The Only Way to Cure Pastoral Depression and Pride

When I began as a pastor I was fully convinced I could fix the church that was interested in hiring me and I was convinced I could fix all the people in it.

If I had left the church after five years like most pastors do, I could have felt satisfied that I had done my job of fixing. Unfortunately, I stayed for over 20 years.

All those years showed me clearly I was pathetic at fixing churches and people.

My Grandfather was a pastor and he fixed the fourth church he went to. The first three didn’t get mentioned much. But the fourth one, like Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the fourth one stood.

He did so well fixing the church and people that he went on the road and fixed people all over America and even Canada. He flitted from town to town fixing people. He was convinced fixing people was easy and he was the man for the job.

After flitting about the country for years, he settled in to pastor one more church. He continued to claim an amazing ability to fix people. I met many of the people he fixed. Boy howdy, were they not fixed people.

My dad was also a pastor. He tried fixing three churches and had limited success. He fixed a couple people along the way too. But for the most part the churches and the people left him depressed. Especially since his father-in-law fixed people all over the country and routinely shamed my dad for his lack of fixing abilities.

My grandpa fixed people and he became a massive egotistical jerk. My dad didn’t fix people and became ashamed and depressed.

I followed in the steps of my father, except I had even less success in fixing.

My 20+ years demonstrate that I cannot fix people or churches. I write today a humiliated person. My confident knees have been knocked out from under me. I have no personal confidence with which to stand upon.

I have not been a pastor now for eight months. I’ve had plenty of time to think. Separation from the church and the people I couldn’t fix has allowed me to examine things as a spectator.

I’ve thought a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that fixing people is not the calling of a pastor.

If the pastor’s job is to fix people you will have one of two results:

1) You will fix people. This will feed your ego and you’ll become proud, above everyone, a spiritual, white bearded guru on a mountain top handing out advice from on high. You won’t weep with those who weep or rejoice with those who rejoice. You’ll just be a jerk above them all no matter their weeping or rejoicing.

2) You won’t fix people. You will examine everyone for fruit and any sign of non-growth will suck the life out of you. When the stupid people are too stupid to listen, their failure is a reflection on you. How dare they despoil your image! You’ll be depressed, but just as arrogant as the fixer; it will just show itself in pity, bitterness, and anger.

Look at how many pastors have fixed their churches, made it grow to multitudes of success. They write books and travel conference circuits, only to be fired for being a bully or for taking advantage of people.

On the flip side, pastors who couldn’t make their churches grow and could never heal the broken part of the Body are depressed. Suicide ranks high among pastors.

Trying to fix people and churches is a recipe for disaster.

Nowhere in the Pastoral Epistles or anywhere else in the Bible are we told to fix people.

The pastor’s job is to grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people. God gives the increase.

This is hard to do. Easy to say. Easy to nod your head at this advice.

But try it. Try loving people, and growing, and preaching the Word. People will still be people and you’ll be tempted to count victories and grovel in defeats.

The only way you can pastor without fixating on fixing people is to view yourself before the Lord–Doing the right thing before Him regardless of temporal results.

The only way you can have that view is if you have an eternal perspective and have laid hold of eternal life.

The only way you can do that is by seeing that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I’m identified with Christ, thus already dead to this world and alive unto God.

Pastors, know the Gospel. Identify with Christ. Reckon yourself to be dead indeed, no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you.

Earthly measures fire up the ego into either pride or pity. Ignore the world. You’re crucified unto the world and the world is crucified to you. Let it go. Set your affections on things above. Stop counting victories and defeats.

So easy to say; so hard to do, but it is the answer.

You were not called to fix people or churches. You were called to represent Christ as a minister of reconciliation. Grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people and don’t worry about earthly measures.

You will stand before the Lord who will test with fire all you’ve built on the foundation. Earthly praise, recognition, and growing numbers do not impress God. Faithfulness to Him is what we’re here for.

Do that.

9 thoughts on “The Only Way to Cure Pastoral Depression and Pride

  1. Thanks for that honesty. I agree we are to preach the word and love the people. Unfortunately that is not a “resume builder.” I have been in small, struggling churches all of my 34 year ministry, and even got “fired” once. As a type B introvert who prays and reads Scripture alot, I have at times looked a far with a little envy toward the latest church growth pastors who are, “Transformational leaders, Game changers, Vitality agents etc.” If I tried to be that way, it would be selling my soul for my understanding of pastoral calling. If others have that calling, God bless them. I am not. I tend to be a “theology of the cross” Christian. And yes there is Resurrection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear ya. I’m no extroverted salesman type myself. They have their part, but it aint my part and comparing myself with them and them comparing themselves with me has never been a helpful endeavor.

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  2. This is good advice not just for pastors but for any Christian who is trying to serve God. I have spent a lot of time on discussion forums and for almost ten years I have had a blog. I have seen little evidence that anything I was doing has helped anyone but in the last few months I have come to realize that God has never promised that we will see the results of our work. I am learning to simply obey God and not worry about the results.

    You need to also remember that in those churches where you failed to fix anything you may have had a positive impact on the lives of some of the people you have had contact with. We won’t really know how much we have accomplished until we stand at the judgment seat of Christ and God tests our work.

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  3. Never been good at promoting myself. I’m more of a faithful teacher than a people magnet. My resume of pastoring churches is not impressive. Just resigned from a call. Seeking the Lord as to what’s next. Thank you for your forthrightness.

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  4. To me, attachment to Christ is it. He is the fixer of us his disciples. He is the light burning in us. ‘The Holy Ghost is come upon you.’

    The one goal I have (overriding my carnal hopes), is identity with Christ. ‘Come unto me.. go and make disciples.’

    Like

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