In Barna’s most recent research on The State of Pastors, a comprehensive, whole-life assessment of U.S. pastors. The study shows how many pastors are at risk of burnout, relational breakdown or spiritual problems.
- 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
- 90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands.
- 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor’s children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.
- 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose a different profession.
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
- 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
- 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
For the sheep there are many companions; but for the shepherd few. Those who watch for souls often come into positions in which they are divided from all human help. No one can guess the burden of your soul. – Charlges H. Spurgeon
The question for us is more than, How do you keep on living? It’s, How do you keep on pastoring? It’s one thing to survive adversity; it is something very different to keep on pastoring, Sunday after Sunday, month after month when the heart is overwhelmed and overburdened.
Charles H. Spurgeon Suffered under Depression
One of the hero of my faith will perhaps be the famous 19th century London preacher known as the “Prince of Preachers” Charles H. Spurgeon.
Charles Spurgeon (1834–92) was converted at age 15. He preached his first sermon just after his 16th birthday. By age 18, he took his first pastorate in the country. And before turning 20, Spurgeon was pastoring in London.
In less than four decades, a man who had preached in person to an estimated ten million people. He had published more words in the English language than any Christian author in history. Fifty-six million copies of his sermons were in circulation, many having been translated into more than forty languages.
At age 22, as a very young senior pastor of one of the first-ever mega-churches, Spurgeon and his church underwent a terrible tragedy. Spurgeon himself walked through a dark valleys experience. Tempests howled around him, burdening and coasting him down. He also endured a king of loneliness as the bearer of other’s burdens to the point that Spurgeon almost quit the ministry all together. This event brought on a severe depression that he nearly didn’t recover from.
Spurgeon was no stranger to depression. Suzy will at times come home and find Spurgeon collapsed and curdled in pain and tear besides his desk, she will pull him up and continue on the work that God has put forth before him in his Study. All that Spurgeon did and his wife Suzy was simply a monument and testimony of God’s triumphant grace. Spurgeon was a broken vessel who suffered intensely under depression for the glory of Christ.
Spurgeon’s Encouraging Words
“Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.”
“I, the preacher of this hour, beg to bear my witness that the worst days I have ever had have turned out to be my best days, and when God has seemed most cruel to me, he has then been most kind. If there is anything in this world for which I would bless him more than for anything else, it is for pain and affliction. I am sure that in these things the richest, tenderest love has been manifested to me. Our Father’s wagons rumble most heavily when they are bringing us the richest freight of the bullion of his grace. Love letters from heaven are often sent in black-edged envelopes. The cloud that is black with horror is big with mercy. Fear not the storm, it brings healing in its wings, and when Jesus is with you in the vessel the tempest only hastens the ship to its desired haven.” (“David Encouraging Himself in God” MTP 27, Sermon 1606, p. 373).
Looking back to the life of Spurgeon the prince of preachers, we see a real struggle of the Christian life trying to sing praise of worship to God for the traveler in the valley.
A.W.Tozer said, “If your life does not worship God, your lips do not worship God either.”
It is easy to sing praise when in the daylight; it is an overflow of the heart. He who sings from his heart, from that inward book of his own living spirit, when notes of gratitude pour forth in songs of praise that is found only in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Let us be sure that if we walk in at one end of the hollow way of affliction we shall walk out at the other. Who shall hinder us when God is for us and with us? “Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23) Oh for grace to be courageous brothers, and to make steady progress with heavenly company as our glory in defense.