As I look back on and assess my 30 years of active ministry, I have to admit that it feels like one great failure. I know, objectively speaking, it was a mix of “success” and “failure,” with lots in-between. I suspect many, many pastors feel this way. Yes, I know all about the cross of Jesus and how it redefines failure. I know that by his grace God works in and through our defeats. But for the pastor who fails, these biblical truths do not provide much comfort. When parish membership drops, it’s almost impossible not to feel personally responsible. When one is told by the congregational leadership to leave, it doesn’t feel like God is simply opening a new door. We pastors enter the ministry because we believe we are divinely called, only to discover that our personal weaknesses, flaws, and sins are constantly undermining our effectiveness and any possibility of success. Hence I was encouraged to see that someone has actually written a book on this sensitive and painful subject of pastoral failure.
If you are a parish priest or pastor, perhaps you may find this book helpful: Fail. I have not read it, so I cannot personally recommend it. I’m just grateful someone has broken the ice. You know what I mean.
If you are a layman, please pray for your pastor and do not judge him or her too harshly.