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The Bible says, “Samuel judged Israel all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 7:15). While the phrase “all days of his life” may not seem terribly significant, I contend it is remarkably significant. Staying committed and faithful in ministry, over the long haul, can be incredibly challenging.

One study estimates that the number of ministers who resign their ministry position each month hovers around 1,500. Another survey reveals more than half of seminary graduates have left the ministry within five years of graduation and less than 20% of those who begin serving as pastors will continue in that role until retirement. The reasons for such high attrition rates in vocational ministry are many but, regardless of those reasons, the numbers are startling.

A New York Times article summarized the plight of many in pastoral ministry: “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen.”

Every Sunday I have the privilege of preaching in a different church in Kentucky. The pastor is usually present. While a few minutes of interaction before worship and casual discussion over lunch afterward does not provide the opportunity to see deeply into any man’s heart, what I have seen gives me a growing love and appreciation for those who serve as undershepherds of the Good Shepherd.

I see men who love people and have a God-given desire to serve others. I see men who love the Lord and want desperately to please Him with their lives. I see men of conviction, who would be willing to lose all of their worldly possessions before they would stop “speaking about what they have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). I see men who eagerly proclaim the gospel with the confidence that God will use even their stutterings to bring the lost to Himself.

I also see men who carry heavy burdens. They carry the grief of those who grieve. They carry the pain of those who hurt.

They carry the brokenness of children whose parents are divorcing, the confusion and sorrow of parents who must bury a child, the emotional devastation of a man whose wife has been unfaithful, the fear of a young mother diagnosed with cancer, the regret of a man who looks back on the wasted years of his youth, and the concern of a grandmother for her lost granddaughter.

Yes, they cast their cares upon the Lord (1 Peter 5:7), but they do not have the privilege of turning off their love and concern for His sheep when they say “Amen” and close their eyes hoping for sleep.

God, thank you for our pastors. Bless them. Use them. Protect them. Reward them.

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  1. Wesley Pitts
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this article. I have been preaching this to the choir. Your platform allows you the audience of church members who can help these pastors. It really disturbs me when I read that we have 16,000 people studying in our seminaries.

  2. Andrew Dyer
    Posted May 1, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    What you have described is what I see in Paul’s instructions to Ephesian elders in Acts 20:31 “admonish with tears.” A biblical pastor is both courageous & compassionate. Thanks for this article.

    • Posted May 2, 2013 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      Andrew, You are most welcome. I am proud of a former student who models Acts 20.31. Now that you are my brother’s pastor I should probably be shedding a few tears for you 😉

  3. Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing the importance of caring for those in ministry. At cleftRock Retreat Center we see so many pastors and missionaries that are facing spiritual warfare, burnout, and oftentimes conflict within the church. We are blessed to be available as a place of rest and healing.

  4. Posted May 1, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    A most revealing article. Thank you for the insights. The wives of many senior pastors have come to my wife and me indicating they are among the most unhappy in the church. The church too often has all kinds of expectations for them without a ” job description” or remuneration. Some assume they get two for the often insufficient compensation for the husband :-).
    My wife Dr. Cheryl Walker actually completed her doctoral dissertation at Spalding University researching this very critical and too often overlooked situation. She found so many pastor’s wives feeling greatly under-prepared for the church’s expectations. She has now been a senior pastor’s wife more than 32 years and many younger women frequently contact her for “talk” just to cope. Mary Mohler and team at SBTS do a good job trying to address this issue, but other venues are needed.

    • Posted May 2, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

      Thank you Dr. Walker. I am pleased to hear about your wife’s research and agree that a pastor’s wife also carries a heavy burden in ministry. My wife, Michelle, is currently exploring ways we can offer more support to pastors’ wives. We may need to get our brides together.