I am convinced that most pastors have no idea how hard it is to be faithful and effective for another year, much less for an entire lifetime. I am further convinced that virtually no one outside the pastoral ministry understands what is happening to good pastors in our own time. A recent survey by Dr. Richard A. Blackman, in a dissertation written for Fuller Theological Seminary, underscores my point very well.
1. 75% of pastors surveyed reported having at least one significant crisis due to stress.
2. 80% believed that ministry is affecting their families negatively.
3. 90% felt inadequately trained to meet the demands of their job.
4. 50% felt unable to do their jobs.
5. 37% of pastors had experienced inappropriate sexual contact outside of their marriage.
6. 40% of pastors experience a "serious relational conflict at least once a month." [My view: This is mostly with staff and/or church boards or councils.]
7. 50% of all pastors felt unable to meet the demands of their jobs.
Read those results one more time and you will likely get something of a clue about the real difficulty that a modern pastor faces in our culture in being spiritually, emotionally and sexually healthy. If this data is remotely accurate, and I have every reason to believe that it is, we are in real trouble and few are talking about it seriously. Almost all of the ministers that I know personally, and I would suppose I know several hundred as my friends, would agree with one or more of the above statements about themselves yet they would also have to add, "My congregation has little or no understanding of my difficulties and I dare not let anyone of them know."
Face it, the church is not a safe place to be a minister these days. It will not tolerate ministers who fail, generally speaking, and this is why so many pastors need real friends, people who care and friends that can really be trusted.
Someone asked me, a few years after I left pastoring a local church in 1992, "Do you miss ministering to people one-to-one?" I answered, "I am doing more pastoral ministry than I have ever done before but these days I am doing it with pastors, some of the most broken and needy people I know." Bishops and denominational leaders once did this ministry but few really do it now in modern America.
I think I minister to a lot of pastors because I like them, understand them, and I am no threat to them or their job. I have no vested interest in their coming or going just interest in them as my friends. Sometimes I wish I had 36 hours in a day just to love more pastors.
And while you are thinking about it, if you are not a pastor, do your pastor a real favor and refuse to become his/her critic. Your pastor has plenty of those. Be a friend and seek to gain some insight into the pressures the pastor faces that you very likely do not understand. "[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Corinthians 13:7).