Phil Miglioratti of PrayingPastor.com and the National Pastors Prayer Network recently interviewed Mark Elliott, author of Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor: What Pastors Wish They Could Tell You...
Phil: At first glance, the title made me think this is a book pastors would want to give to their church members, but as I read through it, I get the impression this book is as much for pastors as it is for those who pray for and care about them.
Mark: Absolutely! It is for the WHOLE body of Christ, ALL will benefit from these pages. It will open up a healthy dialogue among church attenders, among pastors, and among laity with pastors.
Phil: The term "transparency" appears several times in the very first pages of the book - Why?
Mark: By and large we Christians are not transparent with one another. We tend to be religious, wear masks, and pretend we have it all together. We put our pastors on pedestals and refuse to let them be human beings. This book is meant to bring us out of our closets and into the light so that we can be set free to be ourselves and walk in the amazing grace of God without fear, insecurity, and judgment.
Phil: The 16 chapters cover a wide ranger of emotions and circumstances. Talk about:
- "I'm Not That Sharp" - I'm not near as good as I pretend to be. I'm often faking it until I make it. I'm putting my best foot forward and hoping I don't trip up in front of others and embarrass myself. We hide behind our pride and air of self-sufficiency when only Christ's sufficiency can make us sufficient.
- "I'm Battling Sin" - Who are we fooling to pretend we are with out sin. We just don't like to talk about it. The Bible tells us to confess our sins with one another in the body of Christ. Most of us don't because it's too dangerous. The church body might judge us, condemn us, or use it against us. Sin can't properly be dealt with until it's confessed, talked about, admitted too, and brought out into the light of Jesus Christ's' grace.
- "I'm Not Bill, Andy, Rick or Ed" - It's so easy to get in the trap of comparing ourselves to others or copying our ministries or lifestyles after someone very different than we are. We simply cannot wear another man's armor. It doesn't fit who we are. We must be ourselves and be judged against God's will for our lives not another persons brilliance.
- "My Best Days Are Behind Me" - We live in a country that pushes us to the ultimate goal of a cushy, lazy retirement. You don't find retirement in the Bible. Many of God's saints ministered, worked, and influenced other well into their golden tears. As we get older we have so much experience, wisdom, and expertise to offer. Why quit when you finally got many things figured out? We need to refire rather than retire. Your best days could yet be out in front of you. It's more about attitude and perspective than age. The new 70 is today's 50. "I'm Disillusioned By The Ministry" - The ministry can wear on you over the years. People will let you down. Christians don't always act Christ-like. Mean and nasty thinks happen in churches. Many a pastor has said to themselves, "This isn't what I signed up for." If we are not careful bitterness, anger, fear, and other negative emotions can cause the tipping point in our ministry that leads to burnout, quitting, and down right disillusionment with the whole system.
Phil: Though your book is glaringly honest about weakness and even failure, it is really about spiritual development. At the end of each chapter you challenge the reader with self-examination questions they can use to journal, discuss in a small group, or even as a devotional, plus a faith-filled confession and a power prayer. How can these tools benefit pastors struggling with insignificance?
Mark: The questions cause us to reflect on the principle with God in prayer, ourselves, and even others in certain settings. Discussing these chapters with fellow pastors helps us to realize we are not alone but even my peers who I respect struggling with feelings of insignificance. Our significance is found in Christ not in our self, success, or how people perceive us on the outside.
Phil: Agree or disagree: Every pastor needs to develop a through-the-day conversation with Jesus and should seek out the fellowship of a pastors' prayer group as an antidote to being sidelined by discouragement.
Mark: AGREE! We must practice the active 24/7 presence of God throughout our day. That's what relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit in us is all about. God never meant us to go it alone. Jesus had a fellowship of 12, an inner circle of 3, and even a best friend. We need to be regularly involved in open, transparent, authentic, below the surface, face-to-face relationships with our pastoral peers. We need empathetic encouragers, teammates, and cheerleaders in our lives. It can be difficult and even risky at times to try to meet that need with persons in your church. They may not understand or even be able to relate to the needs and challenges unique to pastors. Yet, we can't make it all by ourselves against all that the enemy of our souls and ministry will bring against us.
Phil: Some pastors have wisely recruited a prayer team for support and protection. How can this book assist those who pray diligently for their pastor?
Mark: This book will give intercessors that "whats" to pray about. These pages will give you specific challenges, discouragements, enemies, and destructive thought patterns to pray over your pastor and his family.
Phil: How is "I refuse to quit!" the first step toward strength and freedom?
