“Their church is doing great. They just built a second building.”
–What people base church success on and why so many pastors feel like failures.
One of the main sources of pastoral depression, and all other forms of depression, is comparison.
“Comparison steals contentment” is the old quote you hear in various forms. There is truth there.
Most comparison is based on what you see. Being the pastor of a small church with a pathetic building situation is depressing on many levels.
People in your church will frequently demand the impossible from the group and make fun of its small size. It develops a complex as everyone feels a little foolish in our little group. People visit the church and then never come back, making the whole group feel rejected, embarrassed, and a tad defensive.
People from other churches constantly tell you how great their church is. How many got saved. How many attend. How much their new building project costs. The new exciting programs your church could never afford that they started and won their whole city to Christ.
Pastors are constantly given advice from “more successful” pastors (and there will always be a more successful pastor) about how to do things and “here’s your problem.” If we could all just be as cool as those cool guys in their cool churches.
Pastors read church advice, all of which makes us feel even more dumb. Not only does my church not do anything remotely as cool, there’s not even a chance in all the world we would be able to pull off the cool ideas we’re all supposed to implement.
In the end, none of these things has anything to do with church success. The fact that a church has more people and more building doesn’t mean it has more spiritual stuff going on.
But this is how humans gauge performance. How do we rank? The only way to know is to measure. So we make measurable statistics the barometer of success.
God is the judge. It’s important to remember that God is the judge. He judges righteous judgment. He judges the heart; not externals. Absolutely vital to remember this.
No matter how big or small your church is, how many buildings you have, or anything else, God is the judge and He doesn’t base His judgment on what we base our judgments on.
If you cease comparing yourself to everyone else, your contentment level will rise. This is hard to do as we are surrounded by physical things and measures and people letting you know how much you don’t measure up. It’s constant.
That’s why pastors better spend a huge amount of time in the Word and in prayer. If you don’t, you’ll get sucked into the rat race of church success and more than likely fail and be depressed.
Just lose the race. Decide to lose the race. Be a failure. Be content to know how God wants His church run and then go do that to the best of your ability. You will give an account before God. Live like it.
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
–2 Corinthians 4:18