And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Counseling Ministers Who are Ready to Quit Part 5

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at

Biblical Principles for Hope Not to Quit

The Bible contains many examples of people despairing, many written by suffering saints.  One can think of Isaiah and his ministry’s predestined resistance, Elisha was despondent immediately after a great victory on Mount Carmel at the threat of Jezebel, and others such as Jeremiah and Ezekiel faced persecution for their life of ministry.

In order to counsel a pastor with the particular problem of wanting to leave the ministry a few considerations need to be taken into account.  Most pastors may be spiritually walking from sermon to sermon, just getting by.  One condition of their life may be that they are not taking the truth of Scripture to heart and could be supporting their actions with theological dodges of accountability.  This situation would lead to a hardening of the heart.  Such a lifestyle tends to encourage failure in other areas of life.  One needs to consider that the effects of this problem are carried over into the marriage and home life. 

In counseling someone with this particular set of circumstances and focus, it will be necessary to build hope through the Scriptures in personal application.  As the minister preaches while admittedly struggling to hold on, he may be making an assumption that the gospel is for others but is presently not bearing grace on his own life.  Therefore, a key principal to follow is helping, by the Holy Spirit, the minister regain hope in the gospel itself.  This is critical in helping him move from a self-centered focus to a God glorifying one.  As this happens, the minister sees his values fall back in line with the will of God.

Another principal is that of looking to the promises of God rather than the present circumstance.  This look toward future grace is to help the Christian rely upon God as the author of success rather than the merits of the self.  Many ministers call their ministries failures all based upon self-imposed standards of success.  It is imperative that counselors give them a God-centered view of shepherding and success.

As with any counseling situation, basic principles are absolutely necessary.  These include the roles of counselor and counselee, the authority of the Holy Spirit and the gospel, and the needs of hope and change of the heart.  Homework for the minister is somewhat difficult.  Since most ministers have a deep intellect and memory of Scripture, they are able to complete most assignments quickly.  There is a danger here, that they may complete the work without any true meditation or application. Because the minister is constantly faced with the truth of Scripture and has not responded accordingly, their heart may be quite hardened against it. Thus, a key principle for the counselor is to take the minister deep into the truths of the Word, and to interrogate the counselee redemptively in his responses.  Counselors should be well prepared to take longer sessions with a minister than most others for this reason.

Along these lines, a minister needs to hold to a higher standard of commitment in counseling.  A principle parameter of counseling this person also incorporates the goal that the sanctification process becomes a personal joy and support to the counselee.  The counselor helps the counselee desire the discipleship process that God is taking them through rather than rebuff it. A counselor wants to walk with a minister long enough to see him correctly handle to daily trials of ministry in biblical ways. 

With the particular problem of being a minister who knows Scripture well and yet is not thriving in its truth, I would also admonish him with the principle of dealing with scriptural responsibilities as outlined in the call to become an elder.  Before going any further with a decision to end their ministry, the personal cost before God, the church, and his family ought to be lined out for them. It may be best to have the minister evaluate this in a homework assignment.

In the end, the basic principal of joy in service to Christ must be reestablished.  The minister needs to learn to focus not on circumstances but the Savior.  He needs to learn to deal with his sinful habits of the heart and strive for fruits of the spirit, all while making the gospel more than just a religious mantra but a life-changing love for God that excludes all other dependencies.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Counseling Ministers Who are Ready to Quit Part 4

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at

Persevering Hope in Ministry

The aforementioned symptoms of the heart; burnout, depression, pride, guilt, motivation, self-esteem, stress, and anger are all clear areas in need of putting off the ways of the flesh.  Biblical counselors can give the minister contemplating the end of their ministry great hope in the multitude of encouragements from scripture.  Thus, to walk redemptively with this person by helping to recognize their condition biblically and to assist through wise counsel to put off pride and put on humility before God, hope can be restored.  Henceforth, a wise counselor will not only correct sin in a minister’s life, but will also equip them with reasons to press on.

