The pastoral ministry is filled with the exhilaration of glorious mountain top experiences as well as discouraging valleys that seem too low from which to ever crawl out. The pastoral ministry is both rewarding and leaves one scratching their heads why they ever entered the ministry. The pastoral ministry is more than a profession, but a calling. I was once asked by a pulpit committee if I was a God called preacher. My response was, “Yes I am, for no one in their right mind would do this if they weren’t called.”
Pastors must develop fresh sermons every week, deal with sickness, surgeries and death among the members, listen to the personal problems of others, try to answer critics of why something was done a certain way, serve as a referee between squabbling parties, smooth ruffled feathers over trivial issues, try to keep a fresh vision before a congregation that often doesn’t want to latch on to the vision, is on call twenty-four hours a day, expected to keep confidences when they themselves often have no confidant, and the list goes on. One can see why it is easy for pastors to grow weary, discouraged and lose their passion.
A pastor is not superhuman as some might imagine. In the demanding age in which we live it is becoming all too common for a pastor’s passion to wane. Many great “pastors” have lost the fire in their embers. Moses got so agitated at the Israelites he wanted to throw in the towel. Jonah got irritated and went off into the corner and pouted. Elijah got discouraged and went off into the wilderness and asked God to take his life. Jerimiah got so provoked he turned in his resignation. The Disciples briefly went back to the fishing industry. So ministers losing their passion is not a twenty-first century phenomenon.
The question is what does a pastor do when his passion needle is heading toward empty or seems to have vanished altogether? How can passion in the ministry be restored?
First, the pastor must remember who called him into the ministry and that the One who called him is still on the throne. The one who has been called into the ministry is following in the steps of the Greatest Shepherd of all. Ministry is a holy and divine calling. And He who calls men into the journey of pastoral ministry has not vacated the throne. The author of Hebrews reminds that when one becomes weary and discouraged, consider Christ who endured untold hostility yet He remained faithful in His calling (Hebrews 12:3). One called into the ministry is not greater than his Master, so hostility and weariness will result… but the One who issued the call still sits on the throne serving as the example and imparting His strength to continue in the task at hand.
Second, the pastor must remember who dwells within. Paul stated that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells within each believer (Romans 8:11), and that being so every pastor needs to realize they face no issue or problem in their own strength but have dwelling within a supernatural power from above (Holy Spirit). When one realizes that the power of the Lord of Glory indwells, it should not only bring humility but it should lite a passion in the heart to think that the Lord who spoke the universe into existence is willing to infuse us with Himself.
Third, when passion seems to be ebbing low the pastor must “offer the sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:5). This is essential. It is easy to praise the Lord when all is going well. However, we must praise the Lord when it is not easy, when it is a sacrifice. Something unique happens when a pastor in personal worship, begins to praise God when the winds of life seem to be blowing contrary. Instead of concentrating on external issues and how one “feels,” give thanks in personal worship for God’s sovereignty, for God’s gift of His Son, for the salvation you have experienced, the call that has been placed upon your life, for His indwelling Holy Spirit, for the hope of heaven, etc. When the focus is removed from self and focused praise offered to the omnipotent God, there is a transformation that takes place in the soul that is supernatural. When one offers the “sacrifice of praise,” one embraces the truth that God is still good and can be trusted in spite of the storms. In habitual praise He is honored, and our faith grows deeper and passion restored.
Fourth, the pastor must recognize loss of passion is a spiritual battle. The devil wants the pastor to become discouraged and throw in the towel. The devil wants the pastor to magnify problems and interpret God in the light of the circumstances instead of interpreting the circumstances in the light of who God is. That is why the pastor must read the Bible for personal, spiritual nourishment and not just for a sermon. That is why the pastor must pray for his own spiritual growth not just the growth of his church. If the pastor is not growing spiritually, he can’t expect the members to be growing. There is no way to stand against the Evil One if we are not filled with the Word and we are not drawing upon His divine strength through prayer.
Fifth, the pastor must get proper rest and exercise. No matter how superhuman a man is, if he doesn’t get proper rest and exercise, he will find himself eventually going through the motions in his “ministerial” duties on a tank that is empty. It is called burn out. The Bible says one’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and when it is not properly looked after it will deteriorate. When Elijah became discouraged the Lord told him to do something very “spiritual” …. eat a nutritious meal and get some rest (1 Kings 19:5-18)! The pastor needs to at least three to four times a week do something considered physical exercise which will clear the mind and get the temple in better shape to do God’s work.
Sixth, the pastor must refuse the temptation to go it alone, to become a lone ranger, to withdraw from fellowship with fellow pastors. A pastor should never become so busy he doesn’t have time to intermingle with other pastors. Every pastor should have one or two ministers he can laugh with, cry with, pray with, and share his deepest secrets. No pastor is Atlas, who can bear the weight of the world upon his shoulders. A pastor needs some trusted friends who can help make the weight on the shoulders a whole lot lighter and help reignite the embers in the soul.
Do you need a restored passion in the ministry? Every pastor needs the kind of passion found in the words of Charles Spurgeon: “I no more believe it possible to stop ministers, than to stop the stars of heaven. I think it no more possible to make a man cease from preaching, if he is really called, than to stop some mighty cataract, by seeking, with an infant’s cup, to drink its waters. The man who has been moved of heaven, who shall stop him? He has been touched of God, who shall impede him? With an eagle’s wing he must fly; who shall chain him to the earth? With seraph’s voice he must speak, who shall stop his lips? Is not his word like a fire within me? Must I not speak if God has placed it there? And when a man does speak as the Spirit gives him utterance, he will feel a holy joy akin to heaven; and when it is over he wishes to be at his work again, and longs to be once more preaching. I think if God has called a man, he will impel him to be more or less constantly at it, and he will feel that he must proclaim among the nations the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
Lord Jesus let it be so that a fire burns in our souls, a passion that is contagious, a passion that is greater than any earthly cause, a passion that forever exalts the atoning cross of Christ.