Miserable Pastors

Via Pharyngula comes a bleak picture of what is going on in the lives, hearts, and minds of Evangelical pastors:

Another article reveals even more telling statistics based on a survey of 1,050 evangelical Pastors (note these are evangelical pastors not liberal pastors):

  • 89% considered leaving the ministry at one time.
  • 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.
  • 77% felt they did not have a good marriage!
  • 75% felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
  • 71% stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
  • 38%  said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • 30% either has an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
  • 23% said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!

The same article also gives the following research distilled from Barna, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary.

  • 1500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • 80 percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
  • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 40% of pastors polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.

Harsh (and sad) statistics.  For an honest look at the internal life of a stand up pastor who is struggling with the challenges of his profession, I wholeheartedly recommend you spend some time exploring the blog Clergy Guy.  And if you really have some time, I recommend you also check out my debate with Clergy Guy, which begins on Camels With Hammers here, goes to Clergy Guy’s blog here, and then ends back at Camels With Hammers.  Pharyngula also reminds us of Dan Dennett’s interviews with secretly disbelieving clergy, about which Newsweek wrote an article.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://clergyguy.blogspot.com Clergy Guy

    Hi Daniel. Thanks for the plug.

    I’ve been aware of these stats for several years. They are disturbing, as well as discouraging. There is really something very wrong systemically–which of course you point out a lot.

    We come down on opposite sides of some issues, but its nice to know we’re both working on the healing of persons

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Is it possible the reason “Burnout” and “Depression”is such a problem
    for **Today’s** “Pastor/Leader” is they have found themselves

    with a “Title” and “Position” NOT found in the Bible?

    Did anyone have the “Title” “pastor” in the Bible?
    Was anyone ordained a “pastor” in the Bible?
    Were any congregations “led” by a “pastor” in the Bible?

    And every “pastor” I’ve met also had the “Title” “Reverend.”

    Does anyone have the “Title” Reverend in the Bible?

    Does anyone have the “Title” and “Position” – “Pastor/Leader” – in the Bible?

    Jesus taught “His Disciples” NOT to be called “Master/Leader”
    For you have “ONE” “Master/Leader” The Christ. Mat 23:8-10 KJV

    Ezekiel 14:1-7, speaks about “Idols of the Heart,”
    and now God will speak to us according to the “Idols of our Heart.”
    Has that “Title” “Pastor/Leader” become an “Idol?”

    In my experience…

    Titles become Idols.
    Pastors become Masters.

    Along with the “Title” and “Position” comes something “A Little Bit Extra.”
    Power, Profit, Prestige, Glory, Honor, Reputation, Recognition, etc..

    All “Idols” of the heart, heavy weights on shoulders NOT easy to lay down.

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear my voice;”
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed in your search for Truth… Jesus.

  • http://clergyguy.blogspot.com Clergy Guy

    Did anyone have the “Title” “pastor” in the Bible?
    Was anyone ordained a “pastor” in the Bible?
    Were any congregations “led” by a “pastor” in the Bible?

    Yes, the term pastor is used to describe the spiritual leader of a congregation. It’s not so much a title as a role or a job. It’s someone who looks after, teaches, counsels, and helps others in his church. I consider it an honorable job.

    On the other hand, I’m not so partial to Reverend, which is not Biblical and sounds sort of high falutin’.

    Regarding shepherds. I often tell people I’m not the Great Shepherd. I’m just one of his sheep dogs. :)

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Clergy Guy

    Thanks for the response.:-)
    Sheep dog. Hmmm? Well dog is God spelled backwards. :-)
    And we are made in His Image and likeness.
    And we often get things backwards. So maybe. Mercy Lord…

    You write…
    “Yes, the term pastor is used to describe the spiritual leader of a congregation.”

    I realize that’s how the term pastor is used, and understood, in the Religious System of today.

    I was specifically asking about the Bible and The “Title” Pastor/Leader.

    In the Bible…
    I can’t find any congregations “Led’ by a “Pastor/Leader.”
    I can’t find anyone with the “Title” “Pastor/Leader.”

    I have some question’s about “your” use of the word “leader.” ;-)
    The word “leader”seems like a “high place.” Yes?
    Jesus always took and recommended the **low place.** Yes?

    Seems Jesus has a different take on “Leadership” for **His Body.**

    Jesus humbled Himself, made himself of NO reputation,
    and took on the form of a **Servant.** Php 2:7-8. ;-)

    How do “you” reconcile the use of the word “leader”
    when “Jesus” told **His disciples** NOT to be called “leader?”

    Jesus, in Mat 23:10 KJV, told **His disciples** “NOT” to call themselves
    “Master / Leaders,” for you have “ONE” “Master / Leader” “The Christ.”

    King James Version –
    Neither be ye called masters:
    for “ONE” is your Master, even Christ.

