“If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would you say?”
“…Don’t do it”
“Don’t to what?”
“…Be a pastor.”
That was how my dialogue was like with a person who served as a pastor for over 20 years, a couple months after I had a call to ministry. He had a good reason: pastoral ministry is not the most pleasant or the most rewarding call. In fact, most pastors got through a great deal of suffering and devastation. Aside from being drastically underpaid, the lack of benefits, and the weak security of the job, pastors have to deal with people who usually neglect or abhor them. According to a statistic taken from a youth conference I attended in Asheville, NC, over 70% of pastors constantly suffer from depression and 78% have failed marriages due to their line of work.
One can ask this simple question: who in their right mind would ever choose this “career”? The answer: no one. No one in their right mind would ever want such a selfless career path. This is a career in which the common requirement is to have a master’s degree, and yet they get paid, on average, $54,000 for their salaries. That is less than $20 dollars an hour, assuming that the pastor only works 40 hours a week (which in the case of 84% of pastors, according to the Christian Post, is more like 50-60 hours a week).
Then why are there pastors? If being a pastor is such a terrible job, why are there still people paying tuition for seminary, putting in the effort, ferociously studying, and giving up everything (even their wife’s happiness) to one day end up with a sub-par paying job and a line of work that requires a great amount of patience? Because of this fact: being a pastor of a church is not a job, it’s a calling.
Even in the midst of everything stated previously, a pastor wants to become or stay a pastor not because of the desire for treasure, but because of a commitment to the calling the Lord God put on their lives. Men don’t become pastors when they get that Master’s of Divinity or an ordination certificates from the church elders. The truth is that pastoral ministry begins when God has laid a hand in the life of an individual and begin to use that person for His glory. A pastor’s true ordainment comes from the imparting of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration within the heart of a man to spiritually lead a congregation.
I look at the pastors and mentors of my life and I can’t help, but to admire them and honor them for their meticulous service unto God and His bride. It is a privilege, even if it may very much be one of the most difficult tasks a person could have. My current pastor once told me that pastoral ministry, while important, is not about the seminary education and the preaching, but leading people to greater glory and knowledge of who God is. My pastor constantly reminds me that he is there for me when I need him, and I truly feel like he is a true spiritual father who cares for spiritual well being and my relationship with Christ. The best part: he enjoys doing it and he considers it a blessing.
As the pastor I discussed with began to rant of the horrible things in the “career” of pastoral ministry such as expensive training, being underpaid, his wife hating his job, long hours, lack of benefits, etc., I listened attentively. Once he was finished with negative spout and he was done with his rebukes of anyone who wanted to go into pastoral ministry, he leaned in on the table where we ate and asked:
“So, you still want to go into ministry?”
My answer was one that I could not be more proud or honored to say. I leaned forward as well, and with the confidence that stirred in my heart (that I could only attribute to the Holy Spirit) I gave my response:
If you have a pastor, call them and thank them for how much they put into making sure you reap the benefits of the Kingdom and that you remind them of the calling that God has given them. Thank them for making that bold “yes” they had to give to the very same question I faced. Tell them you are glad that they are in your life and that they are leading you in your walk with Christ. Finally, tell your pastor to never regret the calling God gave them: to live out their life serving the Church, the precious bride of Christ. May God bless them as they live out the great work God has bestowed unto them!
(Special thanks to Pastor Alex Karaninskiy of Roswell Alliance Church: my mentor, teacher, and father in the faith.)
Soli Deo Gloria.