A Pastor’s guilt…

March 10, 2015 — 47 Comments

guilt2I think all pastors live with low-grade guilt. I know I do. I’ve searched in vain for a fellow pastor who has written on this sort of thing. So, I figured I’d take a swing at it.

I have low-grade guilt because I want to always be there for all people—especially all the people in the church I pastor. But I can’t. I want to attend every event, reply to every e-mail, return every call, visit every hospital, do every funeral, officiate every wedding, counsel all who struggle, meet with all who want to meet… but I can’t. Funny thing is, no one is pressuring me to do so (okay, maybe a few). It’s almost purely self-inflicted guilt.

Of course, I’ve encountered some who don’t understand. I received a letter a while back from a couple who let me know in no uncertain terms that I was an “unapproachable pastor” that was hurting the church. So they were bidding Grace adieu and moving on to find another church home where they could have a relationship with the senior pastor. Then there was the guy who cornered me after a service, basically demanding a counseling meeting with me. When I pointed him to our campus pastor, he declared, “Oh, so you’re like the Pope!” And he let everybody on social media know his feelings, too.

On and on I could go. And for one who carries low-grade guilt about this sort of thing, comments like the above are an absolute knife to the chest… and a knife that is left there.

I’ve adopted Andy Stanley’s mantra to “do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” Helpful, but doesn’t fully scratch that guilty itch. So I try to take comfort by reminding myself that I’m not the Messiah to anyone. Take heart, my pastor friend, neither are you. And you shouldn’t try to be. There is only one—Jesus. Even he set boundaries on how available he was to the masses (Luke 4:40-43).

I’ve observed that any pastor who tries to be the Messiah for all people in his church, even a small church, burns out in catastrophic ways emotionally, spiritually, physically, ministerially, and maritally. Rarely does he survive and continue in ministry… or in his marriage.

I get to be the senior pastor of a church of four campuses and 2,500-ish people. I preach five services every weekend. I am a husband of one and a father of four who are ten years old and younger. I am relieved that the majority of the Grace family understands my role and doesn’t pressure me to be a Messiah.

But still… that dang guilt.

So why am I writing this? Therapy, I guess. It’s yet another way to try and deal with this guilt. And hopefully my pastoral brothers out there find it strangely helpful. I don’t have many answers, but sometimes it’s encouraging to simply know one is not alone in the struggle.

Either way, here is my attempt to encourage you, my pastor-brother:
* Refuse to be the Messiah. Jesus already bled for the church. You don’t have to.
* Share your boundaries with people and stick to them. If you don’t, people will determine your boundaries for you.
* Best you can, develop a team of staff and volunteers, then delegate and entrust the folks and their needs to them. In fact, in a way folks may not understand, you are doing the best for them by doing so.
* Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.
* If you get kickback for not being there for everyone, entrust yourself to the Lord. If you want to explain yourself, do so. But don’t feel pressured to explain yourself to everyone. Some people will never be satisfied, no matter what you say or do. So don’t get sucked into that vortex.
* As a final straw, if the pressure to always be there is crushing you, and the church has developed a sense of entitlement that expects you to always be there, you might need to consider moving on. But no matter what you do, no matter where you go, that low-grade guilt will remain. Own it, but don’t let it own you.

Here is my encouragement to the church folk: Take it easy on your pastor. He loves you deeply, but he cannot be there for you and everyone else. Believe me, he LONGS to be there! In fact, he lives with deep-seated guilt that he can’t; and it’s guilt that might even wake him up at 2:00am. I hope you’ll honor him and his limitations. And if he provides direction where you can receive love, care, and needs met by other credible and qualified pastors/others (and perhaps even by pastors/others more gifted and qualified to meet your needs than him), trust his heart, his love for you, and take advantage of his direction.

Aah, this was therapeutic indeed… at least until tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

blank-slateLeading up to each new year I’m asking God for His “one thing,” or theme, for my life in the coming year. He’s rarely left me guessing. I highly recommend the same prayer for you. Forget resolutions, go for theme. If you’re drawing a blank at the moment, I’ll be happy to share mine.

