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The Role of Pastor is Broken

We love our pastors – they are there to marry and bury and counsel us. Yet we also put too much on them and are oblivious to their pain. Here are some of the results according to a Schaeffer Institute report: 71% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

We love our pastors – they are there to marry and bury and counsel us. Yet we also put too much on them and are oblivious to their pain. Here are some of the results according to a Schaeffer Institute report:

71% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry.

70% of pastors constantly fight depression.

72% of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons.

80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.

70% say they don’t have a close friend.

80% of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within five years.

The result? A shocking number of pastors are committing suicide. Pastor Teddy Parker, Jr., Pastor Ed Montgomery, and Pastor Isaac Hunter are three who shot themselves in the last couple of months.

I have worked with pastors around the world and have seen that our definition of the role here in the U.S. doesn’t have to be the norm. Our current definition of the role puts too much pressure on pastors and doesn’t line up with what the Bible prescribes (see a list of passages here).

In Ephesians 4:11-16, we see that churches are to be established and led by at least five people with different gifts. The pastor is just one of the five. 1 Timothy describes the leaders of the church not as pastors but as overseers or elders.

Look at the pastor of your church. How much of the emotional weight of the church congregation do you think he takes home with him every day? Who do you suppose that he goes to for encouragement? Is his role sustainable?

Maybe it’s time to give our pastors a break. What do you think?

Comments (10)

  • Wow, Seth – thank you for taking on a realistic, fantastic subject. That’s refreshing in itself!

    It’s sad to see the high percentages of discontent among pastors. I wish I had some answers, but I don’t. The world is changing so stinking fast these days, it’s hard to know what’s a long-term trend and what’s a passing phase.

    Maybe someone will respond with some better insights than I have at this point. Your blog post has me thinking, though, and that’s the first step to change.

    Love you, brother.

  • It seems as though it takes many years for us to catch on, not only it is not biblical for a man to be the one carrying the weight of a congregation but this ‘CULTURE” puts men in pedestals, along the brokenness there are thousands of pastors who are diluted into thinking they are chosen to lead and serving is sacrificed in the altar of notoriety and flattery. I know this as a former pastor, I say it in this manner because I don’t want to be called “pastor” for the rest of my life on this earth, I long to be a true disciple, I long to build alongside my brothers and sisters, I look forward to walking the road with others. The Son of God is the only one true leader, men have great things to say and some are very good things, but if they just tickle my ears, then, I don’t want to hear them.
    The culture is changing, the next generations will do just fine without the pastor mode as we know it. I hear so many that to call someone Pastor is a sign of respect, but in the Kingdom, brother is a better word. And for all of you who go to the nations, please think before you encourage the reproduction of Western Culture pastors in the lands the Lord takes you to.This practice has also caused too much damage.
    Seth my brother, I pray I have not abused your site, but I sense that really that the role of the pastor is broken and this is good, unless it is done according to Scripture. And that in itself is exciting. We all need a good dose of freedom from being stubborn and trying to resist the Lord cleansing of His Church

  • Thanks, Mike. There are some days where God has me in the role of pastor. It’s not a role that comes naturally, but then we all need pastoring at various times. Jesus showed us what a good shepherd looks like, modeling what we need. I want to grow, but I don’t want the role the church lists in the classified ads of Xty Today.

  • Manuel – that’s a great aspiration. Just to build alongside other brothers and sisters. It sounds like you’ve learned some important lessons.

  • Thank you Seth, Jack Larson brings up some very good stuff. My lessons were learned with many tears. There is repentance involved. Time and time again I run into those who have been hurt by what they thought was the church. But as Jack points out, there is hope. I’m running into many who are on fire, those who want to build and be the bridges that we need so much to reach a broken world. We are in great need to spend time talking to our Father and asking Him for wisdom in these times.We have two sons that have turned around because of prayer, only the Lord could have orchestrated the circumstances that led them back. One more to go.
    We are talking to former World Racers who are so into forming house churches and at the same time being careful not to make the same mistakes we have made. We need seasoned trainers….(laborers). “We have many teachers but very few fathers….”

  • Great points, Jack. You helped introduce me to the ministry and it has impacted thousands who are seeing their role in the body of Christ differently. It’s a tremendous legacy.

  • I’m just texting my pastor about how great he is right now. Thanks. And I know our pastor has lasted over 30 years because he loves the Word and it means so much more than subject matter for sermons. He lets the Spirit guide and comfort him. Praise God for real shepherds!!!

  • What happened to the priestedhood of all believers ? As Frank Tilipaugh said “many churches have gone from fishers of men to keepers of the aquarium “. We have somehow raised a generation of “gospel gourmets ” . Many Christian warriors are only armed with a feather. Many church attenders have become ” spiritual dilettantes” , going to have their ears tickled. Many just go to be”fed “. Forgetting to work off the caloric intake. Yet,even after painting a grim picture , there is a reason for hope. Seth , your world racers and thousands of young people that you , I , and others running short term mission teams ,are responding to the invitation to carry their cross and lay down their lives to following Christ.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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