Town Talk on Sunday, September 1, 2018.)
Recently the news has carried disturbing stories of yet another pastor committing suicide. Pastor Andrew Stoecklein of Inland Hills Church of Chino, CA, attempted to take his life at his church on August 24, and sadly passed away in the hospital the next day. He was just 30 years old, married, father of three, and the lead pastor of a “megachurch” that his father had founded 20 years ago.
I wish this were an isolated story, but a simple Internet search for “pastors and suicide” will give you literally millions of results. One laments that “the pastoral profession has one of the top 3 suicide rates of any profession.” Another points out how the vast majority of pastors feel like the ministry has had a negative impact on their family. And yet another simply asks, “Why are so many pastors committing suicide?” And that’s just on the first page of results!
Ministry today is harder than it’s ever been before. The pressures on a pastor are great and the expectations are high. Paul Valo, the lead pastor of Christ Church in Orlando, FL, summed it up well: “In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, and if a pastor doesn't quite measure up to someone's expectation at any given moment, they are given a two out of five star rating on Google. Wow! We have reduced the ministry to star ratings on Google!”
I’m not claiming that a pastor’s job is more difficult than everyone else’s. Many professions deal with extreme levels of trauma and stress. But because of the unique role of pastors as role-models, and the high expectations of near-perfection placed on them, many pastors don’t seek care or share their struggles. So they suffer alone.
Your pastor needs your prayers! Even the great apostle Paul asked for prayer on many occasions in the Scripture (Rom 15:30-32; 2 Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18-20; Phlp 1:19; Col 4:3; 1 Th 5:25; 2 Th 3:1-3; Phlm 1:22; etc) And if Paul, with all his spiritual strength, needed prayer your pastor does, too!
So how can you best pray for your pastor? Perhaps by reading some of Paul’s prayer requests we can get a better idea. Here are just a few:
Pray for God’s anointing when they speak. In Ephesians 6:19-20 Paul them to pray that when he spoke he would communicate well the mystery of the Gospel. Every pastor I know wants to communicate God’s Word faithfully and accurately. And most feel like this is one of their greatest struggles. So pray for God to anoint them when they speak. And let them know when you’ve heard God speak through them.
Pray for their protection, physical and spiritual. In Philippians 1:19 Paul’s prayer request was for his “deliverance.” Some say this was to be delivered from prison, but others suppose it was from whatever spiritual oppression he was suffering. Pray for your pastor’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical protection. Pray that they be delivered from evil, from temptation, and from the snares that the enemy would set before them.
Pray for their rest. In Romans 15:30-32, after asking them to pray that he would be rescued from those who opposed his messaged, Paul asks them to pray that he would be able to find “refreshing rest” in their company. Most pastors work 55-70 hours a week and don’t know how to set boundaries. Pray that they will understand that even God rested from His labors, and so should they!
There are many other areas where your pastor needs your prayers. Go back through some of the scriptures I shared earlier and make a list of how to pray for your pastor. Or even more personally, ask him how you can pray for him. And then do it! Nothing will encourage a pastor’s heart more than a congregation praying for him!
Finally, understand that depression is real, and pastors can struggle with it just like anyone else. But if you are struggling with depression, whether you are in the ministry or not, please reach out for help. Talk to someone and let them in. Call the Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Or call me. You’re not alone.
P.S. Here's a great article based on the Rom 15:30-32 passage that you might find interesting: http://myfaithfamily.com/how-to-pray-for-your-pastor/