Common Pitfalls on the Path to Becoming a Pastor
Pride and Entitlement
One common pitfall for aspiring pastors is certainly pride. There can be a healthy desire to take initiative and a godly zeal, but then that has, as it's sort of flipside, pride: thinking too highly of yourself, being immune to criticism, that kind of thing. So, humble yourself before the Lord and he'll exalt you at the proper time.
Another pitfall is entitlement—a sense of Because I want to do this, therefore someone must recognize me in doing this. Because I want to preach, I should get preaching opportunities because I want a church to hire me. Therefore, a church should hire me.
Entitlement can really easily creep into a sense of urgency and desire to serve the Lord in those ways. But Paul says we have this ministry as we have received mercy. Ministry is a gift of grace. In one sense, none of us earns the position, even though there are qualifications. So, hold your aspirations loosely and recognize any opportunity to serve God's people is a gift from him.
The Path to Being a Pastor
Written from personal experience, The Path to Being a Pastor lays the groundwork for aspiring leaders to walk through various stages of ministry preparation, trusting that the Lord will direct their steps on the path to becoming a pastor.
Impatience and Desire to Make Change
Impatience is related to pride and entitlement. A lot of the work God often does in our lives takes time and he uses setbacks, detours, suffering, not getting what you want to form you more into the character of Christ. The very roadblock that might cause you to think, Why is God doing this? I'm hitting my head against the wall, I'm not getting to where I want to be might be God's chosen means of actually humbling you, teaching you compassion, and forming your character in ways that wouldn't get formed otherwise. So, waiting on the Lord is part of his plan for you; it's part of his program. Moses spent forty years in the wilderness twice, which is probably a lot longer than you're going to wait for the aspiration—whatever you desire—to be fulfilled.
Another pitfall is practical. To put it in a provocative way, don't work for a church that you wouldn't join if they weren't paying you. It's one thing if you're the senior pastor and it's your job to preach and teach and lead the overall body to greater health. But if you're coming on as an associate pastor or some type of support role or any kind of assistant capacity, you want to think long and hard about what the culture of that church is, what the sort of trajectory to the present time is. Can you live with things as they are now? Because you have a very limited ability to change things if you're in the second chair or lower.
Hold your aspirations loosely and recognize any opportunity to serve God's people is a gift from him.
It's very easy to think, I'm sure I could come in and give the senior pastor some good ideas and he'll listen to me and we can turn this thing around together. That's not going to happen. That's not how it works. If there are hard decisions to be made, he's the one paying for it relationally. He's the one that all the vast bulk of the angry emails and conversations are going to come to. So you want to think very carefully about how like-minded you are with the ethos and philosophy of the senior pastor in the existing leadership. You want to think very carefully about what you'd be signing up for. So, I'd urge caution. Think really carefully about what type of support role you would go into. It's very easy to assume more agreement than there really is when it comes to serving as an associate pastor or role like that.
Bobby Jamieson is the author of The Path to Being a Pastor: A Guide for the Aspiring.
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