Perseverance in ministry is one doctrine that all ministers need to spend a great deal of time understanding if they are to maintain a zeal for their calling.  The Bible proclaims that ministers have a sure reward (Luke 12:37, 12:48; Matt 25:14-46).  Often pastors encourage the church body with the doctrine of perseverance of the saints as it relates to eternal security.  However, there is much to be said for that same security working in the present as the saints abide in Christ to do His will.  When ministers are challenged to quit, the Bible speaks to persevere.  Much of the New Testament was written for the saints to persevere.  A close inspection of the Pauline letters will find direct encouragement for ministers specifically to not give up (1 Tim; 2 Tim; Heb). Thus in counseling ministers, the counselor must not only point out the sins of quitting but also the great provision and joy in carrying on.  The counselor would be well served to have a strong working knowledge of the multitudes of saints in history that persevered despite adverse circumstances.  Men such as John Bunyan, David Brainard, and Martin Luther are just a few of the many who have endured hardships for the sake of the gospel.  Their stories of physical ailments, poverty, imprisonment, and threat of physical harm and death are quite relevant to what ministers face today.

Several verses of Scripture are written to give hope in times of burnout, stress, depression, guilt, and self-esteem.  God by His grace has already provided the church with these Scriptures as a means to combatting the trials of ministry.

First Timothy 4:16 is written, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  This is a pastoral warning for Timothy and for all Christians not to allow themselves to become distracted by busywork, a leading factor in burnout.  Too often the ministry of the pastorate takes on many good projects and can become sidetracked from its true purpose. Again, a fear of man may promote a pastor to constantly please people. This wears him out spiritually.  God illustrates the imperative that ministers stay at the task of abiding in what the Scripture teaches.  The promise contained in this wisdom is that by doing so the ministers are actually ‘saving yourself and your hearers.”  Thus a major factor in ministry is to first and foremost remain grounded in the truth of Scripture.  As it says in John 15:4, the abiding in Christ by the word of God is the Father’s means of sustaining the minister through the needs of ministry.  Ministers are a conduit through which God dispenses His revelation.  The minister who pours out becomes empty.   They need constant filling by the Holy Spirit.  Pastors who neglect prayer and personal devotions are more likely to contemplate leaving.  The discouraged pastor needs prayer and scriptural truth as a famished man needs food and water. It is through the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit that the minister is restored to joyfully serving, not by the counselor.

The Bible directly addresses the burden of work that ministers carry.  Many take on too much work and then despair.  In fact, the problem seems to be articulated by the scriptural statement of first Timothy 4:16, in which the shepherd should first abide in the teaching of the Word of God and let that determine what is to be taken on as ministry.  When the pressures of the ministerial position do strike, one can find solstice: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).  Thus, the pastor needs to order his life to the plans of God rather than a self-imposed “vision.”  The minister needs to realize that God only puts on him a specific set of demands.  It is the abiding in the Word and in prayer that helps the minister determine what is to be done and what is to be excluded.  When seasons come that require much of the minister, they can be assured that God also provides much for the day at hand.  This principle is illustrated in the story of God providing manna and quail to those who wandered the wilderness in the exodus from Egypt.

Paul counseled Timothy by being an example to him: “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10). Just as the book of Hebrews illustrates the roll call of faith, Christians can know that there is good reason to persevere.  The goal is not to build one’s own kingdom or ministry, but to proclaim the very Kingdom of God.  When a child of God endures, it is often for the strengthening for others.  This is the idea behind building each other up in love.  A shepherd who loves his flock is willing to take on hardship that they might not have to, and that they may have a personal example of someone who is denying self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus.  If a minister were to choose to fall away, how much easier would it be for others to excuse themselves in their own shortcomings?  Ministers need to realize the precarious position they are called to.  Many find strength in the perseverance of the pastor.  The endurance of the hardships of ministry shows how infinitely valuable the relationship of man to God is through the cross.  It illustrates that the kingdom of God truly is a pearl of great price.

Ministers can find biblical hope even though trials will come, and should be expected, yet they are a means of God’s blessing.  Early on in His ministry, Jesus preached to this truth:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matt 5:10-12) 

The minister who is personally offended, maligned, and wronged can know that they are in good company.  This treatment can actually be a sign of participation in the true Kingdom.

Paul writes in Romans,

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:28-31) 

Romans 8:28-31 is one of the single most quoted verses in times of trouble for the sheep and needs to be personally applied and taken to heart by the destitute minister.  It would behoove the minister to walk step by step through the promises in this passage of assurance.  When the minister is looking at his problems from inside the storm, the Bible shows the truth of the situation.  May those who are under the call of God learn to count it all joy, that suffering is actually making them more like Jesus.  In counseling the minister, help him to regain a hope that what is going on is actually meant for good.  Help him embrace the truth that God is demonstrating love through this experience.

