Monthly Archives: December 2014

Thom Rainer Reveals the Secret Pain of Pastors

Secret Pain

Thom Rainer Reveals the Secret Pain of Pastors

Not all the news about pastors is discouraging.

Pastors feel privileged to be called to their places of ministry. They have a deep love for those they shepherd. Most of them could not conceive of doing anything else.

But please hear me: Many pastors are hurting.

LifeWay Research conducted a national survey of Protestant pastors. Among the questions they asked were two related to the hurts I noted above.

The Discouragement Factor

One of the key symptoms of the pain experienced by pastors is discouragement. More than one-half (55 percent) of pastors are presently discouraged.

I suspect that if we surveyed pastors over just a few months, we would find almost all of them experience deep discouragement.

Don’t Miss

Some interesting facts we discovered in our study:

  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the geographical location of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the size of the church.
  • There was no pattern of discouragement related to the educational level of the pastor.
  • There was a significant pattern of discouragement related to the age of the pastor. The younger the pastor, the more likely he was to be discouraged.

The Loneliness Factor

Most pastors experience intense loneliness at times.

When we conducted our survey, more than one-half again (coincidentally the same number, 55 percent, as noted above) said they were lonely. Again remember that this survey was for a specific point in time.

Which pastors experience the greatest amount of loneliness? Our study noted some discernible patterns:

  • There was no pattern of loneliness related to the geographical location of the church.
  • Younger pastors were more likely to be lonely than older pastors.
  • The larger the church, the greater the likelihood the pastor was experiencing loneliness.
  • The greater the education level of the pastor, the more likely he is to be lonely.

Why the Pervasive Discouragement and Loneliness?

Why are so many pastors struggling today? In an earlier article I wrote on pastoral depression, I noted the following possible reasons:

Spiritual warfare.

The Enemy does not want God’s servants to be effective in ministry. He will do whatever it takes to hurt ministers and their ministries.

Unrealistic expectations.

The expectations and demands upon a pastor are enormous. They are unrealistic. But if one person’s expectations are not met, that person can quickly let the pastor know he is a failure.

Greater platforms for critics.

In “the good old days,” a critic was typically limited to telephone, mail and in-person meetings to criticize a minister. Today, critics have the visible and pervasive platforms of email, blogs and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Failure to take time away from the church or place of ministry.

Workaholism leads to burnout. Burnout leads to depression.

Marriage and family problems.

Too often the pastor neglects his family as he cares for the larger church family.

Financial strains.

Many pastors simply do not have sufficient income from the churches they serve. That financial stress can lead to depression. Some pastors do not know how to manage the money they do have, leading to further financial strain.

The problem of comparison.

Every pastor will always know of a church that is larger and more effective. Every pastor will always know of another pastor who seems more successful. The comparison game can be debilitating to some pastors.

This one thing I do know: Pastors need our prayers more than ever. They need our support and encouragement. I am committed to pray for my pastor every day, even if it’s only for a minute or so.

Will you do the same? Our pastors pour out their lives for us daily. What can you do to help our pastors? 

LifeWay Research contacted 1,000 Protestant pastors across the United States by telephone. The calling list was randomly drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Up to six calls were made to reach each sampled phone number. Each interview was conducted with the senior or solo pastor or equivalent position. Responses were weighted to reflect geographical distribution of Protestant churches. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +/- 3.2%. Margins of error are higher for sub-groups.

Extreme Makeover – Soul Edition


This Christmas, I would like to remind you Jesus came to redeem us.

What is redemption?  Redemption is the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.

The reason we need to be redeemed is that we have sold ourselves into sin and have been alienated from a holy God.

Galatians 4:4–5 says, “When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Redemption frees us to be a part of God’s family. We had run away and sold ourselves into slavery. But God redeems us out of slavery into the Father’s house.

Redemption is the remedy.



Repentance means to make a change of mind–a change of the intention from wanting to sin to not wanting to sin–that results in a change in action. It involves the decision to make a change of behavior and/or attitude about something. Biblically, repentance means to turn from sin with a heartfelt desire to change and not do it again.

Luke 5:31–32, “Jesus said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'”

Jesus came to call sinners to repentance.

Acts 3:19 says, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

Acts 17:30 says, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

This Christmas, remember Jesus is calling us to repentance.


Restoration is the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.

John 9:39, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see.'”

And John 12:46, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me might not remain in darkness.”

Jesus did not merely come to redeem and to call us to repentance; he also came to open our eyes so that we can see the light and walk in it.

The human problem is not just slavery needing a redemption, and lostness needing repentance; the human problem is also moral blindness, needing the gift of sight.

Luke 4:18 says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.”

This Christmas, let us remember that Jesus came to give us sight.


Revolution is a very important and dynamic change in the way that people do things:

Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”

Jesus is not saying that God loves division and strife.

Jesus is saying that strife and division caused by true allegiance to Jesus are better than no strife and division with no allegiance to Jesus.

When you are really redeemed, have repented and given sight, something really radical happens to you.  A revolution.

You begin to see and think differently and feel things differently and act differently.

This Christmas, remember that Jesus came to cause a revolution in your life & family.


Reconciliation is an act of reconciling, as when former enemies agree to an amicable truce.  It is the process of making consistent or compatible.

Romans 5:10 says, “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

We often try to avoid these unpleasant experiences: separation, rejection, and alienation.

Without Christ, our lives are in crisis.

Without Christ, we live lives of separation, rejection, and alienation from God.

Sin caused us to be hostile to God.  Sin makes us enemies with God.  Sin severs our relationship with God.

But our loving Father solved the dilemma by sending His Son to pay our penalty.

This Christmas, remember that you are reconciled to God.


