Why It’s Hard For Pastors To Be Content, Pt. 2

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If you haven’t read part one, you may want to. Here it is.

It’s hard to be content in the ministry because we’re worried that contentment will lead to complacency—or that those we serve will mistake our contentment for complacency. There is a false idea that contentment is synonymous with complacency.

Contentment is a state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction with a certain level of achievement. A content person is not always wishing for more.

Complacency often refers to a smugness or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements. When I think of someone who is complacent I imagine them as someone who feels no need to “get off the couch” of life or ministry.

Paul told Timothy, “Godliness coupled with contentment is very beneficial” (1 Tim. 6:4).

God wants you to be content with the size of your church without becoming complacent in regards to discipleship and evangelism. I realize this is not an easy balance to achieve but it is one that must be achieved.

Would you describe your current attitude in regard to the size of your church as “a state of peaceful happiness?” Could you say you are “satisfied with a certain level of achievement, not wishing for more?” Remember, we’re talking about the size of your church, not how well your church is doing in reaching the lost, feeding the poor and making serious followers of Christ. Are you content in being the pastor of your church regardless of its size? Can you embrace contentedness without becoming complacent about all the other things the church is supposed to be and do? I hope so. I also know, from personal experience, how hard it is to be content with the size of your congregation.

Is it just me or does it seem like the church-related books pastors read, the conferences they go to, and the ministerial meetings they attend often end up causing them to feel more discontent than content?

There still exists in “Churchianity” far too much emphasis upon numbers and church growth. I’m not against numbers or church growth, but I am against anything that makes pastors feel like they don’t measure up.

A content pastor still cares about reaching people and fulfilling the Great Commission. A content pastor puts in a good day’s work but refuses to work more hours for the church than is healthy for his or her soul, marriage, and family. It takes courage to be a content pastor because occasionally you will have to dig in your heels and say no to members of your church that want to push you to do more and more and more. There must be some lazy pastors out there but I’ve never met one. We must find a way to be content without being complacent. It’s one thing to want your church to grow and another thing to need your church to grow in order to feel good about yourself and your church. The pastor who does not need his or her church to grow will experience peace, joy, freedom, and contentment.

It’s hard to be content in the ministry because the driven, type A personality (a temperament marked by excessive competitiveness and ambition, as well as an obsession with accomplishing tasks quickly) is rewarded in our culture. And, if you don’t have a type A personality you can feel like a slacker or someone destined for mediocrity.

Yes, you’ve got to have some drive or else nothing will ever get done. But, on the other hand, I know many pastors who are too driven, and they’re driving themselves to an early grave. It’s hard to be content with your pedal to the floor.

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.