When it comes to pastoral ministry, especially here in the States, a recent survey showed what many have feared to be true (and often is only spoken of by those in ministry in hushed tones). It’s not easy and sometimes it takes a toll.
Consider these figures. . .
Hours and Pay
- 90% of pastors report working between 55 and 75 hours per week.
- 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
- 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
Training and Preparedness
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
- 90% said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
Health and Well-Being
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Marriage and Family
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
- 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
- 80% of spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
- 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
- #1 reason pastors leave the ministry – Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal as the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change. (Though we all know that toxic churches and parishioners exist throughout our nation, we also must acknowledge that often pastors have a vision, but are not adequately casting that vision, communicating it well and if they’re battling through all the other negative statistics we’re seeing, it’s no wonder there’s conflict.)
- 50% of ministers starting out will not last five years.
- 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
- 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
- Over 1,700 pastors leave the ministry each month.
- Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without biblical cause.
- Over 3,500 people a day leave church each year in our nation.
According to another survey, only 23% of pastors report being happy and content in their identity in Christ, their church and in their home.
Why share this? Because we are part of a story bigger than ourselves. Pastors and families of pastors are being taken out, all too easily. That’s why I have followed God’s lead to be invested with young pastors and peers through our network of churches. That’s why my wife and I will be working with others in our network to assess new pastors and church planters in our city. We don’t want to see these men end up a statistic. We want them to lead, to serve, to pastor healthy churches, to have marriages that are holy and last, to be ready for the attacks of the Enemy and to find victory.
Some say, “But that’s not our church. That doesn’t have anything to do with us. You don’t need to worry about those guys. You have other things here to worry about.”
Yeah, it may be said, but it’s wrong. Dead wrong and that line of thinking is what leads churches to become toxic. It’s a brand expander mentality that is more about self than about Kingdom and when a church begins to live like that, they actually push the kingdom of darkness forward rather than the Kingdom of God.
The church, whether the portion gathered here at First, or in another building or maybe meeting in a living room somewhere, is to provide for the one God has set apart to pastor/lead/shepherd them. Paul had invested 18 months with the Corinthians and had seen this gathering grow into the church at Corinth. The spiritual authority was given to him and he taught, preached and even wrote part of the Bible, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration for the sake of the Gospel.
I believe we are at a place of calling. God has his hand on some men here, some women, too. He is calling. He is creating a great uneasiness within you. You have your plans. You’re working your plans. You’re in a career perhaps, but . . . and you know it’s there. . .something just isn’t right.
It’s not about a career. It’s a calling.
God is looking to you and saying “I have a calling for you. I have a story for you.” You reply with a list of excuses and buts and reasons (at least you think they’re reasons) as to why you cannot step out in faith and change everything. You have a family. You have a job. You have a mortgage. You have debt to pay off. You don’t have the expertise. You don’t have the education.
And after that wonderful picture of hard stats and depressing numbers, you’re thinking “Who in their right mind would do that?”
But God is still speaking.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
You love God. You love the church. You love people (well, some people) and you know He’s speaking to you.
Oh, and He’s not calling you to the safe ministry (the safe ones are the ones that are weak and don’t matter anyway.)
1 Corinthians 9:19-23(ESV)
19For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.
20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
22To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Do you see that? Paul is saying “I’ll do whatever it takes to win some, to save some. It’s that important.” He’s saying, “I do it all, with or without pay, through attack, depression, discouragement, pain, challenge, all of it for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
Paul’s affirmation is your affirmation. It’s my affirmation. This calling, whether as a pastor or missionary (oh, BTW – if you’re a Christ-follower, you’re a missionary – there’s no calling for “regular, every day church member) is worth it.
It’s worth it.