"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


HOW CRAZY CAN YOU BE and still legitimately serve in a pastoral ministry?

A version of this question has been the source of a heated debate found HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.   Reading the debates and commentaries has been fascinating – I’ve discovered some new websites that now appear on my list of favorites.

I have a couple of good friends who should not be, but are, in pastoral ministries.  They’ve left their love of expositing Scripture and now live to build more buildings and guarantee their retirement.  Probably all of us are familiar with that posture.  I would tend to assess their issues as  a) a lack of faith and b) a loss of their initial calling.  Pastoral Burnout is another term that perhaps describes their state.

If you’re suffering from extreme Pastoral Burnout, should you continue as a pastor?  (Is Pastoral Burnout a real status or is it simply more of the therapeutic mumbo jumbo that is an absolute CURSE in our westernized society?)

If you happen to go psychotic I suspect your church will not allow you to pastor OR if you’re in a church where you have total power and then go psychotic, your church will ultimately leave you.  But bottom line is this; Pastors who go psychotic end up being ex-pastors.

Is having a “nervous breakdown” the same as going psychotic?  Can you legitimately have a “nervous breakdown” and come back to the ministry?
Charles Stanley, speaking to a large conference of Christian counselors in Atlanta more than a decade ago referenced at least two periods in his life where he had experienced some state of severe stress and was unable to function as a pastor.  I do not remember exactly whether or not he used the term “nervous breakdown” but I think he did.  Unluckily it is kind of a broad term that lacks specificity.

Charles Stanley also has seen the end of his marriage while he continues to pastor..   I know enough to hazard a guess at some of the issues that led to the divorce but it has always been obvious that immorality was NOT an issue.  Does he bare some responsibility for the divorce?  I suspect he does.  Does he still pastor?  Yes.  Has he remarried?  Not to my knowledge, and wisely so.

Jimmy Swaggart.  Does he still pastor?  I think he does.  Should his weaknesses/sins (an attraction to prostitutes) keep him from the pastoral ministry?  ( For a definitive answer;  John McArthur game a 12 point message in 45 minutes at a chapel at Master’s College in the late 80’s when the whole shebang came to public knowledge.  I still have a copy of the tape somewhere.  It was “lights out.”)
Has Swaggart repented?  Did he repent like King Saul or like King David?
Either way a high price is demanded whether or not the repentance is from the heart or just from the lips.  Swaggart has surely paid a high price.   Should he still be in the pastorate?

Possibly to be continued -

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