Yes, ministry can be brutal. One of the most sobering statistics I found in my research is that for every twenty pastors who enter the ministry only one will retire from ministry.
I had no idea how many pastors struggled with depression and frustration regarding their ministry roles. You write that 80 percent of pastors (and 84 percent of their spouses) are discouraged in their ministry roles, that 40 percent say they have seriously considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months, and that 70 percent say they don’t have a single close friend. Those are some really astounding and sobering numbers. And yet, this reality is so rarely talked about—in church, at conferences, in books. Why do you think that is, and why is it important that we change that? Why must we talk about failure, (or the sense of failure), among ministers?
SOURCE: Pastors and the “F-Word”: A Conversation with J.R. Briggs.
I think there are a lot of pastors out there that would love to tell their parishioners the truth but are afraid of the consequences. Many churches and denominations directly hire and pay their pastors. For the most part they expect the pastor to preach what they currently believe to be truth. They aren’t looking for someone to come in and teach them a “new truth”.
The more I studied theology in the past twenty years the more I realized that there are vast differences between one Christian denomination and another. And within those denominations are churches that are even more scattered across the theological landscape. Getting back to the topic of pastors, they risk their jobs by studying outside their groups theology. If they say the wrong things they may very well be shown the door.
When I was a member of a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church I became a pretty close friend of the pastor. Being that I did not restrict my studies to only Lutheran practices I read very widely. One of the books that deeply influenced me was Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution. This book spent a lot of time looking at the words of Jesus and his messages to us. I was so impressed by the book to buy a copy for the pastor. I gave it to him and was anxiously awaiting his thoughts. A couple of weeks later I asked him about the book and he made a snide comment about the author and would not go into further explanation. After a while it became obvious to me that he did not bother to read more than a short snippet. I simply couldn’t understand how he couldn’t have been influenced by the messages in the book.
What I learned from this encounter is that many clergy simply will not go outside their hierarchy when it come to their studies. They simply will not read things that might disagree with their current practices. I guess the reason for that is because they fear for their jobs. It is certainly depressing to see the statistics above. Pastors should be free to give us a dose of their wisdom without fear for their jobs.
This is a sad part of current day Christianity…