The Frustrated Pastor …

I met Eric in the Emerging Church course at Fuller. He’s 29, married, two kids, finishing a seminary degree and holding down a role on a pastoral staff in South-Central Los Angeles, and he is frustrated beyond description.

Eric Pfeiffer.jpg

He is a strong, godly leader with clear apostolic gifting. He oozes with potential. But serving in a pastoral role has been a serious mismatch of who he is and the expectations of a local church. I’m not sure which will happen first …his local church killing him or he killing it!

The sad thing is how many people like Eric I meet on a regular basis …men and women with apostolic fervor and passion desperately thrashing around to find their niche in ministry. And all too many have been led to believe that the only path they can travel to fulfill God’s calling on their lives is pastoral ministry in a local church setting. How tragic.

The fact, historically, biblically, sociologically and missiologically is that:

Apostolic gifting must have an apostolic structure for that gifting to be adequately lived out and and fulfilled.

Until Eric and those like him find their niche in apostolic entities where they can thrive, move beyond maintenance to missionality, and be cut loose to see their vision soar, their lives will be models of frustration with a numbing lack of meaning.

Eddie Gibbs notes that 50% of those who graduate from American seminaries and who eventually end up in pastoral ministry drop out within ten years. My guess is that an uncomfortable percentage of that number is made up of the Erics of this world.

So to Eric and other like him, there is hope. You’re not crazy. You’re not a rebel. There is nothing “wrong” with you. May God lead you to right apostolic entity in the days ahead where you can make your ultimate contribution to the Kingdom.

PS: Get in touch with me to find out more about one such entity that I know a lot about. Have I got a bias? You bet!

9 Responses to “The Frustrated Pastor …”

  1. Frustrated Pastor 2 Says:

    I appreciate the frustration of this Eric character! I too find myself deeply frustrated, caught between a rock and a hard place. I love God’s church (his community of people), I feel called to give all my time and energy toward the expansion of God’s kingdom in this world, but also find myself killing and being killed by the church. What to do?

    I like the idea of apostolic structures. Perhaps someone could begin a network of such apostolic structures that could compliment one another in the process of helping apostolic people find their niche.

    Just wondering.

  2. Sam Says:

    Thanks for your honesty. There are many like you and Eric out there.

    Apostolic structures abound and the first hurdle most of us have in finding them – or engaging them – is reconizing their legtimacy as valid expressions of “church.” That’s why a good biblical ecclesiology should punch the delete button on the term “para-church.” There is no such thing, biblically, historically, socioloically or missiologically.

    If you’re looking to plug into such an apostolic expression of the body of Christ, I would encourage you to ask three questions in the search:

    1. What does this apostolic entity focus on? I.e., what do they do?
    2. Who are they? What’s the internal culture like? Values? Your chemistry with them?
    3. Is there any type of geographical or particular people group focus?

    I’d run toward the apostolic expression where I find compatibility with those three issues.

  3. Terry Walling Says:

    Hi Sam!
    Nice blog. Like both the look and layout. Looks like are buddy Alister is doing good stuff. You probably know I would comment on this article. Just like there are many Eric’s who are frustrated by their situation, there are also apostlic leaders like Rick Paytner who need to pioneer and express their apostolic gifting within the local setting. Be great to hear about when it might be right to stick it out, and when it would be better to jump ship. Just a thought.

  4. Sam Says:


    Thanks for the comment and for visiting.

    I don’t doubt that apostolic types can and should stick it out in local church structures but I think there are several dynanics that invariably take place:

    1. Those that have the best chance of thriving may have strong pastoral gifting in combination with the apostolic.

    2. The common pattern is for the person to stay connected to the church in its local form, but invariably create an apostolic structure or structure alongside or outside which they can access in order for their giftedness to have its full expression. They either attach themselves to something that already exists or they create something new while remaining in a pastoral role.

    I think the historical pattern has always proven to be that apostolic giftedness requires apostolic structures if it is going to be fulfilled.

  5. Innes Says:

    Hi Sam

    Thanks for this. Know how Eric feels =:-)

    I especially likjed you comments about “That’s why a good biblical ecclesiology should punch the delete button on the term “para-church.” There is no such thing, biblically, historically, socioloically or missiologically.” I have been thinking for a while that para-church is a misnomer. You are either church or you aren’t. It fits in with something I am writing for my church at the moment, calling them to step into the apostolic arena which has been left to para church orgs for too long.

    “We realised that this divide was a false one. The Church is a group of called out people not meetings, buildings or visions. When a group of CAI people get together, Jesus is in the centre of them (Jesus promised this and didn’t make it conditional on what we were doing at the time) , they are a church. If the Church was really doing its job, then there would be no need for so called “para-church” organisations. They would be recognised as another expression of church.

  6. richard ledesma Says:

    wanting to have a conversation—-richard

  7. Sam Says:

    Richard: Feel free to contact me. —- SM

  8. Jim Canada Says:

    I am so thankful for this post. I googled “frustrated with church” and found this entry. I couldn’t beleive my eyes as I read the opening paragraph. It’s as though you were talking about my life. I’m 27, two kids, studying religion, full time minister, and very, very frustrated.
    I know unequivocally that my life is destined for kingdom work, but I feel like I am spinning my wheels.
    I am not really familiar with “Apostolic Ecclesiology” but I would like to learn more.
    I spend my time working in ministry, but I still feel like I am sitting on the side lines, as if I’m standing on deck, warming up, but I’m never really in the game.
    I don’t want to look back at my life and know I could have done more for the Lord, for more people.

    I covet any help you can offer me.

  9. Sam Says:


    Sorry to be so slow in responding to your post. My blog has been inactive recently. However I would be glad to correspond with you about this issue if you would like to contact me directly:

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