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.