I don't know where I first heard it, but the longer I live the more I believe that it's true, “The world is run by tired people.”
To say it in a more contextualized way, “Most churches are run by tired pastors.”
No doubt there's been a massive amount of effort that has been given in recent years to the health, development, and care for the souls of pastors. But even with this effort, most pastors have a desk that is cluttered with stacks and piles and they find themselves feeling scattered and weary.
Pastors have decision fatigue, and they’re emotionally exhausted. And some have full-on burnout.
When a pastor is tired they often catch themself coming and going. They come across as being disinterested when in reality they really do want to be interested. When a pastor is tired they're not able to give the energy that is needed for the things that they care most about. Lots of things suffer when a pastor grows weary.
I think most pastors genuinely want to make a difference globally in the far and hard places. But the weariness of daily ministry often becomes all-consuming and takes away from intentional thought and action toward global realities.
Most of my pastoral colleagues love what God is doing around the world, but they feel a pinch in their spirit. They want to be in a deeper relationship with work and workers globally, but relationships are hard when you're weary and they’re really hard when these relationships are being maintained in a wide geographical scope.
So what's a missionary to do when the pastors that you are banking on for support and encouragement are weary in the battle?
1. Look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
I think Paul is on to something when he says that, “...each of you should look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” - Philippians 2:4
When you engage with the pastor, ask the pastor how you can support and pray for them and their work. Reach out to them intentionally, just to say that you are celebrating and thanking God for them on that day.
Many years ago Dr. Jim Dunn told me that if you want to get certain things done in working with people you have to, “hold their baby.” What he meant by this was that everyone wants their baby to be celebrated. Go out of your way to celebrate the pastors that you have contact with and take the time to “hold their baby”.
2. Intentionally pray for the pastors and churches on your support list.
The simple act of making a spreadsheet of all those who are partners and praying for them specifically is a gamechanger. Praying for them is good. Letting them know that you are praying for them, is great! It is possible to pray for a number of people by name and the gift that it is to people is truly valuable.
One of the ways that Dr. Wayne Schmidt has curried such great favor in the North American Church is his diligence in prayer. I have watched Wayne in so many settings where he leads the conversation by saying, “I prayed for you by name today.” This simple phrase brings a calm wind into the room.
3. Weary pastors want to be asked for help.
Most often when a pastor is contacted by a missionary it is to ask for money. I would recommend widening the ask. If there is a situation that you are facing on the field or something that you are trying to personally navigate, ask one of the pastors on your support list for their input.
Most pastors, even weary ones, would find great energy and joy in giving thought in prayer and some level of discernment to the challenges you are facing. For me personally, I can say with confidence that I find energy in helping solve other people's problems, somehow it makes my own problems that much easier!
There will be more to come in this series of posts on what pastors wish missionaries understood about the North American Church, but for today I will sum up this simple lesson up in this way.
Weary pastors need fellow travelers to pray, encourage, support, and involve on the journey.
Chad McCallum is the Lead Pastor of the Hayward Wesleyan Church in Hayward, Wisconsin