    The Interlinear Bible –
    Nor be called leaders,
    for “ONE” is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English –
    you must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only “ONE” leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version –
    nor should you be called leader.
    your “ONE” and only leader is the Messiah.

    Jesus told **His disciples** NOT to be called **leaders** and NONE did.

    Rom 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    **His Disciples** all called themselves **Servants.**
    None called themselves “leaders.” None? None.
    None called themselves “servant-leader.” None.

    If Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “leaders”
    and someone calls them self a “leader”
    or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they a “True””Disciple of Christ?”
    Or, just a “disobedient”Disciple of Christ?”

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? ;-)

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    Be blessed in your search for Truth… Jesus.

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love


    Is there anyway to receive an automatic e-mail
    for future comments on your blog?


    • Daniel Fincke

      Hi Amos, we’ve been working on that, thanks for your patience while we figure it out and thanks for stopping by to check up in the meantime.

  • http://clergyguy.blogspot.com Clergy Guy

    Amos, I don’t want to get into a protracted discussion on Daniel’s site, but I’ll go ahead and mention that the reference for pastor is in Ephesians 4:11. The Greek word, “poimen” is translated as pastor in KJV and NIV. It is used several times in the NT and most of the time is translated as shepherd. The Eph. passage is talking specifically about a role or job some people are appointed to.

    Your point is well taken that leaders in the church should consider themselves servants, and certainly should not lord their position over others. The term, “pastor” probably did evolve as a title, and if you don’t care for it, I understand.

  • http://clergyguy.blogspot.com Clergy Guy

    Daniel, I meant I didn’t want to take up too much room on your site. CG

    • Daniel Fincke

      No problem, CG, feel free to stretch your legs and make yourself comfortable, there’s plenty of room :)

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Daniel – Thanks for the comfortable invite. :-)

    Read a few blogs and comments.

    Like you, I had a hard time with “the Religious System” and what they asked me to believe.

    Left “the Religious System” in the early 90′s.
    Never stopped believing in Jesus, His blood, His salvation, or the Bible.

    Now work with folks who have broken hearts and sickness and dis…ease caused by a broken heart.

    In my experience… Jesus still heals the broken hearted today.

    Was wondering… What do you mean by atheist.

    Do you ever “doubt” your belief that there is no God?

  • http://web.me.com/love101 A. Amos Love

    Clergy Guy – Thanks for your service. Your desire to help folks.
    IMO – You’ve chosen an “impossible” profession, Pastor. (see above)
    Impossible if you “really” love Jesus? (aka. Love the truth.)

    For some it’s a job, a career, a way to feel good about themselves.
    But, if you love Jesus, the pain, the concern, the frustrations, unbearable.
    Only God knows the secret motives of our hearts. And us, sometimes.

    Seems to me “the Religious $ System” of Today is giving God a bad name.
    Most atheists I meet dislike what they see, “the Religious System,” and
    the people who run the system, and make the rules.
    The guys with the “Titles” and “Positions’ NOT in the Bible.

    When did “pastor” become a “Title,” a profession, a paid position, an idol?

    In my experience…
    “Titles” become “Idols.”
    “Pastors” become “Masters.”
    (Ezek 14:1-11, Mat 23:10)

    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give flattering titles unto man.
    For I know not to give flattering titles;
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.
    Job 32:21 KJV

    Don’t titles make us a name? And come with something “Extra.”
    Power, Profit, Prestige, Glory, Honor, Reputation, Recognition, etc..
    Stuff Jesus spoke against and cause walls of division and separation?

    Don’t “titles” sperate brethren?

    Don’t titles say, I am, you’re not?
    Don’t titles say, we are, they’re not?

    Baptist, Lutheran, Atheist, —- I am, you’re not?

    Reformed, Evangelical, Charismatic —- division and separation?

    Clergy – Laity — division and separation?
    Leaders – Followers — I am, you’re not??
    Pastors – Sheep — we are, they’re not?
    Teacher – Student — division and separation?

    One greater then the other. Causing walls of separation.

    And some will “exercise authority” and “lord it over” others, yes?
    Isn’t that the beginning of “Spiritual Abuse?”

    Pastor/Leader = exercise authority = lord it over = abuse = always

    If someone says their “title” or “position of leader” is not an idol,
    just ask them; Well, if it’s not an idol? Lay your title down,
    lay down the power profit, prestige, that comes with “Titles.”
    Walk away from your “reputation” as a leader.
    Become a brethren, become a servant, take the low place,
    become a “disciple of Christ.”

    Didn’t Jesus make himself of no reputation,
    and take upon himself the form of a servant
    and humble himself? Php 2:7

    Don’t “Titles” make a “reputation”
    whether you want it or not?
    Good morning “Pastor.”
    What just happened?

    Didn’t Jesus say; I receive not honor from men?
    If someone calls you “pastor” or “leader;”
    Is that receiving honor from men?

    Don’t “titles” create honor whether you want it or not?

    Peace and Love

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