Charles Spurgeon, the prince of preachers, lived to be 57. During the last years of his life, he preached to ten thousand people a week. He wrote volumes that have been a great help and blessing to pastors and laymen alike. Considering the schedule that he set for himself, no wonder he died at 57. He literally spent himself for God’s work.

 

He recorded much of his ministry philosophy in his book, Lectures to My Students. One of the chapters is entitled “The Minister’s Fainting Fits.” I have never heard another pastor be so open about his struggles. The problem he addressed is what we call “depression” today. Throughout much of his life, Spurgeon battled with depression.

 

Most pastors do not let people know what really goes on in their own hearts. Pastors do struggle, but they often are reluctant to reveal their struggles. Some pastors feel that if they are open and transparent, people will misunderstand or think that they are weak. In a perfect world, every preacher would handle the difficulties and peculiar pressures of being a preacher in the right way. In reality, though, not all do. Some fail to cope and eventually burn out.

 

Burnout reveals itself in several ways. In coping with the stress of pastoring, some preachers have become reclusive and withdrawn. As soon as they are finished with their pulpit ministry, they leave and are not seen again until the next time to preach. They stay to themselves rather than associate with people as they should.

 

Some burned-out pastors leave the ministry and never look back.  Having spent years preparing for ministry, the average seminary graduate spends just ten years in the ministry. After ten years, he is never in the ministry again.

 

How does a pastor deal with the stress without cracking up, giving up, or burning out? While there is nothing that can remove all the stress from your life as a pastor, there are some ways you can lessen the wear and tear and better cope with the calling.

 

1. Guard, cherish, and cultivate your personal relationship with God. Because of the solitary nature of the pastoral office, God must be our refuge. David, during a time of great stress, encouraged himself in the Lord his God. The refuge of God’s presence, the security of God’s person, and the grace of God’s call all provide a hiding place in the midst of the storms of life. Study for ministry cannot take the place of simply abiding in His presence. Private prayer, devotional reading, and meditation on the Scriptures provide a cooling rain in the heat of the battle.

 

2. Keep short accounts with God and with men. Unconfessed sin, unsettled conflicts, and undone jobs add immeasurable weight to an already heavy burden. Many pastors detest confrontation. They prefer to ignore problems and hope that they will go away. When problems persist, non-confrontational pastors pack the U-Haul and move on. Solving your own problems biblically and then teaching others to do so as well should be a focus of every pastor’s ministry.

 

Part of the moral authority to lead comes from modeling biblical problem solving before a sometimes skeptical congregation. The alternative is stress, guilt, and the realization that there are conflicts left unsettled between you and the God you want to serve.