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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Then, there's the asterisk

And I quote, from yesterday. "Most of the pastors and church staff members I have known over the past thirty-five years love their jobs, a term I use reluctantly". It's certainly a statement I stand by. But, then, there's the asterisk.

Meaning that the truth of the statement is conditioned to some degree by several caveats.

In this instance there are two. First, of course, is the use of the word "most". It's one of those non-specific numerical adjectives us statistics-deficient people like to use. Most denotes a greatest quantity in a set of particulars. So, in a group of people any number of them of them could be accurately represented as most of them as long as none of the sub-groups numbers more. So, the asterisk here is to draw a separate conclusion that most doesn't mean all. Many pastors and church staff don't love their jobs.

Exception two is that I really haven't known that many pastors and church staff members over the past thirty-five years. Yes, thankfully God has placed me in proximity to many gifted and skilled colleagues. The greatest majority of them have been known at a distance while a few have permitted me into the inner sanctum of their personal and ministry lives. Still, when I remember that there are estimated more than 300,000 people in this special cohort, I realize how few of them I have actually known. It's hidden in the asterisk too. I just don't know that many ministers.

A study by the people at the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute for Christian Leadership Development by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir (if you want to review his massive study, go here) reveals some of the details accentuated by my use of "most". Now, this study was copyrighted in 2007 and is therefore somewhat dated. But, the numbers give additional weight to the asterisk and remind us that while "most" love what they are doing, many are suffering the downsides of what are hard assignments.

A sample?

70% of those surveyed have considered leaving the ministry

100% had known someone who left the ministry because of stress or burnout

57% indicated they would leave the ministry if they had other work options

77% gave responded that ministry had negatively affected their marriage

75% felt unprepared for their leadership and counseling roles

71% battle depression on a daily basis

38% were in broken marriages or proceedings leading to divorce

And, there are many more. For some shocking stuff, please visit the site and review the data that has been shared not only by the FASICLD, but also the Barna Group, Fuller Institute, and Focus on the Family.

The uptake? Simple. Putting a nice new suit on the unattractive numbers and looking at them from a more positive stance doesn't alleviate the truth that so many of our brothers are facing the realities of dysfunctional churches. Underneath the FASICLD statistics, even though they may be dated, are dark shadows of church conflict, organizational, leadership, and control issues, resistance to change, and mission and vision confusion. That "most" of our colleagues love their assignments and wouldn't do anything else cannot diminish the reality that "most" is a relative number, hard to define. Get real. Even if one of God's servants was being manhandled by an informal church system or even one visits a divorce lawyer or even one takes his own life, it is a problem for us all.

Recent emphasis on pastor and minister health at the denominational levels and in our institutions has been encouraging. The baseline of care and ministry to our colleagues should happen, however, at a personal level, the intimate touch of colleagues up close. Reading through the New Testament lately I've been impressed by the number of times the Apostle Paul used the word translated "refreshed" in his comments about local congregations and the people with whom he was associated.

so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in

your company.

Romans 15:32, ESV

for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such


1 Corinthians 16:18, ESV

Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we

rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been

refreshed by you all.

2 Corinthians 7:13, ESV

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he

often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he

arrived in Rome the searched for me earnestly and found me—may

the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and

you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.

2 Timothy 1:16, ESV

For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother,

because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Philemon 1:7, ESV

Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my

heart in Christ.

Philemon 1:20, ESV

All of these verses indicate a range of mutual care and concern between Paul, the churches, and the people he prepared for ministry that touches me greatly. My prayer is that in these times his church would reflect a mutuality that all of God's servants could say, "I love my Job"...

...without any asterisks.

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