The Joys and Struggles of a Pastor

By Dennis Turner, Director of Leadership Development

If you were at District Conference, I want to remind you of the pledge you made before me: “I will…always remember… that Dennis Turner… was a pastor… for 25 years.”

Please don’t relegate me too quickly to being the District guy but instead remember that I sat where many of you sit. I loved being a pastor! I loved every aspect of pastoring but three years ago I narrowed my focus. I did less in the areas of pastoral counseling and direct shepherding, and more of building a church of ministers and creating a culture of worship, body life, and outward mission.

The JOYS of Pastoring

Despite narrowing my ministry focus, PEOPLE are by far the joy of pastoring. “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).

As church planter turned established church pastor, I was privileged to learn and grow for twenty years in a local family of God. Previously, I had been a youth pastor for five years then became a youth pastor for adults! (That’s kind of how I describe church planting.) Literally, I grew up as a pastor through the highs and lows, the good times and the hard times, the grave mistakes and the grace of God all within one household of faith.

These people saw me develop and encouraged me to do so. They watched me become a dad of two daughters and a better husband. For many of them, I was the first pastor they ever knew; for many others, I was the young buck who needed to mature. And I was a part of their lives too: the marrying and burying, house fires and job losses, the pain of divorce and childlessness, as well as celebrating anniversaries and high school graduations… really, all of what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

The STRUGGLES of Pastoring

But, as we all know, pastoring would be easy if it weren’t for the people, right? That’s cute, but you know, ultimately it’s not true. As I reflect on pastoring for a quarter of a century, I realize that PEOPLE are NOT the struggle, but the joy of ministry and also God’s impetus for maturing us. The real struggles of pastoring for me are related to maintenance and management… to running the machine, or as one district pastor recently described, “feeding the monster” of ministry. I don’t think I’m alone in this. I hear so many of you, my friends and colleagues, struggling with the same things. We say things like: “I’m so tired.” “I’ve lost the passion and joy of my calling.” “I didn’t sign up for this.” Pastors end up blaming their churches and churches end up blaming their pastors! Sisters and brothers, this vicious cycle ought not be!

RESTORING the Joy of Our Calling

As a fellow pastor and District guy, I want to come alongside you, not just as licensed workers but as God’s church… HIS Kingdom agents in the world. When I interviewed for this position, the Lord impressed on me the twofold ministry to encourage and equip. This is part of fulfilling my calling. Please pray for and with me. Let us purpose together to pursue new wine and new wineskins (Luke 5:37-39). I’ll simply leave you with a few questions to stir the potential of the new things God might want to do for you and we’ll talk later.

  • Are the questions you are trying to answer as a church really the questions God is asking?

  • What is the root of a particular problem you are facing? (Become a 4 year old and keep asking the question “Why?” You might find that the presenting problem is not truly the pressing issue.)

  • What part are you in your local body? Are you truly serving in your function or are you trying to do others’ jobs / live up to others’ expectations?