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Podcast: The Blessings and Burdens of Pastoral Ministry (Jeff Robinson)

This article is part of the The Crossway Podcast series.


Perservering in Ministry

In this episode, Jeff Robinson, coeditor of Faithful Endurance: The Joy of Shepherding People for a Lifetime, discusses the unique blessings and burdens of pastoral ministry. He reflects on the challenging seasons in ministry from his own lifeseasons when he contemplated leaving the pastorate altogether; highlights the importance of transparency and accountability in the life of a pastor; and offers encouragement for the pastor who feels overwhelmed and exhausted right now.


Collin Hansen,

Jeff Robinson Sr.

Written by a team of long-serving pastors, this book explores 11 issues that could threaten to undermine a pastor’s ministry, encouraging young pastors to press on in the midst of the unique challenges that come with leading a church.

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Lay People and Pastoral Longevity

01:36

Matt Tully
Today we’re going to be talking about pastoral ministry, about what it looks like to faithfully endure in ministry over the long haul. I think pastors who are listening to us today should be interested in this topic; but before we really jump in, I want you to speak to the lay people who might be listening right now. Why should they care about this issue?

Jeff Robinson
That’s a great question. I would hope they would care because they want to know how to treat their pastors, how to pray for their pastors. The pastors are shepherds, but the pastor is a man in the middle of his sanctification just like the sheep. And so there’s a sense in which he needs shepherding as well. There are lots of things I need. If I could address my congregation, I want them to listen to this and not hear me complainingThis is difficult. Do you see how hard this is?but to see that this is very unique. I’m just a man, and so I really need their prayers, I need their support (as much as they can give it to me), and I need encouragement sometimes. I’m very grateful my congregation gives me this, but I’ve been in ministry situations where that was by no means the case. In factI don’t have any hard science to back this up, but just anecdotallyI think that’s almost never the case. Most of my friends now are pastors, and they remind me of how good I’ve got it. They may have somebody who drives past the churchif they have a buildingand see their car not there at five o’clock and complain about it. They’re more prone to hear that than they are Pastor, we love you. We know that you’re trying to be a shepherd to us and to your family and lots of other things, and we’re praying for you. If we can encourage you in any way, please let us know. Just something like that. So I would hope that would be the takeaway for lay people.

A Pastors Work Schedule

03:39

Matt Tully
I think it can be easy for people to look at pastoral ministry, with the schedule and the flexibility that pastors might have, and think, Well, you take Mondays off and you can go for a jog in the middle of the day. I’m at work punching the clock. How can it be that difficult or challenging? But there’s more to it than just a schedule. Most pastors are working a full forty, fifty, sixty hours a week, it’s just not the same timetable as other people.

Jeff Robinson
It’s not nine to five. I once worked with an elder whohe had been in the military, fine manbut he really expected office hours, which is fine, but that was sort of the sum totalnine to five. I realized pretty quickly that this is not a nine to five job. You’re like a firefighter, you’re like a paramedic, or like a doctoryou’re on call. I’m on call right now even though we’re recording this. For example, yesterday I had a member break his back. I was on my way to a meeting and I was on the phone talking with him. I was late for some things because I’m as pastor and he needed me to pray with him. He was kind of scared about some things that were happening, and his wife called me and asked me to talk to him. But no one sees that. And of course we’re not ostentatious, we don’t want anyone to see that. But still, I don’t think they realize how all consuming the pastoral ministry is, done the right way. And you’re right, they think, Well, he’s got all this flexibility to go to his son’s ballgames, or he can go up to Cincinnati and see a Reds game, or take his kids to the museum. And that is one of the wonderful things about the ministry, but it’s balanced out by lots of other stuff. You’re almost like a trauma doctor in some senseat any moment you may go into a situation that is difficult. I remember a few years ago in a previous ministry when a teenager was in a terrible car wreck and was near death. You can go from being at the golf course enjoying yourself, to dealing with that sort of trauma in just a matter of minutes. That’s not easy to kind of get yourself sort of revved up for that. That’s difficult.

