Have you noticed the Ministry Misery writing genre that’s proving strangely popular in some circles?

Pastors try to outdo one another in painting ministry in general, and themselves in particular, in as dismal and depressing a light as they possibly can.

There are usually two recurring memes:

(1) Ministers are more evil than you can possibly imagine. I’m more hypocritical, more devious, and more selfish than Hitler, Saddam, and Osama put together. To prove it let me tell you about how bad a father, a husband, and a pastor I am. Again and again and again.

(2) The ministry is more evil than you can possibly imagine. You’ve no idea how hard it is to be a pastor. So much suffering, so much persecution, so much giving, and all for so little return.

Misery, misery, misery. Sometimes it appears that the worse they describe themselves and their work, the more popular the articles seem to be. Lots of other pastors chime in with “I’m even worse than that…and so’s my congregation.”

Is this some kind of perverse Reformed monkishness that enjoys very public and painful self-flaggelation? Is there something especially holy and admirable about this activity?

I know there’s a danger of pride in ministers, and we need to strip away the illusions of pastoral glamor lest naive young men are attracted to it for the wrong reasons, but come on guys, we’re not totally evil and neither is our work. People are not lying when they say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace” (Rom. 10:15)?

We are ambassadors for Christ with a high and noble calling. While every job has its thorns and thistles, there’s huge satisfaction and pleasure too. Usually there are far more positives than negatives. Can there be anything more enjoyable than preaching the Gospel, evangelizing the lost, pastoring needy sinners, equipping saints for works of service, and helping saints on their way to glory?

Let’s get a better balance in our view of God’s work in us, through us, and around us. And let’s have more articles and books on Pastoral Pleasures and less on Ministry Miseries

It’s a few years old now, but here’s a starter on the joys I’ve experienced in my own ministry.

Feb 18 2009 Murray Chapel from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.

  • http://www.houstonlakepres.org Paul Bankson

    Thanks, David. That’s a refreshing take. I’ve also grown weary of hearing pastors say to those considering ministry “If you can see yourself doing ANYTHING else, then you should do it.” We (pastors) need this kind of pep talk that ministry is a joyful privilege.

  • dick


  • Bill

    As a very content minister, I appreciate this post very much. Thanks!

  • Paul Tripp

    David, I am taking it for granted that I am one of the guys you’re writing about. If so, let me humbly suggest two things. First, you don’t know me. If you had interviewed me you would know what a wonderful joy and constant blessing ministry has been to me. I do not live and minister in misery, but with a worshipful smile on my face because of the combination of daily grace and the honor of being called to be an ambassador of the King. Second, you have misunderstood what I have written. My point is not that ministry is a miserable burden, because there has never been a time in my ministry when I have felt that, but that as we are basking in the pleasures of service of the Savior ( and I think we should) we must as well remember the presence and power of remaining sin. I don’t feel depressed, discouraged or de- motivated because I celebrate the sufficient grace of an ever-present Savior. Could I be so bold as to suggest that before you write the next blog of this type you engage a representative of the group you are confronting in personal conversation? If you had done that with me, you would have experienced us agreeing more than we disagree about the experience of ministry and celebrating the very joys that I think you think I’ve missed. Blessings on your ministry.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Dear brother Paul,

      I deliberately did not name anyone in my post or link to any blog posts. However, I can understand why you think that the blog post was partly about yourself.

      I’m very glad to read of your joy in ministry. I suppose it’s part of the pain of ministry to be misunderstood. However, whenever I’ve been misunderstood, my first response is to thoroughly examine not what I think I’ve communicated but how people have perceived it. I think any objective reader of your recent posts and writing would conclude that you’ve had an imbalanced emphasis on the negative and the discouraging. May I humbly suggest that perhaps you could use my critique to re-balance your message so that what is read in public more accurately reflects your private and ministry joys.

      When we put words in the public sphere, I think it’s fairly common practice to assume that people will make conclusions based on what they read, and sometimes make a public response. I am worried about the image of ministry that you are portraying at times, and also the impact on pastors.

      BTW, I use many of your wonderful counseling resources in both the Seminary and in local church ministry, and appreciate them very much.


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