Big Churches, Big Pastors, Big Problems

This month, 1500 pastors will leave the ministry because of moral failure, spiritual burnout, contention and murmuring in the churches they lead. Although approximately 4,000 churches open their doors every year, over 7,000 close their doors. Some due to a void left by their spiritual leader crumbling under the pressure of that leadership in one way or another. Eighty-five percent of pastors reported that their biggest problem is dealing with problem people, like disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors. Ninety percent said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people. Many pastor’s wives (you’d be surprised at just how many) feel inadequate in their role as the pastor’s wife, feel left out and unappreciated by their congregations, feel their spouse is underpaid and overworked, and also feel that the worst day in their marriage was the day they entered the ministry.

For the Pastor of a very large, or mega, church, you can multiply those feelings exponentially. These statistics, gathered by such reputable organizations as Focus on the Family, Ministry Today and Global Pastor’s Network, are startling and should be a wake-up call to all congregations to re-evaluate our pastor’s workload, pay, and the expectations we place on them.

In addition to these stresses in the life of the ministry, there are a category of pastors who face an additional amount of stress that comes from outside their churches. The pastors I am speaking of are the ones whose ministry and message has caught the attention of the media. You can probably think up a handful within a minute who have gained not only a large following in their local areas but also nationally. Often they must endure the scrutiny and criticism of other pastors, bloggers, news agencies and even whole denominations.

While it is vitally important for the church to police it’s leaders and be vigilant in maintaining the highest standards for those who would lead us to Christ, it is also important that we realize where attacks from these different groups really come from. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” None of us is too big or too small to escape the wiles of the enemy. He delights when he can sow discord and murmuring in the church. Because of this, we need to consider how we should respond; whether we belong to the congregation whose leader has had such a harsh spotlight shown on him or her or not. Exodus 23:2 tells us,  “You must not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” The accessibility of information via the Internet in our generation is truly staggering, but, it is also information that has not passed through the kind of scrutiny and vetting process that most reputable news agencies employ. The truth is, a substantial amount of what we read on our computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones is less than accurate and usually never an example of balanced an comprehensive reporting.

It is just as easy to “share” or Tweet or link or Facebook a lie as it is the truth. As Christians, we are called to speak only the truth. This command requires that we be “…wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We are required to use the discernment given to us by God to “divine” the truth in any matter. Instead of passively accepting what we read, we should instead look for other points of view, other sources and whenever possible, get the story straight from the “horses mouth.” Given the potentially devastating effects of false accusations and incomplete information on those pastors which have been called to cast a broad net for the Kingdom, we must demand more and complete information from any source that would try to tear down a ministry or a man.

Spend any time on the Internet and you are bound to stumble over stories, blog posts, forums and other types of information in which a Christian leader’s integrity or message are called into question. The mission we are then given is to dig deeper for the whole truth. Often we succumb to the salacious nature of this information. We swallow it whole like a fish with SOS, “shiny object syndrome”. There will be times, no doubt that in discovering the truth our hearts will be broken for one more who has fallen short of his or her calling. On the other hand, there will also be times in which we find ourselves on our knees praying that a pastor and congregation that is under attack by forces outside of their walls is strengthened in order to weather the storm.

The worst thing we can do when reading information that casts a pastor in a less than favorable light is to swallow it whole and spit it out for others to hear and pass on. God hates murmurers. He hates gossip and he hates lies. Proverbs 26:20 tells us, “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” a great rule of thumb when you encounter negative information that may, or may not be the truth i think is to leave it where you found it and it won’t spread.