John Stott, a veteran of decades of pastoral ministry in the local church, counsels pastors to create a schedule for themselves that includes regular occasions for extended time in sacred study, prayer, and reflection. He advises pastors to set aside for these things one hour a day, one whole morning, afternoon, or evening a week, one whole day a month (which he referred to as “Q [quiet ]Day”), and one whole week per year.
A few weeks into this, my first pastorate, I was asked to speak to the rest of the pastoral staff on any issue I thought might be important to pastoral ministry, and my message focused on Stott’s counsel. But until this month, I haven’t actually heeded his advice myself. It wasn’t until I began to experience the inevitable first tastes of pastoral burnout (after only 6 months) that I realized that Stott’s prescription cannot be optional. I will not remain effective in my ministry without these times of deep intimacy with God.
Mark Driscoll, in his blog series entitled “Death By Ministry,” reminds us of the following harrowing and sobering facts:
- Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
- Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
- Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
- Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
- Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
- Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
- Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
- Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons.
- Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
- Eighty percent of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
- The majority of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage and family was the day they entered the ministry.
Dave Rodquist, the Senior Associate Pastor at our church, reminded the pastoral staff last week that 50% of seminary graduates leave the ministry after only 2 years. 80% are out of full-time ministry after 5 years. He went on to remind us that what our people need from their pastors more than anything is for us to be “deep with the Father.” There are a hundred things I could do, and would love to be able to do, in my ministry. There are all sorts of things I would like to implement. There are a thousand needs I want to meet. But more and more I realize that I am most effective (in fact, only effective) in my God-appointed mission when I am deep with the Father, and humbly recognize that there is only so much I can do in a day. C.J. Mahaney has said that it is good and humbling to recognize that you didn’t get everything done that could have been done today. Only God completed his ‘to-do’ list today.
My Q Day was extremely powerful and even more desperately needed than I had realized. I’ve become convinced that everyone ought to implement some form of Stott’s schedule in their lives. Every pastor out to implement it exactly as Stott recommends. Every church ought to encourage their pastor(s) to do just that.
Over the next few days, I’d like to share some of the things it seemed God wanted to teach me on my Q Day, mainly from Paul’s first letter to Timothy and from John Owen’s treatise, Of Temptation. In the meantime, meditate on the implications of these words from Psalm 127:2: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for [God] gives to his beloved sleep.