Mark: God has called us to faithfulness not success. If we will be faithful, hang on to God, and keep doing our best in God's strength then God will take care of any success we may enjoy. Not quitting gives God the chance to show up in times of weakness and display His strength, wisdom, and love in our lives and ministries. Not quitting means God has to show up. We become a trophy of His grace shed abroad in our lives. If you decide to refuse to quit no matter what...then that is a decision you don't even have to entertain unless you get a "thus sayeth the Lord.? That frees you up to keep putting one foot in front of another for another day and to find your source of strength outside yourself. Remember: the battle doesn't belong to you but to the Lord.
Phil: Mark, please write a prayer struggling pastors can pray with you...
Mark: Dear Father God,
I am weak but you are strong. I am inconsistent but you never change. I am a sinner and you are my righteousness. I'm all about the destination but you are all about the journey. You have called me and are faithful to fulfill your ministry call and spiritual development in me. Therefore, I give you my sin, struggles, weaknesses, problems, and fears. I lay them at your feet. I am weary and heavily burdened. I come to you for rest, refreshing, and renewal. Give me a fresh measure of your joy that is my inner strength. I thank you God that your mercies for me are new every morning. I choose today to walk in your renewable strength, powerful presence, and jubilant joy. Thank you Jesus for being my all-in-all whenever I feel so down-and-out. The battle around me belongs to you so each day I gratefully deliver them in prayer to your capable hands. Thanks you for taking such good care of all that could burden me. Amen
Bonus Cut: Dick Hardy Podcast Interview 5/5/2009
Subject: Why in the world did Mark Elliott write Confessions of an Insignificant Pastor: What Pastors Wish They Could Tell You?
This book really came out of a real God-moment experience that I had in Indianapolis in 2007 that released me to write this timely book. Secondarily, 'Confessions' came out of my own painful experiences in 27 years of full-time ministry and yet not giving up when I surely felt to do so.
I've read stats from Barna and Focus on the Family that say, "80% of pastors quit the ministry in their first five years" and that "1,200 ministers leave the ministry each month." My heart beats for hurting pastors and their families. Who ministers to the pastor today? Where does the minister go for help?
I believe this book will help bring hope, encouragement, strength, and renewal to pastors who will then begin to open up and talk transparently with their peers and begin then to truly support one another rather than compete against them behind their lone-ranger masks.
Specifically in the past 5 years God has used some very painful incidents to birth this book to be of help to others in the body of Christ...whether in thepulpit or in the pew. We have a plateaued American church because we have plateaued people and plateaued pastors who all desperately need a spiritualrefreshing from God. This is a book about hope, faithfulness, and integrity.
1. Critics might say the title sounds like you are really insecure? What do you say?
The title might be construed by some to be negative in nature but the book is actually very positive, faith-filled and encouraging! Am I insecure? SURE! Aren't we all too some degree and in differing areas? I believe our insecurity is a byproduct of the fall of man from God and into sin. The insecurity in us all is due to our sin nature which separates us from God.
The GOOD NEWS is that Jesus came to bridge that gap and become our security. This book is all about slaying the dragon of insecurity, sin, evil, and bitterness so that we can be free to live our life to the fullest extent in God's will and His incredible journey He has planned for us.
2. Is this book kind of a downer?
This book is far from being a downer. This is about getting back up when you get knocked down.
3. How will this book help a pastor?
This book will help pastors to become more confident, secure, and encouraged to tackle all that life brings across their paths. This book will open updialogue between pastors with their peers. 'Confessions' will build a pack of pastoral finishers rather than quitters.
For their lay persons the book will help them better understand how to encourage and pray for their pastors. The book could do wonders when read and used in a small group format with the provided SG questions with a leadership/deacon board, pastoral staff group, or even intercessory prayer groups who pray for their pastors.
Mark Elliott grew up in the foothills of southern Indiana. He came to know Christ at the age of nine when his alcoholic father and dysfunctional family began attending a small country Baptist church. Dr. Elliott s education includes a B.S. in Pastoral Ministry from North Central University, an M.A. in Biblical Literature from the Assemblies of God Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, an M.A. in Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and a Doctoral of Ministry degree from Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Elliott is currently the pastor of New Life Community Church in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. During a 25-year career in pastoral ministry he has written and produced religious radio broadcasts, and contributed articles for several magazines and books. Visit his website at docmarkelliott.com.Rev. Phil Miglioratti is a longtime Southern Baptist pastor, and currently the director of the National Pastors Prayer Network and the facilitator of networks for the CPLN. Phil also serves as the managing editor of The Praying Pastor. Visit PrayingPastor.com and the Praying Pastor blogspot.