Tips for Surviving Ministry
- Thursday, October 03, 2013
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get rid of your messiah complex.
Behind the orange couch in our living room was as good a place as any to have a nervous break down. I called up our head counselor and said, “It’s Saturday night and I am hiding behind the couch crying. This is not normal, is it?”
“No,” he replied. “I’ve seen this coming for a long time and I’ve already made arrangements for you to talk to a Christian counselor. He’s waiting for your call.”
As we sat for our third session Jerry said, “Today we are going to talk about your messiah complex.”
“Messiah complex! I don’t have a messiah complex!”
“Don’t be so surprised. Most young ministers have one.”
A messiah complex, for our purposes, has to do with a pastor’s misunderstanding of their dreams. They dream of a large successful ministry having accomplished great work for God. The extreme might reveal it self in thoughts like these: “God has called me to win this city for Christ!”
A messiah complex may cause pastors to consider their call from Jesus so important that they are willing to sacrifice their spouses’ and children and health for the sake of the “call.”
I discovered lurking within me was an enormous messiah complex. I used to imagine when I entered Heaven God would say something like this: “Oh Roger. I am so glad you are finally here! You did things that even Moses never did!”
Was my complex pathetic, or what? I’ve worked to eliminate it from my life for over 35 years. Between you and me, I must be careful in saying this, but I think it is finally gone.
By the way, about the age of 40-45 most pastors begin to see that their dreams just aren’t going to come true. How they handle this moment makes all the all the difference in the world.
Jesus knew the importance of boundaries: “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:15). The exhausted Jesus—tired from teaching, preaching and healing all day often withdrew to refresh, regroup and pray.
The rock musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, includes a scene where the sick and dying are pushing and crowding around Jesus screaming, “Heal me” on and on and on. Then suddenly Jesus screamed back, “Leave me alone! Heal yourselves!” Immediately I thought, “Jesus never said that!” Then, I thought, but I wonder how often He felt like that?”
Bill Hybels talks often about the four gauges we must monitor: Emotional—Physical—Mental—Spiritual. When the “Check Engine” light brightens up the dash board, we don’t pull out a hammer and knock out the light. We find out what is wrong and fix it. Enough said.
Get your expectations in line with reality.
Early in my ministry I was going to win the world to Jesus…. When that wasn’t happening I changed my focus to winning Tucson for Jesus. Soon, I saw that I couldn’t even win my street for Jesus.
We all have expectations that we intend to live up to. Like, “Today, I am going to visit patients in three different hospitals, spend four hours in sermon prep, have two counseling sessions and make fifteen calls to church members. The truth is, that will never happen—not enough time in the day.
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