministers involved, and much more. When you add it all up and divide it by the total number of baptisms, you get an unsustainable amount of money. In other words, your pastor is exhausted because he has to raise over a million dollars to grow the Church by just one person!
The origin of the Sunday service is rooted in a time before the printing press. In the first century, believers met in each other’s homes regularly. But whenever Paul or some other apostolic leader sent them a letter of advice, they would gather together in one place for a public reading. It was the best they could do to circulate these letters. Do you see a theme yet? Once again, we’re finding that the original intention of the Sunday Service was for the building up and encouragement of believers. But somewhere along the way, it became a one-stop-shop for every aspect of the life of the Church, including outreach.
Is there a better way?
We detail one explosive story of believers following the New Testament model of house-to-house church life in India in the first week of our Waha Disciple Making Course, which you can check out for free at wahatraining.com. It’s a great way to begin the process of coming around your pastor in support and lifting them up by making the job of disciple-making into a team effort. If you think it’s something that could bless your pastor and church, check out our guide on how to cast vision to your spiritual leader and take the first step towards God’s big adventure for you and your faith community!