Rebirth is the process of being born again. It is revival

John 3:5 says, “Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.”


Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

This Christmas remember that God sent His Son so that we could believe and have eternal life.  Are you saved?  Do you have eternal life?

Why I do What I Do


Into the office, walked in this frail looking, frame of a man.  He had two children on either side of him.  His beautiful, yet weary looking wife walked behind.  This is a young family of four – father, mother and two young children (7 and 2 years old).  They had come to The Salvation Army to register for Christmas assistance.

The 32 year-old father, in between thoughtful pauses, proudly explained how he had been the family’s bread winner.  He shared a few of his hopes and dreams.  However, this was no longer possible.  His dreams were flickering away, like a dying flame.  Sadly, he was recently diagnosed with kidney failure.  This is not how life should be.  Daddy should be able to work till retirement.  Daddy should be able to celebrate his children’s milestones – graduations, weddings, the birth of his grandchildren, and so forth.  But this was not to be.

The wife listened intently.  She then, shyly and softly, mentioned how she had struggled to find gainful employment.  She desperately wants to help ease her husband’s financial concerns.  She is capable and willing to work.  She has only been able to find side jobs cleaning houses.

The Salvation Army employee, Taneya, leans forward and asks the husband, “What would you want for Christmas?”  If I were the one asked that question, I would have said, “James Bond memorabilia, Coca-Cola collectibles, a Kobe Bryant jersey, or a Wayne Rooney Manchester United jersey.”  But not this father.  In his frail, broken voice he responds, “I do not need anything material.  Nothing for me.  Please just help my children.”

With a nod of affirmation, Taneya turns to look at the wife.  She asks the same question.  The wife’s eyes welled up; warm glittery tears flowed down her rosy cheeks.  She reaches for the Kleenex box and utters these words, “I am praying that my husband doesn’t die.”

The husband looked at his wife, touched her cheek and said, “Please don’t cry, honey. It’s going to be OK.”

A reporter asked me yesterday, “Captain Terry, why do you do what you do?”  Here is my response:

  • I do what I do to help such families.
  • I do what I do to be privy to these intimate family moments.
  • I do what I do to bring hope to the hopeless; and healing to the hurting.
  • I do what I do to bring sunshine to a family’s cloudy condition.
  • I do what I do because I am no better than these families. They remind me of where I once was.
  • I do what I do, because God commands me to love the least, and the lost.
  • I do what I do, because I willingly respond to God’s call, to give a cup of cool water in His name.
  • I do what I do because there is nothing else I would rather be doing.
  • I do what I do because I see Jesus on the little children’s faces.
  • Thank you Jesus for the privilege to serve you.

10 Ways to Bless a Bell Ringer

Hallelujah Breakdown

bless bell ringer

It’s that time of year again.  If you haven’t heard them already, you’ll be hearing them soon as you step out of your car heading in to your favorite store.  It’s the familiar and season-welcoming “ding ding” of the Salvation Army Bell Ringer faithfully standing at the Red Kettle.  This is the biggest fundraising time for The Salvation Army and it takes a LOT of man hours, employees, and volunteers to raise the necessary funds to “Do the Most Good.”  The boots-on-the-ground most necessary part of the work is the Bell Ringer.  Whether they are paid workers or volunteers, the Bell Ringer helps make Christmas feel more like Christmas for a lot of people.  Here are 10 ways you can help make their time at the kettle a blessing.

1. Make eye contact and say hello.
This is the simplest, cheapest way to bless someone.  If you’ve never been a…

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A Lesson on Dispensing Grace

In the dead center of Bell-Ringing season this is NOT a message I wanted to receive. In the heat of days full of meetings, deadlines to meet and a bell-ringing goal to meet, this is not the feedback I was looking forward to.   A donor called yesterday, to complain, about a bell-ringer.  This is not the message I wanted to hear.  A donor had claimed that she had given money to the bell-ringer.  The bell-ringer had pretended to put the money in the kettle, but had slipped the money into his pocket.  As the Kettle Coordinator told me this story, I was livid.  The bell-ringer needed to be punished – fired, even.  Justice had to prevail.

Today, like I always do, walked into the room to address the bell-ringers.  There, he sat.  He tried to say something to me, but I walked past him.  I reminded the bell-ringers to never touch the money.  I reminded them to ask the donors to place the money directly into the kettle. I expressed how disappointed I was with one of them.  I made it clear I was displeased by what one of them had done.  Right in the midst of my next sentence, I saw a hand go up.

The accused bell-ringer raised his hand.  I gave him the floor.  Looking down in shame, he said, “I am the one who stole $10.00 yesterday.  I am very, very sorry I took the money. Please forgive me. I am sorry.”  There was silence.  I felt a lump in my throat. I felt warm tears fill up in my eyes.  You see, I wanted to be mad at the thief.  I wanted to punish him.  I wanted to make everyone know that you don’t steal from God … from The Salvation Army… from me.

My reaction was different.  I was filled with compassion.  I sensed a deep sadness for him.  In that moment, God whispered, “Dispense grace.” Holding back my tears, I asked the Kettle Coordinator to pray.  He prayed.  I went around shaking everyone’s hand, and pronouncing a blessing on them.  When I got to the accused, now repentant worker, I thanked him for his honesty.  I told him God forgave him.  Who am I not to forgive?

Today I learned something from a bell-ringer – the power of repentance and confession.

Today, I learned something else from God – the power of His amazing, in-exhaustive grace.

Who has wronged you?  Who has let you down?  Who has stolen from you, robbed you, or destroyed what belongs to you?

Today, I ask you to dispense grace.  Give them the gift they do not deserve – grace.  Give them some unmerited favor.  Forgive them.  If God forgave you, who are you not to forgive?