The PPPs: The Pressure on Pastors to Perform

the pressure on pastors to perform cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“The Pressure on Pastors to Perform” (click to get a print!)

This really happened. Last night.

A guy who is involved with the movie industry asked me this question: “David, have you ever acted?”

I said, “I was a pastor for 30 years. Does that count?”

Everyone in the room laughed.

But it’s true! The pressure pastors are under to perform and meet the demands and expectations of their churches is unbelievable. In fact, it was this pressure to abide the increasing disparity between who I was and who I was expected to be that finally did me in. Four years ago this month I left the professional ministry as a pastor of a local church.

The immediate freedom I felt is portrayed in this cartoon.

I’m aware that this doesn’t just happen in ministry. It happens everywhere. Acting one way while being another is a human problem. But I believe this dynamic is especially powerful within the church and among clergy.

It’s also a huge problem among church members. Meeting the expectations of their pastors is enormous.

I understand and I care. This is why I started my online community The Lasting Supper!


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6 Replies to “The PPPs: The Pressure on Pastors to Perform”

  1. Much like religious specialists, we in the medical fields have a front seat on the theater of life. And to be effective, we have to get up on stage with those going through suffering and “act” to be deeply sympathetic and caring. Such acting helps. It is tiring at times, but a privilege. And though it is acting for most of us, it is not really acting in another sense. We believe our own acting — and we think it is good. But I imagine you are referring to the dilemma many religious professionals must face when they have to act out beliefs they have long given up: “God will care for you”, “God will comfort you”, “God will heal you.”

  2. Great feeling indeed! I experienced that elation a few times but always came back to the church when the high of leaving ministry wore off and I realized I had bills to pay. Hell, I quit smoking faster than I left ministry 😉 . I suffered from the “I’ve laid all my eggs in one basket” syndrome–because its the only thing I’d ever done, I thought that being a pastor is all I ever could do. That was false thinking, of course, and I’ve fully transitioned into a new career now, but for over a decade that was a powerful myth for me.

    Anyhow, I’m really enjoying your blog and feel a kindred spirit here.

    BTW, I loved the drama of the liturgy, but hated the “acting” inherent in it, if that makes any sense.


  3. So true. Much of our lives are spent acting (acting like things are ok when they aren’t, holding in secrets we want to shout from the rooftops, working jobs we hate, etc.). I can’t imagine what being in ministry is like when and putting up those fronts.

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