The Guilt of Pastoral Ministry (Leon Brown) – Reformation21

Leon Brown offers his thoughts on how members might help alleviate the guilt their pastors feel from sacrificing so much for pastoral ministry…



As I was re-reading a section of Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving, these words made a Facebook debut:

“We asked our summit pastors, ‘What obstacles stand in the way of your fruitful, growing walk with Christ?’ They focused on one primary issue: workaholism. Their workaholism largely stems from two sources: the belief that they never work hard enough (and that others work harder than they do) and the assumption that they are responsible for everything that happens in the church… [Pastors] were greatly concerned that, to the layperson, their flexible schedules make it look like they are goofing off. While studies we referenced earlier show that pastors work every bit as hard–if not harder–than other professionals, the anxiety that pastors carry of having to demonstrate that they are “earning their keep” is pervasive” (34).

There is a tendency–it seems–for pastors to prove themselves. In one sense, that is necessary. Demonstrating one’s giftedness and ability to ‘meet’ and maintain the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 are required by the Lord. Books such as Called to the Ministry by Edmund Clowney and Concerning the True Care of Souls by Martin Bucer further elaborate on those qualifications and provide insight into God’s demands on those called to the ministry. The specifics of pastoral ministry, however, are not what cause the guilt that often lead to workaholism.

Have you ever heard this question or thought to ask a pastor: “What do you do?” Having grown accustomed to such questions, I often request additional information. It seems that the public, and more narrowly the church, have lost sight of the rigors of pastoral ministry. Keep reading.


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