This past Lord's Day, I had the privilege of preaching 1 Timothy 5:17-20. "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, 'Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,' and 'The worker deserves his wages.' Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning."
It was an honor to preach this passage to a congregation that has been full of love, support, and encouragement to me and my family these past five years. There was great liberty in unfolding text without fear of being misunderstood, without need of rebuking the people, and withut having to fight against an impulse to complain or to pander because we've been treated with "double honor" since arriving. What a blessing!
But if I am to believe some of the survey statistics published on pastors and their view towards the ministry, the vast majority of my fellow pastors do not feel this way and are not receiving proper care from their people. Consider these figures compiled by the Schaeffer Institute:
Hours and Pay
- 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
- 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
- 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
Training and Preparedness
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they
thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
Health and Well-Being
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if
they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Marriage and Family
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
- 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked.
- 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
- 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
- 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
- #1 reason pastors leave the ministry — Church people are not willing to go the same direction and goal of the pastor. Pastors believe God wants them to go in one direction but the people are not willing to follow or change.
- 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
- 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form.
- 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close.
- Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.
- Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.
- Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year.
That’s a sad and alarming picture, isn’t it? Work long hours in a job with too many demands for too little pay. Many have the wrong skills and the wrong expectations. Families being pressured and battered. Pastors are discouraged and depressed. No friends, serious conflict once a month, and people who will not follow. Is it no wonder so many quit so soon?
According to one survey, only 23% of pastors report being happy and content in their identity in Christ, in their church, and in their home.
I suspect, however, that men in these situations might be crippled all the more were they to faithfully preach a text like 1 Tim. 5:17-20. They would be seen as self-serving and courting with more hostility and dissatisfaction from a people already running afoul of God's call to churches to honor faithful servants.
So, I'm hopeful at least some of God's people would consider these statistics, reflect upon their church's treatment of their pastors, and perhaps lead a conspiracy to make sure faithful elders receive "double honor" from those they teach and lead. Let's face it: we can't get survey statistics like these unless it has become an unchecked commonplace among congregations to gossip and gripe rather than to breathe grace toward church leaders. These statistics indicate a pandemic culture of disregard and dishonor aimed at pastors. That's to the church's shame.
I'm praying that Hebrews 13:17--rather than rejected as giving too much authority to leaders--might be embraced by individual members and congregations as one means to growth in Christ and deeper joy as the family of God. "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you."