In trials and desperation, a minster will want to know “what to do?”  The book of James begins with great council on how to actively wait upon God in the variety of circumstances that befall those who are called to shepherd: 

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (Jas 1:2-5)

As in Romans 8, trials are for refinement and are meant for betterment.  The minister needs to be given hope that they can still seek God for wisdom to handle the situations at hand.  However, often the advice to the minister needs to hear is to be steadfast.  Quitting the ministry is the anti-resolve to persevere.  Thus, the minister who feels ill-equipped needs a renewal of understanding the magnitude and sufficiency of God for their life.  Problems are bound to come, but through the experiences of ministry, the counselee can have hope to mature and meet the future with different results.  The equipping of the minister to renew the way the mind looks at ministry from a biblical perspective, rather than a world imposed mold, can result in exponential blessings.  As many ministers feel lonely and isolated, a minister who has renewed joy in the Lord can be a vital asset to those in ministry who are secretly struggling.  Part of the hope in the counseling process is to help the minister see how he can benefit others. Once renewed, the shepherd of one flock is able to testify to other shepherds of how God has worked faithfully even when they have not been so faithful. 

One of the most encouraging books of the Bible for a despairing minister is the book of Philippians.  Authored by Paul, the letter is written to encourage the church at Philippi.  What makes it remarkable is how joyful he is in ministry, even though writing from prison.  In absolutely deplorable conditions, and with little reason to be encouraged, Paul is overwhelmingly at peace.  The application for every minister ought to be the same.  No matter what the circumstances, Christ is the source of peace and joy. As a matter of fact, his trials produced a God-glorifying resolve that all can have.  Without these trials, he may never have grown to the maturity that had such joy.  His suffering was of great benefit to the church.  Counselors need to help the counselee realize the eternal benefits of Paul’s temporary inconveniences.

The letter outlines his experiences, hardships, and God’s presence.  Philippians is also famous for its admonitions “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21), “have this mind among yourselves” (Phil 2:5), “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:7), and “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).  The entire book is rife with reasons to not give up. Because of this, it is the central text for this papers’ compendium homework exercise assignment.

The ministry of Paul gives one other example that must never be forgotten.  His ministry experience is known to have a “thorn in the flesh” situation.  In 2 Corinthians 12, the church reads of how he was given a “messenger of Satan” to keep him from boasting.  There is no need not know what his problem was exactly[bjf1] , just as all ministers may face problems that also do not go away..[1]  The anonymity of the thorn in the flesh lends an opportunity to say that whatever the problem one is faced with, God is in control.  What a person can know is that it was to remain and be dealt with continually, much as the problems faced in ministry today.  Hope was given, however, in the promise of God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  And Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:9-10).  As counsel is made unto the despondent minister, encourage them that the great hardship they face may very well be the key to unlocking the effectiveness of the ministry at hand.

[1]Some have speculated this to be either a physical ailment, an opposition to the Gospel, and others allude it may be a deacon of their own.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Counseling Ministers Who are Ready to Quit Part 3

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at

Biblical Responses to Psychological Diagnosis

Because the Bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” we can turn within its pages and find Biblical solutions to the problems that bring ministers down (2 Tim 3:16-17).  The hopeless minister needs just this kind of encouragement.  Like John the Baptist who struggled in Herod’s prison, the minister needs a word from God that restores their vitality in ministry.  Thus a counselor can offer the following Biblical insights of truth rather than worldly suggestions.

The excuse of burnout seems to come up repetitively as a means of shifting blame from the minister to the conditions of the realm of ministry itself.  It is often used to save face by alluding that their situation is special and that no one else could be expected to thrive under such means.  Much of the problem in burnout can be related to a wrong set of standards or goals.  It can also deal with a fear of man or trying to please people and work harder to meet their expectations.  The fear of man is nothing new.  This condition is seen in Mark 14:50 and 71 with Peter’s denial of Christ and the fleeing of the disciples in the crucifixion story.  However, hope can be given through reminding the counselee, that after prayer and abiding in Christ, the disciples were motivated to glorify God.  When threatened in Acts, a clear change has occurred as demonstrated in their new resolve to stand for the gospel.

