By Charles StoneI’ve served in the local church as a pastor for over 32 years, yet for the past year, I’ve not served in an official pastoral role. After seven and a half wonderful years at a church in Aurora, IL, I left to accomplish several goals that I couldn’t have if I were on staff at a church.
Because my passion lies in the local church, however, I believe I will soon pastor another church as I’m now in conversations with those showing interest.
Yet, this past year has proved invaluable in teaching me insight about what it’s like not being a pastor.
Here’s what I’ve learned.
As you read, ask yourself if any of these are true of you.
1. I allowed my identity to get too wrapped up in being a pastor.As a pastor, I told myself to guard against this. But not being one has allowed me to truly see it from the “other side of the aisle,” and see how easy it is to replace my identity in Christ with my identity as a pastor.
2. I found that I liked being noticed by others as a pastor.In my new church where we’ve joined, although I’ve preached a couple of times, when church people meet me they just see a regular person, not a pastor. However, when I was a pastor, people instantly recognized me.
It’s tempting to enjoy recognition too much. I hope when I begin serving again as a senior pastor, I won’t forget this lesson.
3. It’s easy for the average church member to skip church on a Sunday.On Sundays when I’m not speaking or have no responsibilities, the temptation to just sleep in, go out for breakfast and take the day off looms large. I now understand how the average person who has worked hard six days of the week would simply choose to stay home and rest.
4. Churches must plan and deliver a compelling, Spirit-filled worship service and sermon each Sunday.I’ve known this intellectually, but now since I’m on the receiving end, I see even more its importance. If someone takes three hours out of their day of rest to attend church, they better feel that it was worth their time.
5. Familiarity blindness has afflicted many church leaders.Familiarity blindness is when we become impervious to stuff we do in the church that can hinder someone’s walk with Christ or hinder a visitor’s receptivity to the Gospel.
For example, you may know how to get around the church facility, but with poor signage, a new person may get lost. That small issue to us may cause that person to not return.
6. It’s tough finding community in a new church.In every church we’ve led, we’ve encouraged the regular folks to reach out to new people. It’s often like pulling eye teeth, though.
In every church we’ve attended, the familiar folks almost always talk to those they already know. However, when someone who doesn’t know me makes an extra effort to make me feel comfortable and help me meet others, it leaves a great impression.
Also, if you don’t have an easy system where new people can join a group or class, you’re turning people away without even knowing it.
7. I realize how stressful Sundays had been.Even when I’m preaching at another church, I don’t feel the stress that I felt when I was a lead pastor. An undeniable weight of responsibility falls on a senior pastor.
I hope that when I become a senior pastor again, I will do a lot more of this: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.”
8. It’s easy to subtly expect others to treat you differently as a “man of the cloth.”Sometimes, a little silent voice speaks up in my mind when someone treats me rudely. That voice says, “Don’t you know that I’m a pastor and that you should treat me like one.”
Although we must respect everyone, I shouldn’t expect to be treated differently just because I’m a pastor.