The Works Emotional Toll

05:56

Matt Tully
There’s an emotional toll that must take that most of us have not experienced. We all have very difficult, painful situations in all of our lives, but often that’s related to close friends or close family members. But pastors are having to bear a lot of those burdenswhether it’s death or infidelity or some kind of sin or injurythey have to walk that road with a lot of people, and that takes a toll that I think most of us can’t quite comprehend.

Jeff Robinson
That is definitely true. Counseling is a good example. As we all know, we live in a fallen world and there’s almost no end to the variety of things, of depravity, that people find their way into. Families, children, wives, husbands, in-laws, and all the rest were affected by that and you’re expected to come to the end of that situation and give some wisdom and guidance and just be a strong presence to represent the Lord there. That can take a toll. For example, let’s say you counsel three days in a week and you counsel really acute, difficult situationsthat’s emotionally taxing because if you’re compassionate and you love them, you take it home with you. I could never just turn it off like, Okay, get in the car and now that’s in the office. You’re gone, you’re on your way home, and you’re done with that. It’s really not like that. You’ll take it home, you’ll take their problems with you. They’re not your problems, but you’re mulling it over in your mind and that can kind of pile up, or snowball, and you can find yourself anxious, depressed, and lots of other things because you’ve entered into their situation. I’ve found that to be the case myself. This past week I had two or three somewhat acute things happen in my church, and it was unusual, and it made it a much more difficult week because I really entered into their lives and I wanted a good outcome for them. Of course, we can’t always affect thatthat’s God’s businessbut I really wanted to see these things reconciled and fixed on some level. But at the end of the week I was really tired. I was still doing sermon prep, which is exhausting, but I think I was just tired from the emotions of their trauma and its effect on me.

The Weight of Pastoral Ministry

08:27

Matt Tully
As you think back to the early days of your ministrymaybe fresh out of seminary, maybe idealistic and a little bit naive about what was comingdo you remember the time when you first felt the weight of pastoral ministry? What happened, and can you share a little bit about that experience?

Jeff Robinson
Sure. I had been in my first full-time pastorate for about three months, and at the church I pastored (I want to be careful about the details) the youth and children were on a trip to kids camp. I was in Walmartit was a Friday afternoonand I had finished sermon prep for the week and so I made a stop to pick up something for my wife. I was walking through the store and my phoneof course, we’re available all the time with cell phones nowand so the phone rang and it was my youth pastor. He was rather frantic and he was with them and he said, We’ve had a situation arise. He began to recount the situation and it was a case of what appeared to be sexual abuse. Up until that point I had never really thought about that, how I was going to handle it. So I’m just sort of stepping back saying, Wait a minute, tell me againtell me a lot more slowly and give me the details. We talked for a few minutes and I gave him some directions: Do this for now, and then we’ll meet in my office on the Lord’s Day after service and and do this. But I remember thinking after that conversation, We’re not in Kansas anymore. This is not your fictional church that you had at seminary where your wisdom alone would fix everything. I’ve actually read an article about that, and I think I mentioned it in maybe this book, but that doesn’t exist. There’s no Disney World in the ministry. I realized right then that there are a lot of moving parts to this and I’m not up to this without God’s grace.

When You Desire to Give Up in Ministry

10:27

Matt Tully
Taking a step back a little bit, it seems like every other week we hear stories of pastorsvocational pastorsleaving the ministry. Maybe it was some kind of sin issue, maybe it was some kind of financial strain, maybe it was burnout from just trying to do too much too fast. You’re a pastorhave you ever been close to throwing in the towel yourself?

