Have you ever wondered how it might seem to the goldfish when we peer in and tap on the glass? For that matter, what about animals in the zoo when we call out for their attention and watch their every move? I was in a meeting with other ministers some time ago when I reminded them that we were all just one bad decision from being out of the ministry. It seems like every week I hear of another pastor who has either resigned, retired early, stepped down in disgrace, changed careers, or in some cases committed suicide. Some studies predict that there will be a serious shortage of pastors in the future at the current rate of attrition. The other factor is that a large number of young people who feel called to serve are not interested in being pastors. Many who are interested do not want to lead existing churches, but want to start new ones. Just ask any search committee of a smaller sized church about the candidates that are available. Recently I heard from a church that requested a recommendation from me. They had been without a pastor for quite some time and only had around five candidates, none of whom had ever been a pastor or were trained theologically. It seemed no one wanted to go to the “out of the way” place and serve the Lord. What is going on?
One factor at work is that those who lead tomorrow will be products of the culture from which they arose. If they grew up in a church filled with conflict and worldliness, they will not want to pastor existing churches. If they came from a broken home, which inevitably many will, they may bear numerous scars emotionally. If they have imbibed of the culture of success they will only be interested in serving in places that are of prominence with good prospects for success. Another factor is the lack of grace that is shown to pastors. When someone criticizes churches to me and uses that as an excuse not to follow Jesus, I often tell them that no one has seen any more of the ugly side of professing Christians than I have. Having been a pastor for forty years, I have just about seen it all. If anyone could give up on the church, I could based on the things that I have seen. It is only by keeping my eyes on Christ and striving to recreate the culture of the churches that I pastor that have kept me going. On several occasions I have followed pastors who were forced out or terminated. At least one of them had an affair with a church member which resulted in their leaving. These kind of things produce division and mistrust. The pastor who steps in inherits that mistrust from many. Respect for his position is low. Relationships are difficult because he is regarded sometimes as just another pastor passing through. Right here at Crestview in the early years of our ministry a member of my family was told by a member who is no longer here “I was here when you got here and I will be here when you are gone.” That really does wonders for family morale! I have been shouted at by deacons and verbally abused by Sunday School teachers through the years. I have been stabbed in the back by leaders who wanted to see me gone. I understand why there is an attrition of available pastors. I thank God for those who loved and accepted me as I am and for the Lord’s faithfulness in the midst of trials.
Let me say that Crestview has become a wonderful fellowship. I pray every day that neither myself or anyone on my staff will do anything to take away the marvelous blessing of the Lord that is upon this church. I am not writing this to complain, but rather to illustrate the pressure of life in the fish bowl and to ask for prayer for my fellow pastors and those whom the Lord is calling. Remember. Pastors are people like you. They have needs just like you do. When you love and accept them, you can improve their service and extend their usefulness to the Lord.
We cannot realistically pray for a national revival without praying for the Lord to raise up a new generation of leaders. They cannot lead without our support.