The Hidden Pride of the Small Church Pastor – Part 1 – The StoryBy Jamie Hart
December 2, 2020
Ryan sat at his desk staring at the screen. It was Monday and he was bone tired after a full day of ministry the day before. As he gazed at his calendar, it was hard to even think about starting another week. He had put so much effort into last week, and for what? The church was just as full as it had been for months with no noticeable growth. He had preached his heart out, but had no idea how much it impacted people. And now he was supposed to start all over again? Another week, another message and more meetings? That felt like a lot of effort only to get the same result week after week.
Sipping his coffee, he was having a hard time getting his head around it all. How could other churches in his city be growing while his felt stagnant? He had seen the online services from the “other guys.” They all looked the same and they all preached shallow messages. He knew that he was doing it right, delivering exegetical sermons with passion after hours of study. His worship team was great and he knew they were truly focused on God’s glory, not their own! Why would God allow other churches to grow while this, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying church was faltering?
Ryan remembered his first years in ministry. He had such excitement and hope back then. He was convinced that God was going to do big things through him and his church was going to win this city for God’s glory! He had been well-trained and many people had affirmed his gifts. He knew what he brought to the table and others did too. But that was 15-years-ago and though the church had gone through a few exciting seasons, they were roughly in the same spot now that they were he started. Just different faces and names as the inevitable parade of people marched in, then out of his church.
Sitting there thinking through these things, his heart was heavy. This was not the dream. This was not what he thought it would be. Maybe he should quit. But then what? What else would he do? He went right from college, to seminary, to church positions that eventually lead him here. All the skills he acquired were in ministry so how could he possibly find work outside of the church? What was he going to do, sell cars? And even if he did leave, he would have to start at the bottom and there’s no way he would make enough to support his family. No, the cold hard reality was, Ryan was stuck.
Drinking down the last dregs of his now lukewarm brew, Ryan tried to find some motivation. Scrolling down Facebook only brought more frustration. So he shot a text to his wife, but her quick to-the-point answer told him that she was busy with the kids. With no small amount of weariness, Ryan picked up his Bible and read the text that was on the docket for this Sunday. Wow. It was a good one. He knew he could really fire up a passionate message from these verse. And who knows? Maybe this Sunday there would be some new visitors who would hear this sermon and be impacted by God’s word. Maybe they would tell their friends who would also come and get excited about the church. Maybe this Sunday was the Sunday that brought the change. Maybe.
Ok, Ryan said to himself. Let’s do this again.
I’ve been in ministry for more than 20 years, nearly all of which has been spent in smaller churches. Though Ryan may be a bit hyperbolic, I can relate deeply with the cycle of discouragement he is experiencing. But more than that, I know the deeper heart issues he is facing and where his discouragement can lead. The reality is, unless Ryan’s heart and perspective changes, he is headed for a ministry crash.
We have all seen the headlines of the mega-church pastor who fails in mega-ways. We’ve seen the sexual misconduct, embezzling of church funds, and monster-pride that tears people apart. That pride is obvious. But for the small church pastor there is a pride that is much harder to see. Over the course of a couple of articles, I hope to use the hard learned lessons God has taught me to encourage you. There IS amazing joy and fulfillment for the faithful small church pastor. But it all hinges on one truth that we KNOW but have a hard time convincing our sinful hearts to believe; Jesus is enough. Period. More to come!