The Bible addresses burnout in Galatians 6:9:  “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”  This text is not only about not giving up, but it also provides warning and hope.  The counselee needs to choose the good to do, which is God’s direction, not just busywork that has been wearing them out.  The early church was faced with the dilemma of busy work in serving (Acts 6).  Ministers need to be counseled to not grow weary. Moses faced a decision to delegate with his father-in-law Jethro: “You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone” (Exod 18:18).  Work is a very good thing.  But the obsession with work and the neglect of abiding in Christ is condemned (Luke 10:38-42).

Therefore, to help the counselee, the counselor needs to focus the person’s attention on the sovereignty of God.  This will aid them in knowing that they partner with God who ultimately does the work.  Here, their faith must be put in Him to bring about a change of attitude. The hopeless minister needs help in understanding that they answer to God and He is ultimately the one in control. Because burnout is reflective of a lack of joy, the counselee needs to be reminded scripturally of the privilege of serving God and that “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh 8:10).  If a counselee is experiencing burnout, they most likely are serving man and not the Heavenly Father.  It is imperative that they be reminded that the ministerial work is for His glory, whether in difficult work or in success (1 Cor 10:31; Isa 6:8-13).

Many ministers fit the description of being depressed.  The Bible speaks to depression as it deals with pride. Pride can accentuate itself in depression, rather than by boasting, in its subtle ability to mask itself as humility. The person may not vocalize their accomplishments, yet they still seek recognition.  Their feelings are such as they believe they are not being treated as they think they actually deserve.  Asher and Asher state, “Depression is sin if we allow the feelings to control our life instead of God.”[1]  Thus, depression needs to be treated as sin through repentance as Christians are to do all things for the glory of God and not self.  To help with this, biblical counselors must remind them of how the Savior was treated despite His lack of guilt.  He endured in order to first honor His Father.  As stated in the section on perseverance, it is actually a badge of honor to suffer for the cause of Christ (Matt 5:11-12; Heb 11:36-40).

When dealing with someone who claims depression, the counselor needs to listen to what they are saying.  Edward Welch writes, “Allow the depressed person to fill the word depression with the meaning it has for him or her.”[2]  Because depression is a feeling-based heart disposition, the counselee needs to be reminded of their responsibility despite their attitude.  The depressed person often needs a renewal of the mind.  “Depressed people can still be thankful and confident in God, yet have emotions that feel dead.”[3] Great hope is found in Romans 12:2-3:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 

The counselee needs to think biblically about themselves and their situation.  What they need is humility and Hope (Heb 12:1-17). 

Once again the feelings of a minister wanting to give up must be addressed with the sin that they are.  Guilt may be valid in the sense that the minister is under conviction for sin.  This can be addressed through repentance and helping the pastor to break sinful habits.  There may be a sense of guilt resulting for an improper belief that all is up to the minister and things are not as they should be.  Guilt of this sort tends to lack an understanding of the grace of God, despite failures.

One helpful principle from the Scriptures of God making up for failures is in Jeremiah 15:19: “Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth. They shall turn to you, but you shall not turn to them.’”  It is true that there are consequences for sins and failures, but they must not become idols.  Guilt should be addressed as sin.  Whether it is from God or self-imposed, guilt should be addressed through repentance.

As illustrated in the section of statics, some ministers lack motivation to continue in earnest.  Many may have already quit the ministry spiritually, yet hang on to meet the needs they have by way of a paycheck.  This greatly adds to the difficulties they face in job performance.  A minister’s motivation is a key influence in their decision making towards quitting.  It is motivation by the call of God that may be the single most important factor in turning them from actual movements toward walking away and into a return to Christ.  Once a person loses hope, their motivation ceases to keep them moving toward a particular set of choices and consequently on to another. The counselor redemptively needs to counsel them to persevere with the hope that there is in the cross of Christ.

Both pride and self-esteem are the same term for how someone views their own worth.  This issue of the heart can manifest itself in many ways, pronounced and subtle.  Self-evaluation plays a very strong role in the judgments a person makes as to how they should be treated.  If a person thinks more highly of themselves at a level than others are actually treating them, they will perceive their situation as unjust.  This conflict of values left unchecked can become a gateway to many misperceptions.

Self-esteem is hazardous.  It is merely man’s label for one of the most subtle of poisons, pride. The Bible, however, teaches that Christians are to deny self rather than feed self-esteem (Luke 9:23).  Failure to recognize this truth of scripture, short circuits the sanctification process.  Biblically, the exaggerated view of self will add to the downfall of the minister.  This can be seen in the lives of King Saul and King Hezekiah.  Saul, in 1 Samuel 15 took matters into his own hands by disobeying the word of Samuel.  He spared Agag and the best of the sheep and oxen.  It was because of this that God gave his kingdom to David.  King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20 boastfully showed the Babylonian envoys all the treasures of the kingdom.  This led to the sacking of the temple.  In a more modern sentiment, many ministers know of the public downfall of Jim Baker, Ted Haggard. and others whose ministries crumbled because of prideful decisions.

Pastors wanting to quit often cite the pressure and stress of the job. It is very reasonable to agree that the position of a minister incorporates many responsibilities and demands.  However, one can find hope in the truth that the joy of the Lord is their strength.  When a pastor is burdened by the stress of the role he plays the counselor should listen to the details, and then remind the counselee that in the sovereignty of God all that is necessary can be done and that God will provide for all the true needs.  Sometimes, when a pastor is stressed it may be helpful to aid them in organizing and prioritizing the requirements of the job, all the while being wary that they may be stress all because they are people pleasers of looking to accomplishments as a means of personal gratification.  Both of these tendencies can be idolatry.   The biblical solution is to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matt 6:33-34).

The angry minister needs to be reminded that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Scores of helpful books exist as to dealing with anger.  Yet a few key truths of Scripture ought to be used in restoring the despondent shepherd who is mad.  They should be restored by gentle rebuke.  Remind them that if they have anything against anyone and they are worshipping they must stop and make it right (Matt 5:23-26; Eph 4:26).  It is anger that often leads to a distance from God that in turn, leads to a distance from His church.

[1]Asher and Asher, The Christian’s Guide, 56.
[2]Edward Welch, Blame it on the Brain (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1998), 117.
[3]Ibid., 119.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Counseling Those Ministers Who are Ready to Quit Part 2

Part 2

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at

Being that society is quite fluent in psychological terms, many surveyed ministers are being labeled with a worldly diagnosis.  In the hope of resolving the sins of the heart, as evidenced by these judgments, one needs to understand what the definitions are and how they represent what is going on in the heart of the minister.  Many ministers may have several symptoms of a shifted heart present at any given time.  A principle in helping the minister is to understand that these expressions are merely revelations of the heart condition of a struggling saint.  Once defined properly by a biblical point of reference, one can put off the fleshly complaint and put on a God-glorifying stewardship of true shepherding.

As demonstrated in the previous statistics, one common term for pastoral failure in the ministry is burnout.  Marshall Asher and Mary Asher in The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms state, “The term burnout is a popular lay term to indicate the condition of being bored, fatigued, frustrated, or disinterested in a particular activity.”[1]  Psychologists attribute a low morale when it comes to concerns for the ministerial office and burnout.  This is exhibited by a lax attitude, diminishing concern for results, and is often met with cynicism.  The burned out pastor could easily be described as critical of his church.  It is interesting to note that particular personalities may have a predisposition to burnout.  These would be those common types of ministers who are idealistic and servant heart-oriented, or perfectionistic, as well as those who may be authoritarian.

Surveys often indicate that depression is a repeated heart attitude for the struggling minister.  Asher and Asher define depression as “a persistent mood that is characterized by intense feelings of inadequacy, sadness, hopelessness, pessimism, irritability, apprehension, and decreased interest in or ability to enjoy normal activity.”[2]  Psychologists will attribute to depression other symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, excessive sleeping, fatigue, as well as feelings of worthlessness and guilt.  Research surveys found, “50% of ministers feel unable to meet the needs of the job”[3] and “seventy percent of ministers constantly fight depression.”[4]

Guilt is a term that some ministers use to describe their feelings of failure.  Though guilt has a sense of carrying appropriate blame in cause and effect, guilt here is often a mere feeling.  Another term for this type of guilt would be brooding.  The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms relates that “psychology defines guilt as a feeling: self-condemnation and/or dread arising from the belief that one has committed an offense.”[5]  The psychological realm sees guilt as a complex result that is conditioned by many factors.  These factors can be supposed as originating in childhood, the values of others, and over self-evaluation. In the clinical sense, guilt can be neurotic, producing fear and shame.  In psychology it is handled as being a root cause for many other disorders.

