Please note, I have added to the post to clarify. See the parenthetical addition in italics.

So many times I want to throw in the ministry towel and be “normal”—to have a normal job with normal responsibilities. 

Maybe some of you out there know what I mean. Love, joy, peace, patience…you know the rest. Sometimes I simply don’t have those things. I can’t find them. There are periods of my life where ministry seems so natural. It seems to flow from me. It is a part of who I am. To teach a class, write a blog, preach a sermon, envision new project, these are some of the things that I love to do. I can’t help it. Sometimes . . .

But then you are in ministry and you are committed to these things. They are your life. They are a daily responsibility.

8-11am: Study and pray

11am-12pm: Encourage staff. Set direction for ministry. Give assignments. Set ministry priorities responsibilities.

1-3pm: Write a blog that encourages and educates Christians in the faith.

3-5pm: Develop new courses on theology, discipleship, and prepare to teach/preach.

6-9pm: Teach, encourage, exhort in truth, grace, love, and righteousness (repeat every Tuesday and Wednesday, and some Sunday mornings)

All day: sporadically respond to emails and phone calls from people who need encouragement and exhortation in the faith with gentleness, respect, grace, love, and conviction (and don’t fake it!)

 The most troublesome times in my life are when I don’t feel like doing these things but I have to anyway. Why don’t I feel like it? Because I am not up to the task. I am not above reproach.

Here is how some days go:

I don’t have love today. I have no discipline or self-control. I am not optimistic. I have no joy. Me and my wife are not getting along. I am short tempered with my kids. I am behind on the bills and angry about it. I am too ashamed about my attitude to talk to God. It is just one of those days. If I could take a pill to change it all, I would. But I don’t have one. Nevertheless, I must to do my job anyway. I have to design a class on teaching children the basics of discipleship, yet I cannot find a disciple in me. But I must to do my job anyway.

If I was a architect, then my skills would lead the way. Rote skills that don’t require really spirituality this day (or any day). I could be responsible and work just the same, no matter what my prayer life was like. If I was a doctor . . . diagnose the problem and prescribe the solution, perform a surgery, set a bone. Rote. If I was a teacher of history. The facts are the facts and my attitude does not change them. (I am not saying that that is all these jobs are or, for the Christian, that these jobs should not be done by a spiritually fit person. I am simply saying that it is POSSIBLE to do these jobs well while spiritually sick, while ministry often assumes differently.)

Some days I am not qualified to do my job. Some days I am neither encouraged or an encourager.

Rote education. Rote doctrine. Rote truth. That’s the solution. Easy enough if your reliance is only on yourself to change minds. Easy enough if you don’t care if people’s spiritual life is affected for the better. Easy enough if you not really in ministry. Oh, and easy enough if you ministry does not rely on the faithful and trusting support of donors . . . many of whom you don’t know personally, but they trust you nonetheless.

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2: 7-8)

FAIL (a least this day).

But I have been ordained. I have been entrusted with a special dispensation and calling. I have been entrusted through a ministry where people rely on me to be . . . well . . . more than this!

How do you deal with this? Call in sick? “Yes, I am not feeling spiritual today. I am taking one of my ‘spiritually sick days.” Please have someone else fill my responsibilities . . . someone who is following God today . . . When will I be back? Probably tomorrow or the next day, but there is no guarantee. I’ll keep you up-to-date.”

Once I do “recover” it is not complete as I have to deal with the lingering effects of the guilt that I could not do what I am now, once again, slightly encouraged to tell other to do. After a few weeks, I am back in full swing. Three weeks without an “episode” and I am on top of the world. The lessons flow from me. All who are around me a encouraged. I remember why I was called to this position. I am ready to change the world by word and example. That is . . . until I have another episode.

How do I call in spiritually sick? There are sermons that must preached. Prayers that must be said. Students that must be taught. A ministry staff that must be encouraged.

But for God’s grace . . .

Sometimes I wish I could, but I can’t call in.

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C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.

Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    34 replies to "Calling in “Spiritually Sick” to Work Today"

    • EricW

      Maybe it’s not you that’s wrong, but the job concept and expectations of your “ordination.”

      Maybe the whole model is wrong.

    • Wayne in Frisco

      Good post, Michael. And a reminder why it is so important that we pray for our pastors and minsters. Theirs is a great burden and we need to lift them up regularly. While those called to this purpose may have been gifted accordingly, they are still subject to the weaknesses of humanity.

