By Brian Dodd
One of the most heartbreaking things I experience is watching pastors of growing churches become crushed by the weight of their growth. I have seen far too many pastors flash through the sky like a brightly-lit comet only to evaporate just as quickly. Pastors of growing churches need to be reminded of the old axiom – With every new level comes a new devil.
Recently I drove from Anderson, SC to Asheville, NC to speak to a group of church planters. The route GPS took me on went through the Smoky Mountains and straight up, around and over Mt. Juliet. It was not an easy trip.
As I drove through the mountains and safely arrived at my destination, I was reminded of 8 Things Pastors Of Growing Churches Constantly Face:
- Less Visibility – As I ascended Mt. Juliet I was literally in the clouds. Visibility was about 10 feet. Pastors of growing churches face increasingly more cloudy situations. You have not been this high before. Which leads to my next point.
- More Unknowns – As you drive through the mountains you have countless sharp curves where you can’t see what’s on the other side. You just hope the driver (or staff member) on the other side of the mountain is paying attention and driving safely. There is more risk involved. More faith is required. You have not been this high before.
- Growth Takes A Physical Toll On You – This is embarrassing but I got motion sickness because of all the curves. What was involved in going to a higher level was literally making me sick. I am seeing a lot of pastors of growing churches dealing with exhaustion, anxiety, stress, drinking, anger, hypertension and other physical ailments. It is God’s job to grow the church. It is His responsibility. Being part of a growing church is not worth losing your health or family over. We need you in the pulpit.
- Fewer Options – A couple of times I thought I was going to have to pull over because of nausea. But I was on a mountain with no side of the road to pull over to. All that existed was a sharp curve I could not see around, 10 feet of visibility, and going off a cliff. The higher pastors go the less options they have. There are some people it is not wise to hang around or go to lunch with. There are some movies you cannot see. There are places you cannot go. There are some jokes you cannot tell. There are some behaviors you cannot partake in. Everyone wants the perks of influence but fewer options is one of the prices that comes with greater influence.
- Loneliness – It was noticeable how the higher I went up the fewer cars there were on the road. When a pastor runs 200 in weekend attendance, there are many other pastors who can speak into your experience. When the church grows to 500, the number becomes smaller. When the church reaches 1000, the number of pastors who have been there grows even smaller. When you clear 3000 in weekly attendance, you are likely talking to many pastors in other states. And when you clear 35,000 in weekly attendance, just call Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, or Joel Osteen. They are the only ones who been there. And I did not even address the jealously you may experience from “friends” of churches who are not growing.
- The Need For Greater Diligence – I had to pay great attention to every aspect of my surroundings. For growing church, your numbers may be changing but the issues remain the same – People, Finances, Structure. You must have an increased awareness of staff and key leaders. To apply this lesson to my experience, a car rounding a mountain curve too fast and crossing the median could cause a head-on collision or force me off the cliff.
- The Understanding That Bad Decisions Have Greater Consequences – If I cross the yellow line or drift off the curb on a normal road, I can make a quick course correction and be fine. The higher you go, you do not have time for a course correction. You will have already fallen off a cliff.
- Greater Benefits – Because I stayed diligent as I drove up the mountain, there was a brief (very brief) moment when the clouds parted and I was given full view of everything God had created. The view from the top of Mt. Juliet was breathtaking.
I want you to enjoy the growth of your church. Your wife and children want you to enjoy the growth of your church. And most importantly, God wants you to enjoy the growth of your church.
I pray you handle the limited visibility, fear of the unknown, physical toll, lack of options, and loneliness with greater diligence and decision-making. There is no reason doing the work of God has to destroy God’s work in you.
Brian Dodd is the Director of New Ministry Relationships for Injoy Stewardship Solutions where he help churches fully-fund their mission and vision.