A story is told of three men sent on a mission. The first didn’t make it because his horse broke a leg. The second didn’t make it because he was ambushed and wounded in the neck. The third man arrived late—but he made it. Covered in blood, he apologized for his delay, saying in his defense only that it had taken him a little longer than he had hoped because he had been captured and hurt, and as he’d lost his horse, he had no choice but to walk the rest of the way.
The seasons of ministry are about the anticipation of and preparation for mission. Five words are all Jesus uses for spring ministry (approximately ages 20–35). Referring to the seemingly endless crowd—5,000 men plus women and children—He gives His disciples a seemingly impossible command: “Give ye them to eat” (Luke 9:13, KJV). But spring pastors love a challenge. They have not yet been tainted with the cynicism of reasonableness, rationality, and reality. For some reason, spring pastors still believe “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13, NKJV).
Five words are also what Jesus uses for the summer. Summer ministry (approximately ages 35–50) is all about balance. The heat is on. Into this time of reckoning, Jesus asks, “How many loaves have ye?” (Matt. 15:34, KJV). He knows how much we have—or how little. It’s the never-enough season. Never enough time. Never enough energy. Never enough money. And never enough satisfaction. The church members say they don’t see you enough. Your family says they don’t see you enough. And your unfinished projects—that article, book, or doctoral degree—they never see you.
It’s the never-enough season. Never enough time. Never enough energy. Never enough money. And never enough satisfaction.
Anna Hayford, the wife of the renowned Jack Hayford, lamented, “As his pastoral responsibilities increased, his time at home became less and less. Resentment rose up in me against all those people who ‘needed him.’ His family needed him, too, but our needs seemed to be low on the totem pole. I started to nag. ‘I can’t take this anymore,’ I’d cry. Or ‘Why aren’t you ever home?’ Or ‘Don’t you know the children need you?’ ”1
- 35 percent agree ministry demands keep them from spending time with their family;
- 48 percent feel that the demands of ministry are greater than they can handle;
- 54 percent agree the role of a pastor is frequently overwhelming; and
- 84 percent feel they must be on call 24 hours a day.2
Why is this? Research professor Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell says, “Pastors feel great internal pressure to care non-stop for others.”3
Many pastors concur with the prophet Zechariah: “Suppose someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ Then they will answer, ‘I was given these wounds at the house of my friends’ ” (Zech. 13:6, NIrV). For some of us, being wounded in ministry signals, if not a new career, certainly a new placement. But true disciples think it not strange concerning the fiery trials that have come upon them (see 1 Pet. 4:12). They know that while the wiles of the devil bring pressure, no weapon formed against them will prosper (see Isa. 54:17).
Battered and bruised, summer pastor, the blood you are covered with is not your own; it’s the blood of the Lamb. It’s the symbol of overcoming. It’s the blood that gives you strength from day to day. And it will never lose its power.
So “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1, NKJV). You may be tempted to give up, but the finish line is in sight. You have no choice. Walk the rest of the way.
- Anna Hayford, “My Husband’s Seldom Home,” in Help! I’m a Pastor’s Wife, ed. Michele Buckingham (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1986), 37.
- Mark Dance, “5 Self-Assessment Questions Pastors Need to Ask Right Now,” Lifeway Research, February 3, 2022; Lisa Green, “Despite Stresses, Few Pastors Give Up on Ministry,” Lifeway Research, September1, 2015.
- Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, Elizabeth L. Turner, Gary G. Bennett, Jia Yao, Xiang-Fang Li, David E. Eagle, Rachel A. Meyer et al., “A 2-Year Holistic Health and Stress Intervention: Results of an RCT in Clergy,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 53, no. 3 (September 2017).