Many ministers will surmise that they believe their efforts are fruitless, and they lack inspiration to try.  Motivation is a key ingredient to any decision-making process.  Asher and Asher write that it is “the sum effect of all factors that energize and direct behavior.”[6]  The two dominant theories of what drives people among hundreds are Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Self-Actualization theories.  These are taught in every introduction to psychology class as to explain how people are influenced by desires and perceived needs.  Other factors of motivation are goals, perceived value of return on investment, rewards, pleasure or pain, safety and physical needs.

One critical influence in quitting the ministry would be described by psychologists as low self-esteem.  Asher and Asher define the term as “a person’s belief regarding the degree to which he is worthy of praise.”[7]  The worldly description of self-esteem could be stated as being steered by peer groups, one’s own perception of personal value to any group or society, social status, economic influence, education, personal achievements, possessions, and a host of other factors that may place oneself in a pecking order in relation to those whom we deem as indicators of success. 

Another word frequently occurring in a minister’s description of their life is one of stress.  Stress is considered “anything that contributes to the production of mental, emotional, or physical tension.  Psychologists also use the word to denote the resulting mental/emotional tension itself.”[8]  Thus stress is a reaction by means of interpretation of our environment, situations, or potential outcomes.  Psychologists rightly perceive stress as having physical results of headaches, sleeplessness, and heart conditions, as well as emotional results of anxiety, anger, depression, motivation, and others.  Stress is to be influenced directly by relationships, expectations, commitments, health, and other factors that a person deems of value to themselves.[9]

Though a desperate minister may not admit it, one aspect that a counselor needs to probe for in helping this person is their anger with the church.  The anger may be extensive enough that they are angry with God Himself.  Anger leads to division among the body and cannot be tolerated in the life of a minister (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:7).

[1]Marshall Asher and Mary Asher, The Christian’s Guide to Psychological Terms (Bemidji, MN: Focus, 2004), 32.
[2]Ibid., 56.
[3]H. B. London and Neil Wiseman, Pastors at Greater Risk (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2003), 20.
[4]Daniel Sherman, “Pastors Leaving Ministry,” [on-line]; accessed 3 May 2012; available from; Internet.
[5]Asher and Asher, The Christian’s Guide, 79.
[6]Ibid., 105.
[7]Ibid., 175.
[8]Asher and Asher, The Christian’s Guide, 191.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Counseling Those Ministers Who are Ready to Quit pt 1

Fellow Ministers,
If the saints are called to persevere, how much more the sheperds of the sheep?  Ministry is one of the most soul wrenching vocations that a person can faithfully engage in. For the sake of editing, I aam presenting in this blog over the next several days a portion of a paper I have written for my course of training and education in Biblical Counseling.  It is my hope that if you are strugling, your reading of the words within would stir your heart to press on.  Should you desire to work through the homework that I have created to go along with this paper, you may email me at


Each month over 1,500 ministers leave the ministry permanently.[1]  This is an alarming crisis within the church.  For every minister who leaves the call, dozens are in the process of deciding whether or not they will stay on as a shepherd.  Scores are ministering, but not with a fervent heart of worship.  A quick survey of the Bible will find several who despaired at times in ministry: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elisha, and even Paul to name a few.

The purpose of this paper is to find biblical hope.  Though the topic needs exhaustive attention, in these pages an attempt will be made to define the struggles, and highlight the hope that should be given to ministers in such circumstances, as well as provide a basis for further and future study.

Problems Faced by Ministers

Listen to any pastor’s fellowship meeting, and you will hear the burdened heart of many ministers.  By browsing the internet one can find the survey results from a variety of institutions as to ministry satisfaction.  To put a more personal and practical side to this research, several pastors were interviewed as to the times in their ministry when they actually considered quitting.[2]  These inquiries back up what is shown in the research studies and conversations regarding ministry satisfaction and exodus from the pulpit.  In the course of my research, several themes emerged as symptoms of ministerial despair. 

