Every Pastor I Know Struggles With One of These


Every pastor I know struggles with one of two temptations.

The first temptation is a poor work ethic.

One pastor I knew was paid full-time, but told me that he had found a way to do his job in about four hours, including worship services. He told me that he parked the car in the church parking lot, turned on the lights of his office, and took a bus to watch movies during the day.

That pastor may have been a little extreme, but I’ve met other lazy pastors: ones who are unaccountable with their time and take advantage of the freedom that their role offers in ways that lack integrity.

Pastors should be known as faithful stewards of the resources God gives them, including time. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he spoke of his hard work. “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:9). He spoke of the value of hard work in ministry (1 Corinthians 15:10; Colossians 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:6). If we’re going to make progress in our ministries, it’s going to require immersing ourselves in the work of ministry (1 Timothy 4:15).

Some pastors struggle with a poor work ethic, and will have to give account to God for not working hard enough in ministry.

The second temptation is overwork.

While some pastors struggle with a poor work ethic, more pastors seem to struggle with overwork. They skip sabbaths and run ragged, working at an unsustainable pace. Some may brag about cutting corners, but more pastors tend to brag about ignoring their families and health to work hard in ministry. This kind of pastor wins approval from others because of their commitment to ministry.

But this, too, is a form of laziness. In his classic book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson wrote:

“The poor man,” we say. “He’s so devoted to his flock: the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly.” But the Word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.”


I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and heavy demands on my time are proof to myself-and to all who will notice- that I am important.
I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people’s minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious of somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.

Overwork may be more socially acceptable than not working hard enough, but it works against the healthy soul needed to be an effective pastor.

As I say, I don’t know a single pastor who doesn’t struggle with one of these two tendencies. In light of this, every pastor should know which temptation is more powerful for them. Be especially wary of the second, because, to paraphrase Jerry Bridges, it’s a more respectable temptation that may win you praise.

Then, once you know your particular temptation, put measures in place to counteract it. Confess your temptation to others. Enlist their help. Put boundaries around your work. Know when to work hard, and when to rest.

The world needs healthy pastors who work hard but know how to rest. Nobody gets there by accident. For the sake of the work that’s been entrusted to you, avoid the twin dangers of a poor work ethic and overwork.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada