The Burden of the Pastor
The pastor has a burden. It is unlike anything felt by anyone else in the local church. Even in the context where the biblical prescription for a plurality of elders is being heeded, the lead pastor maintains a greater weight and burden than the rest. It is a burden of responsibility and the weight of expectations. All elders sense a responsibility for things. Only the pastor necessarily senses a responsibility for everything. All elders have the weight of expectations. Only the pastor has the weight of expectations from everyone.
Most pastors, if we are honest, have desired at times for this burden to be lifted, for relief from the weight of expectations and the responsibility of souls in our care. At times it can be a burden seemingly unbearable. Consequently, many men (good men) falter under the weight of it. Burnout, financial failure, sexual indiscretion, and family disintegration are among the evidences we see. The root cause, however, is less obvious – the unique burden of the shepherd. Anyone who is a pastor worth mentioning and has spent any time discharging those duties in the church, knows of what I am speaking. It is a silent and yet deadly sapper of spiritual strength and vitality. Seeing that it is common to all, how do we overcome it? How do we live in victory over it and maintain our passion for the shepherding of the sheep and the purity of church? I have found three elements of pastoral ministry indispensable to vitality and maintaining faithfulness to the call against the ever-rising tide of the pastor’s burden.
1. Confidence in the Caller. The apostle Paul put it this way, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (). It begins with a confidence that what you are doing, God has called you to and you know that he will finish the work in you and the work through you. When there is more to get done than there seems day to do it, or when there is more month than there are resources to meet it, it is the assurance that God is in it with you to win it through you that will keep you from giving up or giving in. Trust not in what you get done, but trust in Him who promises to complete whatever he starts, even on those days that you don’t.
2. The Willingness of a Wife. Few things are as important to the pastor than knowing that he has found favor in God’s sight. The work of the ministry can be overwhelming and unrewarding, yet knowing that God’s pleasure rests upon you is key to not giving up. And nothing is more favor-filled than a good, willing wife. The Bible puts it this way, “He who finds a wife, finds a good thing and receives favor from The Lord” (). Someone has rightly said, “Favor is the tangible evidence of God’s pleasure.” A wife who is willing to walk the pastoral path with her husband, patiently and lovingly helping him endure the stresses while trusting The Lord with the uniqueness of her own trials, is a tangible gift from the God of all Comfort. She is practically indispensable and to be cherished by the pastor and the church where they serve.
3. A Band of Brothers. No one can be successful and faithful in the gospel ministry for any length time without faithful brothers standing with him. With Moses it was Aaron and Hur (). In the time of King David they were referred to as Mighty Men (). Today they are often faithful elders and deacons. Though the lead pastor has the unique weight of responsibility and expectations, having brothers willing to share the burden and care for the pastor is a grace and gift indescribable. The church needs mighty men today. The lead pastor needs them even more so. He is vulnerable to attack inside and outside the church. His family is vulnerable to neglect and misunderstanding. Consequently, the church is served when the other elders and deacons are attuned to the uniqueness of the pastor’s burden and doing all they can to hold him up in the midst of it.
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (ESV)
22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing
and obtains favor from the Lord. (ESV)
12 But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. (ESV)
23:1 Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” 2 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” 3 But David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” 4 Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” 5 And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
6 When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. 7 Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” 8 And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. 9 David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then said David, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.” 13 Then David and his men, who were about six hundred, arose and departed from Keilah, and they went wherever they could go. When Saul was told that David had escaped from Keilah, he gave up the expedition. 14 And David remained in the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.
15 David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. 16 And Jonathan, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 17 And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” 18 And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.
19 Then the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? 20 Now come down, O king, according to all your heart’s desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand.” 21 And Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, for you have had compassion on me. 22 Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that he is very cunning. 23 See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you. And if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.” 24 And they arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.
Now David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. 25 And Saul and his men went to seek him. And David was told, so he went down to the rock and lived in the wilderness of Maon. And when Saul heard that, he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon. 26 Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, 27 a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” 28 So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape. 29 And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of Engedi. (ESV)