A Pastor’s Worst Day

Every once in a while I try to share some down-to-earth insight into the pastorate, or ministry in general. Granted, my perspective is limited, being I have only pastored smaller, bi-vocational churches; therefore, I can’t speak for all my brothers who lead larger congregations (200+).

However, some things are pretty consistent with those who regularly stand behind the pulpit (or beside a table, if that’s your thing). Many of the stresses are similar, as well as the spiritual battles we must fight. Whether the battlefield be small or large, our weaponry and armor are the same (Ephesians 6:10-18), and so is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Therefore, all things being equal as possible, I believe Sunday nights – not Saturday nights or Mondays – are the worst times of the week for a pastor. The following are two excellent reasons why I feel this way.

First, the pastor is his own worst critic, especially right after the sermon. After a long Sunday, he may find himself looking back and wondering things like… “Did I give it my best?” “Was I used by God?” “Did I preach in my own strength?” “Did I pray enough?” “Why did God call me?” or, “How much does a truck driver make?” 

Any pastor who cares about his preaching ministry will concern himself, to one degree or another, with the proper exposition and delivery of his sermon. But if he gets no “amen’s,” sees no conversions, rededications, or even a few approving nods, it’s not going to be long before the poor man will question his abilities, maybe even his calling. A lack of visible response can take the wind right out of a preacher’s sails.

Seriously, stop and think about it. If you were to build a small, wooden toy, you could hold it in your hands when finished, admire it, nod with approval, and say to yourself, “Good job! Well done!” Clean a dirty kitchen and how do you feel? A sense of satisfaction, correct? But when a pastor is done preaching, more often than not there is nothing tangible to show for it, especially if there is little feedback; the “well done” will have to wait till later.

So, since the “job” is never done, and much of the fruit of a man’s labor won’t be recognized until eternity, it’s easy to be critical of one’s self. Sunday nights are when we can be the most critical.

Secondly, a pastor expends a lot of mental and spiritual energy over the weekend, especially if he works another job during the week and preaches more than one sermon on Sunday. Believe it or not, some pastors (especially bi-vocational ones like myself) never – yes, I said “never” – get a day off. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you’re looking at a physically and spiritually drained individual, and Satan knows it.

Therefore, because our enemy is not stupid, he knows the best time to attack us, and that’s when we are tired and vulnerable. He is far less likely to defeat a man of God while he’s charging into battle or waging a righteous war against the forces of darkness; it’s when he’s coming down from a spiritual high, or when he’s depressed and down over a perceived failure behind the pulpit, that the preacher’s at risk. No, our Enemy is sneaky and stealthy; he lurks in the shadows, waiting for just the right moment when our guard is down and our frailties are exposed.

So why do I share this? Not for your sympathy or pity, that’s for sure. As the lyrics of a song go, “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room…It’s a fight and not a game,” so I am well aware of what I’ve gotten myself into (or, rather, what I’ve been called to do). The reason I share this is to encourage you to pray for your pastor…especially when the church services are over…when he’s tired…when the Enemy is most lethal.

Don’t wait until Sunday morning to pray for your pastor and his family.

Don’t wait until Saturday night to say a quick prayer that he’ll do “a good job” the next morning.

Start right now! Pray! Interceed for your spiritual leaders, for they watch for your souls and must give an account (Hebrews 13:17). Their challenges are unique, and the consequences of failure can be far-reaching and eternally catastrophic.

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25 

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9 Comments

Filed under Church, Depression, General Observations, ministry, Preaching

9 responses to “A Pastor’s Worst Day

  1. Excellent word Pastor , may God renew and strengthen you from the top of your head to the soles of your feet , thank you for being a vessel that God uses to spread the gospel and please do not be weary in your well doing for God knows you will do his will that’s why you have been chosen . Keep on blessing us …….

  2. You hit it on the head. It’s the conversation between my husband and I every Sunday on the rise home from church.☺ Well written too by the way.

  3. It is a battle that very few understand – that being said I have never had to battle cancer so I do not understand it but I can pray for those who are battling – I hope those not called into pastoral ministry will do the same, they will never fully understand the battle but they can pray for those of us who are battling – great reminder for those in the battle and those who benefit from the pastors who battle – PRAY

  4. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
    Anthony, I want to thank you for sharing so honestly some of your challenges as you continue to stand firm in your calling, and to share the joy of being part of the body of Christ. Your posts, filled with your inspiring words and your sense of humor have been a huge blessing to my days, and I imagine to many others, as well.
    Here’s my prayer for you and your family: Heavenly Father, thank you for Anthony’s willingness and desire to serve You and for his family’s support in his calling. Please continue to be his strength as he follows where You lead, in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

  5. Well said, Anthony. I did that bi-vocational gig for a short time and you are right on the money. I had to laugh about the truck driver comment – still have wondered that many times over the years regardless of my occupation. I think part of it for me was the idea of escaping for a few days from the stress. Yes, prayer is deeply needed, and especially the times you mentioned. Thanks for the good post!

  6. Sympathies Anthony, although you state that this is certainly not your intent in writing your post. I agree to a large extent with what you say. There is stress that I can’t imagine (and would not want) in being a pastor. Other ministries I believe feel the same way, whether these ministries are acknowledged or not. Such as prophet, evangelist, teacher, apostle, those believers with a particular spiritual gifting, etc.

    Part of the problem I think is the system of church that we have in North America. The pastor is ‘bound and gagged’ oftentimes when he preaches in order to maintain peace, his ministry, and his livelihood. He/she is trying to walk a fine line and on eggshells. This is abuse plain and simple. But it goes the other way too. Pastors can dish out abuse.
    I hear on websites that there are concerns over what is going on with churches. Times of difficulty are here. Some websites are saying that we are in a period of rebellion against God in our churches. We want religion, but we want it our way.
    The important thing is that we do God’s will as best that we understand it to be and be open to what God might be trying to teach us or lead us into. We can only hope that this will be enough at the time of Christ and return of Jesus.

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