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  • Writer's pictureDr. Marty Jacumin, Phd

The Disillusioned Shepherd

I can't let the Disillusioned Series end without looking at how disillusionment can affect the pastor/elder. After serving as a pastor for well over 20 years, not only have I seen this in others, I’ve experienced it myself. You may be thinking that a pastor has to be above disillusionment in their lives and ministry, but they are not. I would be more surprised to hear a Pastor say they’ve never experienced this in the life of their ministry.

What causes a Pastor to be disillusioned?

In my experience, there are three primary ways that disillusionment can affect a pastor. The first, and I believe the most prevalent, is the temptation to compare one’s ministry with another pastor’s ministry or the church they lead. When our first 2 children were young, we went through a Bible lesson with them called, “It’s not fair to compare.” We were reminding our kids that comparing what we have to someone else is not a positive or God honoring way to live. As Pastors, we can forget this valuable truth.

Comparison has become especially complicated in a social media driven world where we only post about our victories and never our struggles. I pastored in a city with several larger churches and I would see the huge crowds that gathered or the hundreds of baptisms taking place at another church and it would make me question the call God had placed on my life. Part of me would be celebrating what God was doing while part of me was questioning what God was doing in my life and through the ministry He had given me. We can miss the changed lives that are happening in our own congregations, because we’re distracted by what’s happening at another church. I firmly believe this is a tool Satan uses to rob us of the joy we should possess as ministers of the gospel.

Another cause of disillusionment for a pastor, like anyone else, are expectations that go unmet. When God is in the process of calling a young man into Pastoral Ministry, most understand that ministry is not always going to be easy, but there is often the expectation that a majority of the church body will love Christ with all their heart and will join in the task of proclaiming the gospel, not concerned about unimportant things, but focused on ministry efforts. Once in the role of a senior or lead Pastor, that expectation can cause disillusionment when we are faced with continual problems and distractions within the flock that occupy the time we thought would be focused on ministry efforts. These problems can arise from discontentment about anything from music and programs to church traditions and furniture placement - and these issues can take up a lot of time, as well as mental and emotional energy. When we fail to accept that these types of obstacles are an ongoing part of pastoring a church full of imperfect people, we can begin to believe satan’s lie that we will never get beyond them and we can quickly become disillusioned.

The final cause of Pastoral disillusionment is similar to unmet expectations, but I will call them unrealistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations can include a broad spectrum of things. We can place unrealistic expectations on ourself, thinking that if we work hard, pray and trust in the Lord, our church will grow and experience revival. That’s not always the case. We may never see and we definitely won’t fully understand what God is doing in the lives of our people and through the trajectory of our ministry until we are in heaven for eternity.

As pastors, we can also place unrealistic expectations on our family. We’ve heard that a Pastors family lives in a fishbowl and that’s a very true statement. Often times we don’t want our children to mess up any part of their lives because we are afraid it will reflect badly on us and how people view our ministry or qualifications for ministry. We must understand there will be problems within our families, that’s a natural part of life as imperfect human beings, but when they occur, we can fail to recognize that being real doesn’t have to carry negative connotations. Sure there will always be the self righteous few that want to pass judgement, but God can use how we walk through difficulty, problems and personal crisis as a way to teach others how to trust in God when bad things happen in their lives. Our personal testimony of how God worked in our own imperfect lives for His glory can be some of the greatest sermons we ever preach.

In closing, I’d like to give you three important things we can all do when we find ourself disillusioned about our role as the shepherd.

First, remember. Remember the calling God has placed on your life and remember the excitement that was there when you were dreaming about how God would use you in the lives of others as a pastor. Take your eyes off all the problems and place them on Jesus. Remember how your Savior called you to be a shepherd for His people.

Next, repent. I use the word repent because all three of the reasons given for disillusionment in a Pastor’s life can be the result of pride. That pride is sin and when we recognize sin in our lives, we must repent and turn from it. As each of us examine the reasons for feeling disillusioned with the ministry we know God has called us to, search for any evidence of (ungodly) pride in your life and repent.

The last word would be refocus. Refocus your life and ministry on Jesus. See him as the only one you need to please, in life and ministry. Focus on the calling He has placed on your life and focus on those He has called you to shepherd. Cut out and cast off all the distractions of this world and keep your eyes focused on Christ.

I know that most people who read this will not be Pastors. I want to challenge you to think about the obstacles your Pastor faces in today’s world and then intensify your prayers for him and his family. Satan will always try to destroy the ministries of our Shepherd’s by attacking them and their families. Pray that God would protect and encourage them in these tumultuous times. Remind your Pastor that you are praying for him and his family, and seek to encourage him every chance you can.

But as for you, exercise self-control in everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5


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