Jeff Robinson
Yes. My first full-time pastorate was so difficult that at a point, as I recount in the book, I questioned my calling and I questioned my salvation at points. Satan really gets in and does a number on you. I was weak, I was tired, and I really began to wonder, Is this what I’m called to do? I’m not deriving any pleasure from this. Ministry is pleasurable at times. It’s not always dark skies. I don’t want to be Eeyore here and say there’s always a cloudthat’s not true. But in this case, this had gone on for almost four years and I was tired. Seminary had been great and fantastic and I had served another smaller church that had gone really well, but this was just beyond my ability to fix. Of course, it’s not up to us to fix it, but I really wondered, Am I really called to do this? Have I misheard the Lord somehow? We know God is sovereign and he never gets the wrong address and he’s always on time, but I just wondered if I had made a mistake. I had an opportunity at a job in my hometown that was very attractive to me, and it was in my skill set. It was a town in which we had helped plant a church about a decade before and I thought, I could go there. I can be a lay elder. I can still write and just work this job that pays really well. Maybe I’ll just do that. I went home and told my wife and she said, I think that may be the devil. And then I remember talking to one of my mentors and he said, Your wife may be right about that. It may be a temptation to draw you away. I think you really need to give this some prayerful thought. There were times laying in bed at night I thought, I think maybe I’ll just quit. This is after almost a decade of seminary, a terminal degree, a dissertation, and serving my churches all the whileI questioned all this investment. I even thought at one time, Maybe this is just my sanctification. Well, that’s a pretty expensive sanctification!

Seminary Role in Preparedness for Ministry

13:21

Matt Tully
Speak to that a little bit. This is a tricky topic, but what roles do you think seminaries have played in either preparing pastors well for the ministry but also perhaps setting them up for failure in terms of how they think about what it is they’re actually doing in the ministry?

Jeff Robinson
That’s another Crossway book that Colin Hansen and I did15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Mewhich, by the way, began its life as forty-five things seminary couldn’t teach me! But we didn’t really think that would sell! We were listing things that seminary couldn’t prepare us for. If you go to seminary thinking, This will make me a pastor. This will prepare me across the board, one hundred percent. When I leave here I will have everything I need to be a pastor, you’re dead wrong. That’s not what seminaries promise. I was fortunate to go to one of the best seminaries in the world, in my opinion and in the opinion of lots of others, and I had one of the best theological educations money can buyincluding some of the most godly professorsbut that didn’t make me a pastor. It’s like being a soldier. You can go through basic training and they can simulate warthey can simulate the explosion of the grenades, the air cover flying over, the smell of war, and the blood and gutsthey can sort of simulate that. But you learn to be a soldier by being at war. Ministry is very much like that. Seminary gives you the tools, it’s kind of like basic training. I think that’s a good parallel. It gives you skills that you will need for the rest of your life to prepare to teach and preach to others, and to yourself. My theology helped me come to grips with all these things and ultimately, by God’s grace, the theologywhat I believedpulled me out of that quagmire that I’d fallen into and convinced me that I am called to ministry. But seminary just simply can’t prepare you one hundred percent. It doesn’t make you a pastor. God makes you a pastor. I’m almost amused sometimes when I talk to churches who are looking for a pastor and they say that they want ten years experience, and it’s a small church. But now I understand. They don’t want a novice because there are complexities in people’s lives and to preaching the gospel and loving and shepherding people that you just don’t come ready-made to do. And so I just don’t think seminary can do that anymore than basic training makes you a soldier. I think ministry alone can do that. I’ve always been called to be a pastor, but I think slowly I’ve become a pastor. I’ve always been a preacherI think that’s different. I’ve been preaching for twenty-five years. Preaching is the easiest part of it. I love to preach. If you send me somewhere to preach, I’m ready for that right now. But it’s the shepherding part, it’s the people. You know the old cliche: Ministry would be easy if it weren’t for the people. That’s true, but you’re called to shepherd sinners and evangelize lost sinners. Seminary just can’t prepare you for that. It takes time and experience. I’m very different now than I was a decade ago when I started pastoringcompletely different. I even see things differently. My theology is the same. My theology of ministry is the same. But I understand the reality of ministry much better now, and I think I’m in a much better position to make decisions. And that will increase, that will only grow over time. If I had quit five or six years in, then I never would have seen the fruit of all those years of classroom work. But I don’t want to discourage men from going to seminary. If you can possibly go, find a biblically faithful seminary and go, by all means! God has dotted the landscape of our country with so many wonderful seminaries, and I’m grateful for them. But it’s not enough.

Are More Pastors Leaving the Ministry?

