Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Crisis in Ministry

For the past 15 or so years I have spent most of my time coaching people in ministry. Some of these ministers are paid to be Christians and some are not. In most cases, both groups have emotional and spiritual issues, problems, concerns, sadness, anxieties and many regrets. However, as a whole, those who are paid to be Christian ministers have more problems and less spiritual fulfillment than those who serve as volunteers. Seminary graduates are the most affected by these symptoms.

I listen to a lot of people tell their stories about what brought them into ministry. In almost every case it was the excitement they felt when they were in church, studying the Bible, worshiping God or doing some kind of good works in the Name of God. They can usually tell me what they were doing and where they were when they began to feel "The Call" to ministry.

They enter into some sort of formal ministry position with passion, a message to convey and an emotional high. After a few years many of them seek my counsel because they are tired, disappointed, frustrated and spiritually dry. In some cases, they have gotten into trouble with the church, their wife or tempted by sexual lust. Such situations are almost always preceded by spiritual and emotional frustration or anger.

Write and tell me what you think about this observation. Am I seeing things correctly? Do you also observe this kind of behavior in ministers. What are the causes? What are the cures?

Gary Sweeten


Anonymous said...

Hi Gary,

I'm not sure many folks involved in ministry work have been exposed to good teaching on the topic of spiritual warfare. We lose sight of the reality that there's another team on the field fighting God as He seeks to reestablish His Kingdom, working through those who identify with his son, Jesus.

When God starts using us to have an impact, we're invariably going to attract a lot of attention from the other side. We need to be prepared for the attempts by the other side to diminish our effectiveness, in the same way a quarterback prepares for the schemes of an opposing defense.

Consider adversity in ministry a compliment from the other side and an opportunity to grow closer to God.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

dle said...


I think the great, overlooked data point here is the reality that most pastors are not homegrown. In other words, the church they pastor is not the church they grew up in. This makes the pastor an outsider, which magnifies exponentially the problems he may encounter.

Homegrown pastors often do better because they already have a large support network within the church and also know its strengths and weaknesses. I've lost track of how many pastors I've heard from who stepped into a bad ministry opportunity because the call committee glossed over deep problems within the church, which the poor new pastor only discovered once those problems exploded.

Honestly, if our churches cannot raise up their own pastoral staff, then the disciplemaking process at that church is broken. Fix that, then grow your own staff.

Gary Sweeten said...

Dr. Steve, Yes, we do wrestle against forces of wickedness that only Christ can defeat. This is one reason I prefer to bring a community of praying believers around families to offer love, truth and power to them as they face these forces. I will post a story about a young man on the Autism Spectrum who was deeply touched and changed in personality by coming to faith in Christ and worshiping in a local church.

Gary Sweeten said...

Excellent point about church cultures and systemic problems that the new Pastor is unprepared for. Can you say, "Ambush" any body?

Pastors need better training and preparation and mature consultants from outside the denomination to offer wisdom insight and prayers. Research a few years ago in Leadership Mag showed that denominational consultants tended to blame the Pastor not support him.

Gary Sweeten said...

Dr. Steve, I am also thinking about the need for "Soaking Prayers" for the chronically disabled. One or two arrow prayers are not enough usually.