Dropout rate churches don’t talk about? 50% of pastors don’t last 5 yrs & only 10% will retire as pastors. Maybe we should talk about this?
— Jared C. Wilson (@jaredcwilson) April 10, 2015
While I am sure there are some good reasons for pastors to leave the ministry, I can think of three negative factors that contribute to this very sad statistic:
- Many men who drop out of the ministry were never truly called to begin with.
Let’s not make this first point more complicated than it needs to be. When the going gets tough, ‘hired hands’ typically find something easier to do. For some it means becoming a postman, or working as an accountant, or doing landscaping the rest of one’s life. Anything other than the pastorate.
As the Shepherd par excellence, Jesus put it this way in John 10:11-13:
“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.”
A man truly called into the pastorate lives out convictions like this, “I would rather pay to study and preach then be paid not to study and preach.”
Or this, “I would rather pastor in McFarland, USA than pastor nowhere at all!”
Charles Spurgeon was said to have told his pastoral students, “If God calls you to be a minister, don’t stoop to be a king.”
It seems likely that many men who drop out of the pastorate or who abandon the mission field were never truly called to begin with!
- Some men who are no longer in pastoral ministry were victims of Corinthian-esq behavior(emotional, mental, physical, & verbal abuse).
As one who has grown up in the church I have learned that “professing” Christians can act far worse than the world (2 Cor. 12:20-21)!
In this vein, some congregations, like the church at Corinth, cast off faithful men of God like fleas on a bloodhound. Pseudo Christians simply can’t handle the truth (John 3:19-21)! They treat the inerrant Word of God like a bag of trail mix. They simply throw out what the find distasteful (which often includes biblical shepherd-leaders).
Paul’s painful testimony in Corinth can be pieced together if you carefully read 1 and 2 Corinthians. For a good overview of 2 Corinthians read Douglas Kelly’s, New Life in the Wasteland: On the Cost and Glory of Christian Ministry.
Suffice it to say, it is not easy for a bruised shepherd to read sections of Scripture like 2 Corinthians 2:1-4:
“But I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again. For if I cause you sorrow, who then makes me glad but the one whom I made sorrowful? And this is the very thing I wrote you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not that you should be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.”
Or to live on the backside of this, Have I become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? (Galatians 4:16) To be hated and rejected by your enemies is one thing, but to be despised and ostracized by your church “family” is another thing altogether.
I have witnessed more than a few good men step away from the ministry having been chewed up and spit out by some carnal church. Much has been written about abusive pastors but not enough ink has been spilled describing toxic churches and battered pastors. Both camps dishonor the reputation of the Christ they claim to represent.
- Some men are no longer in the ministry because they have disqualified themselves from the office of pastor/elder.
The Evil One works overtime trying to “disqualify” qualified ministers of the gospel. We need to remember that Satan does not fight like a gentleman. He has no problem aiming for the officers of the Lord’s Army, in fact, it is his standard mode of operation.
Paul himself said, “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).
The apostle also reminded his ministry protégé in 1 Timothy 4:16, Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
Some men are no longer serving in vocational ministry because they did not take these somber passages to heart.