For the final time, I look into the numbers behind Ex-Pastors and their survey of why a number of pastors leave their ministry.
The spot that leaps out at me is the one that declares "70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but they have no other way of making a living."
I see in this some things beyond our control and things within it. First, the depression can be overwhelming. Soon after we were forced out of our church, I reflected on how several pastors I have known about had ultimately caved into depression and committed suicide. Christy and I were talking about that one day when I said, "I've never felt like taking my own life, but for the first time, I completely understand why some pastors would take that step. None of us are far from disaster."
Circumstances can knock the crap out of you, and even an ordained shepherd can forget for stretches of time that God loves them.
But the part that I see as being within our control is the 50% item above. Would leave? But you have no other way of making a living?
I'm really not trying to be insensitive here, but are we to expect that pastors are so under skilled in other areas that they wouldn't be employment material?
First of all, that's not what I consider the biblical example. Paul was skilled in tent making. Peter was a pretty decent fisherman. Along with being an assistant evangelist around much of the Roman world, Luke was a physician.
But also, part of being a servant who can preach God's special grace should involve a backup skill within the realm of common grace. Whether it be sales, manufacturing, computer skills, or teaching, I'd expect pastors to be somewhat gifted somewhere.
80% report a negative impact of the ministry on one's family. This tells me we need to examine what the church is like, what one's family dynamics are like, or both. Some of this could come from an inability to reconcile the professional and personal spheres. It could be some workaholism. Then again, it could be what Christy and I experienced: a church situation beyond healing that we were trying to heal, which led to me internalizing so much that I didn't share with my wife. Obviously, we've moved beyond that, but it took about half a year for our marriage to recover from it.
70% say they don't have a close friend. This is especially troubling and is a recipe for disaster. You need a close friend or friends. You need to have several in the church, and you and your spouse should reserve the right to have some people in the church who are closer friends than others in the same church. There's no reason why this can't happen. The expectation to be equally close or arms-length is burdensome.
40% report serious conflict with someone in the church once a month? That could be lowballing things. I'm glad it's only at forty.
The final matter is that many ministers will not last five years. It's a sobering statistic. And I am one of those statistics. But grace that is learned through the fire is still grace.
I have a beautiful wife and three children, one of whom is with the Lord and I will see again one day. I live in a great city, work at a tremendous Christian school, teach a subject that I love (Ethics), and I get to spend a lot of my discretionary time writing what I want to write.
So even though I am "one of the many", in the end that's not a bad place to be.
Because God is God, and He is good.
And life goes on.