17:36

Matt Tully
Do you think pastors are leaving the ministry early more than they used to? Sometimes it seems that way. It seems like we hear about pastors leaving early for some of these reasons we’ve discussed already, and it seems like it’s happening more than ever before. Do you think that’s actually the case, or do we just hear about it more now?

Jeff Robinson
There are surveys and statistical analysis that has been done on it, and some trustworthy numbers I have read say something along the lines of two thirds of pastors will be out of ministry, never to return, within five years. I remember hearing that in my preaching class at seminary. I can’t help but think that is more of a modern realitymaybe in the last 25 years. I have a friend who’s been in ministry for 60 yearshe’s a grizzled, veteran pastor and I have great respect for him. He said, I would hate to start out today because the problems are so complex now. You guys face things that I never faced. And let’s face it: we’re pretty spoiled. I think we come to ministry with exalted expectationsand sometimes false expectationsand when those aren’t met, our culture tells us to find something that will make us feel better to alleviate the pain.

False Expectations on Young Pastors

19:01

Matt Tully
What are some of those expectations that you think are common among young pastors?

Jeff Robinson
I think we all have heroes, ministry heroes. We have dead heroes like John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Bunyanthese are some of mine.

Matt Tully
Lots of Johns.

Jeff Robinson
Lots of Johns, absolutely! I should have named a son John, now that I think about it. Other heroes are Spurgeon, John Piper, R. C. Sproulhe’s one of my great heroesJohn MacArthur, and many, many others. And so we look at them and we tend to think If I just preach the word week in and week out and I’m faithful, then that’s what will happen to me. I will be a person who writes books, and I will ascend to some place of notoriety eventually. But what they don’t realize is that John Piper has gone through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to become John Piper. God made John Piper. God made John MacArthur. I remember in one of his books MacArthur wrote about how there was a group at Grace Community Church that had come together to oust him. This is John MacArthur! I mean, Jonathan Edwards was fired. I think there was a time in our country where clergymen were well respected. I think there was a much more exalted place for pastors, but that time has long since passed. Theoretically, we’ve always been a pluralistic country, but now we’re much more pluralistic in practice and much more secular, so there’s much less respect. I think they expect to be respected, and you’re not going to be. The Lord Jesus wasn’t respected. And so I think when those expectations aren’t met, they’re uneasy because we’ve been raisedlet’s face itin a way that we’re kind of soft. I include myself in that, my generation. Generations behind methe Greatest Generationthey suffered in a way that we can’t imagine. My father was a World War II veterana paratrooper, 101st AirborneI can’t imagine some of the things he went through. I can’t imagine jumping out of that perfectly good airplane into Germany. I think we expect to be molly-coddled to some degree. We expect it to be easy, and it’s anything but easy. I think I expected that. An elder I served with who had been in ministry for many years said, What did you expect? And I said, I don’t know, but not this. He was right! I think you get the degrees and it’s almost like Okay God, I’ve done my part, now you owe me this and you do this. We live in an entitlement age and I think we take that into the ministryI think I did. It didn’t take long to disabuse me of that notion from ministry.

The Effect of the Online Realm

21:47

Matt Tully
Do you think the internet and social media has contributed to that dynamic of seeing these heroes, these successful pastors success often defined as the world defines it, with numbers and notoriety and fameand do you think the online world in which we live is exacerbating that problem?

Jeff Robinson
I do. There’s just so much instant information. We’re consumers in this country, we are inveterate consumers. We can toggle through our heroes and we can listen to Piper and we can listen to MacArthur and we can listen to J. D. Greear or Mark Dever or Al Mohler. We can just sort of swap those out and we find our favorite. We do the same with churches. I think a lot of that is driven by the internet because we have so much access. In Lloyd-Jones’s time, and certainly in Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, this wasn’t a reality. We were just happy to have a faithful man of God. I laugh because I have a lot of seminary students in my congregation, and that’s a blessing. But it’s also true that I know I’m competing against their favorite internet preachers, and they’re better than me. I’m not John Piper. And as I’ve told the interns at my church, don’t try to be John Piper. God has him already, for some reason he wants to use you, so you be yourself. The internet has done great things for theology, great things for Big God Theology in particularwhat we believe and cherishand I praise God for that. That’s a wonderful thing, but it’s a two-edged sword. It’s also created a set of expectations that I think are impossible to meet for most pastors.

