Monday, November 28, 2005

A Crisis in Church Leadership

I recently received a newsletter from a ministerial association that I'm a member of that contained some startling statistics. Compiled from sources like Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, Christianity Today and others, these numbers present an unsettling reality for many of our churches and its pastors.
  • 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their church.
  • 4,000 new churches are planted each year; over 7,000 churches close each year.
  • 50% of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80% of pastors surveyed spend less than 15 minutes each day in prayer
  • 70% said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermon.
  • 38% said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • 33% of those surveyed look at pornography on-line more than once a month.
  • 80% of pastors' spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • 90% said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people.
  • 80% of pastors' spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.

I don't know about you, but these numbers concern me greatly. There could be any number of reasons why these realities are present, but I would like to offer one perspective. Oftentimes, there can be an overemphasis in Christian circles placed on outward gifts or abilities. As a result, those that are gifted orators, have natural leadership abilities, or are blessed with a good singing voice get encouraged at a young age to pursue vocational ministry. At times there seems to be little focus placed on their inward, spiritual development and Christ-like qualities like servanthood, humility and sacrifice are de-emphasized.

More important than anything else, the Christian worker must have a strong personal walk with Christ. They need to spend daily time in the Word, have a vital prayer life, have others hold them accountable and deal with their sin on a moment-by-moment basis. When these critical disciplines are not present, the slide into spiritual compromise comes swiftly. When we place higher importance on our competence in ministry rather than the character within, we open ourselves to pride, self-importance and self-reliance.

I've met too many young people that have been placed into significant leadership positions within their church without anyone ever discussing with them their personal development and growth. As one who evaluates applicants wishing to join our ministry full-time, I frequently have conversations with young adults who have significant areas of sin in their lives that their pastors and spiritual leaders do not know about. The sad reality is that if the numbers listed above are true, many of these pastors deal with these same issues.

Quite frankly, the ministry I work with places little importance on how well a new applicant can share their faith, preach the Word or lead a Bible study. As long as they're open to learning how to do these things, they can easily be learned through proper training. But an individual that lacks character or that places little importance on their spiritual walk and personal development...that's much harder to teach. Too many of us have a relationship with our ministry instead of a relationship with God and we set ourselves up for failure and disqualification from ministry.

All of us in vocational Christian ministry are vulnerable to any of the issues listed above. It is only through God's grace and our obedience to walk by faith in Him that we can walk with God for a lifetime. May I encourage you right now to pray for your pastor and that God would continue to soften his/her heart and that their relationship with Jesus would be the utmost priority in their lives. Pray that they would deal with the sin in their lives on a regular basis and that God would surround them with people that would encourage and strengthen them.

In fact, why don't you take a moment right now to send an e-mail or write a note to your pastor to them know how much you appreciate them and that you're praying for them? I know they'll appreciate it and hopefully it will help them to stay in ministry for the long-haul instead of becoming another statistic.

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