Questionable Motives

May 20, 2010

Trouble in (before) paradise?

  • Of the 1,050 pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • 90% of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
  • 89% of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. 57% said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.
  • 81% of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (remember these are the Reformed and Evangelical—not the mainline pastors!). 
  • 77% of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage!
  • 75% of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
  • 72% of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • 71% of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
  • 38% of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. (This and the previous statistic raises an interesting reflection on what Family Values look like to those in the ministry – tildeb.)
  • 26% of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality.
  • 23% of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!
  • Of the pastors surveyed, they stated that a mean (average) of only 25% of their church’s membership attended a Bible Study or small group at least twice a month. The range was 11% to a max of 40%, a median (the center figure of the table) of 18% and a mode (most frequent number) of 20%. This means over 75% of the people who are at a “good” evangelical church do not go to a Bible Study or small group (that is not just a book or curriculum study, but where the Bible is opened and read, as well as studied). (I suspect these numbers are actually lower in most evangelical and Reformed churches because the pastors that come to conferences tend to be more interested in the teaching and care of their flock than those who usually do not attend.)

From the article Statistics on Pastors over at the Schaeffer Institute.

These stats line up nicely with Daniel Dennett’s latest work about preachers who are not believers (pdf here). And their numbers are growing . What is striking in this compilation of stats is that more than half would leave if they could. Three quarters are fighting depression and nine in ten can’t cope with the challenge of ministry. But why? If religious belief added some measurable quality of life and comfort as we have been led to believe, then these numbers should be strikingly different by those who champion it. But as I have long suspected, the show-and-tell of religion are quite different: we see the show of happy and well-adjusted people who pretend religious belief is a marvelous way to live – even a necessary element to living morally well – but underneath that facade we find a very different story.


  1. Tildeb,
    I appreciate your posting of these statistics. None of these things are unexpected though; they are predicted by the Bible. There is a real war against our belief, and the spiritual battles affect every area of life. The Christian life is very different from what you expect at first. It’s still worth it though. I wouldn’t trade my life now for the very best of my life B.C..

    Contrary to what you may have been taught, real Christianity is the underdog in this world. It always has been; even when the so-called ‘church’ ruled. I think we have been unrealistic, and overlooked that the Bible predicts we are going to lose this world. We are told to look forward to the new Heaven and the new Earth. No matter how tough life gets now, Christians have a future. I am a lot more sure of that than anything that I see now.

    Comment by themysteryof — May 22, 2010 @ 10:12 am | Reply

    • So you are suggesting that the facade revealed by these stats are because… these aren’t really followers of true christianity and that true christianity is and always has been under attack?

      Maybe more and more people are beginning to realize that the central tenets of all forms of christianity simply are not likely to be true and not worth believing in. Too much cognitive dissonance, to little evidence, too little value in this life for believing something that detracts so much from it. These are all likely possibilities, too. Your assertion that christians have a future in some new heaven or new world is wishful thinking that can easily lead one into helping the apocalypse come sooner than later. If that doesn’t worry you, it should.

      Comment by tildeb — May 22, 2010 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

  2. It isn’t all a facade. What I’m saying is that being a pastor is a tough job, and not all pastors really believe what they’re teaching. You could find a lot of other occupations with the same stats. Life is tough for everyone. People often have unrealistic expectations of pastors. They are fallible people too, and had to have a savior just like everyone else. Pastors usually expect too much of their church members also.

    You could add a lot of other questions to the survey and get a truer picture of Christianity. I’m not going to hunt the verse this morning, but Jesus said that he had come that we might have life, and a more abundant life. Most Christians will agree that is true. I’ve found the Christian life to be less of a facade than life apart from it. I’m not denying that we should do a lot better than we do. That’s our fault, not the Lord’s.

    Comment by themysteryof — May 23, 2010 @ 9:05 am | Reply

    • You could find a lot of other occupations with the same stats. But these other occupations aren’t filled with people telling you this one way is the right way to live, that it is more moral, that it is more fulfilling, that this one way is a necessary bridge between living as a broken and sinful human being and entering an after-life kingdom of everlasting joy. If the sellers and marketers of these ridiculous claims actually believed this tripe, these numbers would be starkly different. So what we have in effect are a bunch of used car salesmen pushing a product called religion most of them do not believe is a superior product, nor do we find the majority of these used car salesmen driving what they sell!

      Comment by tildeb — May 23, 2010 @ 1:24 pm | Reply

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