Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pastoral Risk Factors

Many people view pastors as a caricature. Pastors are seen through the lens of communications kings, so “mega-church pastors, and all the religious hypocrites who masquerade as men of God. But this is not the reality. All of this country, there are sincere, godly, faithful men who persevere in guarding their lifestyle and their doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). But, of course, these are not the men who get most of the attention. A pastor usually has to be a great success or a miserable failure for people to notice him. And this leaves out the vast majority who are humble, unassuming, devoted shepherds who lead and feed their flocks with the truth and love of Christ.

These “ordinary” pastors need your prayers. All pastors need your prayers. Here’s why. Believe it or not, your pastor is… wait for it… human. Yes. Pastors are to be men of God. But that does not stop them from being men. People. Humans. Or to put it in theological terms, sinners – saved, sanctified, called, used, and kept by grace.

Those who are called to pastoral ministry are given a wonderful privilege and an awesome responsibility. And it is not easy for them to be holy and human in the fish bowl that is pastoral ministry. Consider these results from a survey about the personal and professional lives of clergy conducted by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth in 1991.

• For those who think pastors don’t have a real job: 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours a week.

• For those who think how wonderful it must be to work in the church fulltime: 80% believed that pastoral ministry affected their families negatively.

• For those who think ministry families are better off: 33% said that being in ministry was an outright hazard to their family.

• For those who think that pastors don’t have problems at work like others do: 75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

• For those who think pastors are confident about their work: 50% felt unable to meet the needs of the job.

• 90% felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands.

• 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now then when they started out.

• 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

• For those who think that pastors don’t struggle with temptation: 37% confessed having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church.

• For those who think pastors have better relationships: 70% do not have someone who they consider a close friend.

I agree with Mark Twain, who famously declared that there are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics. So I do not expect you to read these surveys conclusions as if they are divinely inspired truth. But these numbers should be a warning to you: Your pastor is on the front lines of spiritual warfare. Make sure you keep him covered in believing prayer.