Volume. XXXIII, No. 3
Sunday, 15 July 2018

From the Pastor’s Heart: Ministerial Blues

What I am going to share with you today is a bit of an unusual topic, ministerial blues.  Yes, it is about pastors.  What I am going to write does not necessarily reflect who and what I am now, but rather many pastors in various ministries.  It is also true that this topic is applicable to all who are truly committed to the Lord’s ministry including the Session members, various fellowship group leaders, Sunday School teachers, musicians, and all who are serious about the Lord’s ministry.  I feel that it is a right topic for all of us and our church to consider at this very moment when our church is experiencing physical expansion.  However, to narrow the scope of my talk today, I’ll primarily focus on pastors.  Visiting many churches and speaking to many pastors, has left an indelible impression on my heart that many pastors are literally suffering certain degrees of burnout or even ministerial depressions. Looking back, I cannot but thank the Lord for many worshippers in our church who have given themselves to the Lord’s ministry from cleaning church premises, cooking to share with others, organizing fellowship events, leading Bible studies, to visiting the sick.  At the same time, we must frankly admit that not all worshippers are equally sacrificial in terms of providing services for others and helping the church ministries.  Some people whose hearts are touched and moved have committed themselves to various tasks, while others get benefits from their loving, caring, and sacrificial ministries.  They have served, not been served.  I thank the Lord for them.  As the Lord has blessed us as a church, we have grown in number.  It implies that there are more things to do, which means that we need more willing people to contribute to the Lord’s glorious tasks.  In reality, the majority of church ministries have been in the hands of a small number of people, which causes them to become weary over the years.  They feel tired and in need a bit of respite for rest.  When they cannot find their replacements in ministries, they keep going and begin to feel weak and tired.  When I apply such symptoms to pastors, I call them “ministerial blues.” 

As we are preparing for the next stage of our church growth, we need to carefully consider pastors and their needs.  If there is anyone who should educate the church about the needs of her pastors, it must be I, the pastor.  Though it is a bit strange for me to write something about pastors, as if I am writing it for myself, for the sake of edification I need to take this task on myself.

Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church, Cleveland, Ohio, says, “It is fair to say that most congregations are largely unaware of this problem, or do not understand what it means for the pastor and his family to be confronted with burnout.”  It is not an issue unique to the pastors in the 21st century.  It is no secret that Martin Luther had a tendency to bouts of melancholy, which is a sign of burnout.  One of the greatest prophets of God, Elijah, had lost his perspectives of life and wished to die.  Pastors’ biographies show their struggles with weariness and even depression.  We cannot accuse these men as if they have a lack of faith. 

There was a man, Charles Simeon (1759-1836), who was educated at Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge.  He eventually became a curate of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge.  He held on to evangelical and Calvinist views.  Interestingly, he was very unpopular among his own congregation, because they wanted to have another man for their church!  Over the years, I have seen many church splits over the choices of new pastors.  When they have the ones who are not their first choices, they grumble and cause problems.  Simeon was in such a hazardous situation.  We can imagine how hard his work must have been.  Sometimes, his services were disrupted, and he was even insulted in the streets.  However, he remained there for the rest of his life, and eventually his church grew immensely under his leadership.  He remained unmarried.  I am glad to know that he was not married.  If he himself suffered so much, then it is not too hard to imagine that his wife and children would have suffered even more!  I have known a few pastors who are in such situations.  There was strong animosity toward Simeon from the congregation.  In 1807, after twenty-five years of exhausting ministry, he felt more dead than alive after preaching!  Thankfully, he recorded that he eventually was revived and recommitted himself to his pulpit and preached until two months before his death.  This turning point came to him when he was 60 years old! 

