“Waylon, you've really been pushed lately. And we've noticed it.”
Charlie spoke for the others. I was having lunch with a core group of men that I mentored from my church in Florida. Sometimes even for an informal meal, the guys would arrive with notebooks in hand. That was good — it meant they had an agenda. Only this time the agenda was me! I replied, sharing freely about a hospital emergency at 2 a.m., marriages in crisis, and angry church members. “We've noticed it in your sermons,” Charlie said. “You don't seem to have the time for preparation anymore.”
Got me! I'd taught those guys how to pray, witness, take sermon notes, and do inductive Bible Study. Each one there had become a leader in the church, and knew how to study the Word for himself. I confessed. Yes, I was feeling stretched. I had missed in-depth sermon preparation for a month. “We know, Pastor,” the others chimed in. “So, how may we relieve your load, to give you the time you need?”
I've never forgotten that lunch! I was being mentored back by these men. . . feeling with me. . . lifting me. . . and filling in for me in ministry areas, freeing up my schedule (see 1 Thessalonians 2:8 ).
Mentoring is the most fruitful, impacting commitment to others I've ever undertaken. These men's love, honesty, accountability, and mentoring made me rich as their pastor. My last pastorate was 13 years. But, sadly, after me, our church has had five pastors in 22 years. That's an average of less than 4 years per pastor (counting search time between each pastor!). Many churches call and lose twice as many pastors in the same period.
Why does a pastor leave a church?
Pastors leave churches for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is stress. “In a recent Los Angeles Times article, psychologist Richard Blackmon claims that ‘pastors are the single most occupationally frustrated group in America.’ About 75 percent of pastors go through a period of stress so great that they consider quitting the ministry; 35 to 40 percent actually do. Incidents of mental breakdown are so high that insurance companies charge about four percent extra to cover church staff members compared to employees in other professions.” 1
Unfortunately, there are few solid statistics on the thousands of pastors who leave the ministry all together, because of burn-out, family problems, depression, insecurity, and verbal abuse. The loss of pastors has been estimated at over 4,000 a year in just Southern Baptist churches.
A very tragic reason for shorter stays of pastors is that many are pushed out. In 1998, LifeWay Publishers researched forced termination in Baptist churches. Their survey showed one or more main reasons why pastors were fired or squeezed out of pastorates. Out of 928 pastors forced to resign, surveys revealed five main reasons for termination
(1) 447 because of control issues — who is going to run (lead) the church.
(2) 298 because of poor people skills on the part of the pastor.
(3) 222 because of the Church's resistance to change.
(4) 212 because of Pastor's leadership style — too strong.
(5) 181 because the church was already in conflict when pastor arrived.
During the same time 246 staff members also were forced out. 2
Moral impurity is a third plague that strikes pastors, leaving them unfit for spiritual leadership. In a recent Leadership magazine poll of pastors, 18 percent of pastors completing the survey admitted to sexual immorality or immoral acts. Of these pastors, 12 percent admitted to adultery (only 4 percent were discovered by the congregation). Six percent more had engaged in other immorality. 3 That means possibly one pastor in every five has a major moral problem!
How can the spiritual captains become the spiritually sunk?
A few years ago there was a survey where 200 ministers revealed they had committed adultery. Talking with each one, it was discovered they had four things in common:
They never believed they would be guilty of adultery.
Each had regular contact in his ministry with an attractive lady.
None were in an accountability group.
Each had little or no regular Quiet Time for personal feeding and confession.
How can we help our pastors remain pure?
A wise, new pastor followed a multiple adulterer-pastor who was still popular. The church knew nothing, but the staff-infection was everywhere, in the called leadership and the deacon body. A morally sick church, and the Power was gone! This new pastor got counsel, and made a commitment to walk in purity with the Lord. He committed to five important moral “fences” which influenced the direction of the church, and produced many laborers for Christ:
Using a printout of the church membership role, he prayed for each family group, selecting a prayer of Paul (e.g., see Ephesians 1:17-20; Philippians 1:9-10; Colossians 1:8-12;1 Thessalonians 3:12-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ).
He had a front-door peep-hole installed in his office, where anyone could look in anytime. Later a glass pane was put on all staff doors. He stopped counseling any woman, unless someone else was in the room. After being shown Titus 2:3-5, he assigned wise older women (including his young wife) to counsel the younger women.
The pastor began mentoring men chosen out of early-morning group Bible studies. These men, in turn, became his accountability group, open to question him in love about different matters. They were delicately mentoring (see Ephesians 4:15 ).
With this group, he asked to be accountable for what he saw on TV. He put in protective blocks in his computer and Internet connection against pornography.
The men became lifetime friends.
Is Your Pastor a Pump or A Pipe?
As church members we should strengthen and encourage our pastors to do the work of ministry victoriously!
Businessman and author, Fred Smith tells of his weekend at a men's retreat. Arriving, he surprisingly discovered he was the only speaker for the three days! However, on his flight back home he was amazed to realize that he was totally relaxed. After packed times of speaking and answering questions, he should have been either exhausted or terribly high. Then Fred thought of the very real presence of the Holy Spirit in those sessions. He was the pipe, not the pump. The pipe never gets tired.
God had been the pump. It's very tiring when we try to be both the pump and the pipe!
A mentoring relationship can help lift a pastor from pump to pipe. It can more than double his years of productive ministry, and keep him excited about serving the Lord in his calling. God graciously gave me the hearts of the guys whom I mentored. They wonderfully lightened my load, bringing a freshness to my ministry. Pastor Chuck Swindoll had a group of men to whom he was accountable. Each time they met, they answered a series of searching questions, such as, “Have you read or seen anything that was immoral or hurting to Christ in you?” “Is there any area you are not being honest with your wife and family about?” “Are you lying to me right now?”
Pastors, you too can meet twice monthly with an accountability group — to pray together, be open, and check one another on your lives and walk. This will help anyone maximize God's grace in his life and family.
If you're not as yet linked with a few people where you can be honest and encourage one another, start a group. As a man, ask the pastor if you can pray for him and with him. Ask him if he senses the need for an accountability group. He can select the members, or get some people outside the church. It could save his ministry.
Mentoring must be two-sided. John Mallison, a wonderfully fruitful, Australian pastor-mentor defines mentoring as a “dynamic, intentional relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in their life and service.” 4 Seeing mentoring from this caring definition, why shouldn't a pastor delight in a small group of men in an accountability relationship? Mentoring can be more than a leader-type helping a follower. How easily the “teacher” can gain insights and perspective through his pupils, if his heart is hungry and humble. The follower can also impact and supernaturally mark the life of his leader.
1 Current Thoughts and Trends, May 1999, p. 14, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO.
2 Research Projects, compiled by Norris E. Smith, LifeWay Christian Resources, Pastor-Staff Leadership Dept., July 1999, Nashville, TN.
3 Leadership Journal, Spring Vol. 20, 1999, pp. 129, 130, Kevin A Miller.
4 Mentoring: To Develop Disciples and Leaders, Scripture Union, PO Box 77, Lidcombe, NSW, 1825, Australia.
Read about 31 Stupendous Ways to Show Love to Your Pastor.