This article was picked up by The Christian Post here.
Let me tell you upfront: I’m not confessing some horrendous sin or moral failure. What I am doing is confessing or “sharing” the struggles I, Aaron Joseph Hall, face and I know other pastors likely face as well. Especially in the current circumstance that we are all facing.
Being a pastor is hard. I have heard it said that if you don’t feel God is calling you to the ministry go and do something else. Ministry isn’t glamorous. It isn’t all fun and games. Many times when people hear that I’m a youth pastor they either A) think I’m not a “real” pastor or B) think youth ministry is just having fun with students. Both couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ministry is hard regardless if you are a senior pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor, or small group leader, etc. Ministry is hard because people are messy. That’s not an indictment on you. I’m messy too. I have my failures and shortcoming just like anyone else. If you are a human being you are messy. There, I said it. But in some ways that alleviates the burden, because that means I’m not alone. You’re not alone.
I’m sharing these confessions with the hope that people can see it’s not easy being a pastor. Pandemic or not, it’s hard. It’s exhausting. But at the same time, it’s worth it. It’s fulfilling. Why? Though it can be challenging, people matter to pastors (well those pastors who are genuinely serving with a heart for people and not for selfish gain or motivation). So, without further ado, here are six “confessions” as a pastor.
1. I don’t have all the answers
No pastor has all the answers. But if you are a Christian then you know the One who does. I know that might sound like one of those cheesy Christian lines, but it’s true. As believers, we know the One who has all the answers. We serve the God who created everything, knows everything, and understands everything.
Too often pastors are expected to know the answers to every situation. We are human. Sometimes all we can do is pray and ask the Lord to intervene. Sometimes all we can do is hug you, pray for you, and open the Bible. I’m the type of person that will tell you upfront if I don’t know the answer to something. I’ve been asked Bible questions that I can’t answer. That’s okay.
Pastors, if you are reading this and wrestle with not knowing the answers, it’s okay. A degree doesn’t define whether you are a pastor or whether God has called you (though degrees are great and very helpful). Don’t let your lack of education make you feel like a lousy pastor. The Holy Spirit is the best teacher. Lean into Him. And trust Him for the answers. That goes for any believer, pastor or not! None of us may have all the answers but thankfully God sees and knows everything. “No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13 CSB).
2. I struggle with wanting to read my Bible too
Pastors aren’t super-spiritual Christians who wake up every day before sunrise and spend a few hours reading their Bible and praying. Some do wake up early to read and pray. And some do it daily. I do sometimes as well, but not every day (I wish I could say I do). It’s wrong to think every pastor is an early riser. Again, we are human. And if I’m going to be honest, there are days I struggle with wanting to read my Bible.
Some pastors can’t admit that because of the fear of being judged or condemned. That’s because some pastors are held to a standard no one can meet. Pastors wrestle with dry seasons. Pastors battle those days where it’s hard to press into the Lord’s presence. Pastors fight those days where they feel spiritually drained and unqualified.
Though I struggle to read at times I cling to the truth of Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Those moments I find myself struggling and not wanting to read are the moments where I need to read the most. And so I do, because His Word is a lamp and a light.
3. Sometimes it’s hard for me to pray
I wish I could admit prayer was always easy for me. But it’s not. There are moments where the sheer weight of pastoring wearies me, drains me, and makes it physically hard for me to pray. There are times I find myself, like Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, struggling to pray.
Have you ever felt this way? Spiritually you want to pray. You really do. I know I really desire to pray but there are moments where I’m physically so weak it’s hard. When I find myself in this condition I hear Jesus’ words He spoke to the disciples that fateful night, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (CSB).
I am beyond thankful Jesus doesn’t leave me in these moments. He’s with me. I’m also thankful the Holy Spirit is in me to strengthen me at all times. So when I am struggling to pray and my strength is failing it’s a good reminder of how I must rely on the Lord’s strength 24/7, because my flesh will fail but His Spirit won’t. I truly believe that moment in the Garden of Gethsemane is in the Bible to encourage us. Even the chosen disciples of Jesus struggled. They are human just like us. And if God could use them – despite moments of shortcomings – He can surely use us!
4. I have moments of faithlessness.
Pastors should always have faith, right? Well, this pastor has moments of faithlessness. Not in the sense that I don’t believe in Jesus, but in the sense that I fall into the type of thinking that God isn’t going to help me. That God won’t breakthrough.
What is really hard about this struggle is I’ve seen God do miracles and yet there are moments where my flesh gives in and I fall short. God healed my firstborn, Oliver, when he was born. God answered our prayers for a second child and literally our second son was prayed into the world. God heard and God answered. God was faithful. In every moment of every second. I wish I could say I’m faithful to God every moment of every second.
The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (CSB). That includes every pastor (and every human) on planet earth. I’m beyond thankful Jesus is faithful even when we are faithless! 2 Timothy 2:13 reminds us of God’s constant faithfulness: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (CSB). Faithfulness is part of who God is and the Bible is clear “for he cannot deny himself.” Praise God for His faithfulness!
5. I wrestle with balancing ministry with family life
Pastoring isn’t some glamorous 9 to 5 job like some believe. Pastoring is hard work. It’s not just preaching sermons. Pastors work. Hard. A lot. Sometimes forty, fifty, sixty-plus hours a week. Pastors aren’t working just on Sunday mornings or during the midweek service. And because of the nature of ministry, sometimes ministry happens after the church offices are closed. And it is here I sometimes wrestle with balancing ministry with family life. What I mean by that is there must be times where I have to say “no” so I can love and minister to my first ministry, which is always my family.
That’s everyone’s first ministry: their family! And this struggle can be especially hard for pastors given that we can’t open the doors to our church buildings. Working from home and being home can be hard during this season (and other seasons). When I find myself falling into this trap, I cling to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, because it reminds me there are seasons for everything. And this season too shall pass. Verse 1 says: “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven” (CSB). And for me, that means there must be times where I say no to everything else and focus on just my family or, as verse 7 says in Ecclesiastes 3, “a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak” (CSB).
6. I want to be liked by everyone
In 2017, I wrote an article titled “We Need to Be Praying for Trump Rather Than Constantly Criticizing Him” for the Christian Post. Recently, I was made aware of some of the comments the article has generated within the last few months. As a friend of mine said concerning some of the comments “they are venomous.”
I admit I want to be liked by everyone. At first, I took some of these comments personally. But right away, the Lord reminded me they aren’t a personal attack on me … it’s their own heart issues. Honestly, I now find these comments somewhat humorous because I am blown away by the audacity of some so-called “Christians” who can post these types of remarks on a Christian website.
Deep down, I desire to be liked by everyone. But don’t we all? That’s why at first those comments were like a knife to the heart. I’ve come to learn that there will always be someone who doesn’t like me. There will always be people who don’t like you too. At the end of the day, I’m called to love and serve people regardless of who they are and what they think of me. Ultimately, I want to make much of Jesus and I pray and hope my life does just that!
I share these “confessions” for the purpose of asking you to pray for me. But more importantly, to pray for your pastor because every pastor has struggles of some kind. Especially, during this season where many churches find themselves in new territory because of the coronavirus pandemic.
We are human. We make mistakes. We have struggles. I know, for me at least, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else than pastoring. I love God and I love people, no matter how messy, because I know how messy I can be. We all need Jesus. Let’s run this race together.
I love you, Church.