Mark Driscoll calls them “bread truck Mondays.” A Sunday that was so difficult or draining that the day after makes a pastor wish he was anything but a pastor – even the driver of a bread truck.Most of those hit the mark with me. I frequently want to quit as a result of the unremitting drumbeat of criticism from people IN and OUTSIDE the church; it never stops. And the crushing time demands of ministry (and unrealistic expectations of many). Also, the unremitting pastoral burden, which is often like trying to rescue a drowning person who is struggling against you and may just pull you under the waves at any moment. Also, insecurity; frequently I am inclined to believe that there have GOT to be many, many pastors who could do and would do a much better job for this flock than I can do or am doing. And, to be candid, from time to time I would have to answer "yes" to the devastating question in Anne Jackson's excellent book, Mad Church Disease: "Does working at this church interfere with your communion with Christ?"
Not every pastor wants to quit all the time, but from time to time discouragement sets in and often it’s hard for pastors to find a safe, anonymous place to talk about it.
I took an informal poll of my friends in pastoral ministry. “What recently has made you want to quit?”
These are their top responses:
“To Protect My Family”
Sometimes, the pastor’s family will sacrifice in ways that make the pastor want to give it up for an easier or, frankly, more lucrative job. One pastor, discouraged by his young church’s inability to pay him a decent salary, responded that he feels like he is being a “sucky provider.”
Another friend who has moved into a difficult neighborhood to be an incarnational presence there, cited drug dealers in his neighborhood as a reason that he’s wanted to quit. Difficult days can make you question your call to take the gospel to the hard places.
Often pastors feel attacked on all sides. One friend of mine replied to my question with simply the words “sinful criticism,” which he later described as “criticism that is nit-picky and comes from a consumeristic church culture.”
“The Hard Work of Shepherding”
For one church planter, it was the difficult realization that after you “launch” the church, you have to actually pastor people.
His response:“Coming to the reality that we can’t just make cool websites, network in the community, and launch a church. We actually have to do the hard work of shepherding.”“Restlessness”
Some of the time, the issue is simply that entrepreneurial church-planting pastors have a hard time staying in one place for very long. “Restlessness and feeling a desire for another city,” was one pastor’s response to my question.
“Coveting Others’ Gifts”
Even though only a small percentage of the churches in the world see rapid numeric growth, it is these stories of fast-growing churches that get promoted the most in the church world. Add to this, because of the connectivity of the internet, that everyone has access to the most gifted preachers & teachers around.
One pastor named his struggle for what it is: “coveting others’ gifts, leadership, fruitfulness.”
If you are “normal” pastor of a “normal” church, this can lead to great discouragement. It can cause you to question if you alone are struggling with difficult people or a difficult context.
One pastor responded (ironically via Twitter) to my question on what’s made him want to quit recently:“Twitter. Following people who always seem to have the momentum & success & few struggles. Seriously – it has gotten to me.”“Lack of Change”
“Stagnation in the church that won’t change gets me down a lot,” was one pastor’s response to my question.
The single most discouraging issue for pastors is a sense that things in the church are not changing or progressing.
One pastor cited a “lack of change….doing the same things the same ways without vision for the why behind it all.”
Pastors are pouring out their lives in order to see transformation – change in people, a neighborhood, or an entire city. When things seem stuck, it can feel like it’s time to throw in the towel.
One pastor described it as a “lack of mission: Feeling as if we’re just spinning our wheels. Spiritual apathy among leaders who were ‘with’ us.”
I could go on. But I won't. I'll just find me a broom tree...and wait for an angel to come along.