The Potential for Misplaced Identity

23:33

Matt Tully
Related to those expectations, it seems like vocational pastors face the same temptation that all of us face to some extent, and that is to root our identity in what we do, in our role, and not who we are in Christ. I’ve often wondered if vocational pastors face that temptation in a more acute way perhaps, in a unique way, that the rest of us don’t quite understand because of two things. On the one hand, it seems like, as we talked about before, the line between personal life and work life is so blurry for pastors. There’s really no separation most of the time. And on the other hand as well, it seems like it can be easy to confuse doing good, spiritual things that the pastor is doing all week long with actually communing with God personally on a day to day basisthey can neglect the latter while doing the former. Do you see that dynamic in conversations that you’re having with pastors? Do you see this temptation to misplace their identity in what they’re doing as a pastor versus who they are in Christ?

Jeff Robinson
There’s no doubt. I do. I see it in my own heart. I have a longtime pastor friend who’s gone through a terrible struggle lately, and he’s out of pastoral ministry after two plus decades of consecutive ministry. He’s doing something else for the time being to kind of heal and get better. He doesn’t believe he’s left the ministry for good, but for now, and I think that’s good and right in his case. But he told me, Now I’m struggling with guilt because I think my identity is bound up in being the pastor, preaching every week, counseling people, and all of the other things that go with pastoral ministry. I’ve kind of lost myself in that when the reality is I’m a Christian first. And I have to tell myself that every day. I was out of the ministry for about a year and a half between my current ministry and the previous ministry, and it was very difficult. I felt lost in some ways. And that’s not right. I try to always remind myself to find my identity in Christ. I am most fundamentally a Christian, now and always. This is true when you’re in the ministry and when you’re not in full-time vocational ministry. It was a huge struggle. I battled depression and anxiety, and I just felt like something was missing. But it really wasn’t. I needed some time to heal. The antidote for me was going back to Scripture, just bathing myself in the Psalms and bathing myself in wisdom literature and all throughout Scripture. I feel like I grew so much in that year and a half. What I would tell the Lord is if you don’t want me ever to be a pastor, I’m okay with that. Now, was I really okay with that? I think so. I think I became okay with it. I wasn’t at first. It was kind of a wrestling match between me and God in my prayer life. But I think I became okay with it because I wanted to locate my identity in Christ. I definitely think that’s a temptation for pastors. And I think the longer you’ve been in ministry, the more that’s true. I can’t imagine if I had pastored the same church twenty-five yearsor fifty years, as John MacArthur has at Grace Community Churchhow, when it’s gone all of a sudden, how I would feel about being just a regular Christian. During that year and a half I returned to a church we’d attended years before in Louisville, and they gave me my old Sunday school class that I had taught while I was there in seminary. That just really bothered me. I did not like that. It wasn’t that I was too good for that, I just thought, I’ve been a pastor. Why am I doing this? But that was actually sinful. There was an idolatry that was exposed in that. You see this with athletes. Let’s say a major league baseball player plays until he’s forty, and sometimes they will struggle with alcohol abuse and things like that after they retire. They don’t know what to do themselves because their identity is totally bound up in baseball. Christian athletes talk about how they had to really wean themselves from that and lean into the Scriptures and lean into prayer and lean into the local church. We have to do that, and I certainly have to do that as well. It’s difficult not to find your identity in ministry because you’ve given so much of your life and so much of your energyyour life, your soul, your allto this sacred calling. When it’s gone, it’s just hard to feel right.

Pastoral Accountability

28:22

Matt Tully
Whenever a pastor’s sin, some kind of habitual sin, comes to lightlike an affair or a pornography addiction or maybe some kind of financial impropriety or harsh or demeaning spiritand a pastor is forced to resign because of that sin, it seems like there’s often a common denominator; namely, a lack of accountability for that pastor. Oftentimes it seems like, either by virtue of his position or authority in the church, he intentionally or unintentionally has isolated himself from that accountability, isolated himself from the transparency that he would needthat we all needwhen it comes to living a Christian life. So practically speaking, do you have any ideas or suggestions for pastors who maybe would have to admit that they don’t have that level of accountability in their lives and want that?

