Dr. Archibald Hart, professor at Fuller Seminary, “is best known for his research on the hazards of ministry, depression, anxiety, divorce, stress, and sexuality”(from Fuller’s website). In an article, “Time To Get A Life”, written for pastors, he offered what he considered Risk factors for ministry life. Allow me to let his pen inform us of
“The Four Risks…”
1. You develop a certain Aloneness. You have no peer, so you become a loner.
2. You develop a certain Arrogance. “Who can teach me anything? I’m the one that’s been successful.” You stop being accountable to anyone.
3. The third step downwards is that you develop an Addiction to being successful. Your body adapts to that level, so you’ve got to up the ante, start new projects. You’ve become so addicted to the physical pleasure associated with new things that you have to keep starting new things and being successful in them. You’re now in a chase-your-tail kind of cycle.
4. After awhile, the pleasure center in the brain that controls all of this can no longer be satisfied with ordinary achievements, so this risk develops: Adultery. You don’t see this spoken of so much in the secular world, because adultery is so commonplace and doesn’t mean anything. But in our Christian subculture, highly successful pastors can no longer derive any pleasure from anything they are doing. The only thing left is the sexual impropriety.
Briefly, as you read those, I suspect some of you might have agreed with his risk factors, some thought of a friend who you know who is or has been down that road, or others of you dismissed it because you thought, “I would never do that”.
So let me ask—How alone do you feel in ministry? Really? The pastoral life is a lonely life. No matter how much you want to be close to your key leaders or staff or other local pastors, it is very risky to allow yourself to be really known and to really know others.
When I was a younger pastor planting a new church, I began attending a monthly pastor’s luncheon—the city’s “Clergy Association”. Ben was one of the pastors in the group. He had been in the city for about twenty years, had a stable church with about 300 members. I was new in the city with a newly launched church half his size. I asked Ben about his longevity. He said, “I gave up really caring about who came and who didn’t. Most people are only around for about 3-5 years and it became too painful to really care about getting involved in their lives.” He was a busy pastor and he was alone.
It is our part of our default to protect ourselves…not just in ministry life, but all of us who have been affected by the fall, whether pastors or not, to not want be known. People may say they want community and relationships, but not the kind that involves prying beneath the masks. It is risky. And being a pastor, well you open yourself up for “Mobbing” (read Vensel’s blog on mobbing). You know the score.
Does the Gospel of grace have anything to say to this? Yes, Courage flows from the Gospel embraced!
So, Remember the Gospel:
You are completely forgiven—you have nothing to hide.
You are perfectly righteous in Jesus—you have nothing to prove.
You are eternally loved—you have nothing to fear.
Rely on the Holy Spirit to lead you and to provide for you!
Next time, I want to explore the Arrogance…
Till then, may I remind you of my favorite SB quote? “Your sin is not a hindrance to the work of Christ in your life, it’s the reason He’s at work in your life”.