I have not once met a pastor who entered into the ministry because it was a lucrative career. Pastors enter into the ministry because it is a calling by God to serve Him fully and completely in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the coming kingdom of God.
Pastors enter into ministry with the kingdom of God in their eyes. This is the ultimate goal: to serve our savior fully and completely. They go through seminary or become commissioned pastors. They become excited for what will come next.
There are a number of pastors who are kingdom-driven in their ministry. They wake up each morning and think “Wow, I can’t believe I get paid for this!” But sadly, there are also a large number of pastors who wake up in the morning and say “Wow. Thank God I get paid for this.” These have become paycheck-driven pastors.
In kingdom-driven pastors, there is a desire to go all out for the kingdom of God. There is a desire to live in a reckless abandonment in serving Jesus wherever they can. Their very fiber and DNA resonate at the frequency of Heaven. They see the blessings in the future to which they are working towards. There is fire in the bones for doing God’s ministry is something they can’t not do. Each little step in serving the kingdom of God is a massive victory for them. They are joining God in mission and the mission is to live out the kingdom of God today for tomorrow.
And every pastor I have met desires to be like that. But so many I’ve met over the years don’t feel like they can be like that. Something has been removed from them, a joy in serving, a passion for the kingdom. Gone. Stability for family, student loans, being able to live day to day are the key now. The paycheck is what keeps them moving each day to do the routine of ministry.
How can a pastor move from being kingdom-driven to paycheck-driven? There are many congregations that have sucked it out of the pastor. I do not want to do a disservice to congregations here, blaming them for it all. Problems occur on both sides. I do acknowledge that there are pastors who contribute to the situation they are in. But I want to think about the leadership of some congregations. There are desires and expectations that are expressed but do not coincide with the actual unwritten desires and expectations looked for. The paper did not match the pews during the search process. Other times, there are congregations whose members and leaders push hard to have their pastor fit a certain mold. When the pastor doesn’t, conflict happens. In order to prevent conflict, to please the leadership, to keep the church together, to avoid an article 17, the pastor submits (because that’s what a good pastor does, right?) to the demands. In doing so, joy and passion are sucked out.
And so, a pastor bides their time. They put their heads down and work. They work for the income and stability they need for their families or for themselves. Many pastors wouldn’t know what to do outside of doing ministry. Some pastors had great congregations before but now it’s a struggle. Some don’t leave because the devil they know is better than the one they don’t.
Again, I do not want to blame congregations and their leadership. There are times when pastors erupt out of pain and hurt due to being shoved into a mold. There are times where a pastor falters because the passion and joy of ministry has been sucked away. But congregations remember, this work you have called your pastor to do is to do the work of the kingdom of God which is bigger than the walls of your building and the people who come weekly into it.
Pastors, remember your first love. If you feel paycheck-driven, strive to move beyond that. This could include counseling, this could include pushing for a spiritual retreat and renewal. This could include joining Deeper Journey. Paycheck-driven ministry leads to a bad type of burn out that will implode and cause dry rot in the heart or explode and ruin both you and the congregation. Find ways to become kingdom-driven once again and move forward with the fire in the bones in serving Jesus with reckless abandonment.