Thirty-six years ago at this time of year, I was talking with a search committee as I considered my first local church pastorate. I was so pumped that I’m sure I was obnoxious around my family and friends. Nobody except a pastor can fully understand the excitement that comes with a first pastorate. What I didn’t know then, though, was that the pastorate often brings its own types of pain:
- Some marriages at which you officiate won’t make it. You pray not and work hard in premarital counseling to counter that possibility, but it happens.
- Some nonbelievers with whom you share the gospel won’t listen. The pain is great when nonbelievers just keep rejecting the good news.
- Some of the seemingly godliest people you know will fall into sin. I’ve done this work a long time, and I’m still shocked at times. The enemy leaves no one off his radar.
- Some church members will get mad and leave. The first time it happened in my ministry, I was defeated for weeks. It still hurts when it happens.
- Some spiritual heroes will let you down. No one intends for it to happen, but even our long-term heroes are still human.
- Some staffing situations won’t work out. That’s when you’re reminded that because you’re a leader, your decisions affect marriages and families. Letting someone go, especially in our ministry world that preaches grace, is seldom easy.
- Somebody related to your church may take his or her own life. I’m not sure I have ever felt so inept as when all my ministry efforts didn’t stop this kind of tragedy.
- Some people won’t know how to relate to you. No matter how hard you try to prove you’re a regular person, some people will be uncomfortable around their spiritual leader.
- Some days will be really lonely. When you’re quietly bearing the burdens of others, the weight can be heavy and the hours long.
- Somebody may criticize your family. Even the people we most love aren’t immune from the attacks of church members—some who genuinely mean well, but some who are just plain mean.
- Some of your friends may betray you. It happened to Jesus, and it can happen to us, too.
With all these pains in mind, though, guess what? I would still do it all over again. The joys of pastoring are so powerful that I’ll take the risk of these pains any day.