Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, churches, conflict, ministry, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 20-09-2013
There is a tragedy that has been taking place for a long time around us. According to one statistic, 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout, or moral failure. 1,500. If you prefer annual statistics, that’s 18,000 a year.
I remember on the first day of seminary orientation, the leader told us that only half of us in that room would graduate. Of that half, only half would make it two years.
The ministry is a difficult thing. It is hard on the pastor, his family and his emotions. Unless you’ve been “behind the curtain“, it’s hard to know exactly what a pastor goes through. There are high expectations (which should be there), unrealistic expectations (which should not be there), feelings of isolation, a distancing between himself and his spouse and the daily grind of ministry. Behind all of this, the pastor forges ahead, seeking to do what he feels is right, chasing after the ministry. In the end, many leave disillusioned with bitterness, sin and a wounded church left in the wake.
In my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I deal primarily with those pastors who leave the ministry after committing adultery. In most cases, they leave in shame, without counseling and are thrown on the trash heap of Christendom. But there are more casualties than that. There are those who leave the ministry because of too much stress, pressure and an easier life. Even they are scorned to some degree.
In the end, it is easier for those in the churches to disperse blame upon the pastor for leaving. In the case of the adulterer, it was most certainly his decision. He sinned and he is to be held accountable. Those who leave because they “just couldn’t take it anymore” are often viewed as weak and abandoning their call. To view it in this way, from one set of circumstances, will simply cause the American church to continue in a crisis that it has been engaged in for a long time and may not have realized it.
There is a culture in our churches today that together with the heart of the minister, weakens those in ministry. Statistics bear it out. Over 60% of pastors are battling depression. In one report, close to a majority of them felt the ministry was destroying their marriage. This isn’t to blame the modern church. It is however, a way to say that something is wrong. It cannot always be the fault of the ministers who seem to be abandoning ship at such a high rate.
What if we were able to step back from the problem? What if we could see that there is a severe culture issue at hand that needs to be addressed? One that needs to be addressed in the heart of the minister as well as the way we run our churches? I believe there is.
In my book, I interviewed several experts and fallen pastors and came to a startling conclusion. Many pastors are not chasing after the things they need to chase after – they are chasing after the ideal of ministry. In turn, many churches are placing their pastors on a pedestal that is unrealistic. Together, this causes the minister to chase after ministry instead of Christ. His attention turns to something other than what he was originally called to do. In turn, the relationship he has with his wife suffers. His feelings about ministry suffer. He begins to seek after affirmation instead of the comfort of Christ.
There is no blame to be cast here. What needs to happen is an awareness of the culture we have cultivated. Pastors are not honest about their weaknesses. Churches are puffing their leaders up very highly. Pastors become isolated and disengaged. Eventually, many find a way out. Adultery, quitting, or leaving after a conflict. Are they the right responses? Sin is never the right response.
Prevention is the best approach. Deal with the culture that is in play. How many of us know churches that run through a pastor in about three years and cast him aside? How many of us know pastors who are at their wits end and are struggling to find meaning? How many of us know churches that seek definition not in the person of Christ but in their leadership or programs?
I don’t want to see any more pastors fall. I pray that my book will help those who have fallen, those who are on the verge of a fall, the churches who desire to change their culture, and those who desire to restore the fallen.
Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World is available at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle format.