Since leaving full-time local church ministry to become one of the vice-presidents at LifeWay, I have always missed and loved the local church. Dr. Draper, the former president of LifeWay, once told a leader on my team, “If you ever stop missing being on local church staff, leave immediately.” The sentiment was that we could only be helpful to local church leaders if we love what they do and miss what they do.
So after moving to Nashville almost six years ago, I still looked for ways to serve a local church body. I became a teaching pastor at a church and led a Sunday School class for young married couples before I began serving churches as interim pastor. My second interim was a church right where I live, just a few minutes from our home, and I loved and connected with the people very early on. In time they asked me to move from being interim pastor to serving as bi-vocational senior pastor. I was honored and prayerfully jumped at the opportunity. And I greatly underestimated the weight of being the senior pastor. I calculated correctly the time it would take to prepare sermons, meet with pastors on the team, and give direction to the church. I scheduled, blocked off, and fiercely protected the appropriate time. But no amount of time management can decrease the weight of being a senior pastor. It is no exaggeration to say that being an interim preacher weighs less than 1/10th of being the senior pastor—even when the senior pastor is “bi-vocational.”
When the apostle Paul listed all his sufferings, he concluded the list with referencing his burden for the churches he served.
The weight of pastoring, though filled with immense joy, was a weight that topped Paul’s list of suffering.
Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Corinthians 11:28-29)
Notice a few of the words Paul uses: face, daily, pressure, concern, sin, inwardly, burn. With those words in view, here are five realities about the weight of pastoring.
1. The weight of pastoring is constant.
Paul declares the weight is “daily.” A pastor never stops being pastor. The weight is there constantly.
2. The weight of pastoring is emotional.
Paul writes that he “faces” the pressure daily. The weight of pastoring is not merely something you read or hear about. It is something you face, sense, and experience.
3. The weight of pastoring is spiritual.
More than merely dealing with measures on an income statement, sales report, or balance sheet, a pastor deals in the arena of “sin” and wrestles continually with the implications of a fallen and broken world.
4. The weight of pastoring is tangible.
Paul mentions his “concern” for real people, people who are weak and struggling. There are tangible needs of real people, and they weigh heavily on a pastor who loves the people being served.
5. The weight of pastoring is intense.
Paul writes that he “burns inwardly.” It is not only the tangible needs of people but also the inward burning for continual responsibility for the flock. The tangible needs of individual sheep are present but so is the intangible burden for the whole flock.