During the last half dozen years, I've repeatedly been confronted with something that is disturbing. Situations where ministry leaders were dropping out, or at least considering the prospect of dropping out.
Let me be clear. I'm not talking about a mere handful over the course of the last few years. Some recent statistics place the number of pastors who leave the ministry at 1,500 per month. I believe the number could be higher. If you were to include the number of ministries that include missionaries and Christian charities the number could be much higher. I speak from personal experience. For a number of years I worked for a well known non-profit organization that furnished church equipment to churches and ministries... that is until cut backs. You see we dealt with so many churches that had falling revenues. It is a symptom of our time.
The reasons for so many leaving are varied. Stress rates high on the list of reasons. Besides having to deal with the bickering and infighting that seems rampant, there are the normal issues of continually having to deal with the multitude of personal problems in the congregations. And those normal day-to-day problems are mounting as more and more people feel the stresses of the economy. Combine that with falling church attendance and you have pastors questioning whether or not to leave.
I had a another pastor confront me with his stress and self-doubt just two weeks ago. His reasons were familiar. It ran something like this.
"I felt called to the ministry. I entered the ministry with a glad heart, eager to do God's will. For a time
things went well and showed promise aside from the normal rough patches. But, in recent years things
have changed. Despite all I did, the problems grew worse. Attendance dropped off. Finances were a
constant burden. Where is God's blessing?"
I've condensed his words, but you get the picture. It boils down to... "if I am doing God's will, why doesn't He bless my ministry?" I am reminded of something I heard Adrian Rogers (former head of the Southern Baptist Convention) say... "God hasn't called preachers to fill the pews. He has called them to fill the pulpits."
I used an analogy once to help someone. Imagine a giant chess board. And imagine you are placed on one of the squares by God. Sometimes God advances you across the board. But other times, He leaves you standing on that square. Just standing. For you see as long as you stand and occupy, the devil can't take it. Sometimes you feel blessed as God advances you. You feel justified in your calling. But just to stand as you are attacked and buffeted by the devil... well that's a calling too.
There was a time when Elijah felt abandoned by God. He hid in a cave and remembered back on when God had blessed him, but later he feared for his life and fled. God called Elijah to stand. (Read 1 Kings 19).
We stand now at the very threshold of the return of Jesus Christ! The rapture could be any day! Until then... ADVANCE or STAND as God wills! That is our calling.