Burnout is a terrible price for Christian zeal.  I have a personal interest in this subject, because there was a time when I felt that I came to the edge of burnout.  However, I am not the only one who experiences it.  Christopher Ash says in his book, “Zeal without Burnout: Seven keys to a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice” as follows: “In the USA, it is estimated some 1500 people leave pastoral ministry each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failures.  The causes are diverse, but they show the intense pressure that many in Christian ministry find themselves under.  A third of pastors say they feel burned out within just five years of starting ministry, and almost a half of pastors and their wives say they have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry” (p. 16).  This book offers a living testimony as such: “[Peter Adam] was senior minister in a large city-centre church in Melbourne.  As a young unmarried man, he worked long hours and loved his work.  Until, quite without warning, one Monday morning he awoke and began spontaneously to cry and found himself unable to stop weeping.  His breakdown was very serious indeed.  By God’s grace he continued in ministry and went on to became principal of a theological college (Ridley College, Melbourne), and the author of a number of scholarly and widely valued books.  Nevertheless Peter has continued to live and serve Christ in the shadow of that breakdown.  He says he has never since then been able to work more than 50 hours in a week.  Through this long experience of frailty, Peter says he has learned to trust God more, and also realized that God can use our weaknesses as well as our strengths” (p. 17).  By the way, though I am not very sure, my impression is that he has remained unmarried, because I cannot find any indication that he is married.  Hurting pastors’ families is another factor of their ministerial blues.   

Our natural question is if it is really possible that faithful pastors could experience burnout.  Some may quote Romans 12:11, “Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord”.  If they rely on God, they should never experience such downturns, they say.  Can pastors experience burnout?  Well, the answer is rather simple.  Yes.  It is because they are not God.  God does not need sleep.  He does not slumber.  Pastors need sleep.  They do slumber!  God is all-sufficient within Himself, but pastors need help and assistance from the kindness of His people.  God does not rest, but pastors need rest.  In fact, Sabbaths are for people.  God knows their needs.  God does not need food, but pastors do.  It is a simple fact that pastors are not God!  They are only dust.  Each pastor is different.  They are all different in stamina, both physical robustness and mental strength.  They are different in abilities to sustain longer or shorter hours of work.  Some could travel well, while others less well.  We have different capacities in many ways.  Thus, we cannot expect the same thing in the same level from all pastors. 

God is not asking “Can you do more?”  He is asking, “Do you love me?”  Encourage pastors to love the Lord more than anything in the world.  And show them how much you care for them.  Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”  I am with a missionary couple now and am providing some rest for them.  They profusely thank me for this opportunity to rest.  Well, in fact, this opportunity is provided by the people who care and Hope church. 

One way that we can help one another to avoid anyone from suffering with ministerial burnout is to help one another.  Instead of letting a few people bear the burdens of ministry alone, we can all contribute to the work of the Lord together as a team.  I wish to see it happen in Hope Church.  Psalm 103:14 says, “For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”  If you see anyone weary, would you help and replace him for the Lord’s ministry?


Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



  • Quiz Night & Dinner: Please RSVP to Dn John Wong or Sis Chrisanthi Selvanayagam by today for catering purposes.
  • All members are expected to attend ACM on Sat, 4 Aug. If unable to attend, please obtain proxy forms at the Foyer. Please note: Members who have questions need to submit them in writing to Elders by Sat, 28 July. Only submitted questions will be discussed at ACM.
  • Lunch Duty: This week: YAF. Next week: Neighbourhood Bible Study Groups.


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Visitors & church activities in the past week.
  • Filadelfia BPC’s 14th Anniversary Thanksgiving today.
  • Journey mercies: All those who have travelled.



  • Healing: Dr Stephen Scott-Pearson (UK); Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev George van Buuren;  & others in afflictions.
  • New pastor for Hope B-P Church.
  • Missions: Rev Stephen & Mrs Lydia Choi; Rev Sun Sokha & Sis Nam Soon Lee (Phnom Penh); & Sis Esther Kim (Bandung).
  • Filadelfia BPC: Sis Ang Liang Phoa & ministry (Batam).
  • Journey mercies:  Those who are travelling.




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14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041