How The Pastor Damages Himself

The contemporary pastor not only does damage to God's people, he does damage to himself. The pastoral office has a way of chewing up

Davies, New Westminster Dictionary of Liturgy, 292.

In this regard (and contrary to popular opinion), the pastor is not "the cerebellum, the center for communicating messages, coordinating functions, and conducting responses between the Head and the Body." He is not called to give "authoritative communication of the truth from the Head to the Body." And he is not the "accurate communicator of the needs from the Body to the Head." The pastor is described with these inflated terms in David L. McKenna's "The Ministry's Gordian Knot," Leadership (Winter 1980) 50-51. -- See Ephesians 3..8-11. For a full discussion of this purpose, see Frank's book God's Ultimate Passion.

many who come within its parameters. Depression, burnout, stress, and emotional breakdown occur at abnormally high rates among pastors. At the time of this writing, there are reportedly more than 500,000 paid pastors serving churches in the United States.'" Among this massive number of religious professionals, consider the following statistics that testify to the lethal danger of the pastoral office:

> 94 percent feel pressured to have an ideal family.

* 90 percent work more than forty-six hours a week.

81 percent say they have insufficient time with their spouses. 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.

70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend. 70 percent have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.

> 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job} 91 80 percent are discouraged or deal with depression.

> More than 40 percent report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations. 192 33 percent consider pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family.193

33 percent have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year.'"

40 percent of pastoral resignations are due to burnout.'"

Most pastors are expected to juggle sixteen major tasks at once.'" And many crumble under the pressure. For this reason,

The Barna Group, "A Profile of Protestant Pastors," The Barna Update (September 25, 2001), ( Half of these churches have fewer than 100 active members (Larry Witham, "Flocks in Need of Shepherds," The Washington Times (July 2, 2001).

H. B. London and Neil B. Wiseman, Pastors at Risk (Wheaton, IL Victor Books, 1993); "Is the Pastor's Family Safe at Home?"

Leadership (Fall 1992); Physician Magazine (September/October 1999), 22; The Barna Group, "Pastors Feel Confident in Ministry, but

Many Struggle in Their Interaction with Others," The Barna Update (July 10, 2006).

Compilation of surveys from Focus on the Family Pastors Gatherings.

Fuller Institute of Church Growth (Pasadena: Fuller Theological Seminary, 1991).

Witham, "Flocks in Need of Shepherds."

Vantage Point, Denver Seminary (June 1998), 2.

The Barna Group, "A Profile of Protestant Pastors," The Barna Update (September 25, 2001). These tasks include casting vision, identifying and training leaders, preaching and teaching, raising money, serving the needy, providing strategy and planning, organizing church activities and programs. overseeing all administration, managing staff and volunteers, resolving conflicts, representing the congregation in the community, providing congregation care and counseling, evangelizing the unsaved, administering the sacraments, and discipling individuals.

1,400 ministers in all denominations across the United States are fired or forced to resign each month.'' Over the past twenty years, the average length of a pastorate has declined from seven years to just over four years!'"

Unfortunately, few pastors have connected the dots to discover that it is their office that causes this underlying turbulence.'" Simply put: Jesus Christ never intended any person to sport all the hats a present-day pastor is expected to wear. He never intended any one person to bear such a load.

The demands of the pastorate are crushing; they will drain any mortal dry. Imagine for a moment that you were working for a company that paid you on the basis of how good you made your people feel. What if your pay depended on how entertaining you were, how friendly you were, how popular your wife and children were, how well-dressed you were, and how perfect your behavior was?

Can you imagine the unmitigated stress this would cause you? Can you see how such pressure would force you into playing a pretentious role—all to keep your authority, your prestige, and your job security? (For this reason, many pastors are resistant to receiving any kind of help.) 2°°

The pastoral profession dictates standards of conduct like any other profession, whether it be teacher, doctor, or lawyer. The profession dictates how pastors are to dress, speak, and act. This is one of the major reasons why many pastors live very artificial lives.

