The Pastor’s Death March Home

My pastor friends and I joke about the “death march” following Sunday services. Now most of you will not understand this affliction. Many, if not most of us Sunday speakers, can feel the vortex of doom sucking the very life out of our being as we take that lonely ride home.

I’ve come to recognize this shadowy heaviness as a blessing in some ways. I am human. I get depleted of adrenalin, fervor, and passion all too quickly. The body is reacting…it is tired. The soul is reacting…it is under attack. The spirit is waning…untouchable I am not.

And then, for some reason if criticism comes, it will most likely find its expression on Sunday, or Monday; the two days that are already sensitive from having expended so much of one’s self. It is our burden to bear, we preachers of the Gospel and lovers of the church.

And yet, this very pain is a sermon in itself, to one’s self. “You are not God. Your weakness, is testimony to the unattainable goal of describing the indescribable. Your self-pity is testimony to the need of your own soul, for the God of which you have tried to describe. You are human. And as such are qualified for the grace, mercy, love and affection of the indescribable God you feel like you failed to describe adequately to others.”

I have started reciting an old prayer from Anselm, that father of orthodoxy who lived around 1100 AD, on Sunday afternoons:

“Hope of my heart, strength of my soul, help of my weakness, by your powerful kindness complete what in my powerless weakness I attempt. My life, the end to which I strive, although I have not yet attained to love you as I ought, still let my desire for you be as great as my love ought to be.”

Dear preacher friends, as much as it feels like it, God has not abandoned you, and most likely, you didn’t suck as bad as you thought. But even if you did…you stood up there, and gave your heart, passion, and life as an offering for the grace of God to use in declaring to the world his great love. Be not ashamed…you will live to preach another day!

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4 Responses to The Pastor’s Death March Home

  1. I think anyone who has ever served in any capacity has felt, if not the same but certainly some form of leak in their spirit. I used to get it when I went away on retreat. It felt more like it was running down my leg though.

  2. Jackie McNutt says:

    I don’t even know if this is an appropriate comment but here goes:

    Attending services on Sunday one has to realize the amount of time, study, effort, prayer and energy that you put into your sermons but I am not sure that everyone knows what happens after everyone goes home.

    The feeling that someone has pulled the plug and all of your energy has leaked out of the bottom of your foot (I have been there) is exhausting. Then comes the redo. You review over and over what you said and just know that, as you said, you sucked. You feel that you could have done better, and in some cases you might have, but the enemy has you under such an attack that you can’t relax and realize that you can’t go back.

    My prayer for you Tim is that the ride home is the start of a two day vacation for you and Karen so you can reenergize. I now how hard the two of you work and believe me you both deserve it.

  3. Jill says:

    Tim,

    When we lived in Columbia (SC), we went to Crossroads for a while http://standrews.columbiacrossroads.org/. They practically advocate the parts of the epistles that talks about each one of us being given different gifts. By that and evidence in Acts, they delegate teaching and other authority. Their church leadership is more of a horizontal hierarchy if you will. Carson & I went to an intro class about the church. It was fascinating. It seemed so healthy. The teachers rotated turns teaching all were bi-vocational. They were always talking about there being “one church in Columbia,” and other congregations of believers used the Crossroads church building. They were a bunch of reformed guys who weren’t afraid of the holy spirit. best kinda guys if you asked me, and they weren’t burned out!!!!!!!!!!! just an FYI. you might know of it, at any rate. blessings from us to you all-

  4. timholt says:

    Thanks for the input and response folks.

    Jill, I have heard of them before. I’m not sure the scripture is clear on each person having a distinct gift(s). I do believe we all seem to operate the majority of the time in a few primary gifts. But I don’t think they are “our” gifts and therefore the Holy Spirit can give whatever gift is needed to whomever, whenever it is profitable. They are the “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and as such are at the Holy Spirit’s beck and call. And like I said, while we seem to operate most of the time in a few primary gifts, we can be used in any of them, if needed.

    I do not assume to always have the gift of pastor-teacher, and as such, ask the Holy Spirit regularly for that gifting to flow through me. I guess the Vineyard is probably a little more distinct in how we interpret the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    The preacher’s blues, or whatever you want to call it, is very real. Anyone who has been doing this stuff for any amount of time with any great amount of commitment, knows what I’m talking about.

    If Spurgeon, among a host of others, (and I have never read where he ever preached a “bad” or sucky sermon), had to live those feelings out, we current day preachers will as well.

    I have done a few other things for a living, and none of them even remotely comes near preaching and pastoring. By that I mean, the feelings you have after preaching on Sundays. Don’t get me wrong…it doesn’t mean we don’t derive immense joy and satisfaction from this wonderful calling. But the spiritual warfare, the adrenalin loss, and the self-judging that follows is certainly unique to this way of life.

    We have a saying as surfers…”Only a surfer knows the feeling.” That could just as well been said about preachers.

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