10 Signs of Pastoral Immaturity

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

My great great grandfather was a circuit rider in North Carolina. A circuit rider was minister with several churches under their responsibility and would travel between them, riding the circuit on their horse. Both my uncle and dad are and did serve as pastors. I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Additionally, I’m friends with pastors from around the world. Over the years and several conversations I’ve noticed about 10 areas where pastors struggle with ministry maturity. These maturity spots happen to every pastor. The degree to which a pastor struggles with these really speaks to their maturity as a pastor. So here they are: 1. DRIVEN BY NUMBERS IN ATTENDANCE- I dealt with this for years. Honestly, pastoring in the shadow of “mega-churches” it still tugs at me. However, I’ve learned growth happens in multiple ways not just “butt’s in seats.” Immature pastors are all about numbers. More, more, more…This is nothing more than consumerism and a westernized view of Christianity that has settled in the heart of a pastor. Pastors and ministries place their “value” on the size of their church. Doubt me? When was the last time you went to a large conference and the main speaker was a pastor of a church of 200 instead of a pastor of a “mega-church”? Pastors are even intimidated and embarrassed at conferences if their church isn’t as big as the next persons. 2. EACH SERMON MUST BE BETTER THAN THE NEXT – Pastors are notorious for being in competition with themselves. It has to be better, more emotional, more impactful than last week. That’s ridiculous. As a pastor your job is to deliver God’s Word to the people. You can’t “be on” every Sunday. Pastors, let me tell you a secret, when you “flub-up” on stage it’s OK! In fact, people connect with your “flub-ups” they’re thinking, “Wow, my pastors human.” Even Lebron James and Tom Brady have “bad games.” Quit putting all the pressure on yourself. 3. LOOK FOR COMPLIMENTS ON YOUR SERMON FOR AFFIRMATION – Let’s face it, pastors by nature usually like the spotlight. That’s ok, God likely wired you that way. What He didn’t wire you for is to seek the approval of others. Our job is not to prep a talk for a certain person in our congregations. It’s really tempting to give a talk people will “like.” I wonder if Jesus ministry would have been as effective if he would have focused solely on what people wanted to hear? 4. PREACH TO IMPRESS OTHER PASTORS – Let’s face it, it’s normal to want to impress people in your circles. We want to look good and important to our peers. It reminds me of the “friendly” competition that seemed to continually exist between Peter and John. Your job is not to impress your peers or to get them to say, “Oh look what they’re doing.” 5. YOU TRY TO DISTANCE YOURSELF FROM OLDER PASTORS OR LAITY – In our western culture we segregate our churches based on age. We have a “kids church,” “youth group”, and even “Golden Groups.” This flies in the face of Titus 2:3-5. How are younger generations going to learn and grow from the mistakes of older generations? How will the older generations feel needed and important? We should be cross generational body just as much as we try to be cross cultural. 6. YOU SEEK OPPORTUNITIES TO PREACH YOUR OPINIONS – Stop it. Just, stop it. Our job is to preach the Word of God and mature people in their walk with Christ. Your political opinions, fashion opinions, and so on don’t matter. Our job is not to change people but offer the Word of God and provide the opportunity to change. Let the Holy Spirit change and convict, John 16:8. 7. YOU ARE ANOINTED TO TEACH AND PREACH NOT TO LIVE IT – Stop thinking you have to be perfect. Paul and Peter literally nearly came to blows in front of the church (Galatians 2:11). The Bible is clear you are anointed to preach it and teach it but you have to learn to live it like everyone else. You must work out your salvation (Philippians 2:12) just like everyone else. I’ve learned God sometimes sends people to the local body to further develop me than me developing them. 8. YOU TRY TO PREACH ON A TOPIC BEFORE YOU ARRIVE – On the heels of point seven. I’ve found the week I’m preaching on faith THAT week I have to exercise my faith. The week I’m preaching on patience, I have to live out patience before Sunday. So many of my sermons are really just me speaking to myself, and that’s OK. Why do I have to live through it before I can preach it? Because then it’s a part of who I am. My sermons come from my struggles and my heart, founded upon Scripture. Sadly, most pastors are just really good at making a book report interesting. If you’re trying to preach on a topic but haven’t arrived or matured in an area then you’re probably still preaching sermons like you did when you came out of seminary. Sad and immature. 9. CAN NEVER ADMIT YOUR WRONG – Let’s face it, being “the man” or “the woman” can go to your head. Here’s where this plays out, someone asks you a question or looks to you to lead outside of your expertise and you answer or try to lead. When my local church does a “construction” outreach, I don’t lead, because I don’t have that skill set. I must admit I can’t. Or you get angry when the wires on stage aren’t at the perfect angle (yes, it happens). Pastors, we’re human, we can and do things and say things that are wrong. We goof it up, when out of pride, we do things we do not have the skill to do just because “we’re the leader.” We must be wiling to say we are sorry and admit when we can’t or are wrong. 10. YOUR CHURCH IS ONLY FOR YOUNG FAMILIES OR SENIOR CITIZENS – Let’s just stop this nonsense. We all know this is a business practice that has entered church. (Not that business or business practices are wrong but this is not Biblical.) Trust me, I know, I have a Masters in Business and worked in corporate America for nearly 20 years. It wreaks and your ministry needs to reach all ages. Be yourself and you’ll attract people like you regardless of age. THAT will make your local congregation unique. So STOP IT, IT WREAKS. Pastors, the greater you struggle or are tempted in any of these areas it’s likely a strong sign there is a maturity issue with your ministry. If you are not a pastor, please understand these ten areas are where pastors struggle with maturity. My prayer is that as you spend more time in ministry the impact of these areas would decline and you can freely share the Word of God with your congregations without the pull of these in your life.