According to a study by Lifeway Research, 13% of pastors that were interviewed in 2005 had left ministry within 10 years of their study. The study identified several factors leading to pastor attrition. More common factors include: conflict, family, burnout, moral lapse, and poor fit.
Over the course of nearly 50 years of ministry I have personally seen numerous pastors step aside from pastoral ministry. I have seen far too many succumb to discouragement, burnout, and moral failure. We have a very real enemy who seeks to destroy the Church and he frequently begins with the leadership.
When David was being persecuted by Saul, he wrote:
For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
He has crushed my life to the ground;
He has made me dwell in darkness,
Like those who have long been dead.
4 Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
My heart within me is distressed. – Psalm 143:3-4
While most of us do not experience persecution at the hands of someone like Saul, we still experience the attacks of the enemy of our soul. I get angry when I think of the lives that have been destroyed by the work of Satan.
One of the requirements of missionaries prior to going to the mission field is to recruit a sizable prayer team of people committed to praying for them regularly. We do that because we believe they are on the front line and will be taking ground from the enemy. They enemy does not give up territory without a fight.
Pastors are also on the front line. While missionaries may face more overt attacks of the enemy, pastors still experience those attacks. Just as missionaries need prayer support, so do pastors. When Peter was in prison (Acts 12), the Scripture says that constant prayer was made for him. In Acts 4, the church prayed for Peter and John.
Pastors seldom share the challenges, struggles, discouragements, or temptations they face. There is an underlying assumption that pastors have sufficient armor to defend against the attacks of the enemy. Just as Jesus was tested, tempted, and tried in every way (just as we are) pastors are put to the test daily. Your prayers for your pastor make a different. They could mean the difference between a long fruitful ministry and an early exit from ministry.
I don’t want to see another pastor succumb to the work of the enemy. Pray for the Lord’s protection, provision, and for encouragement and fruit.
We also need to pray for one another. Pastors and missionaries are not the only ones under attack. Every believer striving to live for Jesus and making disciples has a target on their back. We need to pray for one another.
Pray for protection, encouragement, provision, and fruit for your pastor. Pray that God will equip him/her in every way to stand against the attacks of the enemy.