It’s November and hooray for cooler days and the hint of crisp nights. Yippee for football on television and Friday nights watching the Jackets trounce yet another victim on their inevitable march to the play offs. Hats off to the hope of sweater weather just around the corner. But mostly, hallelujah for you. I mean it.
Last month the ministers on the church staff were honored, very much so, by you, our brother and sisters here at First Baptist, for Pastor Appreciation Month. We were honored lavishly and generously, and that is greatly appreciated. But what really honors us is being able to serve with you in this church. The kindness with which we are treated is unparalleled in my years of serving churches. Your support, encouragement, and friendship are extravagant and vital. Know why? Here’s some numbers about pastors shared with me on Facebook by one of you. I know it’s Facebook, but the numbers come from a reliable source. Here they are. 97% of all pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by a close friend. 70% of pastors battle depression. 1,500 quit every moth. Only 10% will make it to the end of their career still pastoring, still serving. 80% report high levels of discouragement. 94% of their families feel pressured. 78% have no close friends. Those statistics are alarming and they tell us some things we need to hear.
There is a perception among some that serving in ministry is easy. It can be. Many days it is. But many days it isn’t. There are reasons for that. Some of the reasons are of the minister’s own making. A big temptation is to forget what kind of work we actually do. Eugene Peterson rightly criticizes some pastors for being what he calls “religious shopkeepers” who see their work as keeping the customers happy and keeping them coming back. When we give in to that temptation we give up our calling. But there are other reasons why, some days, this work is not easy. Some times congregations want a shopkeeper minister. Sometimes they want to isolate the minister, not accepting him into their lives with the result that he ends up friendless, worn out, and discouraged. There is spiritual warfare involved, too. The enemy of our souls works overtime to nibble away at those responsible for feeding and leading. Pastors, ministers, need support of all kinds. The reason should be a selfish one for churches. The single most important factor in the life and health of a church is the spiritual lives of its ministers.
But this is a thank you. Like Paul, I have received everything and am amply supplied. Your support and friendship means everything. Thanks.