Anyone who has read much of what I have written the past two years knows that I have had my share of ups and downs the past 40 years. I have stood on the mountaintops and basked in the glory of thousands of people cheering and applauding what I said. I have stood all alone in the middle of the desert broken and dismembered spiritually with no one who cared one bit if I lived or died.
Anyone who believes that serving the Lord is easy needs to try it for a season. Whether being a pastor, leader or even a Sunday School teacher; those who seek to give of themselves to others while manifesting the love of Christ are bound to become targets for rejection and/or persecution. It is not easy doing what is right in any realm, but especially in the spiritual.
In 1976 there were around 70 people who graduated from the Bible School/leadership training school I attended. Honestly, I doubt if even half of those people still even so much as pray regularly. Many got disgruntled when the ministry collapsed twenty years ago, but many had thrown in the towel long before and sought out secular professions and lifestyles.
Where do men and women go who walk away from their ordination commitment? Where do pastors and other leaders go who either quit or get fired from their spiritual responsibilities? Where do the pure of heart who end up getting used and abused come to rest after they leave the church hurt and spiritually injured?
I would not pretend to know the answers to all these questions. All I can do is answer the ones that pertain to me. I know what I did and I know what happened to me when all that I believed in collapsed in a pile of debris and everyone I trusted used my back as a dagger cushion. What did I do? I retreated into a self imposed cocoon where I felt safe. What do most people in similar situations do? The same thing.
Believe it or not, there are many leaders in the church who are far more concerned about personal agendas, making a name for themselves and getting rich. There are many whose only ambition is to get more and more degrees so as to flaunt their superiority over everyone else. There are many who could not or would not ever consider lowering themselves in service to another.
There are many in top leadership positions in the church who are no different than those in similar positions in corporations and government. They have no "heart" for God or His people. They are strictly interested in what is going to help them reach their goals in life. A leader in the church who does not really care about the needs of God’s people is the kind of shepherd confronted in Ezekiel and is one whom the Lord rejects.
Anyone serving in any capacity within the church needs to be keenly aware of the people they influence. They need to never forget the incredible responsibility that comes with the privilege of serving God’s people. They must strive to stay humble and honest in all they do and say. They must never allow the "perks" of position to overrule their ability to be a servant. They must do what God’s Word says to do and not what they want to do.
Why is it that 50% of those who enter the Christian ministry leave within 20 years? Why is it that in some denominations this figure is a staggering 85%? What is it about the "job" that prompts such attrition? These are excellent questions that need far more research to discover answers to than has been done.
While many ministers simply "burn out", many others are lured away by the temptation of monetary riches and still others are forced out by politics within the church. Whatever the cause, there obviously is a problem when this many clergy depart their calling. If nothing else, the result is hurt people.
A couple of years ago I was diligently trying to tap into a ministry whose main purpose was to provide help, counseling and healing for clergy who had fallen away from their calling. It did not work out for me to become one of those offering help, but I still have the yearning in my soul to do so. I know what it is like and I know what happens when everything falls apart. It is not pleasant.
Please remember to pray for your pastor and others in leadership positions in your church. This is far and away the greatest way anyone can help offset the continually rising level of attrition among clergy.
While I am not and never have been a member of the clergy, I have served in leadership in my former denomination both at the local and regional level as well as taught within that denomination for about 30 years (I started at age 15). What you say is very true. When I left nearly three years ago, it was not due to a "falling out" so much as we had moved further away, the church had been the same old, same old for about 55 years (the faces changed now and then as someone replaced someone who had left) AND I was completely burned out. Years of giving and giving but not receiving had taken their toll.
If this happened to me as a teacher, I CANNOT imagine what must happen to ministers! As much as I tried, I soon discovered it was impossible for me to sit back and get "filled" as people wouldn't let me. I was viewed as "strong" and if I tried to lean on anyone and ask for help, then I was viewed as having "turned my back on God". So, God told me I had to move somewhere else... a place where I didn't have "history"... a place where I could get filled and let that pour out to others. Nearly a year after changing churches, I got cancer. I can't imagine what it would have been like if I would have been at my old church!
Anyway, I was just going to add that a common problem I've seen/heard over the years is so many people involved in the ministry are viewed as "strong". Often if they show their "vulnerability" if they let anyone know they need their hands lifted up or they're tired we tend to get very critical of them. "Why they're the pastor! They're not supposed need..." is what we often say to ourselves.
We must never forget that ministers and leaders are HUMAN just like ourselves. They too, need to have brothers and sisters who will walk beside them and encourage them day by day. If they are there for us, then shouldn't we be there for them?
May ALL of us encourage one another!
b2y, I too was ordained a servant about 7 years ago now, I have had all the teaching positions from youth up to senior adults, along with other responsibilities that need to be done in the church, you do get burned out, complained about and complained to. It is extremely hard, we wrestle against unseen forces, though sometimes they use those that can be seen and heard. What works for me personally, and I am no degreed expert, is to look to the scriptures for answers, remember who I am truly serving and why, and get alone with God regularly. Christ went off to Himself with the 12 often, sometimes He got away from the 12 to pray. Finding a secluded spot where no people are around takes effort sometimes, but at times you need to. And of course having christian brothers and sisters you can turn to who can help and encourage you, like you are doing. You helped one today, ME. Thanks, God Bless. One thing we cannot do is walk away from Our Lord and what he has called us to, look what HE endured!
Thank you brother for your words. I am an ordained lay minister who also works full-time as a professor. The path that the Lord has chosen for me to walk has been both exhilarating and difficult. There are days when I cannot wait to get up and go and days when I just want to crawl into a shell. Through it all, the Lord has sustained me. K is right, we how minister are a lonely lot. This is why I appreciate your blog and her comment so much.
Dear B2Y--You are so right!!! Clergy need a place--a safe place-to go where they can unzip their skins and let their souls spill out on the table--"Just as I am without one plea. . . ." I had a pastor once who used me for such a sounding board. Lay-folks either don't realize or are unwilling to accept the fact that clergy are human. Knowing the same temptations and trials as do those lay-folks. I once heard it termed "having feet of clay that turn to mud when they're caught in the downpour of their own humanity." Churches need to give their clergy permission to be human and to confess their flaws and failures and fears instead of expecting them to change into a set of red and blue tights in a phone booth before stepping behind a pulpit. This is one passionate topic to me.