The Brutality of Ministry: Service, Standards and Shortcomings

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of a pastor, minister, vicar, priest, (whatever) in the church, and the sheer weight of responsibility that’s contained within that role. It seems like I’ve not been the only one as there has been quite a lot of talk about the role of pastor in ministry and how those who lead a church (whatever they may be called) are to practice their role. I guess that I’ve been picking up these sort of discussions and blog posts more now that I know that God wants me to be a vicar. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about vocation, and along side that, God has been reminding me about the vocation that I will be entering into. It’s a tough job! Though people aren’t always aware of how tough being in a church leadership role is. And they often get surprised when Church leaders fail or quit or give up or get run down by the sheer weight of ministry, that they don’t think is really there.

Let us look at what the Bible says about those who are in leadership capacity within the church:

1 Timothy 3

Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons

1 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

And that’s just the start. In James 3:1 it says ” 1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” Acts 20:28 also talks about how Pastors are to watch over the flock because of the price that Christ has paid in order for them to be right with God.

Can you now start to see why Church Leaders have such an incredibly hard job to do? They have to be above reproach in everything. And they will be held accountable by Christ himself over how they conduct and lead the church. The role of a church leader is a massive deal to God. And it should be to us as well.

So, that’s the job description, if you like, of a church leader; more specifically, pastors/ministers/vicars blah blah blah…

Now, the Church seems to think that pastors can do this on their own and that they don’t need support. WRONG. In fact, the Body of Christ has also been given a set of instructions on how to relate to their pastor or whatever name you would like to call your church leader….

  1. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17
  2. We must appreciate leaders and listen to the instruction that they give 1 Thessalonians 5:12
  3. The church must be in subjection to those leaders who are Godly 1 Corinthians 16:15-16
  4. We are told to pray for those in leadership (1 Timothy 2:1-4) and that includes church leaders.

So we’ve had the job description for a church leader, and now the responsibility of the church in relation to the church leader.

Now a few other things:

One reason why I’ve decided to write this post is because a friend of mine’s dad has been appointed the new Bishop of Winchester. Tim Dakin. I don’t know Tim personally, but from what I’ve heard, read and seen, he is a wonderful man of God, completely after God’s own heart. In fact, he is a prime example of the criteria mentioned above. Yet some people on the blogosphere think it right to criticise the appointment and label Tim as a Conservative Evangelical and a Fundamentalist. Are those people living up to what Christ expects of the Church when it comes to supporting Godly leaders? I’ll let you decide, but if you really need help then I can straightforwardly give you the answer.  The Bible doesn’t mention names such as Conservative Evangelical and Fundamentalist. It is only concerned with the characteristics of the person who has been appointed as a church leader, namely;

  • Does the person love Christ and understand the gospel?
  • Does the person have a passion for the Church and for the lost?
  • Does the person possess the qualities mentioned in the Bible passages aforementioned?
  • Does the person lead in a way which is in line with scripture?

If the answer is yes to those questions, then the church has the obligation to support, continually pray for and encourage that leader, no matter what label they come under.

Right, so that is done with.

Now for the next thing; some leaders do fall. In fact, all leaders stumble. But some go too far to carry on being a leader. We don’t expect church leaders to just be nice, have the right teaching, and good at communicating. There’s an expectation that church leaders will take care of us, watch over our souls, counsel us, solve the problems we’re too cowardly to handle, and give us vision and direction.

Focus for the Family (Canada) did an article a while back about Clergy who get into affairs. And they noted the reasons why this could start to happen.

Vulnerability often occurs when a person is:
– under a lot of stress
– grieving major loss
– feeling insecure and looking for affirmation
– feeling rejected and looking for validation
– going through a burnout
– experiencing boredom and looking for fun and excitement
– not aware of his/her personal weaknesses, e.g., boundary issues with persons of the opposite sex, such as, often wants to save or rescue someone.

Of course, in this particular article they were talking about affairs. But the same could be said of any severe moral failure. It’s all to do with the fact that church leaders are vulnerable and they need looking after. They need support.

And that is why we need to understand the brutality of ministry. At our church, we have a monthly gathering called “Hungry” which is for church leaders to be encouraged, refuelled and ministered to, because we realise how weighty ministry is. One person said to my vicar “You know, ministry is brutal”, and that’s why my blog post for today is titled “The Brutality of Ministry”.

Church, we need to realise the brutality of ministry. Church leaders are called to be near enough spotless. I know this is impossible, but it is their job to model Christ and to watch over His flock. It is the Church’s job to minister back to church leaders in being supportive, encouraging and prayerful.

It’s only by Christ’s help that men and women can be the church leaders he has called them to be, but church leaders are relational people. And it is us who they relate to. It is up to us to relate back in a way which glorifies Christ and builds up his kingdom.

So, they’re my thoughts that I’ve been pondering over the last week, and shall continue to ponder over as I go through my vocational journey to be a vicar. I hope this has caused you to ponder and to reconsider your responsibility to your pastor/minister/vicar whatever. Because the things which God has laid on my heart recently has really caused me to think over what I’m getting into, and also to really keep check of myself that I am fulfilling the criteria and also supporting those who pastor me.

What are your thoughts?

Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @