For nearly a year, a group of pastors, ministers and laypeople have been surveying Tennessee Baptists, compiling data, reading every comment, meeting to sift information and to collaborate in an effort to understand what God has said through Tennessee Baptists about His preferable future for the TBC network of churches. This entire effort has marched under the banner of the Acts 2:17 Initiative.
This group of dedicated people will offer a full report at the Summit in Chattanooga that begins Sunday Nov. 12. Their effort has been massive, but to some degree it hasn’t been as difficult as you might think, especially as some patterns begin to emerge.
For instance, a glaring need that’s arisen during the process is the need for well-equipped pastors and ministry leaders. And related, the need to care well for these God-called servants. The shortage of ministers was recently labeled by a seminary president as a national crisis.
Just a few weeks ago I circulated a letter by a Presbyterian pastor who explained why he is a part of the “great resignation” of ministers walking away from their calling. He cited the top five reasons from a recent Barna Research survey as to why many pastors quit.
Reasons listed were immense stress of the job (56 percent), feeling lonely and isolated (43 percent), current political divisions (38 percent), effects this role has had on family (29 percent), and not being optimistic about the future of the church they pastor (29 percent).
Add to that the physical, emotional and mental stress accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic and you understand why we face a pulpit crisis.
Yet, I would say to every pastoral ministry leader, there are reasons to “stay by the stuff,” as my friend Bobby Welch used to say. I Corinthians 9:10 says the one that “plows should plow in hope.”
Pastor, I know it is tough, but I want you to be encouraged. Easy for me to say? Not exactly. I understand where you live because I walked in your shoes for 34 years.
And now for more than 13 years I’ve been serving pastors. Allow me to give you three reasons why I believe you can be encouraged right now.
1. It is about His strength, not your giftedness. “Greater is He that is within you than he that is within the world” (I John 4:4). Someone has well said “You can’t, He never said you could. He can, and always said He would.”
Over time, we tend to play up to our strengths. And we cover our weaknesses. Covering our frailty takes a great deal of energy and effort. But the Scripture principle of “in our weakness He is made strong” must be realized, and incorporated, and lived out in our own lives. When He calls us, we become His responsibility.
2. The Father is watching you and He has your back. My older brother, Rob, and I were talking recently about the pressures that pastors live with these days. And he said rather than dwelling on that issue (pressures) we should understand and look at the promise of II Chronicles 16:9: “The eyes of the Lord roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong to those who are wholeheartedly devoted to Him.“
To be discouraged means our hearts are void of courage. You do not have to run on empty. There is a place where you can become full of an endless supply of courage. To be fully devoted to the Lord means we are absolutely trusting in His strength. He is watching; He cares; He can do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask, hope and imagined. Trust the Father.
3. Someone is praying for you right now. You may not know it but you’d be shocked to know the number of dear saints living in obscurity, and who desire no recognition, but who constantly lift in prayer those who serve the Lord. I’ve met many of them throughout Tennessee.
They are kind, mature and fully devoted followers of Christ who stand in the gap for the shepherds. And besides those prayer warriors, the Scripture promises that “Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25).
The King of Kings is praying for you right now!
And just a quick word to congregations across our state and beyond. October is pastor appreciation month. A tangible expression of appreciation for your pastor (and maybe other ministers) goes a long way toward helping your pastor and his family know they are loved and appreciated by those with whom they share the trenches.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey of hope, courage, and under His calling. B&R