Pastors, Be Content with Your Church; Church, Be Content with Your Pastor

The road to Branson is adorned with billboards. (Surely, as an aphorism, it will go viral.) Shows, restaurants, hotels, and assorted other venues that make their money off of the tourism industry promote themselves along Highway 65 in hopes of capturing more of the visitors who are the economic lifeline of the town Homer Simpson called, “Las Vegas run by Ned Flanders”. Billboards are ubiquitous (and in my opinion, ugly) features of every major highway in America. In our consumer culture, the goal of advertising is not to inform, but to inflame. Advertising is not aimed at the mind, but at the lusts. Advertising is designed not just to satisfy desire, but to create desire that was previously unknown. Covetousness is rooted in our flesh.

rectangular beige board

In recent decades the Church has variously battled, scorned, embraced, and baptized consumerism as a church growth mentality. One of the more pungent odors of consumerism in the church is discontentment. Who knew they needed heated seats in their car until they had tried them? Who knew they needed a pastor that could rock designer sneakers until they saw one? You get the idea. (The issue is not whether a pastor should wear designer sneaks, but whether wearing designer sneakers becomes some sort of desirable focus for pastor and congregation alike). Since discontentment comes standard on all fallen natures, we have a potential sinkhole that has been enlarged by intentional excavations around it. And many, including myself, have teetered on the edge of that sinkhole.

We are all tempted to think that a change in circumstances will resolve our problems. The problem with the employee who changes jobs every time he has a conflict with his boss is that he manages to change his circumstances while remaining the same unmanageable person he has been the whole time. The problem with the church that swaps out their pastor every time his preaching grows dull to their ears is that they never address the dullness of their hearts. The problem with the pastor who changes churches every time the honeymoon period is over is that his ministry careers consists of all the excitement of dating and none of the fruit of marriage.

There are times when a change in the pastorate is necessary. Some men never met the qualifications of an elder to begin with. Others fall into sin. Some churches are viper pits looking for fresh victims to poison. And there are legitimate moves in ministry as directed by God whereby both parties (pastor and church) are strengthened by God through these changes unto His glory. But in my opinion, too many changes happen as a result of unrealistic/unbiblical expectations that result in a growing discontentment between pastor and church.

Pastors, don’t let discontentment grow in your hearts. You may sow, water, and plant, but only God can give the increase. Focus less on what others are doing (or not doing) for the Lord and how you can preach faithfully, minister gladly, and use the opportunities that you have. Imagine that you are a fresh candidate for this pastorate and think how you would see the opportunities differently. Discontentment will rob the time you could be doing something in ministry and replace it with time spent searching the internet for other jobs, or techniques to overcome your problems, or even more deadly temptations that will provide excitement in your dreary day. Determine to love the sheep – especially the wayward ones – over which God has made you overseer. Place your confidence in the power of God’s Word instead of in your own skills. Don’t let past failures or disappointments affect your faith in God’s promise to complete the work He started (you didn’t start it, dear brother) in your congregants. Let your discontentment lead you to become a better pastor instead of leading you to a different church.

Churches, don’t let discontentment with your pastor grow in your heart. If you have a pastor who faithfully demonstrates the character qualities recorded in Scripture, faithfully preaches God’s Word, and faithfully loves your church, don’t even think of replacing him. If there are areas where you think your church needs to improve, then volunteer to help. Don’t think those who have turned away from God will return just because you bring in someone more charismatic. If your pastor is burnt out, then don’t make him ask for a vacation: send him on one. If he comes to you and says that he is contemplating a change, handcuff him to an old heavy filing cabinet. If you have a faithful man of God at the helm of your boat, then do whatever you possibly can to help him – short of actually handcuffing him to a filing cabinet! Let your discontentment lead to a rallying around your leader instead of a replacing of your leader.

Thou shalt not covet applies to ministry. Don’t covet another man’s ministry, and don’t covet another church’s pastor. Be content. Godliness with contentment is great gain.


Have you been feeling tired lately? I joke that I’ve been tired for the last 6 and half years, which is the age of my eldest. Parenting will no doubt wear you out, but so will change. Change is exhausting.

pug covered with blanket on bedspread

When I started my current job in March of 2017, I was coming off of an eight year run at my last employer where I pretty much did the same thing every day. I had beat my mind and body into subjection of the routine that my life demanded to the point where very little thought was needed to go through the day. Like all jobs, there were occasionally stressful situation. But the daily grind had wore down the bumps to the occasional jolt instead of an incessant rattle.

I started my new job at a youthful 36 years of age. I was in the same industry and had a mentor to show me the ropes. Nevertheless, the change was draining. My entire workflow had changed and my mind and my body needed time to adjust. At one point I remember telling my wife that it would be 18 months before I could even tell if I was doing a good job or not. That turned out to be an accurate prediction.

Call it routine or habit, but don’t disregard it. Routine sounds as boring as orthodoxy, but both are indispensable. Imagine doing everything in your day as if it was your first time. First time operating the Ninja coffee maker. First time getting the temperature right in your shower. First time driving. The concentration needed would sap your energy to the point you would flop into bed at 6PM, only to have to think about the best way to arrange the pillows for sleep comfort!

Of course routines are a double-edged sword in that good habits yield good things and bad habits yield bad things. But no one should doubt the necessity and the power of routine.

So when we had to cancel our church gatherings, the move to online Bible studies, Zoom meeting, Youtube, etc… was a definitive break in my routine. Over the last 15 years of pastoring, I am typically absent 1-2 Sundays at most during the year. Sunday is my busiest day and certainly the most draining. My expectation was that without the pressure of sermon preparation and delivery, Sunday would be relaxing. Not so, my friends. The new “skillset” required for pastoring changed overnight.

But even beyond that somewhat predictable energy drain was another phenomenon that proves the power of routine. Sunday (for me) has an emotional flow. In the morning I am focused and purposeful, which culminates in a couple of intense hours of interpersonal activity, leading to a time of meditation (ok, call it a nap if you like!) in the afternoon. And then on Sunday evening I sometimes struggle to fall asleep as my brain is wired from the events of the day. So imagine my surprise when that emotional sequence took place without the accompanying physical events that typically cause them. My mind and body had developed a weekly routine that continued to affect my inner life even when Covid-19 came along. Routine had wired me to “feel” a certain way on Sundays. Talk about power.

Those of us in ministry felt the energy drain that the deviation from routine required. But so did parents who suddenly found themselves homeschooling. So did employees who were having to figure out how to do their jobs from home. So did students who were suddenly told they needed to learn math from, of all people, their parents! Then add on to this the uncertainty of living with a virus rampant in our society with daily doses of new (and often conflicting) data to process, and Presto! You’re exhausted.

So be patient and be kind. We are all tired.

But I have some good news for you: change is possible. New routines can be created and new habits sown. Now might even be a good time to stop and think about the habits that needed to change before Covid hit. The mechanics of this is described in Scripture as putting off the old man and putting on the new man. If you struggle with anxiety, you are to put off the thoughts that lead to worry and put on the thoughts that lead to trust. Your mind needs a new routine.

And there’s more good news: God doesn’t intend for his children to be tired forevermore. There remains a rest for the people of God.