Jump Start # 3168
2 Timothy 4:5 “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
A recent Bara Institute report shockingly revealed that one-third of today’s preachers want to quit. The number, 38%, is up nearly 10% from just a year ago. The report indicated that preachers under the age of 45 were the most likely to consider quitting. More than 4,000 churches have closed in America in the past two years, according to Bara. Many factors were given for wanting to quit preaching such as the lasting impact of the pandemic, loneliness, burnout, depression, political strife, and just being tired of all the things that go with preaching.
Understand, the organizational structure of most denominations is not what we read in the New Testament. Their preachers, commonly referred to as pastors, have more of an CEO operational concept of running a church. The denominational hierarchical organization, larger than the local congregation is a concept not found in our Bibles.
However, even within our fellowship, the number of preachers quitting is growing steadily. And, true to the Bara article, it seems that a vast majority of them are in that 45 and under age bracket. Fewer younger men are going into preaching which all points to a famine of preachers in coming years. Now, we can ignore such things and then we will wake up one day wanting to know what happened or we can begin to address this seriously.
First, from our passage today, there are some hardships connected to preaching. Every Sunday the preacher stands before one hundred or more people who can in a second can become critics and unload every opinion, idea and problem in his lap as they walk out the door and go home. There are hardships. Endure them. Get a backbone. Develop some thick skin. Don’t let every comment get under your skin, nor is it your job to fix every problem that people give you. The preacher is to preach and teach God’s word. Take a long, long look at what those apostles and early preachers went through. They weren’t paid well. They suffered greatly. Their love for the Lord and His kingdom kept them going. Could it be that the desire for an easy job loaded with perks and benefits has caused some to be disillusioned and disappointed to the extent that they quit?
The work can be long, hard and lonely. Just this past week, I have written five blogs, recorded six podcasts, taught four public classes, lead a leadership workshop, preached a sermon and prepared to head out of town to preach a meeting. I can’t tell you how many emails, phone calls and people I’ve talked with this week. Am I tired? Yes. Is it necessary to do all of these things? Probably not. But I see the good that is being done. I see lives changing. I see hope building. I see positive things taking place. Now, I could complain about this. I could cry to my elders about this. I could think about quitting. But I signed up for this. I am a preacher of God’s word. This is what I am supposed to be doing. There is a work that is to be done and we need to do it. Certainly, I could ride out on old sermons, stop Jump Starts and do as little as possible. But that’s not me. That’s not going to bring success and growth in the kingdom. Endure. Endure hardships. That’s what God says.
Second, shepherds need to have a heart-to-heart talk with their preacher more than once a year as they consider giving him a raise or not. Is he tired? Is he having the signs of burnout? Is he overwhelmed? Do you know? Do you notice? Do you care? This is where I think many preachers in our fellowship end up. They sense that no matter what they do, no one cares. Leaders have long ago quit leading. Ideas, vision, motivation all must come from the preacher or it won’t exist. After a while frustration builds. Why do all of this? On top of this, many do not feel like they have the backing and the support of the leaders. Tough things need to be preached. Some members squawk. They complain. The leaders remain silent. They won’t get involved. They won’t support nor defend the preacher. And, for the young preacher, he feels as if he is left to die alone on a hill. Discouragement is one of the hardest things on the heart of a preacher. And, if not dealt with in a positive fashion, that discouragement will destroy him.
We need to take a very, very long look at what has taken place in the past several decades. Allowing people to throw verbal darts at the preacher and complain to no end has been accepted. God doesn’t like complainers. There is no place for this among the people of God. Sour and weak members are allowed to say unkind and unfair things and they go without any response from the leaders because they fear they may leave. Maybe they ought to leave! If they are not going to walk in the shadow of Christ, then their ungodly attitudes and spirit needs to hit the road. I know these things. I have been hit by these things for decades. It’s time for shepherds to protect the flock and this includes from itself by putting a stop to negative, gossipy, complainers who are never content, never happy and never adding to the kingdom. Shepherds, defend your preacher when he is in the right. Don’t allow cheap shots to be taken. Change the culture of the environment there. We have closed a blind eye for far too long on the destructive impact complaining has on the heart of a young preacher. Those sinful tongues may have gotten away with things in the church building, but Heaven knows. Heaven has witnessed what happened. We won’t tolerate sin in the camp, but we will allow cheap shots, trash talk and gossipy tongues to ruin hearts that simply want to preach and teach the Lord’s word. Those days must be over! We must recognize that those sour hearts are not doing the will of God and they will not be allowed among the people of God.
Third, it’s time to restore the honor of preaching God’s word. Preaching is the avenue God chose to deliver His message. The greats, from the prophets, judges, apostles, Noah and even our Lord, were preachers. Because a guy has given one Wednesday night lesson in the past four years does not qualify him to speak objectively nor critically of what preaching is. Oh, he thinks he understands preaching because it took him three weeks to work up his ten minute Wednesday invitation. I have changed spark plugs in my car. Does that mean I understand what a car mechanic’s day is like? Really?
Rather than shooting your preacher down, help him. Encourage him. He too needs to be built up. Preachers quitting ought to concern us. What can be done to stop this? What can we do?