      That said, I feel like this is a common burden for all Christians. More so for those where it is their vocation, but all Christians have ministries; family, friends, neighbors, work… We are supposed to edify, educate, encourage and bear witness to all those around us; saved or unsaved. While I’m not saying there is nothing unique for minsters, I do think that all believers should feel similar pressure and be aware of their spiritually-down days. It’s helpful to know that you go through this, too, lest we become envious of the perceived joy we see from our minsters at all times.

      This is why we long for His return. You are in my prayers.

    • K.W.V.S

      I know how you feel Michael..I am not even in a ministry postion and I wish I could call in spiritually sick to my job…I have one “Life-fail” and I don’t even want to look at my reflection, let alone talk to A Holy God who tells me to be joyfull in affliction and “be Holy as I am Holy. But I guess thats where the whole “taking up your cross” thing comes in….

    • Sam

      Vocation as an architect, doctor or history teacher requires just as much grace to rely on as any ordained minister must…that is if they want to do their work as unto the Lord. The grass is not greener over there Michael. And I just know you don’t mean to whine either, but you have the best job in the Kingdom. After 31 years in ordained ministry I don’t feel the least bit cruel in saying “Suck it up Michael, and thank God for what you have.” Love ya brother!

    • C Michael Patton

      Someone mentioned that I was possibly taking on to much work.

      This may be true. My personality is partially at fault. I get so excited about doing so many things that I do place many unnecessary burdens on my shoulders.

      However, most of what I have listed are reasonable responsibilities, in my opinion, that I sometimes find it hard to find the spiritual disposition to adequately pull-off. I suppose I could have written this even if my only responsibility was to preach once a week. Sometime it is hard to find what is necessary and guilt sets in. But I can’t call in. As I said at the end, I must simply rely upon God’s grace that through me he might be found even on those days when I don’t meet the qualifications.

    • Paul Davis

      Michael,

      Before I say anything, know this… Your dedication, your passion and your ministry have changed my life. I walked away from Christianity because when I would ask ‘Why’ no one could answer (or didn’t want too), it finally put me in a position where I felt like I was being hyper critical because I wanted to know the answers to the things I was being told. It destroyed my faith and fed my skepticism and I felt my only option was to turn my back, God had other plans and finally last year called me back by using Timothy Keller and his book on apologetics (I purchased it at 4am while looking for a book on finding peace in your life).

      Then I found Dan Wallace, read just about everything he wrote. And finally found your ministry, I can’t begin to tell you how much of an answered prayer you are. I have pleaded in prayer for months to find somewhere I could deepen my faith and understanding, God met and exceeded that need with your Ministry.

      Now from the other side of the fence, I long to be in the ministry, to not have to deal with corporate nonsense all day long. I would love to spend more time in study and prayer, but to keep up in my industry requires that I stay on top of technology changes. Some nights I get home and all I can muster is the energy to watch T.V. and vegitate, which then adds guilt for not spending more time with God and his word.

      I’m pretty sure that if we changed places within a year or two we would be looking across to the other side with longing, it’s human nature (kind of like idealizing the good old days when life was simpler).

      You will be in my prayers, my wife and I had a long discussion about your ministry last week and have decided that we believe so strongly in what you are doing that we are becoming monthly supporters from now on. And that’s a big deal for an old crusty skeptic like me 🙂

      Hang in there brother, your changing lives and making a difference and the more I learn the more I realize how much we need ministry’s like yours.

      One other small piece of advice, I’ve been married for 25 years, and to make that work I make time for both my family and my wife. Delegate when possible, and take 1 day a week and treat them with your love. I cook dinner for the family about once a week, that way I can serve them and get to spend quality time with them. It’s important to feed those relationships, especially your kids because the saying ‘they grow up so fast’ is an understatement.

      Peace.

      -Paul-

    • Cadis

      Do you want we should pray for snow? maybe you could have a snow day. 🙂

    • Jess P

      CMP,
      You said “If I was a architect, then my skills would lead the way. Rote skills that don’t require really spirituality this day (or any day).”

      Like Sam did, I must point this out as well. I am a producer and a designer. There are things in my profession that are “rote:” Theories of composition, current trends, and technical knowhow. Rote skills may lead the way in fixed processes, but inspiration is first and foremost. If I’m not inspired, due to general funk or an “episode,” I don’t get anything substantial done.

      All day I get calls from customers saying they don’t like this or that, and who are relying on me to effectively advertise their business that supports their employees and their families. I have to deal with sale people who are constantly pushing deadlines and enjoy being rude, and I have to make them feel good about what I do and trust me to make the right creative decisions.

      And all this is not about just doing a “rote” job. It is work that is guided to an inspired end: to serve others with my craft. It doesn’t just have parallels to ministry, it is ministry.

