|Photo Credit: Lee Bennett|
"The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it"
(Proverbs 27:12; ESV)
I typically do not watch much TV, but I remember watching a couple programs a while back about some of the world's most dangerous jobs. It's amazing some of the things people do to make a living. When you look at some of those dangerous work conditions, it is equally amazing that anyone would even bother to work in that industry at all.
I have worked in a dangerous job for a few years too. However, my job never got mentioned on that TV program amongst the other dangerous jobs. Still, mine was probably "Religion's Most Dangerous Job." What job was that? It was an institutional church pastor.
Oh, I know there are those who would sneer at that. I also know that there are those who would say that being a pastor is not a job; it's a calling. While in some cases that may be true, I'm starting to question that more and more. At any rate, I am not going to belabour that point at this time.
So what makes the pastoral office a dangerous job? Consider the following statistics from Frank Viola and George Barna's most excellent book, "Pagan Christianity."
In this book the authors say there are over 500,000 pastors in the U.S. They further say that there is a "lethal danger" to the pastoral office. That word "lethal" sounds like a pretty dangerous job to me! So what makes it dangerous? Take a look at these numbers:
- 94% feel pressured to have an ideal family
- 90% work more than 46 hours a week
- 81% say they have insufficient time with their spouses
- 80% believe that the pastoral ministry affects their family negatively
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend
- 70% have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry
- 50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job
- 80% are discouraged or deal with depression
- 40%+ report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations
- 33% consider the pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family
- 33% have seriously considered leaving their position in the last year
- 40% of pastoral resignations are due to burnout
The authors further say that, "1600 ministers in all denominations across the U.S. are fired or forced to resign each month." That sounds almost unbelievable, doesn't it? Still, the Barna Research Group does seem to bear this out. At the very least it begs the question why anyone would go into the pastoral ministry as we've come to know it when it has such a high casualty rate.
Yes, God gave some to be pastors, but I am convinced that what He had in mind was a "gift" of pastor (or pastoring) and not an "office" of pastor. Man has adulterated what God had in mind. It is no wonder we have statistics such as these. Could it be that we've turned the gift of God into something that He never had in mind in the first place? I believe that we have done exactly that.
Yes, the pastoral "office" has evolved into a dangerous job, but perhaps it is made even more dangerous still by another fact. Perhaps it is even more dangerous in that those who persist in it as an "office" will one day have to give an account to God for profaning and merchandizing that which He intended to be a gift. God forgive us.
That's the way I see it anyway.