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Why do so many pastors give up their service?

StephanName: Stephen

Age: 28

Maritual status: married

education: bachelors degree mechanical engineering

1. What are your talents and strengths?

I am a problem solver and like to swim against the stream from time to time.

2. Which vocation where you pursuing before you became a christian? What was your passion?

My dream was to become an engineer and to develop technology. This dream came true and I worked in the technical mangement of the automotive industry for 2 years. I had close contact with BMW and earned good money. My passion was clearly in the technical and natural sciences area. I especially love numbers, mathematical formulas, diagrams, measurement results, optimizing things regarding their process and efficiency. Solving problems. I see myself rather as an allrounder who leads and coordinates projects than a specialist. And yes, I like being my own boss.

3. How were you affected by your home and your parents?

To my dad a christian up bringing was important and so we went to the national protestant church. My mom doesn’t believe in God. I was baptised as a child and later I went to confirmation. I did believe in a God but to me he was far away and I didn’t share any personal experiences with him. The fact is that after my confirmation I only went to church a couple of times because it’s tradition and I rarely prayed. My parents are both doctors and always emphasised the importance of education. I felt the expectation to have an academic career like my parents- in order to have financial security.

4. When and how did you become a Christian?

After I graduated from high school I spent 8 months in New Zealand. In a hostel I met a man; that in my eyes, seemed to have lost his mind a little bit. He had a 20cm long meet knife in his hand which he was pressing against my chest to threaten me.

I was scared to death unable to speak or move.

Thanks to Jesus the man just ended leaving a little cut on my wrist and left. This experience really marked me and led me to think about what would have happened if the man had actually  stabbed me. Where would I have gone? Is everything over after death? Is there something after death? I didn’t have any answers to these questions and so I started feeling the urge to search for that God again and find out what that christian religion is really about. It was very important to me to examine this whole religion thing personally without just blindly accepting what other people say. Back in germany I was too afraid to actually go to a chruch and talk to christians for a whole nother year, even though I wanted to. I was kind of frustrated because the questions just wouldn’t let me go so I prayed to God: ” If you really exist then give me christian friends who will tell me about you!” And really, two weeks later I met to christians at university. Shortly after that an old school mate from elementary school contacted me. It turned out that, just like me, he had moved away 300km from home, to Darmstadt. We hadn’t heard from each other in 10 years. When we first met he told me that he had become a christian a couple of years ago. Jackpot! Coincidence? Answer to prayer! He invited me to come to his church. The people there told me about Jesus and that he sacrificed his life for my sins so that I can have an eternal life with God. On my way home it was like a revelation, what I had heard about Jesus was true.

Back at my place I locked myself into my room and started talking to God as if he were my friend. I invited him into my life and asked him to forgive all my sins so I could follow him.

Boom! I could feel how peace filled my heart in that moment. I knew that I would be in heaven with God after my earthly life. Moreover I felt that god could be in my room with me and that he isn’t far away. Jesus is real. He lives and isn’t just an invention by the church.

5. How did you decide to become a pastor? Did a certain situation change your mind?

With the decision to follow Jesus I also decided to do exactly what he tells me.

Not my will shall happen but his.

Since the moment I became a christian I thought about stopping my engineer studies and becoming a pastor but God told me to finish it. It was a long fight of 5 years until I finally held the engineering diploma in my hands and asked God again; what do you want me to do? He told me to start a new vocational training to become a pastor but left it to me when to start. I decided to get some job experience as an engineer first before going back to school. During that time I met my wife. With our engagement the question came up again: ” God where do you want us after our wedding?” Within 4 months 3 different people that we didn’t know had the same prophetic picture for us: a tree planted on a little river. This picture or rather this symbol can be found in the logo of the THS – academy in Bingen. Thus it was clear to us that that was going to be the next step in our lives. I don’ know yet what is going to be next after my studies here but I’ll just ask again: “Father, what’s next? Where do you want me?”

6. Aren’t you afraid that you’ll lead a boring and exhausting life as a pastor? Sacrifices, high moral standards, annoying people all the time or even unemployment?

No! I don’t have time to worry as a pastor. Pastors are usually very busy.

If God calls me into his service then he’ll make sure that I have everything I need. God is faithful and absolutely dependable.

I’ve learned that so many times. I have chosen to trust God in everything. That doesn’t leave any space for worry. I’m absolutely convinced that when I live in Gods calling I will, in the long run, experience the most contentment because God has chosen and qualified me for this job. There is nothing more beautiful to me than to see people giving their lives to Jesus, their souls, bodies and minds being saved and healed and Gods power being visible through signs and miracles. That’s worth fighting for. Let the challenges come! With God by my side I will overcome every wall and every problem will be solved. Important is that you carry Gods calling in your heart.

