Almost 30 years ago Mary Kay and I heard Zig Ziglar tell the story of the woman who hated her job. She came to Zig to complain about all her troubles with her employer. Zig asked if there was anything she liked about her job. She said, "I don't like anything about it." He asked if they paid her or if she did if for free. She admitted they not only paid her, but paid her a little better than average. Over the course of 10 minutes - with Zig's help - she found 22 different things she liked about her job. Newly aware of her reasons for liking her job, she discovered that some of the people around her seemed to change for the better!
That story has always stuck with me. My attitude about my work is so critically important. And if I may say so, this is even more critically important for the job of pastor! Almost a year ago Lifeway Research conducted a poll of 1,000 protestant pastors in the U.S. Even though 98% of them considered it a privilege to be a pastor, more than half (55%) also agreed that it is easy to become discouraged. Coinciding with discouragement, the same 55% agreed that they felt lonely.
Earlier this week - in an excellent article on Pastors.com - Thom Rainer reminded his readers of the discouragement and loneliness of pastors with the admonition for congregations to pray for their pastors. Church Requel, will you please continuously and intentionally pray for me? Seriously.
The fascinating truth of Lifeway Research's survey results is the dichotomy between the 98% of pastors who feel privileged and the 55% who feel lonely and discouraged. Thom Rainer's seven reasons for WHY so many of us pastors are lonely and discouraged is right on. If I thought about it for just a few minutes, I'm sure I could easily add to the list of negatives pastors face on a daily basis.
I'd like to add just one key reason that underlies all my discouragement. I forget. I forget the privilege. I forget why I became a pastor. Our profession, more than most, is a profession of calling and of choice. God calls us. We choose to answer.
Pastor, do you remember the tangible thrill you felt when you first knew you could be a pastor? In my case I was already 25 years into another career. I served as a volunteer at a large church doing anything and everything they would allow me to do. One day the senior pastor called me at my office and said the elders would like to offer me a full time pastoral position. When I hung up the phone, I fell to my knees in gratitude and amazement. God was giving me a second career - another chance to serve Him with all of my time, with all of my energy, and with all of my focus. What a privilege!
Now it's eight years later. I'm no longer serving at a large church with a good salary and benefits. I'm in a church plant and the financials are not nearly so secure. Instead of being part of a staff of 23 people, most of my day I work alone. My efforts don't always seem to get the results I would have thought likely. Unlike that first day of emotional gratitude and privilege, these days it's easy to be discouraged and alone.
If I allow myself to choose the path of loneliness and discouragement.
Every day I work hard to remember the reasons I LOVE being a pastor:
(1) God has saved me and gives me the privilege of being His child.
(2) I have a job where I have the privilege to remind myself and others of the truth of (1) above.
(3) I get to spend lots of time in God's Word being reminded by Him of how much He loves me.
(4) The church I have planted - for better or worse - is not my church. It's God's church. He's the owner. I just work here - at God's pleasure for as long as He will allow. The results one way or the other are all His!
(5) Most of the time I actually receive a paycheck to be able to do this! Think of it. Most people volunteer their service to their church after they have worked at least a 40-hour work week. I get to start doing this from hour #1!
(6) It's actually even better than (5) above, because I don't even start at hour #1 with my own strength. If I ask for it, God is only all too willing to let me work with His amazing power. Who wouldn't rather dig with a bulldozer than a spade?
(7) My commute is two flights of stairs from bedroom to office.
(8) Because it's 2012 I can be connected with parishioners within my city within moments.
(9) Because it's 2012 I can be connected with other pastors all over the world within moments.
(10) Once a week dozens of people allow me to talk with them about God, His love, His plans, and His church. Think about what an exceptional permission and trust people give to us when we proclaim God's truth in a sermon!
(11) Several times a week I meet with people who have good reason to be discouraged. Sickness. Loss. Betrayal. Death. Hurt. What do parishioners want and need? Encouragement. I GET to be God's message of encouragement. And, oh yeah... along the way I remember that God's message of encouragement applies to me too! And one more oh yeah... when I see what some others are going through, I'm reminded that my own discouragement is not so well founded.
(12) Have I mentioned that in this job of being pastor, I am reminded every day that God loves me?That He has saved me? That He bestows on me the relationship of beloved child?
Pastor. I really love my job. Thank You God for allowing me to do this. What an opportunity!