      Anyways, I don’t mean to harp on this, because I know it’s easier to feel less guilty about advertising than church work. It has a different burden to it. : )

      I love this blog.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks so much all.

      I hope I did not come across as sounding like I don’t love my job. 90% of the time, I would not trade it for anything. I am speaking to that 10% when I don’t feel spiritually qualified to perform and accomplish my duities.

      As well, I do not mean that I don’t believe that everyone is in ministry in some sense. I am just speaking to the unique services that ministers must perform as a part of their job description and how difficult it is when you passions for the day do not complement your responsibilities.

    • Paul Davis

      You just sound if I may say… Human…

      We all have bad days, it’s obvious you love what you do and it’s such a blessing. But your allowed to be off or have a bad day once in a while, we all do it (some people make a living doing it!).

      If the Ministry needs some extra funding I would suggest doing a donation drive, or an auction or something goofy possibly, have fun with it and let others bless you with support.

      Sell tickets to a BBQ this summer at Credo, I’d even brave tornado alley for something like that! 🙂

      I’m sure I speak for a lot of people when I say, tell us what you need and we will provide, I’d love to return the blessing you’ve given us.

      -Paul-

    • C Skiles

      I’ve had the same pastor for over 26 years now. I have often wandered to myself: ” how in the heck does he do it?” It’s one thing to come up with fresh sermons week in and week out, but there have been Sundays when I have walked into the morning service in one of those moods and I’ve often thought ,” if Bob ( may pastor) felt like I feel today or had the attitude I have today how in the world can he stand up there and do what he does?
      What if he and his wife just had a disagreement that they could not seem to settle before he came to church (as I sometimes have) how does he deal with this? How does he deal with just being a sinful human? Now don’t get me wrong , he is very transparent and It’s obvioius that he struggles. But man, how I respect him and others like him who some how grab hold of the grace of God (or it grabs hold of them) and “just do it”.
      Michael, I’m with you. My vocation is not to minister the word, but yet I know God expects me to live out the gospel on my job everyday and sometimes I just want to be left alone.
      May God give each of us the extra grace we need on “those day.”

    • Mike B


      So many times I want to throw in the ministry towel and be “normal”—to have a normal job with normal responsibilities.

      Not sure what that job is or if it exists. All jobs and all of life require us to be “on” and no matter what field we all want (or should want) to excel as ambassadors for Christ as well as in the field we work. And we all have “off” days. I understand the intent behind your post (I think) and understand having a bad day but like many other commenters I think it is from an unreal expectation of who we are. We are to live in divine power as Christ but some days we just don’t feel like putting off that old comfortable shirt called humanness and fallen nature.

      If it helps, one of the biggest “aha” moments in my walk with Christ was a pastor who shared his weaker side from time to time helping me realize that I had a completely unrealistic understanding of what being a new creation was. My least favorite verse was 2 Cor 5:17 because I was so frustrated with who I was and how I could not live up to what Jesus asked of believers that I doubted whether I was saved. Once I realized that even pastors struggled and failed and had to put on a new man and put off an old man constantly I had a better understanding of the battle we face. Thanks for sharing your down moment but don’t throw in that towel. Just use it to dry off and put on that new man outfit after taking a shower and a needed day off.

      BTW:
      I think Frank had the same kinda day/week…
      http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2010/02/golden-age.html

    • C Michael Patton

      Let me rephrase a bit.

      Sometimes I feel disqalified to teach a theology class, say, on a Wed night due to a rather unspiritual day. In fact, deep down inside, I know that certain time I have no right to be teaching, yet I can’t just cancel. I have to do it anyway.

      In other jobs, you might not have a good attitude or be spiritually up, but you can still accomplish you job even with some sin or failure in another area. It is much easier to separate the two. You are not disqualified from accomplishing your responsibilities due to your spiritual failures.

      I am NOT saying that other job’s don’t require a good attitude to accomplish it well. I am just saying that you are not de facto disqualified when you don’t have the right attitude.

      Hope that makes sense.

    • Chance28

      I’m overseas doing some mission work right now and discovered your blog about 2 months ago. I have had some of my darkest days being separated from all of family, all of my friends and everything familiar. Dark days like I have never experienced back home. You and your team have written some great stuff on here, but this by far has been the most encouraging and comforting thing I have read. It’s easy to feel like I’m the only one dealing with it or that there is something wrong with me because I have days like that.

      Thanks CMP, great stuff. Don’t stop. Just know that you are reaching more people than you can even imagine.

      Chance

    • bethyada

      Blessings Jeremiah.

