Just for a moment, I would like you to do the following exercise….
- Take the thing you love the most and put it away so you don’t see it.
- Turn off your phone.
- Sit in a place of solitude (a place where you won’t be bothered).
- While in your place of solitude, imagine yourself on a remote island. Not a tropical island, but a dank, dark and dreary island.
- Then imagine you cried for help and no one answered.
- Then imagine you just wanted to have a conversation, but no one was there.
- Then imagine every time you try to get off the island, a storm kicks up and knocks you back to the shore of that deserted island.
- Then imagine that no matter how you try to survive, everything you build gets destroyed by the creatures of that island.
- Now do this with your eyes closed.
How did you feel? Did you feel the sense of loneliness? Did your stress level go way up? What about the sense of not being able to escape, the sense of hopelessness? How did you feel about the creatures destroying all you were trying to accomplish? Were you angry at them?
What you just experienced is what faithful ministers feel regularly. They are working hard at preparing sermons, organizing meetings, visiting their congregants and working within the community. Yet even though they are doing the work they have prepared for, they still get feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and anger. Why is this? Think of it this way…
Typically, a to write a really good sermon it takes approximately 20-30 hours. This time is spent on prayer, study, research and writing. Now add meeting times, maybe 3-5 hours per week, visiting congregants, another 3-5 hours per week. Finally, add time with the community, another 3-5 hours per week. Already you are working 45 hours per week. What this doesn’t include is sermon practice time, Sunday morning or any time concerning the physical church building needs. As we imagine this, we begin to see that many ministers spend 50-60 hours per week working. This is if you are a full-time minister. If you are a bi-vocational minister, add another 35-40 hours per week. This means that bi-vocational ministers potentially can work around 90-100 hours per week.
If you do research on churches hiring pastors, many of them are now asking for bi-vocational pastors to step up to the plate. This means that the church cannot financially support the pastor and his family but needs to have a leader that can train them on proper living.
From personal experience I can tell you that managing 2 vocations and giving both vocations your 100% plus spending time with your family is nearly impossible. Yet many ministers, throughout the world are bi-vocational.
Now if you spent all of this time, away from your family, serving others, preparing good sermons yet the return on those efforts were apathy, complaints, pain and suffering, wouldn’t you want to leave?
Did you know that pastors today, average less than 5 years in ministry? In fact, I read an article that stated the fruit of the effectiveness of a pastor doesn’t happen until his 7th year. So why are so many men leaving ministry to pursue other careers?
Many churches today demand a lot of their pastor. They demand a pastor do almost everything in the church. One church I used to attend, the pastor did everything. From sermon prep to counseling, to financial to even mowing the lawn. It was as if the entire congregation decided they were too busy to take care of the place where they worshiped. Needless to say, that church is no longer in existence.
But I have listened to both congregants and pastors moan and complain about each other and what each other’s expectations. Many times, congregants will complain the pastor is not doing his job, yet they cannot quantify what that means. Pastors complain about the apathy of their congregation, yet cannot quantify what that means. So why is this happening?
I believe the reason why this happens is because of sin in the church. I’m not talking about a pastor having extra-marital affairs, nor am I speaking of congregants being addicted to drinking or pornography. What I am talking about is the lack of efforts on both parties to recognize that sin in the church can be as simple as, not spending time with our Savior, both singularly and corporately.
We have forgotten about spending time with Christ in prayer, in study and in service. We have made serving others our god or studying our god, but we have forgotten that anything outside of Christ is idolatry. (I only understand this because I have been there.)
When we forget about the purpose of the church that Jesus Christ set forth, we make everything else our idols. We may have the best church programs but if we are not spending quality time with our God, then what we do is nothing more exhausting efforts. We may have the best sounding music, but if we are not spending time with God, we are simply playing a concert. We may have the best speakers in the world, but if they and we are not spending time with God, then it is nothing more than an educational lecture.
But did you notice that I never said, “prayer was an idol”? The reason is because prayer is our method of directly communicating with God. So if we are in prayer, we are communicating with God. Prayer is our primary source of staying on track in ministry. Without prayer, everything we do will ultimately fail.
We see the importance of prayer in Scripture. The psalms are filled with prayers turned into song. Jesus spent a lot of his alone time, praying to the Father. Even Paul says, “pray without ceasing”. Prayer is our life-line, our umbilical cord to a healthy Christian life. Prayer allows us to focus our thoughts, cry out to God and even lowers our blood pressure. It calms us in the midst of life’s storms. It encourages us when we are depressed. It gives us strength when we are at our weakest point. Prayer is more than just words; it is God’s way to fill our lives with Himself.
If we want to solve the problem of pastoral loneliness, hopelessness and anger, I would suggest that both the minister and the congregants spend adequate time in prayer both alone and together. If we want to resolve the bitterness a congregation may feel towards their leaders, I would suggest praying both alone and together. If we want to see the church of Jesus Christ grow beyond any of our wildest dreams, I would suggest we all pray both individually as well as corporately.
Once we begin to spend time in prayer together, only then will God move the hearts of individuals to accomplish what He wants in our local churches. As we spend time in prayer, we will begin to see more encouragement rather than discouragement. Both ministers and congregants need encouraging, but the only way we are going to begin to do that is by spending more time alone and corporately in prayer with the Creator of everything.
Let’s begin changing the world, by first allowing God to change us in prayer. We can be better together if we spend more time in prayer. God bless and encourage someone today.