When the Sabbath proves nigh
For pastors and worship leaders, the Christian day of rest is anything but restful. | John Uy/THE CHIMES
As college students, we share a burden that is similar of most pastors – instead of finding rest on the Sabbath day, we instead devote this time to work.
Pastors of local churches and worship leaders tend to work hardest on the congregation’s designated day of community rest. While the purpose of the Sunday church service is togetherness in Christ’s body, leaders often feel they work hard to make the day run smoothly, often resulting in feelings of isolation and exhaustion.
David Rimoldi, spiritual director in Talbot’s Institute of Spiritual Formation, has pastored a church for 11 years, and is now back in ministry assisting a church plant. Rimoldi has conducted extensive research as well as seen firsthand the effects of a phenomenon known as pastor burnout.
“Pastor burnout has a lot to do with a person’s ability to set their own boundaries, and the congregations have high needs,” Rimoldi said. “So most pastors can handle that for a little while, but it seems like over time they hit a wall. I think that’s something they wish congregations would know, that they can’t do everything. They can’t be Jesus to you all the time.”
Similarly, Biola chapel bands understand this feeling of separation and spiritual pressure. Members of the Biola Gospel Choir feel this phenomenon very directly through their unique ministry, and how it may affect Biola students.
“Of course we feel isolated, but in the end it doesn’t really matter how we feel. It matters that we’re literally singing the word of God and we’re praising him every single time we sing,” said Thomine Mortensen, sophomore communication sciences and disorders major and Biola Gospel Choir member. “And it shouldn’t matter that we feel isolated as long as we’re singing his name together.”
The many perspectives of Biola students in regard to corporate worship can be as diverse as our backgrounds. However, it was clear from the Gospel Choir members that the purpose behind this church-wide calling is a noble and important one.
“I think the reason behind why people feel isolated is, they don’t understand what the true concept of worship is,” said Zoe Martineau, senior communication sciences and disorders major and Biola Gospel Choir member. “Worship stays worship regardless of what it is. It’s just praising God for who he is. If it’s in multiple languages, I would worship God for how diverse he is.”
Need for friendship
Rimoldi spoke from personal pastoral experience, and revealed how incredibly important it is for congregants, as well as those called to ministry, to understand this phenomenon deeply. The need for close friendships and accountability in church leadership positions is great.
“Pastors don’t have friends. Seventy percent of pastors don’t have close friends… A lot of that is because they feel they can’t be close friends with the congregation, because they’re supposed to be over caring for them,” Rimoldi said. “So it can oftentimes lead them into unhealthy habits, addictions, self-medicating, which unfortunately over time can lead to them sabotaging their own ministry...It’s something they don’t tell you in seminary.”
Rimoldi referenced a book by Gary L. McIntosh named “It Only Hurts on Monday.” The novel explains a deep hurt felt due to unrealistic pastoral expectations. The novel unveils the average ministry lifespan of pastors in individual churches has fallen to just four years, mainly due to the strain of isolation ministers feel.
Rock in midst of exhaustion
“Sometimes, by [pastors] saying no, it’s actually good for you, paritioner. Because it’s good for me, pastor. I need to go away like Jesus did and be in a solitary place to commune with the father so I can be available to you,” Rimoldi said.
Due to these feelings of pressure, pastors often feel their positions are easily analyzed, especially in an age of such rampant celebrity pastorship. Rimoldi mentioned the comparison congregants make unknowingly, and how ministers can feel that they can never meet the needs of their people.
The rejection and critique that worship leaders and pastors experience can overwhelm even the strongest of those in ministry. Reliance on the mission of ministry and the end goal of evangelism can always be a strong rock in the midst of this exhaustion.