In this regard, the pastoral role fosters dishonesty. Congregants

The Christian Citizen (November 2000) reported that 1,400 pastors leave the pastorate each month. In the same vein, The Washington Times ran a series of five articles by Larry Witham on the "clergy crisis" that is sweeping America. Witham reported: Very few of the clergy in this country are young. Only 8 percent are 35 or younger. Of the 70,000 students enrolled in the nation's 237 accredited theological seminaries, only a third want to lead a church as a pastor. The pastorate draws a greater number of older candidates. In like manner, a clergy shortage has hit most mainline Protestant churches in Canada. "While it may be personally enriching to minister to a flock, it's also daunting—for not a lot of money—to meet expectations as a theologian, counselor, public speaker, administrator and community organizer all in one" (Douglas Todd, "Canada's Congregations Facing Clergy Shortage," Christian Century [October 10, 2001], 13).

Data drawn from PastorPoll surveys conducted by The Donna Group from 1984 through 2006.

I (Frank) once read the following promotion for a pastors' resource book: "Man works from sun to sun, but a pastor's work is never done. That's because he must wear so many different hats: preacher, teacher, counselor, administrator, worship leader, and oftentimes fixer of the furniture too! For pastors who'd like a hand with some of these hats, we ... have just the resource for you." For a firsthand account of the psychological pressures of the modern pastorate, see C. Welton Gaddy, A Soul Under Siege: Surviving Clergy Depression (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1991).

expect their pastor to always be cheerful, completely spiritual, and available at a moment's call. They also expect that he will have a perfectly disciplined family. Furthermore, he should never appear resentful or bitter.' Many pastors take to this role like actors in a Greek drama.2"

Based on the scores of personal testimonies we have heard from erstwhile pastors, many—if not most—pastors cannot stay in their office without being corrupted on some level. The power-politics endemic to the office is a huge problem that isolates many of them and poisons their relationship with others.

In an insightful article to pastors entitled "Preventing Clergy Burnout," the author suggests something startling. His advice to pastors gives us a clear peek into the power-politics that goes with the pastorate.'" He implores pastors to "fellowship with clergy of other denominations. These persons cannot harm you ecclesiastically, because they are not of your official circle. There is no political string they can pull to undo you." 204

Professional loneliness is another virus that runs high among pastors. The lone-ranger plague drives some ministers into other careers. It drives others into crueler fates.205

All of these pathologies find their root in the history of the pastorate. It is "lonely at the top" because God never intended for anyone to be at the top—except His Son! In effect, the present-day pastor tries to shoulder the fifty-eight New Testament "one another" exhortations all by himself."' It is no wonder that many of them get crushed under the weight.2"

Larry Burkett. "First-Class Christians, Second-Class Citizens," East Hiltsborough Christian Voice (February 2002), 3.

Not all pastors play to this role. But the few who manage to resist this incredible pressure seem to be the exception to the rule.

Alarmingly, 23 percent of Protestant clergy have been fired at least once, and 41 percent of congregations have fired at least two pastors. Survey done by Leadership printed in G. Lloyd Rediger's Clergy Killers: Guidance for Pastors and Congregations Under Attack

(Philadelphia: Westminster/John Knox, 1997).

J. Grant Swank, "Preventing Clergy Burnout," Ministry (Novem ber 1998), 20.

Larry Yeagley, "The Lonely Pastor." Ministry (September 2001), 28: Michael L. Hill and Sharon P. Hill, The Healing of a Warrior A

Protocol for the Prevention and Restoration of Ministers Engaging in Destructive Eehair (C^rtook , 2000).

For example: Love one another (Romans 13:8); care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25): serve one another (Galatians 5:13); edify one another (Romans 14:19); bear with one another (Ephesians 4:2. tow); exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13), etc.

Searching Together 23, no.4 (Winter 1995) discusses this issue at length.

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