A 1991 survey of pastors by the Fuller Institute of Church Growth found,

90% work more than 46 hours a week.
80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively.
75% reported a significant stress related crisis at least once in their ministry.
70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.[3]

Another statistic should be bore in mind, it is estimated that 20 percent of long-term clergy suffer from long-term stress.  One year the Southern Baptist Convention paid $64 million in stress-related claims, only being outdone by maternity expenses.[4]

The Schaeffer Institute reports, “We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry.”[5]  The Institute reports in the same article that 35 to 40 percent of pastors actually do leave the ministry with most of these before the five-year mark.  This is a far cry from the joy we find in the apostle Paul when he writes about ministry from prison to the Philippians.

Richard Krejcir reports that as recent as 2006, 948 pastors of 1,050 surveyed stated that they are “frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly basis,” 75 percent alluded that they “felt dishearten in their ability to pastor, and 802, or 71 percent, stated they “were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.”[6]

The converse of this is equally sad. The same research found only “two hundred and forty one, or twenty three percent of the pastors were happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!”[7]  The fallout of this crisis is staggering.  As previously stated, over 1,500 pastors leave the ministry every month.  At any given moment, 80 percent of pastors consider themselves discouraged and 50 percent of men would leave the ministry if possible, but are constrained financially from doing so.[8]

Summing up several of these conditions, Jim Fuller compiled a list of ten factors why pastors leave the high calling.[9]  This list includes lack of vision, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, stress and burnout, not appreciated, inability to be real, having to be the most spiritual, stress on the family and health, feeling all alone, lack of denominational support, and ministers have a vision, the church doesn’t.  His conclusions reveal a cultural influence upon the labels of pastoral failure.  This in itself may be part of the problem of overcoming ministry atrophy; too often people think of and evaluate the minister’s position in terms of business and self-establishment rather than a surrender of the self, bearing the cross, and following Jesus.

[1]Don Gray, Jr., “1,500 Pastors Leave the Ministry Each Month,” Associated Content [on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from
article/2495597/1500_pastors_leave_the_ministry_each_month; Internet.
[2]At present, I have interviewed over 11 ministers as to their struggles and triumphs in ministry.  These interviews are not published.
[3]Fuller Institute of Church Growth, “1991 Survey of Pastors” quoted by Small, “Some Interesting Statistics” [on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from; Internet.
[4]Current Thoughts and Trends, December 1992, quoted by Small, “Some Interesting Statistics.”
[5]Richard Krejcir, “What is Going on with the Pastors in America?” Into Thy Word Ministries [on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from
apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=36562; Internet.
[9]Jim Fuller, “10 Reasons Why Pastors Leave the Ministry,” Pastoral Care Inc.
[on-line]; accessed 29 August 2010; available from
Books?eBooks.php; Internet.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sunday Worship: The start and finish line of all we do

In studying the scriptures this week, I have again been thinking of worship and how it should appropriately be handled.  We would do well to remember Aaron’s sons who “offered strange fire upon the altar”, and were instantly killed.  God does not often kill those who worship falsely, but He does often ignore their prayers, praise, and presence.  Part of the pain of life is that we fail to see Sunday Worship as a start/Finish line for the laps we run in life.  The start finish is an evaluation of how we just did, and a pressing on toward what we are on mission to do.  Sunday worship is not an optional occasion to catch up on spiritual hungers.  It is a great celebration of joy and often a time of humbling ourselves before man and God.  It is not another for of entertainment.  It is to be a sanctuary of coming into the presence of Almighty God.  Hence, I have been meditating on how to worship God in an acceptable manner.

God wants worshippers who have been centered upon Him in their thinking and actions Him all week long in spirit and in truth. That is to say, they have been godly minded in a spirit of awe, that He alone is God and in truth that it is a fight well worth fighting to live for, fighting against sin and any false idol.

Each week is an opportunity to choose God and reject the world by knowingly fighting against sin. (Rom 12:1-2, 1 Cor 10:12-14, and Eph 6) This is the idea behind worshipping Him in and out of season.  In season is choosing to glorify Him in thanksgiving for all the good, out of season is to do everything to His glory (eating, suffering, praising, and receiving good) rather than following the flesh  being angry, murmuring, giving to self-affording fantasy, or fleshly desires, it is abiding in the Spirit in order to joyfully know Him and produce spiritual fruit.(Gal 5)

Thus, when we come to worship Him on Sunday, it is a reflection of the past week and a preparation for the future, putting everything on the altar.  It should be taken quite seriously.  Our week should be lived in preparation for the honor of attending church.  It is all about God and not us.

"Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. "Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'--that you may do all these abominations? "Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it," declares the LORD. (Jer 7:8-11)

Our hearts need to be prepared to hear what God has to say in the service, especially the sermon.  Too often we hear a truth in the sermon and take it as an advisement.  This again, is one of the shortcomings on our part when it comes to worship.  We often know a truth but never incorporate it into our life.    We hear and then are distracted before it takes root.  God wants people who will sacrificially worship Him is spirit and in truth, that they see His word as life. (John 4)  That is, they understand His word to be so valuable, so useful, and in faith, applicable above air, and water, and sex, and food that they orient their lives to keep God first in absolutely everything.  They fear missing out on God. 

When we don’t take His word to heart, a thin veil tends to obscure our vision of God.  After a while, the truth is filed away and never used.  We then resort back to our own self exulting way of thinking.  Here is where knowledge without proper application is most dangerous.  We have the tools, we just do not know how to use them.  Therefore we assume the Gospel, but never become experienced in  it.  We can argue God’s word, but it has no place within us.  We may do all sorts of things in the name of God and yet never know Him.(Matthew 7)

Unfortunately, this is the result of a prideful heart getting in the way.  The more we worship God, the more humble we become.  When we spend out week going from activity to activity, and we fail to do so in the glory for God’s name, we forfeit opportunities to abide in Him, which is a graceful means of humbling ourselves.  We often believe we can get by with a simple daily Bible reading, and a short prayer.  We consider the hour we spend in Sunday worship as sufficient for our needs.  This is all evidence that we think too highly of ourselves.  Thus we need to renew our mind.  But pride again gets in the way, veiling truth.  We toy with truth and find that we renew ourselves with witticisms, lists, and principals, thus puffing up the self. “Oh yes, that I know. You see I have heard it before. Oh, that was a lovely message.”  This is Phariseeism.  It is the collection of books without wisdom. 

What we need is humility, recognizing our utter need of God. We need to experience the application of these truths in light of worshipping God and not self.  The word of God is meant to convict us, not make us learned men who no longer fight the fight of faith.  Worship should be understood as the most relevant act that we undertake all week.  This is honoring unto God.  When we sniff at it or see it as an footnote to our week, we out to consider our true relationship to God.  

James admonishes up to take the word of God with the utmost seriousness.  He calls it being implanted.  How do you know you have received the word implanted?   You become vigilant; you fight constantly against your own propensity to worship self (anger, pride, sexual sins, worry, depression, boasting, etc.)   One who has received the word of God lives by the cross.  They have no heart or longing for this world, they merely want to see the Kingdom of God established and His glory known.  They have a bit of holiness about them that they cannot see, much like the Shekinah glory on Moses’ face.  Above all, they are new creations; they are transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Those that are worshippers of God take great care to apply all of the scriptures appropriately to their personal biography, in each and every aspect. 

They are uncommon amidst the common.  They reflect Jesus.

Realize the Traps
Sin works like advertising. It offers an appeal that you can be great, all you need is..., or you deserve….    Thus, when approaching those appeals to the soul--advertising, internet, entertainment, friends, and such-- be on guard.  Satan slips in among the crowd as a sheep in wolves clothing. The appeals are subtle:.  a justification here, a slight of scripture there, a distraction.  Then they enter into the heart by way of the mind, by way of the eyes and ears.  Satan knows the paths and halls to your heart better than you.  He knows every gate, door, window, and passageway.  He may even get another to lead him in.

 The traps are everywhere.  Stand your ground as a watchman, realizing that all week you are going to be under attack and tested.  The worship service is a time of confession and renewal, of praise and refreshing, of encouragement in the fight.  You cannot afford to treat it as an option.

Thus, all of life is to worship God, and one way of doing so is to so joyously love God that you forsake everything and sacrifice all in order to be with Him.  Learn from Him how the world fails and deceives, and that He alone is a true treasure.  This is a form of guarding and worshipping.  In it, God is glorified, and you become satisfied.

When we take the stuff of God and make it man centered, that exalts the self. It becomes religion.  It serves religious purposes and carries all the trappings with it. However, when we take the stuff of God and respond humbly in awe of Him, that becomes worship.  It is never, ever, never boring.  It is what worship ought to be, seeing God in His infinite magnitude of glory, and we in our desperate need of Him.  Worship of God is the greatest pursuit of life.