The Suffering of Pastoral Ministry

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul defends his ministry as an apostle by listing the ways that he has suffered as a minister of the gospel. Against his opponents, he says that he has been imprisoned, flogged, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, hunted, and starved for the sake of his ministry. Paul’s list of suffering doesn’t stop at this point, however; instead, he adds one final form of suffering that may be surprising to us. Paul says: “Besides everything, I face the daily pressure of the concern for all the churches.”[1]

What’s shocking is that Paul apparently envisions pastoring as a part of his sufferings for the gospel. Those who have pastored will understand this point intuitively: to pastor a church is to suffer.

Pastors experience depression at a much higher rate than does the general population; in fact, in 2010, Matthew Stanford, a psychologist at Baylor University, argued that as many as 25% of pastors experience depression.[2] The depression is brought on by a variety of causes which are all connected to the nuts and bolts of daily life as the pastor of a local church.[3] Due to the demands of ministry, 70% of pastors report that they seriously consider leaving the ministry.[4] Finally, 54% of pastors say that they find their job overwhelming while 48% admit that ministry has more demands than they can handle.[5]

While those numbers are probably surprising, the picture isn’t as bleak as we might imagine. Ministry is tough, but ministers are no wimps. Like Paul, many ministers have suffered in ministry, and they have the scars to prove it. However, most Christians are familiar with pastors who have stood the test of time in the local church. Countless ministers would agree with Paul who finishes his discussion of suffering for ministry by saying: “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Notes & Sources

[1] 2 Corinthians 11:28, NIV.

[2] https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/144651-silent-suffering-pastors-and-depression.html

[3] https://thomrainer.com/2018/02/five-reasons-many-pastors-struggle-depression/

[4] https://www.christianpost.com/news/nearly-3-in-4-pastors-regularly-consider-leaving-due-to-stress-study-finds-121973/

[5] https://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/28/pastors-are-not-quitting-in-droves/

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