Relief for Pastors Stressed-Out by Their Complex Job

Stress is an inevitable byproduct of the complex nature of the pastor’s job. The pastor has three jobs, not one: he’s a prophet, a priest, and a king. If every pastor were honest, he would admit that one of those jobs brings more stress than the others.

Which role – prophet, priest, or king – stresses you out the most? To ask the question from another angle, which role do you avoid the most? Which roles energize and excite you?

Stress comes from not being equally gifted at all three roles

The point of these questions is to help you diagnose your strengths and weaknesses. Some pastors are stronger priests than they are kings. Others are stronger prophets, or priests. Few are strong at all three.

As I think through pastors I know, most are strong in two of the roles. I know a church planter who is a strong priest-king. Another friend who just took a church on the east coast is a prophet-priest. I consider myself to be a prophet-king.

That means I’m a weak priest. This is where I feel a lot of stress.

I always carry with me the pressure of being with my people. I never feel like I’m with them enough. I never feel like I love them enough. I rarely feel like I have anything encouraging to say to the people I visit in the hospital.

The tasks that stress you out most reveal where your weakness may be. If meetings, emails, plans, and projects stress you out, you’re probably a strong prophet-priest, but weak on the king side of ministry. If you feel resistance toward discipleship, evangelism, and counseling, you’re probably a strong prophet-king, but not so strong of a priest. If sitting at your desk to prepare sermons week-in, week-out feels more like a rut than a privilege, you’re probably a strong priest-king, but weaker in the prophet arena.

This doesn’t mean you aren’t able to fulfill the role where you are weak. You have gifts you can utilize in your weak roles. It simply means you should expect stress regarding that role and the tasks associated with it.

Where relief for our weaknesses comes

The work of a pastor is more complex than any of us can handle, which increases the stress and pressure we feel.

Our hope, as imperfect pastors, is that Jesus – the Prophet, Priest, and King par excellence – is strong where we are weak (2 Cor. 12:9). He will give you the grace you need to fulfill the ministry he has called you to. Jesus glorifies himself when he uses us despite our weaknesses.

How does this relieve our stress? It reminds us that the success of our ministry does not depend on our performance. As we take responsibility for all three of our roles, Jesus will be faithful to give us grace. By his Spirit, he will take our efforts to a level that is beyond our ability. Believe that promise and you will experience less stress – and thus, more peace – over your weaknesses.

Not to mention the humility it will bring to your strengths.