Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, burnout, Christ, church, church leadership, churches, conflict, counseling, depression, fallenness, humillity, isolation, pastoring, pastors, prevention, pride, stress, struggles | Posted on 05-03-2014
Tags: #pastors, #preaching
Pastors are in trouble. There seems to be an uptick of pastors leaving the ministry because of adultery, stress, conflict and some are committing suicide. In this series, I’m asking, “Why?” Last time, we looked at the church culture for answers. Now, let’s turn our attention to pastors.
Pastors are weak people. They’re fragile. If you could ship one in a large container via UPS, you’d need to put, “Handle With Care,” on the side.
I say this with utmost respect and familiarity. I was once a pastor and I fell. I talk regularly to fallen pastors and pastors in crisis. I even talk to pastor friends who are undergoing tremendous problems. In my book, I quote several statistics that back the fact up as well:
- 30-40% of ministers ultimately drop out of ministry
- 75% go through a period of stress so great, they consider quitting
- 90% work more than 46 hours a week
- 50% felt themselves unable to meet the needs of the job
- 90% felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demand
- 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
- 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
Pastors Should Be Weak
- But we have this treasure [knowledge of the glory of God] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV)
- But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, ESV)
I don’t know any pastors who don’t think this is true. In fact, I know most pastors who speak of ministers of fallen and say, “I am a weak person. I know that could happen to me. I know I have to be careful.”
So, if pastors know they are weak, why are they falling at such a high rate?
For Some Pastors, Their Humility is “False Hustle”
I work in sports medicine and cover a lot of basketball. Long ago, I was talking to a girls basketball coach about a player he had. She was always running around the court, moving as fast as she could, sweating like a dog, but she never seemed to be doing anything that contributed to the team.
The coach said, “She’s got what we call ‘false hustle.’ She moves fast and it looks like she’s doing something. It looks like she’s playing the game, but she’s just running around with no real purpose.”
I fear that there are a lot of pastors who say the words, “I know I could fall just like anyone else,” but unfortunately, they have pride deep in their hearts. Pride says, “I don’t need help from anyone. I’m the pastor. I’m the one who is supposed to have the answers.” They can fix their own problems. They don’t need close friends, they can run the church. They don’t need anyone’s opinion. I know. I’ve been there.
And ultimately, what they never seem to need is the objective opinion of a counselor, mentor, spouse or pastor telling them that they might be headed down the wrong path.
What they’re engaged in looks like ministry. They’re working hard, visiting, smiling when they need to smile, preaching when they need to preach, but they have neglected their own soul. They haven’t protected themselves from a fall. There is a wall of isolation around them. To be fair, it might be there because they’ve been hurt before – or it might be there because they don’t want to delegate anything. Either way, trouble is brewing.
What Can Be Done?
I’ve covered this and it seems so simple, but it holds great truth. I’m worried that many ministers have forgotten their calling. It didn’t happen intentionally. But pastors, when they started had something very simple, but very powerful – they had their calling from God and faith in Him.
I bet if pastors went back and thought about their first sermons, they’d cringe in terror. Most pastors think their early stuff was pretty awful. And compared to where they are now, it probably sounds that way to them. But that’s not the point.
The point is that in the beginning, we knew that no matter what came, we knew we had the Word of God and faith in Christ and we could get through anything. Somewhere along the way, the extra jobs came. The programs came that were so important. The committee meetings piled up. In time, we forget to rely on God and we start to rely on our “talents” and the programs that are supposed to bring people into the church.
But Christ is really all we need. Allowing Him to take control of His church and do what He will with it. We looked at the clay pot within us and decided it had grown strong because of our experience and position.
But it’s not. We were called because we were fools. Because we are weak. And that’s okay.
The stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of failure came when as weak fools and clay pots, we decided to place burdens on ourselves that God never designed for us to bear. And so, we break. We fall apart. We shatter.
God has called us and has equipped us. But the entire time, He has chosen us because He will do the work through us and receive the glory for it.
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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
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