GUEST POST ~ Scot McKnight


Churches, through its pastors and leaders and volunteers, can form into a culture of success. Such a culture then forms the pastors, leaders, and churches to fit into that culture. That is, the various measures of victories, winning, achievements, progresses and advances – getting caught up in these measures creates a culture of success.


Photo by Mark Neal on Unsplash

Pastors can get snagged in the pull of success, prosperity and fame. That pull is formed by comparison with other pastors and churches, comparisons give birth to competition, and competition gives birth to expectations, and unmet expectations – they are inevitable and eventual – give birth to frustrations, and frustrations to denigration of other pastors, churches, and fellow workers, and denigrations turn into personal and church depressions, and together these are the treadmill to  disillusionment.

When a pastor with such ambitions gets snagged he or she discovers the thrills of glory and acclamation, but such glories are themselves a never-stopping and rarely slowing-down treadmill. Losses, declines in giving and attendance spur the pastor to work harder and to “get back to where we once were.” That past is past; the present doesn’t return to the past. Yet another treadmill of going forward while looking back.

What to do?

I’ve talked to enough pastors in the last two decades to put forward a kind of “Wisdom of jumping off the treadmill of success.” Pastors, especially during Covid, have been run ragged. As they come out of this long winter of discontents, may they find the tranquility of what they were called to be and do.

Three commitments transformed the pastors I’ve talked with, and in most cases such pastors have had to sit down with the elders, deacons, co-ministers, boards — whatever — for a talk about stepping back to core commitments. Mind you, some of them have been hard conversations. All of them have yielded wiser pastoring.


Instead of the ambitions of success, wise pastors commit their days, their homes, their work, their gifts, their pastoring, their preaching, their teaching, and their walk with the Lord toward being faithful to God, faithful to Jesus, faithful in the Spirit, faithful to the Scriptures, faithful to the great traditions of the church, faithful to their own calling to pastor people (not run the world), and faithful to themselves. And, yes, faithful to their spouses and children and family.

Pastoral Care

Instead of the ambitions of “bigger is better” and “more is magnificent” wise pastors commit their lives to pastor – catch this fave of mine – who they’ve got not those they’ve not got. In other words, they care for those in their care – parishioners and co-ministers and staff and family – instead of striving for more people and more givers and more filled pews/chairs and more buildings and more of this and that and here and there. Such persons care for those they know instead of looking through them to the newest visitor and the next big giver.

Personal giftedness

Instead of the ambitions of being everything to everyone, which can mean preacher, teacher, leader, entrepreneur, visionary, manager, chaplain, overseer, community worker, networker, conference attender, book reader, DMin-er, PhD-er, author, conference speaker, Zoom yacker, blogger, Substack-er, columnist – and, oh yes, husband/wife and mother/father, brother, sister, daughter/son, neighbor, friend, fellow pastor…. let’s start this sentence again: Instead of the pull of being everything for everyone, the wise pastor commits her or his life around what she or he is called to do, gifted to do. Yes, working on weak areas, but only because those areas are areas in need of shoring up for the calling. Wise pastors know their limitations and renounce the temptation of “no limitations.” They know their time constraints, their body, their psyche, their family’s capacities and health. They know their gifts enough to empower others to do their calling, to do what that pastor can’t do well, and to be given credit for their contributions to the Body of Christ.

Someone needs to hear this today. Hear what the Spirit is saying to you.

Thank you for hearing me out.

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