Over the past couple of days I have been sharing with you about the “Anatomy of a Ministry Meltdown” and “Recovering from a Ministry Meltdown.” In those posts, I shared the story of my own meltdown and the steps that I’ve taken over the past year to recover. I’ve been amazed by the number of Pastors over the past year who have shared with me their own stories of the struggles involved in ministry. According to a New York Times article entitled “Taking A Break from the Lord’s Work” an unprecedented number of Pastors report being unhappy. In an article on the 9 Marks website, Thabiti Anyabwile cites the following alarming statistics about Pastors:
50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
70% feel grossly underpaid
90% feel inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands
70% constantly fight depression
50% feel so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could.
80% believe the ministry has negatively affected their families.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend
40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
Over 1700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
Over 1300 pastors were terminated by the local church last year
Those are alarming statistics and it is time that the church as a whole wakes up to the issues. Last year, when I had my meltdown I thought that I was the only minister who had ever gone through that kind of experience. What I have learned over the past year is that I am far from being alone and a lot of other Pastors are on the verge of having a similar thing happen to them. This morning I want to talk about steps that every Pastor should take in order to avoid having this kind of meltdown in the first place.
1.) Remember Who Called You and What He Called You To Do– One of my early mentors in the ministry was a man named Richard Harris, who served as the Director of Missions for the Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association. Richard used to make me share how God called me to the ministry within him at least once a month. I asked him about this one time and he said, “I don’t ever want you to forget that God called you to the ministry, there will be times when the call of God is all that keeps you from quitting.” This constant reminder of Who called me and what He called me to do served as a great source of encouragement. Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of that factor and nearly fell apart. My advice to every Pastor is to regularly set aside time to remember Who called you and what He called you to do.
2.) Remember Who Empowers Your Ministry– As I see it, one of the greatest threats to every Pastor’s ministry is self-reliance. The moment we think we are skilled enough or smart enough to handle the ministry ourselves, we are going to fail. We need to be like the Apostle Paul who in Galatians 2:20 said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The key to the Christian life, as well as the ministry is to live daily in complete dependence on Christ. In John 15:4 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The simple truth is that we minister from the overflow of our lives. If we are not constantly drawing upon the resources of the Holy Spirit, we have nothing to offer and our lives and ministries will quickly dry up.
3.) Learn to Rest– Physical rest is important and every Pastor needs to take time to recuperate and recharge but I have something even more important in mind here. Rest in the confidence of Christ. Rest in the confidence of the sufficiency of the Word of God. Rest in the power of the Gospel.