In the novel, “Great Expectations” renowned author, Charles Dickens weaves the story of Pip, an English orphan who rises to wealth, but at the apex of his rise, is thoroughly disillusioned by his futile attempts to reach his own expectations.

Why do church leaders hit the wall in ministry? There are multiple reasons, but one clear factor is the pressure of self-imposed expectations.

When I hit the wall years ago, I couldn’t understand any of it. Why should I be decimated like this, when all I had been doing was for the Lord? Hadn’t I just been trying to fulfill His expectations for my life through the call to ministry?

I thought that to be true, but I had deceived myself. I was really trying to fulfill “my” expectations for my life. I was using my call from God, and my responsibility to the church, as an excuse to justify my own insatiable drive for approval. I wanted to ‘prove’ myself to myself, by proving myself to God and to the Church. What a horror show!

There is no foolproof way to avoid all ministerial pressure. It’s an occupational hazard. But you can help manage it by honestly answering this question: Whose expectations am I trying to fulfill in my life?

Here’s a little test that has helped keep me on track in this area:

  1. Am I finding that the yoke Jesus gives me is ‘easy’ and that His burden is ‘light?’ That seems to be the foundational expectation God places on all of us. If there is little or no joy on the journey, we’ve taken a wrong turn. That’s when ministry becomes misery.
    Dan Betzer, AOG Pastor says: “One day we are going to stand at the Judgement Seat of Christ and I think He will say to us, ‘I really didn’t mean it to be so grim.’”
  2. Have I realized that the Church is more concerned about my love for them than they are about the hours I accumulate? Love is not measured on an employee “time clock.” It’s measured in the quality of relationships I build. My humble opinion is this. “If you are spending more than 55 hours at the church during an average week, you are probably not doing it for God or for the Church. You are certainly not doing it for your family. You are likely doing it to prove yourself to yourself. You have a self-imposed and distorted perception of expectations. (No hate mail please! – I’m not judging, just suggesting.)
  3. Am I able to ‘disengage?’ Can I walk away from the never-ending multiplicity of duties saying, “Lord, I have done my best for You today, the rest is in your hands?” Is He the “Saviour of the World,” or am I?

I reached a point of great personal victory, after great personal battle. I finally heard the “At Ease” command of the Captain of my Salvation. After that, I discovered all kinds of new things about my relationship with God.

For example: Jesus likes hockey and ‘Jeopardy’ and tinkering with me on antique cars in my garage. He likes what I like, mainly because He enjoys spending time with me.

Have you discovered this? He values your time with Him above anything you can do for Him.

Let’s get this ‘expectation’ thing straightened out so that ministry once more becomes the privilege and joy that it was meant to be.

Al Downey

Al Downey

Pastoral Care Director at ABNWT District Office
Al Downey

Latest posts by Al Downey (see all)