The following has actually been God’s theme for me since October. Everyday it’s as if the Lord has simply said to me, “Jarrod, just be faithful.” Then, this morning, I came across this: “Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities” (Luke 16:10 NLT). “Faithful” it is for 2015!

Here’s how I work this out: First, in 2015, where must I be faithful in the current roles in which God has placed me? They are 1) disciple, 2) husband, 3) dad, and 4) senior pastor. And in that order. What’s one place God is tapping me to be faithful in each role for 2015? After prayerful consideration, I record it for immediate viewing throughout the year.

Secondly, I reflect on 2014. Where have I been cheating myself, my family, my work, even my God? I find that these might relate to the above. Either way, I write out exactly what I’ll do to stop “cheating,” and what I’ll do instead to be faithful.

Now how about you? How have resolutions worked out for you in the past? In 2015, do you already know that “one thing”? Please share in the comments section!

If you’ve found that resolutions simply don’t work for you, go for that “one thing.” Ask the Lord for His theme for your life in the new year. Then personalize and write out how it will be worked through the roles in your life. In doing so, you’ll be assured to do that which currently matters and cosmically matters in 2015.

Happy New Year!

thBut as for you, keep a clear head about everything…” (2 Tim. 4:5).

Beware of imagining yourself at the center of drama.

Beware of emotions getting the best of you.

Beware of grudges.

Beware of taking anything personally.

Beware of not believing the best of others you love and who love you.

Beware of dwelling upon words and actions of others and arriving at conclusions without evidence for those conclusions.

Beware of finding your identity in anyone or anything but Jesus.

TWDuring a dark time in your life, did you ever say anything you deeply regret? Ever had painful words spoken to you that cut you to the bone-marrow? Me too, on all the above. Question is, how does God feel about those words? And how should you feel about those words spoken from you or to you?

In John Piper‘s book, A Godward Life: Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life, he deals with this. He points us to the words of Job when he responded to Eliphaz: “Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?” (Job 6:26)

Did you catch it? Speech from despair is for the wind. It’s not called into our account. Nor should we call cutting words spoken to us into account. Piper goes on to say, “Let us discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind—spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul, not reproving the sore, is the aim of our love.”

To Die or To Diamond

November 25, 2014 — 3 Comments
Arrival home, 2012(Photos by Erin Witkowski, eveswishphotography.com)

Arrival home, 2012 (Photos by Erin Witkowski, eveswishphotography.com)

The nine weeks we spent in Ukraine were some of the toughest for me, personally. In fact, I posted a blog last year on how God took me halfway around the world to expose sin in me. You can read that post HERE. Then throw in the moments where Christie and I agonized over the difficulties we perpetually faced in Ukraine to get our daughter(s) adopted. Follow that by the last two years (joyful, but hard years) of going from a family of four with two boys to a family of six with two girls (and one of them only three years old), navigating the emotional trauma and survival skills that they had learned as orphans.

Early on in the adoption process, and by God’s grace, I came upon a passage of Scripture that has kept me grounded to this day: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Compare the grain of wheat to a 14kt diamond…. If both are placed side by side in the palm of my hand, which would you choose? That’s a no-brainer. Yet a diamond is lifeless. It exists to be seen and alone. How miserable. A wheat grain is not sexy in the least. Yet it is full of life. It will give life to countless people after it enters into the soil. The legacy of the wheat grain will feed generations upon generations. The question I asked myself in Ukraine (and now) was something like this: “Do I pursue more of a life of the grain or the diamond?” How about you? Adoption is glorious, but hard. Everyday it’s a decision of “dying” or “diamonding.”

Is God calling you to die to yourself, your potential dreams, travels, trinkets, freedoms, to be the gospel to an orphan(s) through foster care or adoption? Or, might God be leading you to sacrificially give resources to families who seek to provide foster care or adopt orphans?

Adoption is the gospel. So, to die? Or to diamond? What will it be?

***For more information, contact Lifesong for Orphans, Justice for Orphans, or email Grace Community Church’s Foster and Forever Family Ministry at GFFF@graceoc.com

Jubilee's first experience at the movies

Jubilee’s first experience at the movies

Summer, 2014

Summer, 2014