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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Fried Pastors

In my ministry work, I often receive referrals from churches and related organizations to assist individuals who are lovingly described as “fried pastors.” They are pastors, ministering on the front lines – who somehow get to the “crispy critter” stage and need help. One church refers to them as “fallen pastors.” Often they have fallen, into sin, into some other failure. At times, it seems that the frying of these pastors would disqualify them and move them out of ministry. Often it does. They go sell insurance or work in call centers. Satan wins.

The statistics are staggering. Pastors leave the ministry in massive numbers every month. Seminaries crank them out. Ministry chews them up and spits them out. Satan wins. Working with guys like this, I’ve become a student of this so-called fallen state of pastors. I want to understand what’s really true here. Does Satan have to win, every time? Isn’t the divine calling from God to ministry irrevocable? (Yes, it is.) So what should we make of “fried pastors” and their ministry failures?

I recently read a book that provided a glimpse of what one of those pastors described as a revelation from God Himself. Look at what he had to say.

Because I’d been operating in my own strength for months, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. My spiritual eyesight had grown dim and my hearing dull. Pride had sprung up in my heart like a choking weed. Instead of obeying God’s voice, I reasoned with human logic and based my decisions on my own wisdom. … I wasn’t waiting on the Lord with a pure heart. This was the root of my failure. I was tired, overworked and backslidden in my heart.

Ministry had become an idol. Working for God had taken the place of loving God. I hid my condition from those who prayed for me and carried on in my own strength. …. I was still getting up every morning at five o’clock and praying with other church leaders, and I was still reading my Bible every day, but I was doing these things out of obligation and habit, and not from a willing heart flowing from my relationship with Jesus.

If you are a servant of the Lord, let me encourage you to please, please, humbly watch that you don’t slip into the same error I did. The Lord God jealously desires us for himself. He is the lover of our souls. If we ever put anything before our relationship with Jesus – even our work for Jesus – then we will be ensnared. If you are burned out, stop! Rest! Your lamp needs a constant filling of the Lord’s oil or your light will be snuffed out. Remember that,
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it … Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you, he rises to show compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are those who wait for him.” – Isaiah 30:15, 18

So there you have it. As I read these words I realize that this pastor has hit the nail on the head. I wonder what it would take for all of the other “fried pastors” to see themselves in his story. My prayer is that they will.

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