See what's coming soon! Coming in October »

Jump directly to the content
magcover

Already a subscriber?

Home > 2014 > January > Healthy Pastor, Healthy Church
Article Preview. Log in or subscribe now.

The church had ground up five pastors in ten years. During my interview to be their next pastor, the board blamed the turnover on the resigning pastors. I didn't entirely believe them, but still I agreed to be their next victim, ahem, I mean, lead pastor. Perhaps I was engrossed in some sort of ministerial hallucination, but I really thought I was the one who could fix this church.

My bubble soon popped.

Four weeks into my ministry there, I realized this church had more factions than the Corinthian church of the first century! There was a group for the preschool and a group against it. There was the camp that wanted guitar-led singing and the one that was for piano-led music. Some wanted to keep children in the congregational worship service but others didn't want any minors in the sanctuary. Ever.

Several mid-lifers insisted I spend more time caring for seniors in the church while those seniors challenged me to spend more time reaching out to the unchurched in our community. There were the "small groups are from the devil" and the "if you love Jesus you'll join a small group" factions. As you may have guessed, every one of these special interest groups had its spokesperson. Most of these lobbyists arranged to meet with me during my first three months at the church. They meant well, I'm sure, but didn't want me to think well of the people in the opposing camp.

At first I tried my best to hear and love people on all sides. I strove not to pick sides and sought to reconcile people in conflict. But the in-fighting continued.

Eventually I discovered what I'd suspected all along. The pastoral turnover that preceded me was attributable, at least in part, to unhealthy patterns in the church. I also learned that the only way for a pastor to thrive in an unhealthy church is for the pastor to be extremely healthy. An unhealthy pastor only exacerbates sickness in a sick church.

This church exposed an inescapable reality I did not want to face—I was an unhealthy pastor.

Spiraling down

After two years there (the average tenure for the past five pastors), I was a wreck. I was physically unhealthy. I'd gained nearly 20 pounds. I would come home late at night after a typically turbulent meeting and eat an entire pizza. During the food fest, I'd watch low budget "good guy gets revenge on the bad guy" movies. The church board was the bad guy; I, of course, was the good guy. Conflict required meetings, and meetings require time. Something had to come off of my full plate. It should have been late night pizza, but I scraped off exercise instead. Unhealthy patterns of sleep, diet, and exercise dissipated my social, creative, and mental energy. I was a well that had run dry.

Physical health is intimately interwoven with emotional and relational well-being. My emotions were all over the map, but mostly in the Southern hemisphere. I would get charged up for Sunday services, especially ...

log in

To view the rest of this article, you must be a subscriber to LeadershipJournal.net. Activate your online account for complete access.

From Issue:Ministry Health, January 2014 | Posted: January 2, 2014

Also in this Issue: January 2014

The Widowmaker Repents

The Widowmaker Repents

After decades of dysfunction, one church publicly confessed its mistreatment of former ministers.
A New High Score

A New High ScoreSubscriber Access Only

And other items of interest from ministry and culture.
The Survivor

The SurvivorSubscriber Access Only

Burning out, getting healthy, and not giving up on the church.

Subscribe to read more

Subscribe Today!

  • Monthly issues on web and iPad
  • Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net
  • Quarterly print issues

Print subscriber? Activate your online account for complete access.

Join the Conversation

Average User Rating: Not rated

No comments

Use your Leadership Journal login to easily comment and rate this article.
Not part of the community? Subscribe, or on public pages, register for a free account.
Reader's Pick
The Prayer-Centered Church

The Prayer-Centered ChurchSubscriber Access Only

What it takes to lead a prayerful community.
Sister Sites