Stages of Ministerial Growth?

Now that I’m a veteran pastor (5 + years), I have been thinking about the stages that I have gone through in this short time as a pastor. I came up with three so far.

(1) Zealous stage: This is the stage where I thought that everyone would love the theology that I was spouting, and when I thought that I would conquer the world for confessional Lutheranism. This stage is also called “naivety.” This stage lasted about 1 1/2 years. I got a lot accomplished in that time actually.

(2) Disillusionment: This is the stage where I realized that only a handful of people actually cared about what I had to say, and for some reason this was shocking to me. No one can prepare seminary students for the degree of unbelief they will encounter in the Church. This has lasted about 2 1/2 years (could be longer). It is marked by feelings of utter futility and anger; also with the thinking that there is no point in doing what I am doing, since it seems not to make any difference.

(3) Acceptance: This is the stage that I am currently in. This is the stage where I accept the fact that few people are interested in the Gospel, but that doesn’t give me the right not to preach it. It is still discouraging to see so few people in the pews on Sundays and midweeks, especially when some of them were very faithful at the beginning of my time here, but it doesn’t put me in as bad of a mood as it used to. I don’t feel as much anger at the people as I did during my “disillusionment” stage.

Who knows what stage I will be in next year or in three years. Perhaps they just keep cycling through now. I should also add that it would probably behoove all faithful pastors to pray for the zeal that they had when they first entered the ministry. That zeal moves us to accomplish things and do things that our “veteran wisdom” causes us to think the better of. The good that we do in that first year far outweighs, in my opinion, the mistakes that we make in doing it. How’s that for sanctified wisdom. I think it is better to be a bull in a China shop than to tiptoe through the tulips. The people need to be stirred up. Isn’t that what Advent is all about? “Stir up your power;” “Stir up our hearts…”

Okay, now I expect to hear from all the 10 + year pastors how such ideas are folly. Well, this is what I say: experience has shown me that I was a better pastor my first year out of the sem than I am now. How’s that for wisdom?


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Stages of Ministerial Growth?

  1. David says:

    Is it me, or does what you’ve written not parallel the stages of grieving?

    You, like me, wonder what we can do to save a ship that rotten to the core, yet provide a lifeboat to the souls we’ve been entrusted.

    Aye, there’s the rub. And it isn’t Mentholatum.

  2. Jim Roemke says:

    Well, Pr. Biesel, you have given me, a pastor just over the first hump of that first year, a great deal of encouragement and comfort. Many older, “wiser” pastors do nothing but try to cut me and other young pastors down, I suppose in some vain attempt to pump themselves up. I don’t know, but I will continue to be zealous and I will continue to pray for true zeal for the truth of the Word and the confession of the Church. Who knows the mind of God and what He may have in store yet for His vineyard?

  3. Jim Roemke says:

    P.S. Sorry about the mispelling of the name!

  4. Pastor Beisel says:

    One could also call stage two: unbelief. Or faithlessness.

  5. Rev. A. J. says:

    Brother, as a pastor for nearly 30 years now (St. Louis, ’79), I can assure you that you will cycle through your “stages” on a more or less regular basis. After the word of Christ, I am most comforted by Luther’s enjoinder that three things make a theologian: oratio, meditatio, and tentatio (tr. from Latin, prayer, meditation, and struggle/angst/tribulation). I can definitely say that the 3rd in the list is the crucible through which God chases the man away from himself, away from the ridiculous church growth methodology, away from reformed theology and practice, away from mere reliance upon personal strength and personality, and back to Word and Sacraments as the means through which He works in your own heart and life, and as the means by which He works in others’ hearts and lives. Very often, those people who just don’t care will come to see the Gospel’s power and comfort only when they come to the end of their rope, and their faithful pastor faithfully brings Christ to them through Word and Sacrament ministry. I have some great stories of victory (to Christ the glory, of course) if you ever like some . . . . Stories are things which us guys who are getting older have in abundance. Immanuel! 🙂

  6. elephantschild says:

    The good that we do in that first year far outweighs, in my opinion, the mistakes that we make in doing it.

    I suspect it does in most cases,
    Pr. Beisel, except when it doesn’t. I saw things under two different shepherds, all under the banner of confessionalism, that nearly caused my husband and I to leave the Confessional banner behind, and NOT because we disagreed with any of the changes, teaching, practices or theology!! Up until the time we were at Preachrboy’s church four years ago (we’ve since moved out of his state), all that we had seen of confessional Lutheran pastors was harshness, haughty pride, lack of communication, and a disdain for *explaining* what and why. And sadly, very sadly, this is why there are quite so many in our synod terrified of pastors from a particular seminary. Because of a few, many have suffered. I seriously think our seminaries should have classes on tact, politeness and bedside manner!

    Thank goodness for the Martin Loopers email list, the Lutheran blogosphere, and our current pastor, who have all done the Lord’s work in convincing us that it IS possible to be confessional AND a kind, caring pastor, who returns phone calls to those wishing to join the church, visits his sick, and doesn’t convict people as liberals *solely* because they’ve never heard of using incense in a Lutheran church before.

    There IS a middle ground between a bull in a china shop and tiptoe-ing thru the tulips. Just as a parent must be gentle AND firm, it is possible for a pastor to be so. Our current pastor is, and I read lots of Pastor-bloggers who sound like they are, too. 🙂

    And my apologies for ranting on someone else’s blog. My husband and I have been trampled by some of those bulls, Pr. Beisel, and it has taken a long time for the scrapes and cuts to heal.

Comments are closed.