Jeff Robinson
I think you have to find it. You have to find it. You have to find someone who has a set of eyeballs on your life. It’s someone you trust who won’t tell other people, but will speak into your life and speak the truth in love. Not a sycophant, not someone who’s impressed with you. For me, in addition to having numerous pastor friends, my wife is one of those people for me. Marry well. I think I say that in a chapter in the book. Ask your wife what she thinks about your calling. And that’s really true.

Matt Tully
That’s a scary question.

Jeff Robinson
It is! I once knew a man in my hometown whose wife could never see him being called as a pastor. He never did it because I think he felt something missing. But I think she was right at the end of the day as we surveyed his life. But you have to find that. Just like lone ranger Christians, this phenomenon of people saying that they don’t need other people. I can be outside the body of Christ and I’ll be just fine. Well no, the devil knows that and he is smarter than you are and he’ll pick you off. It’s like the old Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom show that I watched growing up. You would always see the classic shot: you’ve got the wildebeests, the herd comes through, there’s the one who’s limping, and then they’ll cut to the lionsthey’re laying on the hill licking their chops. You know what’s about to happen. It’s that way in the Christian life, and it’s the same way in ministry. You have to stay in the Word of God, you have to stay deep in prayer, and you have to stay accountable to somebody. Having another pastor is helpful, but I’ve found my wifeshe’s very honest with me. We’ve worked through some things. I travel quite a bit for the Gospel Coalition, and even my church and some other things I do, and so I’m gone quite a bit. We try to have very little unaccounted for time for me, which means sometimes I call her at night and we talk for an hour about what has gone one during the day. She knows what I’m doing. I’m talking to her. I’m not letting myself just be sort of alone and vulnerable. So I think if you just build some practical things like that in your life, even if it’s your wife. I know that there are a lot of brothers who are out in rural areasand praise God for those guys who are faithfulmaybe there’s not a pastor within fifty square miles they would trust or know to function this way. And so that’s difficult. But if you have seminary friends, surely you have some friends who will be able to talk to you and see those blind spots because we all have blind spots, and those blind spots can lead to catastrophic failure in ministry if they’re not addressed. My best friend is a pastor down in Georgia. We’ve been friends for thirty years. We were friends before seminary, we went to seminary together, planted a church down there with him, so he’s been a faithful friend a long time. There have been times he’s had to really kind of throw some high heatto use a good baseball analogy, the chin musicwith me and say, Look, this seems to be true of you. What’s going on here? You need to tell me, and don’t lie to me. I know you. And that’s been incredibly helpful, and it’s probably saved me from who knows what. And then my wife. Having this kind of intimate relationship with her where she can ask me anything and she’s got her eyeballs on my life. She holds me accountable for where I go on the internetthat’s a major, major thing. I need to be the same man at 3:00 o’clock in the morning alone in my study with a computer open that I am the pulpit because if I’m not, I’m not going to be effective in ministry and eventually I’ll fall away.

Encouragement for the Weary Pastor

33:07

Matt Tully
Speak to the pastor listening to us today who just feels beat down. He just feels exhausted, utterly exhausted, and doesn’t really know if he can keep going. What encouragement would you offer to that man?

Jeff Robinson
I would encourage him, first of all, to take some time off. Take time away. Take a sabbatical if your church will let you. Meet with your people and explain to them, Here’s how I’m feeling, but I love you and I want to stay. I want to be faithful to God and faithful to you. But I just can’t keep on right now. I just need some time away. I’m not a very good model for this, sadly. I need to heed my own preaching here. We need rest. I’ve found that rest cures a lot of anxieties and a lot of paranoia that builds up in me. It just sort of frees my mind, it relaxes my mind, it relaxes my body. Your body needs rest just like it needs food. That’s the first thing I would say. Just try to take some time away, do something you enjoy. I think pastors ought to have hobbies. Now you shouldn’t be . . . I love golf, but I don’t live at the golf course.

Matt Tully
You get to spend forty hours a week there.

