Why It’s Hard For Pastors To Be Content. Pt. 1

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Are you content? Not complacent, but content?

Contentment refers to the peace, acceptance, and joy you have in the ministry even if your church is small, even if your church has plateaued, even if your church is in decline. Contentment will be in direct proportion to the consistency and meaningfulness of your times of solitude with God.

It seems to me that contentment is a big issue for most pastors. And it’s no wonder, because there are so many reasons why contentment in the ministry is so elusive.

1. It’s hard to be content in the ministry because we’re trying to produce results that are hard to measure. We say we want to make disciples but how do we know when we’ve made one? What does a disciple look like? We typically only see our people one or maybe two days a week. We don’t know what they’re like at work, at home, or on vacation. So how do we really know if we are making disciples? We could follow them around snapping pictures like the paparazzi or install secret surveillance cameras at their main hangouts, but that’s cost prohibitive, creepy, and we’d probably end up getting punched or arrested. I’m not suggesting that there is no way for us to measure discipleship; I’m just saying it’s difficult.

2. It’s hard to be content in the ministry because there is always someone whose church seems to be doing better. The pastor of 50 people lives in the shadow of the pastor of 150, who lives next door to the pastor of 250, who drives past the church of 550 or 5000. Bottom line: contentment cannot be based on comparison because there will always be someone more successful than you.

3. It’s hard to be content in the ministry because there is a constant flow of new ideas, and “the latest thing.” Subscribe to any of the popular ministry magazines, such as Outreach Magazine, Leadership Journal, or Charisma, and you’ll find page after page of articles, products, and interviews with successful pastors telling you how they did it and what to try next, and promising church growth as if it were as easy as waving a magic wand. New ideas don’t always foster contentment, and if you lack the resources to try the latest thing, or if you have tried it and it didn’t work for you, then you are left feeling the opposite of contentedness.

Our contentment will be in direct proportion to the consistency and meaningfulness of our times alone with God.

Questions for reflection:

On a scale of one to ten (ten being high), how would I score my current contentment in my life and ministry?

What one thing could I do to raise my score by one point?

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The above article is an excerpt from my book: Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care For Busy Pastors and the Rest of Us. Find your copy here.