Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I recently received a note from a family going through a very challenging time.  They are very committed Christians struggling through a difficult and confusing season.  In the course of seeking some counsel from me, they wrote:

" (name omitted) met with our pastor somewhat recently, sharing his being overwhelmed and the pastor didn't offer to even pray for him. Our pastor himself is discouraged some (or at least was at the time) and struggles with being overwhelmed."

My heart broke.  It broke for this couple who are seeking guidance and wisdom.  My heart also broke for the pastor, who is like the lifeguard in the waves who is unable to save a struggling victim because he is on the verge of drowning, himself.

Someone who has responsibility for others must first take responsibility for themselves.  We live near the ocean where lifeguards face tremendous challenges.  They must understand the purpose of their role and the responsibility it carries with it.  They swim in the waves . . . train in the rip tide . . . maintain their fitness . . . and stay in shape so they can help those who are unable to win the battle against the waves and pull of the ocean.  They realize that if they do not stay strong, the same waves that threaten the lives of those they are called to protect can take them out also.

The condition of the pastor will directly affect the condition of the church.  Matthew 10:24  When pastors are in trouble or struggling, it can be expected the church will also.  When pastors lose focus and become overwhelmed, the church will also.  Pastor, look at your church . . . you might be surprised at how much it reflects the true condition of your life or heart.

My heart has broken over the condition of the church in America for many years.  God has convinced me that my heart must break for the pastors, because the church will not be rescued if the lifeguards are in such bad shape that they risk losing their own lives in their attempt to rescue others.

If you are burdened to help pastors be refreshed, renewed and refocused you may want to "like" this page and partner with ReFocused Ministry. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Suffering Servants of God

What kind of personal pain would cause a 42-year-old pastor to abandon his family, his calling and even life itself? Members of a Baptist church in Hickory, N.C., are asking that question after their pastor committed suicide in his parked car in September.

Those who counsel pastors say Christian culture, especially Southern evangelicalism, creates the perfect environment for depression.

Pastors suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to seek help or even talk about it. Sometimes they leave the ministry. Occasionally the result is the unthinkable.

Experts say clergy suicide is a rare outcome to a common problem. But Baptists in the Carolinas are soul searching after a spate of suicides and suicide attempts by pastors. In addition to the September suicide of David Treadway, two others in North Carolina attempted suicide, and three in South Carolina succeeded, all in the last four years.

Being a pastor — a high-profile, high-stress job with nearly impossible expectations for success — can send one down the road to depression, according to pastoral counselors.

“We set the bar so high that most pastors can’t achieve that,” said H.B. London, vice president for pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. “And because most pastors are people-pleasers, they get frustrated and feel they can’t live up to that.”
From an article published by Pastoral Ministry and Bi-vocational Office, a group concerned about pastors in the South Carolina Baptist Convention.  

 ReFocused Ministry is called to serve God's servants so they can complete the call of God on their lives.  We are making a difference in the lives of God's leaders so they can make a difference in the world.  If God tugs your heart and calls you to partner with us contact us at:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pastors Face Perils in American Churches

I have been increasingly challenged by the condition of the church in America and American Christianity in general.  Recently I have been exposed to some statistics that either are the result of that condition or the cause of it . . . or maybe a combination of both cause and effect.  (There may be some physicist out there challenging that possibility, but bear with me.)   What I want to do in this blog is expose you to what I am discovering about the condition of pastors, both through statistical data and through personal experience.
Here is some statistical stuff  (gathered from such organizations as Barna , Maranatha Life  and Focus on the Family )

·      1500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
·      33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
·      23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
·      57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
·      45% of pastors say that they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. 

·      90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
·      90% work more than 50 hours a week.
·      94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
·      50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
·      40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
·      40% of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.
·      70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
·      90% feel they're inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands. 
Here is what is being reported:
According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010), "Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen." 
Here is what a friend recently wrote to me:
"After the pulpit committee told us they felt there needed to be a new face in the pulpit, we realized we were done ministering. We decided the best we could do is leave blameless before God, that is what we did. Many were upset that we left and nearly all the church does not speak to us."

No one ever said the ministry would be easy, but the cause for these statistics is not cultural persecution or the rejection of the Gospel, it is a result of the institutionalization of the church, the franchising of Christianity (churchianity) and the professionalization of ministry (seeking a career rather than answering a call).
It's great that we send our pastors cards in October to show our appreciation, but how about praying for your pastor on a daily basis . . . or something even more radical . . . consider coming alongside him and ask him how you can help reach your community for Christ.  It may be as simple as cleaning the building, serving in the nursery, inviting your neighbor or letting him know you have his back.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Sometimes it feels as though the Lord has given me His undivided attention.  Everywhere I turn I see a message from God or a confirmation of His direction.  This has been happening to Joan and me from the very day that we realized God was changing our future by changing where we did ministry.

At the end of November, "The Word for You Today", (a daily devotional) began a series of topics on how to respond when being unemployed and how to have faith when your work environment changed.  It was like God was writing just to us!  How many people can this topic relate to?

Then a friend directed us to a place that ministers to pastors who are burned out or between ministries.  Technically, the place hasn't officially opened yet.  We spent four days hearing from the Lord in almost spooky ways.  BTW . . . This is an awesome ministry being run by a great pastoral couple.

On December 1, the devotional directed us to Joshua 1:1-6 with the reminder that we can rely on God's direction even when it seems that other things have to happen first.  Other messages have continued to direct us as we are directed to Ecclesiastes 11:4 (conditions will never be perfect), Hebrews 11:1 (faith just flat out knows and continues on), Hebrews 11:27 (provisions come as we move forward . . . stop waiting for them and keep moving) and now today we looked at James 2:17 (if you have faith then why aren't you doing what you believe).

As I spoke with friends when it became evident that God was doing something different in my life I can remember saying, "I have email, Facebook, text messaging and a host of ways for the Lord to communicate to me.  Why doesn't He use them?"  I now realize that God is speaking through His Word, friends, circumstances and His presence in my heart.  I also realized that there might be someone who reads my blog that is looking for God's leading also.  You may need the same confirmation that God doesn't hide His will from His children. He is speaking all the time . . . we just need to be willing to listen and obey.

I just read this from a friends blog today:  "When God gives you a word it's going to take your faith to move in it. Your faith is a muscle that God wants to work that will bring him pleasure. He has pleasure in stretching your faith. Ask Abraham when God told him to move to a place not knowing where he was going. God had a promise for him but it was only manifested by his obedience in what God said. You will never be able to enter in a new season in your life without a challenge from God."

Consider Psalm 46:10.  Know that God knows.  Know that God cares.  Know that God loves you.  Know that God is in control and you can move forward with confidence as you obey and do what you now know.  Strong faith is developed as we exercise faith in what we now know in our daily lives.  What are you going to do today that requires faith?