The problem with myths is their sly way of embedding themselves into your assumptions. They just become part of your thinking without your realizing it.
Some of the myths below are commonly-held pastoral beliefs that we pastors have held without comparing them to Scripture. Others are commonly-held beliefs that we would never give voice to, but nonetheless, we act as if we do indeed believe them. How many of these have worked their way into your life and ministry?
1. The pastor’s first priority is the work.
Yes, God created Adam for the Garden, but He commanded Adam to cleave to his wife. We are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the church. This means our marriage and family is our first responsibility—not the church.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;—Ephesians 5:25
2. Time alone is selfish.
When you’re in ministry, there are always needs before you, and it’s easy to feel guilty for taking alone time to replenish. The truth is pastors need quiet times to let down and open up to God for replenishment and renewal.
And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.—Mark 1:35
And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.—Mark 6:31
3. Planning a quality program is the key to success.
Ministry success is not about a program. It is about personal faithfulness and investing in eternity. Success is reached by being filled with the Holy Spirit, being obedient to the Great Commission, and being faithful to preach the Word of God. When we invest more time in planning a program than we do in those three areas, we may build apparent success, but it will be hollow and will not produce spiritual maturity in the lives of those we lead.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.—2 Timothy 4:2
4. The leader must be an expert in all areas of life.
No one is an expert in every area. A good pastor assembles a team of people who can help advise in financial, spiritual, and relational areas. The pastor will be a big part of that counsel, but he should not pretend to have every answer. Actually, there is a problem when a pastor has to be right or the best in every situation. Ultimately, the Word of God is our final authority.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:—Proverbs 1:5
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established.—Proverbs 15:22
5. It’s a sign of weakness to admit when you are wrong.
If a pastor has been wrong or offensive, he should be willing to apologize.
A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.—Proverbs 29:23
6. Corporate worship is replenishing.
Leading a church service, preaching, and ministering before and after services is extremely exhausting. These activities are the pouring out of spiritual energy, and that energy must be replenished.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.—2 Corinthians 4:16
7. Pastors are responsible to win the whole world.
Pastors should faithfully witness in their Jerusalem and occasionally in other fields as God allows. But it is not their responsibility to win every person in their community to the Lord—this is the church’s responsibility. The pastor should train and equip others to witness.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:—Ephesians 4:11–12
8. Pastors are to be constantly available.
We try to be, and we do answer calls at all hours of the day, night, and week. But in reality, no one is available 24/7 for 365 days a year. I remember once when I flew home from our family vacation to conduct a funeral. At the time, I thought it was a good idea, but looking back, I’m not sure it was the best message to my family.
Although pastors must be willing to spend and be spent for people, we need to recognize our limitations and trust God to meet the needs we cannot meet. By avoiding the super-hero syndrome, we actually provide opportunity for others in the body of Christ to minister.
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.—Galatians 6:2
9. Pastors can only be close with other pastors.
Pastors should have real spiritual relationships with men in their own churches. In fact, sometimes other pastors are quick to judge and gossip and will not always be the safe haven of friendship we think they will be.
Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.—Proverbs 27:9
10. Pastors’ best talents must be used with upwardly mobile people.
True successful ministry is downwardly mobile, and it is characterized by humility and prayer. Spiritual leaders are admonished to train faithful men, not successful men.
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.—2 Timothy 2:2
Often, the Lord allows trials in our lives to take us back to the cross and to bring us back to a place of humble investment in others’ lives.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.—Galatians 2:20
11. Pastors in contemporary culture can avoid hate and slander.
The only way to avoid criticism is to attempt nothing, be nothing, and do nothing for God.
And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.—Nehemiah 4:2–3
12. A pastor’s value is measured in his development of institutions or great evangelistic outreaches.
In reality, aspiring to heavy leadership is a silly pursuit. First, because heavy leadership does not make us more valuable—our real worth is based on our spiritual birth. Second, because we should only want what God wants. The greatest joy is to serve—not to be recognized.
For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.—Luke 22:27
I’d like to tell you that I’ve identified these myths by observation only. But the truth is, I’ve believed them at times. Some of them I’ve believed for quite some time before the Lord exposed their fallacy to me. And every time He has exposed these myths for what they are, it has come as a sense of relief. I can’t be the perfect pastor, and God does not expect me to be. I can, however, be faithful and minister to His people in His strength!