Who goes into the ministry if you are told up front the way will be hard, the message will be difficult, and the response will be nothing?
- Ray Rooney, Jr.
There is something terribly wrong going on in the American Christian pulpit today.
Feel good talks centering on self-esteem have replaced hard hitting sermons on sin and its cure. Quotes from famous authors are routinely offered more than excerpts from the Bible. The evolution of human thought is touted while the notion of an unchanging God Who is Himself perfectly holy and requires holiness from those who would see Him (Hebrews 12:14) is rarely (if ever) heard. In larger churches the pastor looks like a CEO and in smaller ones the pastor looks more like a go-fer on a construction site than an ambassador for Christ.
But it’s not like those sitting in the pews are blameless in this situation. Often, if the pastor does dare to speak on cultural issues/sins there will be someone more than happy to provide an earful of advice on keeping politics and touchy social issues out of church on Sundays. Pastors find out quickly what is permissible and not when it comes to sermon topics from members of the parish. During my seminary years while student pastoring two churches in rural Kentucky I learned very quickly there were three subjects that were “off limits” in the pulpit. It didn’t matter if the sermon was about the subject or it there was only a passing reference to it. I knew I would lose my job if I spoke negatively about the tobacco industry, the equine industry, or UK basketball. End of story. So even though illegal immigrants were by and large harvesting the tobacco crop working for way less than a fair wage, and even though most of the horses had better accommodations than the people who saw after them, and even though I was told any time a particular college basketball team played a game on Sunday there would be no evening worship service…not a word was to be said.
Do you see why our nation is in the state of moral decline it is in? Many preachers don’t want to preach biblically and many who do are constantly warned to steer clear of “hot button” issues that might offend some in the parish. Consequently, as you can see…in a general sense…very few pulpits are actually preaching the Word of God whether by choice or prohibition. Would you like to see what kind of effect it’s having on the people behind the pulpits of America? Here are some statistics concerning our pastors: (check out barna.org and pastoralcareinc.com/statistics for more)
- 80% of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
- 90% of pastors feel they are inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 50% of pastors are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could.
- 80% of pastor’s spouses feel left out and underappreciated by the church.
- 80% of pastor’s spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
- 70% of pastors say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
- 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister
Did you get that last one? Nine out of ten ministers are not going to make it to the end of their ministry. Astonishing! They will quit, get run out, or die first.
There is nothing quite like the ministry. The calling is from God. The vocation is in the hands of the people. Anyone ought to be able to see the built in tension there. Speak to the people a word on behalf of God. If you’ve read your Bible at all you know that sometimes that word is not always soothing, encouraging, or uplifting. Often it includes themes such as repentance, consequences, and warnings. And who likes being told to seek God’s forgiveness? Who appreciates being told that continuing along in the same direction will have dire consequences? And who likes putting money in an offering plate that helps support the livelihood of those who speak biblical truths that make us all uncomfortable? It helps to explain why nine out of ten ministers do not retire as ministers doesn’t it?
Perhaps there are some pastors who enter the ministry because they think it is a respected vocation that doesn’t require much effort and has lots of fringe benefits. If I were in charge of accepting people into the ministry I would have them all read Ezekiel chapters 2-3. It’s the story of Ezekiel’s calling. How would many of today’s pastors respond to this: “I sent you to the people of Israel, to nations of rebels…”(2:3). What was Ezekiel supposed to preach? God handed him a scroll “And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe” (2:10). But at least with God’s calling and even a sermon outline from God Himself Ezekiel was assured of being a smashing success right? Take a look at 3:7… “But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me.”
Who goes into the ministry if you are told up front the way will be hard, the message will be difficult, and the response will be nothing? Only those that love God more than this world!
There is a lot wrong with today’s ministry and pastor. Nevertheless, the pastoral/preaching ministry is a calling from God. And no matter how messed up ministries and pastors have gotten God is still calling people to proclaim His word.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month and October 11 is Pastor Appreciation Day. If you really want things to turn around in this country then it has to begin in our pulpits. I encourage everyone reading this to find a way to do something nice for your pastor this month. I have been in the pastorate for 29 years and I can tell you that most parishioners have no idea what burdens, weights, sorrows, and responsibilities the average pastor carries…daily. Find a way to encourage and empower your pastor. Be sincere. Be creative. Go back and read Exodus 17:8-13. Who is willing to be Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ hands so that victory might be won?