Brother, your “ministry” is not worth your life.

Last week the nation was shocked to read about a pastor in California that had taken his own life after a lengthy battle with depression.

Andrew Stoecklein seemed to be doing quite well on the surface.  He was happily married and the father of three beautiful children.  He was pastoring a vibrant church in a beautiful area of southern California.  He certainly did not seem to fit the bill of a pastor struggling in ministry and fighting for his life.  His death has once again put the spotlight on the mental health of those in ministry.  As pastor appreciation month approaches, several Christian media outlets are posting articles about depression, suicide, and the pressures of ministry.

Unfortunately, the numbers do not lie.  Pastors across the nation suffer from depression, the feelings of isolation, and exhaustion.  Many do not think they are making a significant impact on their congregation.  Even pastors’ wives and children are not spared the stress and pain of ministry, with many reporting that they needed counseling for the pressures of having a spouse or parent in ministry.

I must say that I can understand how this must feel.  As the only pastor of a small church, there have been many times when I have doubted my calling.  I have questioned whether I was doing more harm than good to my congregation.  I have even struggled to do anything because of an overwhelming feeling that all my efforts were destined to fail.

So as I reflected on this pastor’s actions and the statistics that show that so many other pastors are on the same path; I was left with this word of advice:

Your “Ministry” is not worth your life.

Let me explain:

  1. Your “ministry” ≠ the Gospel

The title of this post is intended to be provocative and I have no doubt that some who read this would respond by ask, “Didn’t Jesus himself say, ‘For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ (Mark 8:35) Now you’re telling me that my ministry isn’t worth my life?”

Yes, that is what I am saying, and I am saying it because your ministry is not the gospel.  It is true that we may very well be called to go and preach the Gospel in places where the Gospel is not welcome.  We may be called to face persecution, imprisonment, even death as we faithfully share the Gospel with the lost.

However, that isn’t really what we are talking about here.  Here, we are talking about your “ministry” or the particular work or vocation where you are currently serving.  It is one thing to preach the Gospel knowing that you may be in danger for doing so.  It is quite another thing to stay in a certain position or job even though it is leading you to burnout or self harm.

Jesus himself told his disciples that they were to preach the Gospel and yet be willing to walk away from bad situations.  He said, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.” (Matt 10:14) He gave them permission to move on instead of grinding to the point of exhaustion.  You need to know also that you have permission to move on as well.

  1. The Gospel will go on; even if your ministry doesn’t.

The next thing you may say is, “But I can’t do that!!!  If I quit, then no one will be here to witness in this church / community / town!!!”

Really?  One of the hardest things for a pastor, missionary, or lay leader to understand is that the Great Commission does not hang on our ability to succeed in a particular ministry.  I can promise you that even when you step down or step aside, the Gospel will continue moving forward.

Yes, your particular ministry may cease to exist.  Yes, you may see opportunities to share missed because of your absence.  And yes, things may appear to be worse because you are no longer at the helm.  But do not fear, the Gospel has not been thwarted and the Great Commission will go on.  We know this because the Bible is true.

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev 7:9)

See?  God is going to see that every tribe, tongue, and nation come before the throne in worship.  You cannot thwart the plans of God; even if that means stepping down for a season to rest and be with Him!

  1. Your family > Your ministry

This brings me to my last point.  I beg you that you please listen to this, your “ministry” to your family should always, always take priority over every other ministry you have; vocational or volunteer.  Pastors and every other form of minister often feel like everyone is demanding their time and attention; often at the neglect of their spouse and children.  I beg you here and now to break that cycle in your own life.  If a ministry or church cannot function unless you neglect your family, then it isn’t the place for you.

Even before Christ gathered the church, He established the family, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) In this moment the first family was formed and just as it was placed before the church in history, it should be placed before the church in priority.

One thing we know for certain, you cannot minister, care for, and love your family if you are not there.  It is far more important that you be a husband to your wife and a father to your children, than you be a pastor to a church.  A church, ministry, or mission can have a variety of leaders, but your family can only have one father.  Please, be that father.  You cannot do it if you are gone all the time, and you cannot do it if you take your own life.

Your family loves you and needs you; be there for them.


Brother, your “ministry” is not worth your life.  It is okay to step aside and/or step away.  The Lord will provide for you and He will take care of you.  Rest, seek counseling, and be with your family.  It is not too late.


If you are reading this, I am praying for you.  Pray for me too.