Two weeks ago, November 28, 2012, I posted a blog entitled, A Letter to the USA Churches. I basically stated that many Christians in their respective churches have voted God out of being involved in the affairs of this nation. I was disappointed that what God wants best for this nation was not even mentioned in many churches before the then-coming presidential elections. I noticed that there was too much silence in many churches on the issues that greatly matters to God. And I placed a lot of the responsibility of this neglect squarely on the leaders of these churches. But, I also realized as I posted that blog message, that many of you pastors are hurting! Many pastors in this country (USA), and indeed in other countries as well, have been under tremendous spiritual conflicts and pressures within the congregations they serve. The results are that many of your colleagues, your fellow pastors, have left the ministry. These large departures from shepherding the flock of God must be dealt with!
In reading some of the survey statistics published on pastors and how they now look at the ministry, many of you pastors admitted that you are going through difficulties. Consider these statistics compiled by one source, the Schaeffer Institute. At first, after reading this, I was shocked by the information, yet I found these statistics somewhat misleading and leaving me asking several questions.
Referring to Schaeffer’s report (and there are several reports similar to this), why are 70% of you pastors depressed with your job? Why are 50% of you pastors feeling so discouraged that you would rather leave the ministry if you could find another way of making a living? Why do 90% of you leaders feel you are inadequately trained to cope with the demands of your position? Why do 90% of you minsters say the ministry was completely different than what you thought it would be like before you entered the ministry?
Schaeffer stated that the #1 reason pastors leave the ministry is because church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. That pastors want them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.
Are not you ministers supposed to be leading God’s flock, His sheep, the saints on matters He wants done? Why all of this turmoil? Why all of this mess? Who is now responsible for all of this? I still place blame of all this on the leadership of many of you churches for not tackling these issues affecting you as you will later see in this article. But there is more I have to say here!
Shepherds have the staff of leadership, not the sheep. How can God’s saints follow a person who does not have a vision, a mission, or a directive in his heart that is from God? How can a leader ever lead those who are not willing to follow? This can indeed occur if you are not adeptly battling clandestine operations in your congregations from certain church-goers who are not sheep at all but goats or wolves in sheep’s clothing (Romans 16:17-18; Acts 20:28-30). As you may have experienced, it is these individuals who cause disruptions and distractions in your churches. And their targets have been you, the pastors. How then, can you shepherds protect your sheep from predators if you do not know or are incapable of defending yourselves?
You shepherds are under constant spiritual attack. Why? Because the church is on Satan’s turf in this present age and he knows that he has but a short time left. He will do all he can to disrupt what God is doing. He will cause divisions, splits and personal attacks on all Christians with the shepherds being the main targets. Strange as this may sound, Satan is working and attacking within churches.
All it takes are one or two caustic individuals with this godless spirit to start the momentum of your congregation spiraling downward. These individuals are the false sheep in the fold. Some of these are outright sociopaths who, without conscience, inflict a lot of discord and animosity in congregations they are in. The book, Clergy Killers, by G. LLoyd Rediger, gives haunting accounts of how they operate. If you hurting pastors are grappling strong, antisocial behavior from various members in your church, please read this book. Other similar books include, The Wounded Minister, and When Sheep Attack. Arm yourselves with this knowledge. And keep close to God’s Word and in prayer as you read them. This will help prevent you from becoming another needless statistic.
It saddens me to read in the Schaeffer report that 4,000 new churches begin each year and that 7000 churches close. But, this is what also encourages me! I believe many of these churches that closed its doors probably should never have been started in the first place! Schaeffer’s report leaves the reader with the impression that, oh no, God’s church is losing ground! No it is not! God is right on time and on schedule. God is basically doing a couple of things, if not more.
First, God is pruning the church for growth – good and healthy growth. He has been allowing sickly and toxic churches to be crucified, so to speak, and be put out of commission. Many of these churches were led by unmotivated pastors. If you have been a pastor who only wants to have sycophants around you, some perks to revel in and a fat monetary package for when you retire, it is best that you leave the ministry before God “helps” you do so.
Second, God may have been disciplining you affected pastors in these churches for your own spiritual growth enabling you to feed God’s flock down the road. If you are a pastor who has been having various conflicts hurled at you from members of your congregation and from, yes, even from your overseers and coworkers, God knows where you are at! Perhaps God is instilling in you the desire and skills to plant a church elsewhere based on what you have experienced. God wants you to go forward and not backward and definitely not to quit the ministry.
Now, if you are a pastor who did leave the ministry due to a moral failure or were disillusioned as to what this calling entails, it is now between you and God. Enough said at this point.
Yes, many pastors are working long hours in a job with many demands for little pay. Yes, many of you pastors are seeing your families seemingly being pressured and battered. Many of you, according to Schaeffer, have no friends, have serious bouts of depression, and have people who will not follow your leadership. And, yes, it is understandable why many of you may want to leave the ministry. But it need not happen! You see, what you needed all along were mentors in your organization or in your ministry to help you grow and shepherd the flock. But, apparently, your overseers were either handcuffed to church traditions and budgets or, because of their own pride, arrogance and ignorance, had little concern for you, your family and your time.
Therefore, I suggest you seek good mentoring programs or individuals if you are a pastor seeking reinforcements. For example, study as much as you can from John C. Maxwell’s works. His website is: Injoy.com. Mr. Maxwell’s ministry is Wesleyan in character but, if any of you are of the reformed persuasion (Calvinistic), look within Reformation Bible College. Contact personal help from these and similar institutions. Having mentors, for many, has been the vital key for longevity in pastoring churches. Your denominations, churches or ministries should have already benefited from resources such as these.
There is a lot more that can be said. I just brushed the surface on this topic – a complicated one. But I must stop here. As a lay person who is concerned, I pray that you pastors be strong shepherds leading sheep to healthy pastures. And, I also pray for you to be constantly victorious over the tares and goats that, at times, brazenly confront you and God’s work. And the heck with any negative statistics that come your way!