Jeff Robinson
I easily could spend forty hours a week there. If I could get paid to do golf, I’d be very tempted to leave ministry probably. Do things like that that you enjoy. You’re human. You’re not a robot, so do things you enjoy. If it’s sports, if it’s gardening, if it’s travel, or whatever, do it. Maybe it’s reading. We all read. I love to read. I’m a book geek, but sometimes I have to come out of that forest and do something else, and my wife’s good at reminding me of that. Those are simple things my doctor told me once. I’m pretty much perennially overworked, but it’s because I grew up that way and I just think that that’s what I have to do. I reached a point where my health was starting to decline to some degree. I’ve always been blessed with good health, but I just didn’t feel right. He said, How much rest are you getting? I said, Very little. I’m working about eighty hours a week. He said, So there’s your problem. Talk to your eldersI’ll write a note if you need me toand you take every fourth Sunday off and just don’t do that stuff. Take that long weekend and just enjoy yourself. And I’ve actually done that. That’s helped me so much. Again, it clears my head. Going to the golf course once in a while clears my head. That’s not sinful and wrong. I know there’s a notion that pastors ought not to enjoy themselves and that that’s not spiritual. That’s not biblical. That is causing a lot of broken down pastors. The suicide rate among pastors now, from what I understand, is at an all-time high. By God’s grace I’ve never been there, but I could see how that could happen. Things don’t go the way you think that they should, you’re tired; and you know how it is when you’re tired. You can think things and paranoia can rise up in you and you can start to think things about yourself and about others and you start to hear the voices that say, I’m a failure and I’ve caused these problems and I’m just a failure. I’m not called to this and I shouldn’t be doing this. It can lead you to places that are dark. I’ve been to those dark places, and they’re not good. By God’s grace I didn’t stay long because I really learned how to relax and try to get some rest and do things I enjoy. That’s really simple, but I don’t think it’s all that complex.

How Elders Can Support and Encourage Pastors

36:46

Matt Tully
If a pastor is fortunate enough to be in a church where he does have lay elders who can be there, who are qualified to be there, and can support him and help shoulder the burden of ministry, what can they do? What would you say to lay elders who want to support and encourage their vocational pastor, or pastors, in their work, recognizing that they are bearing a unique burden that others aren’t?

Jeff Robinson
When God called for, in the New Testament, a plurality of leaders, it was an infinitely wise thing. I’m in a situation now where this board of elders understands that I just can’t get burned out. One of the things I do every Friday is send a newsletter outI write a little letter to the churchand it’s been late the last two weeks. And so this past week one of the elders came to me and said, Why don’t you let me start sending that out? I feel like I need to do that to help you and take that off your plate. You don’t need to be doing that. That just seems like something that we should do. I really appreciated that. It was a small thing to him, but a huge thing to mea big encouragement to me. Give them time away, make them take time off, make them do things they enjoy, make them spend time with their family, make them go home at five o’clock. At a place I served in Alabama a few years ago there was a church member that would drive past the church and see my car there, and instead of griping about not seeing my car there, he would call me and say, Why are you still there? Go home and be with Lisa and the kids. Go now, if you can. I loved that. He wasn’t an elder, but the same principle works for elders. Encourage him that the weight of the church doesn’t depend on him. But sometimes we own that. I’ll Do as much work as you let me do. It’s partly the way God has wired me me, but I think I’ve fallen into an area of excess there. But my elders are really good about looking for warning signs. About two years ago I went through a time where I experienced anxiety and panic attacks that I hadn’t experienced for years. They just immediately ran to my side and said, Look, we’ll preach the next two weeks, you take the time off. If you don’t feel better, we’ll figure something out. We just can’t let you get this way. Do that. That’s simple. Let them know you have support. And I want those guys to develop anyway. I want the elders to have opportunities to preach. We have a young elder who we’re trying to encourage to grow in his preaching, and he needs reps. And so I’m happy now to give him reps when it’s right, and he loves that. I think just simple things like that. Send him and his wife away for the week and have the church pay for it. Things like that will go a long way toward keeping him fit and stable and upright in the ministry.


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