I have discovered that not everything I originally heard about ministry was true. Looking back on 28 years of ministry, and with the help of several social media friends like you, I have comprised a list of ministry myths that need to be debunked.
- Pastors only work one day a week
This stopped being funny…wait, was this ever funny? Can we retire this and a few other stale lines (“If I were any better, I’d be twins…”).
- Pastors are on call 24/7
I wonder if these first two myths are evil twins. I admit that there is a morsel of truth in this, although I would like to challenge it on the basis of its unbiblical roots. Jethro muffled this myth for his workaholic son-in-law Moses. Apparently Moses’ wife was tired of him putting out all of the fires in Israel during his post-exilic career.
If we are easily available 24/7 to people who do not share our last name, we may be sharing Moses’ messiah complex. Our reluctance to share important ministry opportunities with other leaders may say more about our weak leadership and self-esteem than our strong work ethic.
- Pastors can’t be friends with church members
Usually the word “favoritism” is thrown into the discussion and people just seem to agree that this is sadly the price of pastoring. I could not disagree more with this unbiblical and dangerous myth. Most of my closest friends are staff, deacons, and trustees of the churches I have pastored.
If the pastor is the leader of the church family, doesn’t it follow that he is also a member of it? How about his wife and kids? Isolation is the Devil’s most subtle snare. Refuse to accept that myth that loneliness and isolation are an acceptable price of pastoring.
- Missionaries live somewhere you don’t
If your identity and gifts are boiled down to a title on an org chart or a geographic location, you are missing out on our common calling as Great Commission missionaries. If a pastor is not a missionary, he is merely a public speaker. Acts 1:8 clarifies the local and global nature of missions.
- Most research and statistics about pastors
Many of the alarming statistics about pastors which have been passed around for decades are about as reliable as the Da Vinci Code. They give the impression that most pastors are miserable, as are their families. Most of those stats can be traced back to a straw poll that a seminary professor in California did back when Roger Staubach was starting for the Dallas Cowboys.
The good news is that LifeWay Research is in the middle of a very expansive project, the results of which will be released by this fall. At least that is an 87% probability.
- Most pastors are in it for the money
I am not exactly sure when this beast was born, but I suspect it was in the 1980s when several televangelists were exposed on national television for their embarrassing greed.
I was not alone in wondering if Atlanta based televangelist Creflo Dollar really needs to replace his old Gulfstream 3 with a $60 million dollar Gulfstream G650. He suggested his followers each commit to giving “$300 or more.” I would, but you know…the IRS cleaned me out this month Pastor Dollar.
If, indeed, “most pastors are in it for the money,” then most pastors are idiots because there are easier and more lucrative ways to make a living.
- Pastors are more godly than other believers
This myth has biblical roots, so we must tread more carefully here. The baseline expectation of pastors in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 suggests a higher standard (“above reproach”) for church leaders than for church members. Additionally, all throughout Scripture teachers and preachers are reminded that they will be held accountable for every word they speak.
“Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).
A closer inspection of Scripture will find that God did not raise the bar for pastors’ godliness any more than He lowered the bar for non-pastors. All believers will reap in proportion to what we have sown, regardless of our gifts, titles, or positions.
- Pastor’s wives are volunteer staff members
Expectations for the pastor’s wife can be confusing for the pastor’s family as well as the church family. My contemporary at Focus on the Family told me recently that pastors’ wives are among the highest risk for depression in the U.S. I wonder how much of this is tied to unrealistic, unbiblical expectations some churches place on these spiritual sisters.
9. Pastors live in a glass house
Pastor, if you don’t protect your family’s privacy, there is no one to blame more than yourself. Each person in your home have a different threshold for privacy, so customize your family’s privacy settings accordingly.
- A good leader won’t have any conflicts
Every church has high maintenance members, as does every organization you will ever be a part of. Conflict will happen in every church, just as it did in the New Testament.
If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. (Rom 12:18)
This list of ministry myths is certainly not exhaustive or conclusive. I would love to hear myths you have experienced on the comments section of this blog or a direct Twitter message @markdance.