July 21, 2020by Reverend Dan on July 22, 2020
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”
I read an interesting article recently that talked about the new types of stress people are experiencing from working at home, being quarantined, and sheltering-in-place. It seems the major lifestyle change which decreases human contact and interaction is taking a toll on people’s psyche. Which makes sense. After all, we are a communal people and no matter how great the technology we have is, nothing can replace face-to-face interaction and human touch.
One of the groups most affected by our “new normal” are pastors. Their lives of hospital visits and healthcare facility visits and home visits and counseling came to a screeching halt back in February and it looks like that will continue for a while. That means we have had to redefine what we do and how we do it. And for many it has been a struggle.
I have used the time to increase the number of contacts, it’s just that now they’re through snail mail and email and texting and telephone calls. It’s not the same, but it’s what we have to work with. I have also used the experience to increase the time I spend in sermon preparation. I have more time to sit with a scripture and marinate an idea and research it more fully. I have also “re”-realized an outlet for recognizing and celebrating God’s presence through this devotional. And I’ve even taught a couple of on-line Bible studies and am planning another one for later this summer.
That’s why it broke my heart to read the article that said even before the pandemic, 1,500 pastors left the ministry each month. You read that right. One thousand, five hundred per month. And that statistic does not include retirement. It’s simply the number of pastors who burnout or become so overwhelmed and frustrated and broken that they abandon the call God has placed on their lives. The stress of everyday shepherding was too much.
And while it makes me sad, I get it. Twenty-four/seven, 365 days a year, always “on” . . . as many different opinions and expectations as there are members . . . most pastors being, by nature, people pleasers (so trying to please everyone and in the process pleasing no one) . . . there were so many reasons cited. My heart breaks for them and they certainly should be in everyone’s prayers that God would heal their broken spirits.
Sometimes I think we are such a “task” oriented society and culture, with long and never-ending lists, that we fail to remember that we as pastors are also members of a congregation. We are the ones mandated with praying for our churches and preaching sermons, but we focus those things outward and neglect our inward selves in the process. One thing I always try to keep in mind is what a professor in seminary told us: “Never let a prayer roll off your tongue having never passed through your soul, and never preach a sermon you haven’t heard first yourself.”
That’s why I always tell my folks, “before I preach a sermon to you, God has preached it to me.” I need God’s Word and encouragement and wisdom and message as much as everyone else. Sometimes folks will say, “You were talking to me today, preacher.” Not really. First, if I’m doing it right, it was God talking to you through me. And secondly, that sermon came to me because God thought I needed to hear it. I just plagiarized it from Him and shared it with you.
Pray for the clergy in this country for we are no different than you. Pray that God will continue to raise up men and women to share His Word and His Grace and give them the courage and strength to lead the church through this challenging time into a new day.
“Father, Be with those You have called to shepherd Your church and give them the presence of Your Holy Spirit for all that they may need. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”