In the Fall of 2018, I began reaching out to pastors. I was discouraged and knew that other pastors just might need as much encouragement as I did. I was right. After receiving some pretty heavy prayer requests from pastors, I asked God if He could allow this to become a ministry. He did that through a ministry called Standing Stone. As I have been doing this, I have discovered exactly why every pastor needs a pastor – someone who will safely shepherd their soul.
Pastors are so prone to temptation. It is easy for us to think of pastors as those who close themselves in a prayer closet with a glass of water and don’t come out until they have spent all day with God in prayer and Bible study. While I would have loved that, it wasn’t achievable with the demands of three weekly services, visitation to the sick and others within the church, counseling sessions, committee meetings, etc. It is easy to self-medicate when stress hits. Some pastors have turned to gambling, pornography, extramarital relationships, food, and many other things to cope. The sad part is that many get defeated by these things. They needed some soul care way before it ever got this bad.
Pastors are isolated. You might think, “How can a pastor be isolated when he has so many people to minister to on a weekly or even daily basis?” Many of those receiving ministry will only communicate with the pastor when a need exists. Otherwise, pastors often hear from no one. What about friends? Many pastors have no time for friends. I always tried to have good relationships with other pastors, but that is often unsuccessful because pastors can be so competitive. Pastors of higher profile will often not associate with the “lowly” pastors who lead smaller churches, or they will try to steal another church’s members because they feel like they have something better to offer. I do my best to advise pastors to develop friendships with people who are not pastors – people who will be there for you when you have nothing to offer them.
Pastors struggle with pride and other cancerous attitudes. Here is one that I struggled with. Early in ministry, I didn’t want people knowing I didn’t know what I was doing. I was trained to a certain degree, but I tried to cover my insecurity. It didn’t work to well, but I tried. After I gained some years of experience, I thought I had something great to offer people. I have learned that all I can offer is what God offers others through me to them. Some of the isolation I experienced was because I did not surround myself with the help of others. I didn’t want to be under the control of others, so I would often plan things without consulting others. I could have been much more successful had I worked the people in place than around them. After many discussions with other pastors, I know my story is not the only story like this.
Pastors get hurt just like anyone else. Many would say, “You must be forgiving.” While that is true, hurt must be processed. I discovered in the midst of this pandemic that I had past hurts I had never processed. They came back with a vengeance, but God has been so gracious. Pastors deal with betrayal, abuse, depression, anxiety, and so many other painful things like everyone else. The journey to healing is just that – a journey that takes time.
I have discovered that God has opened some great doors for me to be a pastor to other pastors. It has been beneficial to me that I am not on permanent staff in a church. I am not “the competition”. I’m just a guy who wants to pour my life into ministry leaders because I know their churches are at stake if I don’t, and I can’t let pastors become casualties if I can help it. If you are a pastor who is struggling, please contact me at Matthew.firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to assist you.