Regularly Revisiting the Slough of Despond

Most pastor’s will, like me, regularly revisit the slough of despond.  Maybe it’s on a UnknownMonday morning after a full day on Sunday.  Maybe it’s on Sunday evening as you run through what you should have said as well as what you really really wish you hadn’t said.  Maybe it’s just triggered by that strange feeling that somehow despite everything seeming good in manuscript form, despite the hours of labour and craft, the church didn’t connect and the sermon never took off.  You just felt like you spent 30 minutes taxiing to and fro on the run way.

Or maybe it’s a bit bigger than that.  Maybe it is the feeling that church is just not going anywhere.  You love your congregation, and so you’d feel guilty for even thinking this and you’d never voice it, but you’ve begun to look at other flocks of sheep.  The soil where you are feels stony, in fact you wonder if it’s permafrost.  There is little if any discernible change.  The gospel coin seems total jammed and no matter how much you bang it it just isn’t dislodging and doing its work.

You’ve tried working harder.  Doing more prep, more visits, more praying.  But still the permafrost won’t thaw.  And you know why, you know the church is full of suffering people, and it seems to have few leaders.  People serve but few disciple one another.  And to be honest you are tired.  The battery is drained and you can’t find thecharger, or if you do, even a full nights charge is only giving you 15% of battery.

And so you find yourself daydreaming about another flock on another hillside.  Or maybe even wondering about spending some time out of ministry.  Maybe you are just not cut out for this.  Mentally you begin writing your letter of resignation.

Many pastors in the UK will resonate with this, not all of it, but certainly some of it.  Pastoring is a hard job.  It is draining being the 4th emergency service, as a friend of mine refers to it.

I’m hoping to post some later reflections on how I endure those seasons when church feels like this.  But for now for those in ministry I just want you to know you are not alone.  Many of us feel at times like this.  For church members, I want you to know that sometimes your pastor feels like this.  What can you do to help him persevere?  Or even better not end up here?  I’ll hopefully post some thoughts on that later in the week too.

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