A Prayer for When I Feel Like a Bad Pastor

1 Peter 5 says, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Lord, I feel like these verses are an indictment against me.

“Exercising oversight willingly, and not under compulsion.”

Lately, I can feel I’m under compulsion in a way. That I am just “doing my job.” That joy in caring for and interacting with students is harder and harder to come by. I “force” myself to talk to them, hang out with them, and enjoy myself when I am around them. Planning events is a chore to me. And it worries me that I still love to preach, even though I feel as if I don’t love these students as I ought. What does it say about me that I like to talk to them, but not with them?

“…not for shameful gain, but eagerly.”

While I feel like I am normally not prone to shameful gain, that’s not entirely true. No, I can’t earn a lot of money as a student pastor, but that’s not the only type of “gain” in the currency of the world. I am greedy for prestige within my various circles. I am constantly aware of the ways that I can expand my influence beyond the walls of my church. I feel myself reaching for a greater voice within my context. While I acknowledge that parts of these desires are godly and needed, I know myself well enough (which means I also know how much I don’t know about how deeply sinful I am) to understand that my motives are always mixed here.

On top of that, my eagerness is rarely self-sacrificing. I often preach a sermon series for the intellectual challenge, or the fact that I could preach that one in “big church.” As if these things are the mark of faithfulness. I look for ways to move beyond the place that I work, eagerly anticipating the next thing, but not eagerly sacrificing for those in the flock given to me. I am eager for shameful gain.

“…not domineering over those in my charge but being examples to the flock.”

Perhaps I am not as domineering as I can make myself out to be, Lord. But I do know I want my own way. I speak my opinion forcefully, and can often be blind to wise counsel to the contrary. I like to side with those that have strong personalities, and command a conversation. Leading me to think, given the opportunity, I would be just the same way.

Lord, I pray that you would help me to be a better example of humility and deference, of contentment and willing self-sacrifice. There are many places in my life and my heart where that is not the case. Change my heart for my students. Change my heart when it comes to what I want to achieve. Change my heart when it comes to my desires to be the loudest, most convincing voice in the room.

Help me to be like Peter, who as a “partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” waited patiently for the time “when the chief Shepherd appears.” Help me to hear and find precious the promise that was so powerfully evident to Peter: “You will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Lord motivate me by giving me greater desires for your glory, and your coming. Show me that the glory of this world, the glory of my shameful gain, the glory of my dominating personality is not glory at all. Help me count it as rubbish for the sake of knowing Christ, the true Shepherd of my students.

Lord, like Peter, I am a “witness of the sufferings of Christ.” Admittedly, by text and not by experience. But my response should be the same as his: violent, joyful, free, and self-sacrificing pastoral care.

Change me. In the name of the Christ that shepherded me by his own violent, joyful, free and self-sacrificing life.



Seth Stewart is a husband and a dad, and after a decade in student ministry is now working as the Editor-in-Chief at Spoken Gospel. Spoken Gospel creates online resources that point to Jesus from every passage of Scripture. Seth spends his day writing, speaking, and being his family's chef.

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