    • Susan

      You make perfect sense, Michael. I’ve often wondered how a pastor gets up before people and preaches when he’s really down about something. The last thing I want to do when I’m upset is to try to ‘fake’…or at least it feels like faking, ministering to others. I can’t imagine being on stage before others on such a day.

      I’ve often wondered how you can crank out one good blog post after another…and often so rich!

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks so much Chance. Stay encouraged and keep us up to date on what is going on. You are in our prayers.

    • george57

      hi, george57 , 25 years ago michael a south africa engineer, in a gold mine, took the time to tell me about christ is life, on getting down on my knees asking him our lord to show me what is life, and freedom from this world, hates, and evil, after a short spell learning of christ , i ended up goinging to hospitals and just telling whoever was willing to listen of christs love for a elect few, ,,,the after 3 years i had talked and talked , not knowing if the ones who did give their lifes over really were true, but our lord knows all, then one day , in a church service this man tells me a story , of a person walked into a hospital , took the time to explain about christs love, the cross, the pain, ending his story by telling me he done wrong to his wife, and planned to kill himself, as he was in bad way, with christs help and his wife forgivness, his life got better and true, now he has a child, and christ, we never really know what life turns up, hot or cold we change day by day , our lord never changes and he will never let go of his children, god bless.

    • Mike

      Michael
      You are sounding like Moses kvetching to God. But it’s not about the messenger, it’s about the message. You’ll NEVER really be there this side of glory. So much of what we do is simply allowing God to make up for what we do not have. “do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.”

    • #John1453

      God always believes in His message, even when we don’t. God is always authentic, even when we aren’t.

    • TL

      Excellent honesty. I suspect that is why God sent the believers out by twos. I’m a firm believer in teams. Thus when one is lagging the other (s) can take up the slack.

    • […] Michael Patton talks about how some days he wants to call in “Spiritually Sick“. […]

    • Sojourner Pilgrim

      I have to wonder why what you do is considered a “ministry” and why you expect to get paid for it?? Please reconsider what you are doing and if you believe you are called in some way, get a real job and support yourself.

    • Char

      I can’t think of one thing in life this can’t be applied to. “Normal” jobs are equally tedious and taxing, though some more than others. Life is. It’s all a spiritual fire hazard.

      Not to come down on you cmp, but your assessment of other professions is frankly incorrect and appears to be born out of the mistaken belief that only formal ministry is true spiritual vocation. I don’t think it’s helpful to you or to others to repaint other professions so that their grass looks greener (or perhaps browner if you are on a good day) as I believe you are doing.

      Those professions you mentioned do have direct spiritual ramifications and there is nothing rote about them. The health and education fields in particular have very similar stresses and responsibilities to formal ministry, they just manifest in different ways. One can split them into concern for mental, spiritual or physical aspects of a human person (unwisely I think), but they are at their core concern for the human person (even ministry which desires to have him reconciled to his head).

      And they are equally difficult when you feel far away from God. Do you really think making decisions about other people’s lives and deaths can be done by rote? We wonder why must I care about the person who doesn’t care about himself? And we wonder if tomorrow the last shred of compassion we had will be gone because it’s not there today. Like it wasn’t there yesterday. Yet there are people who must be cared for, children who must be reached etc. No one else is there to do it because God sent us. So we get up, every bit as weary and burned out, and do it.

      Also health care workers ARE to be disqualified for having the wrong attitude. Check out our codes of ethics. I can’t say I always live up to them in my mind and heart, and that’s not okay with us.

      I think you are deliberately painting yourself into a very lonely corner here, and I wonder if you won’t soon start to think that you must hold on to formal ministry as the only way to be spiritual-since it is the only vocation where being unspiritual really makes a difference, it seems to me that it’s impossible for you not to go there. This is worrying.

      I also believe that the enemy would have us believe we are alone in our experiences to cut us off from comfort. Your vocation is not as unique as you may think-but neither are your troubles.

    • C Michael Patton

      Char, not to beat this thing as I was not intending to start a debate with this type of post, but all I can do is share with you my thoughts. Believe me, I have been on both sides of the fence.

      My point is that when there are spiritual “sicknesses” (i.e. sin, roadblock with God, maritial problems, etc.) one becomes close to being disqualified from doing their job.

      Let me help you to understand where I am coming from:

      If one were to get a divorce, they are more often than not, in a conservative churches, disqualified from ministry (AT LEAST for a long period). If one were to commit adultury, they are disqualified. I could list a number of disqualifications for ministry. However, at other jobs, one would not be NECESSARILY disqualified from doing their job because there IS a difference.