7. Can’t the the kingdom of God be built just as effectively by a politician or an entrepreneur?

Definitely! I wish for more brave christians that go out and just preach  the gospel at their work and that live and embody christian values. I think often times we christians aren’t consequent and brave enough in this aspect. I definitely would have stayed in my position as an engineer if God hadn’t showed me another path. I can imagine working half time as an engineer again after my theology program. We need strong christians that reach the high ranked manager aswell as the cleaning lady in the restaurant. I stand for ” Living faith in your day-to-day life!”

8. At the THS academy you’re getting an insight into the real day of a pastor – what does that look like? What do you like especially and what do you dislike?

The daily routine of a pastor is as dynamic as the exchange rates: Preaching, counseling, church management, financial decisions, marketing, legal matters, developing visions and strategies, praying, bible study, further education, communication, communication, communication….

What I like about spiritual leaders is that they have the potential to make Gods kingdom blossom and grow to the extent that chruches, communities and even countries can be changed through Gods presence on earth.

We’re history makers with a big responsibilty. As a spiritual leader I create structures, places and possibilities where people can personally experience God and where their faith in Jesus grows. Parallel to that it is amazing if thanks to my work people can find new joy and freedom, families are changed, sick are healed, marriages are saved, friendships are made and much more. That helps me forget about the challenges that can occure in a church. What I don’t like is when people assume they can judge the complexity of a church and the decisions a pastor has to make and act like being a spiritual leader is the easiest thing one can do on planet earth. The number of appointements in the evenings and on the week-ends can be quite challenging regarding my family.

9. What is important to learn for a prospective pastor?

A deep, intimate relationship with God and the search for his will are absolutely crucial. On this basis a leader has to make a plan for his own life and his church and has to be able to enthuse people for his vision. Communication is key. Teams are essential for the realization.

The leader has to build teams and put people in the right place considering their individual talents.

At the same time it is important that he is aware of his own weeknesses and strengths and knows he isn’t perfect. Lone fighters are very rare in Gods kingdom! A spiritual leader is a servant in the first place and not a ruler. Therefor it is important to develop the mindset of a servant and a humble attitude. A pastor needs to be willing to give up his own wishes and ambitions in order to accept a subordinate role to God. To lead oneself is the number one priority of a leader. The flaw of many leaders is that they work too much with and on other people instead of working on themselves, their character, their abilities to lead and on their relationship to God.

10. Many pastors dreamed of the big breakthrough and church growth and were dissappointed. Some even copped out. Why is that in your opinion?

I think such experiences can have many reasons. Every situation has to be judged individually. Generally speaking dissappointement usually comes up when I don’t reach a personal goal or personal expectations aren’t fulfilled. At this point the leader has to ask himself: “Am I still following Gods will?”

A pastor definitely has borders that he has to accept. It’n not him who is almighty and holds the situation in his hands, it’s God.

Many pastors are overwhelmed by the glut of tasks and burn out. The only way to prevent that is a good organization of tasks, good self management and a strong team. Unfortunately the purely theological university courses concentrate too strongly on the theological theory and don’t give the ongoing pastor enough practical tools on how to manage the daily church affaires. THS recognized this deficit and fixed it through the convincing combination of theory and practical application. One reason why I think churches don’t grow is because they focus too much on themselves and don’t take the order to do mission work seriously enough. The fruit is thus a lack of growth or even decreasing growth. Such a development depends primarily on the leader of a church who sets the priorities and leads the people in a specific direction.

11. Why did you choose the THS-academy for your education instead of one of the others theological colleges?

From my engineer diploma I know that it can be very strenuous to only deal with theory over the course of several years without any practical application. It’s tedious and not very effective. THS offers the innovative combination of theory and practical application. What is learned in class can be directly applied  and lived in church. Competence and performance skills can’t be acquired primarily through theoretical studies. They can only be acquired through practical practice, practice and more practice. The feedback culture, which is a fixed componenet of the training, is very helpful. I love that we have classes like: team building, coaching, mentoring, legal topics considering church, budget planing, self management etc. in addition to the theological classes. The high dynamic and variety that accompany this educational program are amazing! It’s never monotonous or boring and we always know, what we’re learning for.

12. What have you learned the most so far? Where have you changed due to your training?

Through the program I have learned a lot about myself; what my strengths and weaknesses are. I had to process things from my past. It helped me to find more freedom and confidence in myself and in God. I’ve also lost a lot of my fear of men and learned to lead people and set them free for Gods kingdom. My faith or moreover my theological understanding is growing and broadening. You learn to understand different theological views and to let some things be.

13. When you imagine a typical week in 10 years – you can dream big – what would it look like?

My dream week is made up of the following parts:

Quality time with God / Quality time with my family / at least 5 hours a week that I use to get to know people, to encourage them and to form them into strong followers of Jesus/ meetings with my leadership team from church in which I empower them and take time to plan the development of Gods kingdom with them/ a powerful sermon in a full room  filled with Gods presence that leaves people changed / meetings and conversations with socially important committees from politics or the economy/ time to ride my mountain bike

Now it’s your turn:

What is your calling from God?

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