I Am Free!

Dear Church,

Do you know how difficult it is to be a pastor in a traditional church?

I do.  I was one for over 25 years. 

Consider these statistics from an article called "Death by Ministry". 

Pastors

  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors' marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.

  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.

Pastors’ Wives

  • Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
  • Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • The majority of pastor’s wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.

Makes you wonder why anyone would want such a job!  Also makes you wonder if this is really what God had in mind for His church.

A growing number of pastors are leaving the "system" and joining the Revolution (see Barna).  The email below from Jason Duncan (Gallatin, TN) will give you some idea of what leaving can feel like.  (Shared with permission.)

One more thing.  Leaving the traditional church system can be tremendously freeing but it also can be frightening for a pastor and his family for financial reasons.  If you know someone who is going through the transition, consider helping them with financial support.

John White
US Coordinator
Dawn Ministries

Dear House Church Folks,

As of midnight Saturday night…I AM FREE! No more institutional church. I am no longer on staff at my church as of midnight, Saturday, September 30, 2006.

Please pray for Kristie and me (and our kids) as we "detox" for the next three months (or so). We want to follow God, relax, and rest in His presence.

Sunday morning we slept in–the first Sunday morning "sleep-in" in my adult life. When we woke up, I made chocolate-chip pancakes. Then we talked about things of God with the kids and make a "God Box," which will be what we use as a place to put our tithes each week; and my son who is 6 suggested we write our prayers down and put them in there too! Great idea, huh? We plan to get the kids used to seeing us put in money and encourage them to do so as well. Then we’re going to talk to them about what that money is to be used for: helping people, etc. We plan to encourage them to look for people who could use some help from the God Box. Oh, the freedom smells so sweet!

Then at 4:00 PM we went to a friend’s house for a house church meeting in which we all officially "closed the door" to the institutional church that we all have left. We were all members of the same church. One couple left almost 2 years ago and have been flitting around from church to church with no real sense of calling to a place. Another couple left our church this past spring and have been "waiting" for us to start a house church. The other couple left this past Sunday after I preached my last sermon. They stayed until we left so they could support us.

The house church meeting Sunday night was amazing. We played some horseshoes in the backyard before dinner. We enjoyed communion together and ate a meal together. I got my guitar out and played a few songs and then the host popped in a worship CD, passed around some song sheets and we sang a few more worship songs. One lady’s dad who lives in Oklahoma had recently been diagnosed with cancer (lymphoma) and she was really upset, so we spent quite some time laying our hands on her and praying for her dad. It was a very moving time. We even laid our hands on a handkerchief and prayed over it so that she could take it with her to Oklahoma when she goes to visit him in a couple of weeks. I got a phone call Tuesday afternoon from this lady’s husband. He said they just got a call from her dad who had a doctor’s appointment that day. The report is that there is no cancer in his lymph-nodes or lungs like they had previously said. WOW! He still has to undergo treatments for cancer in his esophagus, but we’ll get right on that in prayer, too! 😉

The freedom is almost overwhelming! Praise the Lord above from Whom all blessings flow. He has set us free and we are free indeed!

Respectfully yours,

Jason Duncan

4 thoughts on “I Am Free!”

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’m sure it will encourage many.
    As for me, I’m the lead pastor of a smallish church plant (100-150 on Sundays) that just turned 6 years old. While there are stresses, they are no more than I would have working any other job. Many of the “traditional” expectations that people have for pastors aren’t expected of me. So while I’m sure it would feel freeing for me to not get up so early on Sunday mornings (we start setting up at the banquet hall at 6:30), I don’t feel like I need to be set free from anything…
    I’ve read some things about simple/home churches on and off over the past several years, but I still have a lot to learn. Thanks!

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  2. First of all, stats can be skewed so i don’t put much stock into it.
    Secondly, there are many people who go into ministry who are not called. They go into it thinking it will satisfy their need to be loved and admired and then they find out its about serving and sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering.
    Also, the description of the house church lacked something essential: the Word- without that, its not church- its not even fellowship and that whole hankerchief thing wasa bit odd.
    As far a the clergy goes, the Bible is clear, Ephesians 4 says he gave some to be pastors and teachers. 1 and 2 Timothy as well as Titus are written to professional pastors- hence the admonition in 1 Timothy a labourer is worthy of his wage. You see, some people are called to labour in the Word and in evangelism and the church has the duty to support them (do not muzzle the ox…). Being a pastor is not a glorious lifestyle, nor is it a proffession, its a calling and it involves sacrifice and suffering in order to shepherd the souls of God’s elect- no wonder the high attrition.
    So some people leave ministry because they weren’t actually called in the first place. The other reason that so many people leave is because they are inadequately prepared for ministry (i.e. no seminary, or poor seminary education). So many pastors go into churches thinking they have to be the next Rick Warren in order to succeed. They turn the church upside down, flippantly upsetting established members and telling them to leave if they don’t like the changes (I’ve seen this). And when their dreams of stardome fade, they leave the church in shambles and write blogs about so called “Freedom”.

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  3. Good comments Rick. No body of believers is perfect. However, much of what you said in your last paragraph is what happened in the body of believers where Jason was “ministering”. We continue to pray for him and others that Satan will not be allowed to deceive His servants as in my opinion has happened.

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  4. It is so interesting to go back an re-read what I wrote over 3 years ago (this is Jason Duncan, by the way). So much of my feelings at that point in my life were based on immediate circumstances and were not based on the larger picture. As I read it today, I realize how ignorant I was about what Father really was doing in my life. I thought at that time that I would be starting a house church. Now I see how misguided that was. The church was started by Jesus 2000 years ago. It is not for us to “start” again. (For more information about this go to http://theway247.blogspot.com/2009/11/stop-planting-churches-please.html)
    Today, my family and I are still following Jesus intimately and in a more honest way than ever. We do not “go to” church, “attend” church, or “do” church. It has become a reality in our lives to live as the church in all of our relationships. We are a bit saddened by the way we lashed out against the modern church early on. We ask for forgiveness. As we grow, we are learning how to show love to all members of Jesus’ church in all pockets of the world. We are all brothers and sisters and are part of the same family. Jesus is our Shepherd and we are content to follow him in the company of as many other followers as possible. This is true freedom.

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