Being the Pastor Everyone Thinks You Should Be

When I think back over the advice I’ve received over the years about how to spend my time as a pastor and church planter, it’s overwhelming.

Unrealistic Expectations

I’ve been coached, mentored, counseled, encouraged, and admonished to:

  • Make daily time in the Bible.

  • Make daily time for focused prayer. (And I’ve been pointed to examples of heroes of the faith who woke up in the middle of the night for hours of prayer before sunrise.)

  • Make quality time for my wife, including date nights, daily intimate conversations and “iron sharpening iron” spiritual conversations.

  • Make quality time for my two boys, including dates with them individually, family devotions and fun family times to make memories.

  • Get involved in the community by coaching the boys’ teams, serving at their school and serving on community boards whenever possible

  • Know my neighbors and throw the best cookouts and parties for them.

  • Serve the poor, marginalized and invisible in my community.

  • Be in a small group.

  • Spend significant time with church members so they see our family as regular people.

  • Disciple at least two men in my church at least once every two weeks.

  • Work with our Oversight Team in the early stages of church planting.

  • Invest in another planter by coaching him well.

  • Invest broadly in lots of planters by being part of the denomination and network.

  • Spend significant time thanking partner churches and individuals, as well as travel each year to develop new partnerships.

  • Study for sermons. (And I’ve been told that a wise, humble and godly pastor spends an hour studying for every 1-5 minutes that he preaches.

  • Get away so that I am working on the church and not just in the church.

  • Read lots of books, especially the old, long ones.

  • Exercise at least four times per week.

  • Get plenty of sleep.

An Audience of One

When I tried to add up the time each day, week and month to accomplish all of these things, I ended up in the fetal position in the corner feeling overwhelmed and slightly paranoid that others won’t think I’m as godly, masculine, missional, family-oriented or Kingdom-minded as they are. 

The pace of life demanded to meet everyone’s expectations will run us into exhaustion, anxiety and an early grave. It is humanly impossible to be the Christian that people collectively long for us to be. To alter the words of the Apostle Paul, “Who can deliver us from this body of death?” (To be fair, these are all great things to be doing, and, honestly, no one is breathing down my neck about all of these tasks and to-dos.)

Rather than trying to meet others’ collective expectations, let’s each ponder the question, “Is God pleased with me?” In Christ, the answer is yes. And regarding our callings, if we steward the gifts and stamina He’s given, then we can rest at night knowing we are running the race and pace set especially for each one of us.

JD Mangrum is the church planting pastor of Christ Church Charlestown in Charlestown, MA.