On November 4, 1979 CBS correspondent Roger Mudd asked Senator Ted Kennedy this question during a prime-time interview, “Why do you want to be president?” Historians and political pundits who have reflected upon the Kennedy presidential campaign attribute Kennedy’s hesitant and fumbling response to this simple question as the main reason why he was not elected to become President of the United States.

If someone were to ask you a similar question, “Why do you want to be a pastor?”, some of us might struggle to find an authentic and convincing answer to that question. Has the 2020 pandemic experience affected you in such a way that in this moment you might be hesitant and fumbling in how you would respond if asked this question?

We’d like to encourage you to take a few minutes with writing instrument and tablet in hand and jot down the first thoughts that come to your mind in response to the question, “Why do you want to be a pastor?”. Pause and reflect upon the thoughts you’ve jotted down—what story do they tell?

As those who work to support the wellbeing of pastors and other ministry staff, we know the answer to this question will help reveal if you are in a positive state of thriving and flourishing as a vocational ministry leader. If you had to classify your current state of pastoral wellbeing, would you consider yourself to be:

  • Running well, thriving and flourishing
  • Walking well, mostly thriving and flourishing
  • Walking winded, mostly not thriving or flourishing
  • Stumbling wounded, not thriving or flourishing at all

Research indicates that approximately 25% of our nation’s pastors fall almost equally into one of these four categories. Where are you on this spectrum?

Pastors who are running well, operate securely from their new nature as opposed to their old carnal nature (flesh). Their motives when carefully studied and assessed, are God-serving, versus self-serving. Flourishing pastors deeply understand that it is impossible to please God if they are not operating from a faith or trust-in-God posture. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that without faith (trust-in-God in all life domains) it is impossible to please God…AND that he is a rewarder of those who seek him.

Healthy pastors consciously submit and lean into the leading of the Holy Spirit. As part of their testimonies, many of these pastors will distinctly recall that moment in their leadership journey when they repositioned themselves from the captain’s chair and moved over to being second-in-command. It was at that moment when they discovered the meaning of Jesus’ statement that, “…my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

Following are common characteristics (critical wellbeing factors) that typify pastors who are leading out of their old nature, and who by definition are not running or walking well:

  • I have to do it because no one else will or I can’t trust others to do it like I want it to be done (sign of poor leadership development and delegation skills).
  • My opinions and priorities are more trustworthy than the opinions of others on the leadership team (sign of pride or narcissistic tendencies, sign of poor team building skills).
  • I can’t afford to take a regular weekly rest break, too many people need me (sign of disobedience and low regard for God’s explicit Sabbath teachings and behaviors—more people needed Jesus than will even need you, yet he took regular rest and renewal breaks.
  • There are regular aspects of my behaviors I would never want others to discover (sign that I’m living with unconfessed sin and that I might need to confess, repent, and seek help from other trustworthy people).
  • God expects me to put the congregation’s needs above my own family’s needs (sign that the opinions and expectations of people are more important to me than the needs of my own spouse and children, sign that the need for boundaries and priorities is not properly understood and practiced).
  • I quickly make decisions and move to action without “counting the cost” as a regular leadership style (sign of impulsive behavior and insensitivity to the frustration that impulsive behaviors produce in the people needed to do the work).

Scripture instructs us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (stop living out of the old carnal nature which serves only self) and to put on the new man or woman (start living consistently out of the new nature where all the resources of God are available to me to serve God and others). As these deep-water biblical truths are understood and applied in your life, then will you discover the sheer joy of thriving and flourishing as a pastor. These thriving truths will help you know the answer to the question, “Why do I want to be a pastor?”

If you’d like to see Ted Kennedy’s response to Roger Mudd’s question “Why do you want to be president?” go here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5TkhNWPspM

By: Hugh White
Hugh White is a preacher’s kid, seminary graduate, teaching elder, and founder of Full Strength Network.