Do you like being in the ministry?
Is it the greatest job you could ever imagine having, or is it vastly different from what you expected? Does it routinely bring life to your soul, or is it slowly crushing the life out of you and your loved ones?
You’re probably as familiar as I am with some of the gruesome statistics that plague us ministry leaders. From their studies and surveys over the years, Focus on the Family has put out some heart-wrenching numbers. They have found:
- 80% of pastors believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families
- 33% believe ministry is an actual hazard to their family
- 50% feel they are unable to meet the needs of the job
- 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
- 40% report a serious conflict with a church member at least once a month
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend (and don’t know who they would turn to in a crisis)
- 50% of pastors’ spouses struggle with varying levels of depression
- At any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit
- And more than 1,500 pastors DO leave the ministry each month
Those are grim findings, and tragically, you can probably relate to some of them.
As you well know, ministry is a tough job on multiple fronts as we face daunting expectations, vulnerable relationships within the church, and the spiritual warfare that rises up in opposition to the preaching of God’s Word. We seldom have enough time, and we’re often pushing the boundaries of emotional burnout. However, despite these and the other challenges and vulnerabilities associated with pastoral service, working in the ministry is the world’s greatest job.
Here are a few reminders of the incredible benefits associated with our callings:
We get to handle the mystery. 1 John 1:1 says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” We get to stand in between two worlds, and bring the sacred mystery in to every day life.
We get to use our greatest gifts and talents. Effective service in a church or ministry compels us to use our best gifts and talents most often.
We experience times of both solitude and socializing. Effective pastoral ministry requires us to withdraw as Jesus did for prolonged times of prayer and reflection, as well as exciting days of public ministry and inspiration.
We get to stand with people during their highest highs and their lowest lows.
Our message is intellectually stimulating and spiritually satisfying. The claims of Jesus Christ are so compelling that philosophers, scientists, notable world rulers, and billions of other men and women through the centuries have wrestled with them. We get to champion and defend those claims in our generation.
Our message is life-giving and impacting. One of the uncontested tenets of Christian apologetics is that wherever Christ is preached lives change for the better. We aren’t offering trendy, self-help remedies to prop up the human ego through our preaching–we are obeying a divine mandate to apply God’s Word to humanity’s deepest needs. That Word still changes lives wherever it is preached.
We get to contribute to the strengthening of the moral fabric of our world. We’re not just delivering sermons to the people who sit in our meetings–we’re sowing in to the foundations of society. We’re proclaiming truth that can save and preserve individuals, families, communities, and nations.
As we begin a New Year, and a new season of ministry, let’s fall in love with our calling again. Let’s enjoy the fact that we get to be organizational leaders as well as spiritual mystics. We get to be highly disciplined and highly creative. We’re preaching a message that is as relevant today as when the apostles first preached it in the book of Acts. Lives will change as a result of our service to Christ and His Kingdom.
Let’s do whatever it takes to find the encouragement and strength to defy the statistics, and live lives of holiness, heroism, and restraint.
Let’s finish our Christian races well.
Let’s have as an epitaph the statement: “Those who knew us the best respected us the most.”
And let’s enjoy the fact that God loved us, invested in us, trained us, and trusted us with our spiritual calling.