A Wounded Shepherd…

I am sitting in a seminar for pastors who are considering interim pastoral ministry. Most of us are seasoned veterans, yet it was humbling to hear a few of them share the pain of what they have endured because they were forced to leave their churches.

I am well aware that many pastors have caused pain to the churches they have served because of immorality, financial indiscretions, and other disqualifying sins. However, there are a lot of pastors (like my friends in this seminar) who have been forced out of their churches because they had incurred the wrath of a few powerful board members or influential people in the congregation. These are guys who are in their 50’s who who have lots of experience but do not have many senior pastor opportunities open to them anymore, so they are considering interim pastoral ministry (at which, I am sure, they will excel as wounded healers).

In our seminar we learned that 33% of U.S. churches have had a pastor leave due to a forced exit; 62% of ousted pastors were serving a church that had forced one or more pastors to leave in the past; 10% of churches have forced three or more pastors to leave.  What is truly amazing is that the driving cause behind a pastor’s forced exit most often comes from just 3-4% of the congregation, which in the majority of U.S. churches (with congregations of little more than 100) translates to three or four people.

I have been blessed with three churches over my forty years of ministry who have sincerely loved me and my family, but I am learning that this is not every pastor’s experience. The stunning facts are that 80% of pastors say that church ministry has negatively affected their family, 70% of pastors say that they do not have a close friend, 60% admit to being in some sort of crisis, 57% say they would leave the vocational ministry if they could find something else, and 50% are struggling in their relationship with God. There is something desperately wrong when statistics reveal that 400-500 pastors leave the ministry each week and that only one out of ten who begin actually finish their calling in the pastorate.

I realize that as an interim, I will be called to some toxic churches and will hear lots of stories and complaints about the pastor that just left, perhaps under painful circumstances. I will need to help a church grieve and rebuild, but my heart will always go out to the wounded shepherd whose pulpit and office I will fill for a time.

Who will pastor the pastor? Me…that is what I want to do. I also see the need of enabling churches to create a gospel-centered culture of love and candor that will not allow for the “functional anonymity of the pulpit” (Paul Tripp), but will draw the pastor into the very system of care that he is providing for others.

If you know any pastors beat up by the ministry or if you are one, here are some resources that may be of help:

http://www.pastorsintransition.net (Pastors in Transition provides comprehensive help to hurting pastors and their families who are transitioning out of a vocational ministry position, voluntarily or involuntarily).

http://www.pinmin.org (Pinnacle Ministries is both a pastoral care and church health ministry. They have a retreat site north of Milwaukee called Shalom House for pastors and their wives to go for rest, relaxation, and restoration, http://www.the shalom house.org).

http://www.interimpastors.com (Interim Pastor Ministries for those experienced pastors looking for an intentional interim position and for churches who have had a pastor depart and need help in transition and preparing a new pastor to come).

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by john burnett on April 17, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    Dave, I will support you in prayer,…. I have known/encountered a number of “wounded shepherds” over the years, both vocational & lay. The real tragedy is that some have been so mauled and
    disillusioned by self-centered, secular folks masquerading as Christians, that they themselves have abandoned their faith and pursued other forms of “spirituality”,…

    Reply

  2. Posted by brad ross on April 17, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    We were and are blessed to have Dave as our pastor and friend. Im so glad that his heart is aligned with Gods heart!
    Another topic that needs to be discussed, is there a more affective way to pick a pastor and how the whole process before, during and after could be handled in such a way that congegations could truly grow in this tough process. We’ve seen Dave and Will model this. Our prayers will certainly include our pastors more in the days ahead. Thanks.

    Reply

    • Brad. I agree and this is the unique calling of an intentional interim- to help churches in their pastoral search process and to oversee a transitional opportunity like Will and I had.

      Reply

  3. Excellent article. Painful to read.

    As an itinerant for some 35+ years traveling the continent I/we would agree with your assessment. However, what we noticed was the issue of whether or not the pastor was ever called to the Gospel ministry in the first place. Some have used it as a career path for various and sundry reasons or other sinister desires.

    The worst place one can find themselves is in full-time vocational Christian ministry….without a calling from on High.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Terry Cooper on April 17, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    I have seen this first hand and it truly breaks my heart. Thank you for your support of those in the pastoral position who may be in need. Tell us how we that make up the majority of the congregation, can help in situations such as this.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Joyce Goff on April 18, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Sounds like what happened to a great pastor at the Bible Church before Our CF came into existence. Just some of the Elders wanted to get rid of their pastor for
    No good reason.
    Love your blog and you,
    Joyce

    Reply

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