      On a lesser extent, it is the same with many other issues in ministry. Living up to what you preach (at least to some degree) is a priority for me. If I cannot, I need to find another job.

      Now, back to my main point: Sometimes I don’t feel as if I am living up to my “calling.”

      There is a difference between being a pastor and a plumber in this respect—and there must be!

      I bet if you think about it, you will see how you distinguish the two here as well.

      There are certian burdens that every job uniquely carries. I think it is silly to think that full-time ministry does not carry unique burdens. It is of these I speak.

    • Fred

      I’m with Sojourner Pilgrim on this one. Paul had a job. Paul didn’t rely on handouts. Why do you feel that you are worthy to be handed money for praying? Get real. This kind of stuff really burns me up, but what can I do. There are so few followers out there that it’s like preaching to empty seats.

    • Susan

      Fred and SP, what makes you think that Michael does nothing that can be considered ministry? He does teach you know. Teachers get paid. Pastors get paid. If they didn’t there wouldn’t be any….except those who could pull off doing it as a side job. If you don’t want to support Michael, then don’t…and maybe you shouldn’t hang out on his blog either if it bothers you so much, but he does have a family to feed and he is making a difference in a lot of people’s lives whether you see it or not.

      The truth is many people would not take the time to learn about the Bible in a formal setting but they will learn if they can stay at home with their families and read and listen as time permits. Michael has been filling an important niche for a lot of people.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Fred and SP, why do you suppose that Michael has no job? How do you think RMM, the Theology Program, Credo House and the numerous classes there operate? Also, you might want to take a look at 1 Cor 9:8-14.

    • Tony

      I think it’s posts like these that encourage me the most. Hey, it’s normal for those in vocational ministry to have the same episodes that I have!

      I love the honsety of this blog–thank you all!

    • jim

      Fred:

      You seem very upset and I’m left wondering why? Are you in ministry, or what is your profession. Michael is quite correct that all occupations have their unique responsibilities and qualifiers.

      Just having people looking to you for answers, their cares and concerns while imaging Christ at all times becomes paramount for a pastor.

      It has often been said that a pastor cannot have any close , special friends within a church as this is at times seen as favoritism, (yes, it seems strange but it happens)

      I believe his points are bang on and though we all experience job stress in some form, this particular image of the pastor as the sheperd really sets them apart in this field.

      Blessings,

    • Mary

      Anytime we are on someone else’s payroll, we ARE obligated to PERFORM, whether we feel like it or not. Of corse, I have pondered this issue of clergy vs. laity in more ways than just from the standpoint of the ministerial, mostly from the pew and observing the slothfulness the “system” over the years of “churchanity” has cultivated. I do not think these dark periods Michael describes are a result of anything more sinister than the human factor of overload in living in a dark world that resists the light within and our limited capacity to remain fully engaged without the times of refreshing God so graciously gives us. The point in all this is that if everyone within the community of Christ followers would get out of their comfortable little nests and follow through with using the gifts God gives and feed others, the ministers who ARE doing so will have their load lightened significantly. People of God are not slackers, following after Jesus and the myriad of examples given us in the Scriptures. Instead of focusing on the number of souls, we need to follow the dictate of Christ and invest in the souls the Lord saves. Praying for your strengthening, Michael, and for you to be ready to receive the help you need.
      One more thing, your honesty is refreshing. I trust you are as consistent with it when you are in the pulpit and/classroom. Fallible humanity needs this rather than the condemnation oftentimes presented for not allowing God to work through our struggles.

    • […] Calling in “Spiritually Sick” to Work Today by Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)“There’s Always A Day Before” (by Michael Spencer)GOLF & GOD (8): Relax! It’s Just a GameDay 10. Daddy goes back to work.OMG […]

    • Great articles & Nice a site

    • Laura

      Michael, did you ever think to ask, God to help you? When you ask you have to wait for a reply. Don’t rush Him and give Him time to answer you. Do you spend time with Christ. We need to spend time with Him and adore Him. Have you told him how much you love Him and how sorry you are for your sins? God is simple it is we who are difficult. Jesus suffered terribly and died on a cross for you and I. Why? Because I believe that he knows how difficult our lives are going to be and he wants you to know that Hes got you and your life and he is carrying you. He loves you so much! Do you know that. Put, God first in your life. In front of any other person and tell Him that you love only him. Adore Him. Need Him. Help others, give to others and put those that are less fortunate first. Give till it hurts and don’t think twice about it. He will give back to you over and over again. He wants us to follow Him. That’s it. Walk with, Christ.

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