Sometimes…Even Pastors Consider Quitting
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
Sometimes it is the long and seemingly pointless meeting. Sometimes it is the anonymous letter. Sometimes it is the repair bill for the nine-year old car. Sometimes it is the criticism of his family. This may come as a surprise to some laypeople, but there are many reasons why pastors get frustrated. But surely not after a card shower for Pastor Appreciation Month? Well, actually, even now. Like the prophets of old, pastors are not immune to frustration in a fallen world where their hearers are not always so eager to hear. There are even times when pastors are more than just frustrated, but consider leaving the long meetings and angry phone calls all behind. Pastors contemplate leaving pastoral ministry for employment that may offer better salaries, better hours, and less pressure and criticism.
So why do pastors keep going? Because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. For more than 1200 words, St. Paul has unpacked the significance of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He first emphasizes that Christ has indeed risen again from the grave and that because Christ has risen the dead in Christ will also bodily rise.
Christ’s resurrection means that our preaching and our labor, as frustrating as it can be at times, is never in vain. It means that our work matters. In a world where a man wearing a clerical collar may be looked at with suspicion and the church characterized as unloving and judgmental, God sends forth His chosen heralds to proclaim a message that not only matters, but changes the world. For the perishable will one day put on the imperishable and the mortal will put on immortality. And this fallen creation will be made restored and made new in the resurrection.
This doesn’t mean that pastors will be spared from times of frustration or even that pastors will not leave the ministry. Christ’s resurrection is what gives purpose and hope to pastors in their labors. Christ’s triumph over sin and death is what provides pastors with the strength to persevere. The Holy Spirit’s work through the Word that the pastors proclaim gives them the assurance that even on their darkest days, God is still accomplishing what He intends within His Church and their labor is not in vain.
So what can you do for your pastor? More than cards in October, the greatest joy of pastoral ministry is when the saints of God hold God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it as Dr. Luther describes in his explanation to the Third Commandment. Luther also provides guidance for “What the Hearers Owe Their Pastors” in the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism. Lastly, pray for and encourage your pastor that God would grant him joy as he serves!
Prayer – Almighty God, heavenly Father, without Your help our labor is useless, and without Your light our search for greater knowledge and understanding is in vain. Guide and encourage those who serve as pastors among us that they might be preserved from the temptations of the evil one and find joy in their calling. Pour out Your Holy Spirit on all of us so that we may live together as Your holy people and treasure Your Word as it is preached among us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan