Ezekiel 34:17 (NET)- “‘As for you, my sheep, this is what the sovereign LORD says: Look, I am about to judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats.“
The average church-going grandma that tithes from her social security check and her deceased husband’s retirement fund might not be aware of the Evangelical info-war in cyberspace regarding pastoral ministry statistics… but its a reality.
For instance, for many years we’ve read statistics from a study conducted by a discipleship ministry that was founded under the auspices of the Christian Philosopher and Theologian Francis A. Schaeffer. Although the study admittedly does not reflect a scientifically broad spectrum of the whole American nation, its’ limited scope seems to represent the experience of many Evangelical Pastors who feel oppressed, depressed, over-worked, under-paid, under-appreciated and in many instances burnt-out by the myriads of little, aggressive, self-destroying “churches” that broadly cover the American landscape.
In 2015, Lifeway Research published statistics on Pastors that almost completely contradicts the findings of Into Thy Word, Shaeffer’s ministerial progeny. According to Lifeway’s opinion (you will see later why I call it opinion rather than fact), they overwhelmingly claim that almost all Pastors are very happy in their ministries, that they feel completely supported by their churches, that their family lives are not affected by the stresses of ministry and that they’re not leaving the ministry in droves…
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well it is…
In case you didn’t know, Lifeway Research is a branch of Lifeway Publications, which is a for-profit institution connected with the Southern Baptist Convention. In addition to this, the study itself was sponsored by the North American Mission Board, which is the Southern Baptist Convention’s missionary and church-planting machine.
If you don’t smell some “biasness” with the Lifeway findings, you’ll begin to suspect something is off when you get to the end of an article published by Christianity Today in which they cite the so-called “scientific” statistics.
The end of the article reads thus: “Soon, I’ll be sharing some research from the Wesleyan Church, LifeWay Research, and from others that addresses the issue as well. I feel the truth is too important to allow the continued spread of bad stats.”
So it seems that Ed Stetzer (the article’s author) couldn’t resist the Freudian Slip that gave away the real motivation behind the so-called “scientific” data.
You see… For the last NINE YEARS, the Southern Baptist Convention (like most Evangelical denominations in America) has also seen a major decline in its membership and new baptisms! The North American Mission Board (NAMB) study seems to be designed (or manipulated) in order to smokescreen the reality of how increasingly difficult church-planting and pastoral ministry is becoming in America.
Luckily, Into Thy Word updated its findings in 2016…and although the numbers look a little better, the ministerial landscape in America still looks pretty brutal for the average Pastor out there in the front lines.
So the point I’m trying to convey to the average layperson is that…
Your Pastor is most likely discouraged, depressed, over-worked and mistreated to the point of leading him (or her) to want to leave ministry… permanently.
If you want to do your Pastor some good… then become his/her disciple and fulfill your obligation before God to respect, reverence, protect, give the benefit of the doubt and obey him in matters of faith and morals.
Yes, obey him.
Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)- Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Most Pastors who leave congregational ministry go away silently into the night… But don’t be fooled by the silence of the Rams.
They remain silent for the sake of their families… but that’s for another article.