The plight of evangelical ministers

“Half of pastors would leave the ministry tomorrow if they could. Seventy percent are fighting depression and 90 percent can’t cope with the challenge of ministry… 1,500 pastors walk away from ministry every month because of moral failure, burnout, conflict, discouragement or depression… 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within their first five years.”

Who is saying this? Not some atheist gloating over the demise of religion. These were the figures quoted by Jonathan Falwell, who took over the ministry of his well-known evangelical father Jerry Falwell.

Ken Pulliam, a former fundamentalist preacher, provides additional statistics on the rampant dissatisfaction of evangelical preachers with their lives:

  • 89% considered leaving the ministry at one time.
  • 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work
  • 71% stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.

Pulliam makes the point that these statistics are telling all by themselves and that it is not relevant to compare them with other professions to see if they are better or worse. Evangelical pastors consist of people who are supposedly sure that they are doing god’s work and thus should be immune from the usual problems that the rest of us suffer from. What this data suggest is that many of these preachers think they are living a lie, that the beliefs they share with their flock is not true

While the media focus on a few high profile mega-church pastors to suggest that evangelical Christianity is flourishing, the reality is different. No thinking person today can believe that the Bible is literally true the way that these people say it is. Modernity cannot be shut out and it is taking its toll on many of them. It is really very sad.

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