In one of David’s moments of despair, he penned a verse of Scripture that expresses what many of us have felt — overwhelmed and alone.
“I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4)
The Psalm paints a bleak picture of God’s anointed — overwhelmed and alone, on the run, pursued by those who sought his harm, finding shelter in a cold, dark, dank cave.
In this brief poem, David cried out to God with his “complaint” (v. 2), confessing that his spirit “was overwhelmed” (v. 3), that he had been “brought very low” (v. 6), that his soul was in “prison” (v. 7).
David, who in sunnier days wrote so beautifully about the LORD his Shepherd, needed a dose of Shepherd Care!
Last Spring, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board formally approved Shepherd Care, a counseling ministry for Tennessee Baptist ministers and their dependent family members. Shepherd Care was first launched in early 2021 to assist pastors as we emerged from the dark season of the COVID-19 pandemic; but time has shown that providing this resource meets an ongoing need.
The TBMB has allocated funds to provide full payment for one counseling session for Tennessee Baptist pastors or other ministers and their families.
The counseling is provided through a partnership with eight regional counseling centers across the state. The TBMB provides partial payment at a graduated rate for up to six additional sessions, with the need determined by the client and counselor.
Each center is staffed by trained, distinctively Christian biblical counselors.
Since Shepherd Care was launched, more than 50 ministers, ministers’ wives, and several dependent children have taken advantage of this counseling resource (see accompanying story HERE).
The TBMB has provided full or partial payment for almost 200 sessions.
According to a September 2022 Barna online research project, the sentiment in Psalm 142, written three millennia ago, echoes how many Protestant pastors feel two decades into the 21st century.
The survey, released on March 15, found that only 52 percent of pastors are “very satisfied with their jobs,” while just one-half (50 percent) are as confident in their calling as when they first began. Two of five pastors (42 percent) have considered leaving the ministry.
The top reasons listed by those who have considered leaving the ministry are “I feel lonely and isolated” (43 percent, or 18 percent of all pastors surveyed) and “the immense stress of the job” (56 percent, or one-fourth of all pastors).
Other significant sources of dissatisfaction include: “I am unhappy with the effect this role has had on my family” (29 percent) and “I am not optimistic about the future of the church” (29 percent).
“This research underscores the need for major interventions to support and sustain pastors in their work,” Barna Group CEO David Kinnaman said in releasing the findings. “This drop in vocational satisfaction may cause significant problems for churches in the future.”
With the mental health crisis that has engulfed our nation, who among us has not felt the kind of despair David expressed, or tried to encourage a fellow minister who is at the brink? What pastor has not been assaulted by the Adversary? What pastor’s wife has not felt the razor’s edge of criticism thrust into her soul whether aimed at her, her minister-husband, or her children? What minister’s child has not been ostracized by someone at school for being a PK (preacher’s kid)?
My college pastor, who served the same church for 57 years, was a sought-after revival preacher across his home state of Kentucky and beyond. One of his go-to texts in almost every revival meeting was this verse from Psalm 142:4, “no man cared for my soul.”
I heard him state his six-point evangelistic message so often, it is emblazoned in my memory: (1) God cares; (2) Jesus cares; (3) the Holy Spirit cares; (4) the lost in Hell care; (5) the saved in Heaven care; (6) the people in this Church care.
Shepherd Care had not been created prior to this faithful pastor’s death; but if he were still preaching this sermon, he would be able to add No. 7 to his list: (7) the 99 members of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board care.
Upon hearing the vision for this ministry from TBMB president Randy C. Davis, board members voted enthusiastically and unanimously to provide this service. It is available to any Tennessee Baptist pastor or ministerial staff member and their dependent family members through the Shepherd Care hotline, 1–833–55PEACE. B&R