Tuesday, July 16, 2013

So You Want To Be A Super Pastor?

I have never seen a pastor preach in a superman's outfit, but for many it would be appropriate.  Pastors are often looked up to and expected to be supermen, able to evangelize hundreds of thousands to the Lord, motivate thousands to live righteous lives, counsel hundreds off the brink of despair, shepherd the flock 24/7, break down the Word to help us understand it with remarkable clarity, and visit each and every member when they are in the hospital.  

After all, pastors are super righteous and super spiritual.  They are what we all aspire to be.  The sad truth is, that is what the church has been led to expect.   The problem is, this is a lie and the bigger problem is that pastors oftentimes perpetuate the myth.  The congregation is eager to put the pastor on a pedestal and many times the pastor is willing to climb up there.  

It's not just a problem that the pastor is a poser, leading others to believe they are something they are not, but also that the pastor has to then work to keep up the charade.  This brings an inordinate amount of stress to a job that is stressful already.  It also affects a pastor's spiritual and emotional well being and sets up the pastor for a moral failure or spiritual and/or emotional meltdown.

You see this manifested when a pastor feels as if he is the only one who is able to do the work of the church.  After all, I am super pastor and if I don't do the job, then it won't be done quite as well as it should be done.  The pastor does all the preaching, baptizing, and teaching.  I recently attended a worship service where the pastor led the worship, made the announcements, welcomed the guests and then preached a 45 minute sermon.  What happened to equipping the saints for ministry?

It's understandable that pastors to want to prove themselves to their new church members and so they take on almost everything in their young church, sometimes by necessity.  I've counseled several church planters who were on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown between year 1 and 2 because they were doing so much without much help.  They each shared with me that they felt like they were carrying the church on their shoulders and in reality, they were! When you put yourself on the pedestal and become super pastor, the rest of the flock will be more than willing to sit back and let you do everything.  The ministry won't grow past what you can do or control.  So the stressed out pastor, who is at the end of his rope, knows the church is stagnant and needs to grow but knows he can't add anything else on his plate.  He sees no way out except to give up and close the church.

What's the answer?  Resist the urge to be regarded as super pastor.  Don't allow your congregation to put you on a pedestal.  Be real in your preaching and transparent with your leaders. Be transparent and share your hurts, habits and hangups.  We all have them and by being honest and open, your congregation will be able to identify with you better. You'll be more appealing to those who are searching.  Sure, you may scare away the super righteous ones.  But, like Jesus, those shouldn't be the target of our ministry.  

I counseled each struggling church planter to go to their leadership and church and share how you feel. Admit that you can't do it!  Because you can't do it without God and without the assistance of your church members.  Tell them you desperately need their help.  In every case, when the pastor honestly shared how he felt to his members, the church was excited to step up and help. There was even a sense of revival in some of the churches as a result of the pastor's honesty.  

I quote from the movie, The Devil's Advocate, "Pride is the devil's favorite sin."  It has brought down many men and many good pastors. It can be so subtle but It may be the biggest stumbling block for young pastors trying to grow a church. So many believe they must emulate their super pastor of their past. Recognize your pride for what it is, resist the temptation to put on a cape, and release your members for the ministry.  Train, equip and mentor your leaders and you'll find that many can do the ministry much better than you.  That is the way to grow a healthy and dynamic church and avoid the burnout that so many fall prey to.  

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