What’s Happening to the Pastors?

Aside from growing up on a family farm, I’ve never worked at anything except being a parish pastor. When I studied for ministry I was motivated, as most of us are, by a search for answers to the disquieting questions in my own young heart. (Henri Nouwen had it right when he spoke of the “wounded healer” who heals others in the attempt to heal him or her self.) At the time, I didn’t know much about what it meant to be a pastor. I knew I’d be expected to study, preach, oversee church business, visit people in the hospital and in their homes, and tell others in the community our message—this last which, at that time in my life, seemed to me so flawlessly coherent that no one, hearing our theology from my lips, would be able to resist it.

I proved moderately good at some of these things, not so good at others. Being a pastor isn’t a hard job in the sense that work on a farm is hard. John Updike in one of his novels refers to it as a “curiously idle” profession, and indeed, you can put as much or as little into as you wish. (A church woman said to me once, “Could you come and help us clean up the store room on Wednesday? You’re the only man I know who doesn’t work.”) Most pastors are conscientious. Marry that with common sense, the ability to self-start, a bit of personal warmth, and a general acquaintance with Adventist points of doctrine, and you can survive and even thrive.

What I didn’t know was that the biggest challenge wouldn’t be the tasks, but the relationships and expectations. Read any book on ministry (they are cranked out regularly, rarely by someone still in a parish) and you’ll find a standard so high that Jesus Himself couldn’t reach it. A pastor must spend at least 60 hours a week doing God’s work, respond to every problem heroically, preach outstanding sermons, love even the most hateful of his church members and make his church grow even in the face of a congregation’s fights and inflexibility—but never neglect exercise, relaxation, giving his family unhurried quality time, praying and studying for hours every day, and in short maintain a perfect relationship with wife, children, church and Jesus.

Beyond the math not adding up, it doesn’t seem to be working very well, for pastors in any denomination. A New York Times article by Paul Vitello draws on several studies, including a significant one by Duke University, that show that “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.” Another study claims that only one in ten pastors who train for the profession when young will stay in it until retirement.

I have spent my life in the company of Seventh-day Adventist pastors, and I will defend them to anyone as the most well-intentioned bunch of people in the world. They’re not in it for the money and they really do love their people. But to pretend that they’re little Jesuses would be a stretch. I’ve been on personnel committees, had many close pastor friends, and been a pastor myself long enough to question the air of triumphalism that permeates advice to pastors. Clergy are not (as Boccaccio and some of your church members would have it) more corrupt, lustful and sinful than the average person, but they have problems like everyone else. There is certainly incompetence among Adventist pastors, though I’d counter that in some of our dysfunctional congregations, it would be pretty hard to know what competence would look like.

According to Paul Vitello, “There is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.”

But here are a few ideas that occur to me.

Mismatch between education and job. When I left seminary and went to a tiny multi-church district, I suffered not a little disillusion, for what I‘d prepared for with years of theology and Biblical languages required almost none. I’ve got as many years of education as a physician, but in most places a high school education, an outgoing disposition, and a Share Him DVD would have served me about as well. What conferences wanted back then (and some still do) was a team of salesmen. What congregations want is more complicated, though I can safely say that no pastoral search committee has ever listed “must be able to translate from ancient Aramaic” as a requirement.

Loss of automatic respect. In Victorian England, a pastor with not a lot of piety or theological education could be regarded almost as nobility, just by bestowal of a good sinecure. My childhood family placed the pastor on a pedestal (which honor, I should add, was maintained by moving him every 2-3 years before the luster wore off). But we no longer live in an era of automatic respect. Most people don’t claim to be more skilled than their orthodontist, but everyone in church is a theologian. Just like politics, everyone gets to have an opinion on how the church should be run.

More contentious culture. A lot of things—some of them attributable to our own bad behavior—have left clergy subject to accusations that in the past would have been unimaginable. Yet even a good pastor is a target for projected frustrations. I’ve had people speak to me in ways they wouldn’t to their dog. It is an angry culture, and while you might be willing to put up with incivility in a business or courtroom, it’s harder when you’re working in the same place where you get your spiritual sustenance and have all your friendships.

Cynicism about religion and rise of the “nones”. Though you might not realize it from watching the media preachers, religion in America is in decline. Spirituality is still valued, meaning an increasing number in the younger generation put “none” as their religious choice. Pastors see it in many ways, the most significant being the disappearance of the young from the church, and in how the guy next to you on the plane buries his face in Wired magazine to avoid talking to you when you admit you’re a clergyman.

Needy congregations. Except perhaps for those in the shadow of colleges or hospitals, there’s a feeling of desperation in many Adventist congregations. They’re seeing the median age rise, the children and youth disappear, money dry up, and the congregation as they know it daily on the knife’s edge of danger. Jesus saves our souls, but the pastor should be the savior of the congregation, even if it’s already on hospice care.

Family expectations. An old pastor told me of sitting down for dinner one evening decades ago, when the conference’s van driver knocked at the door, and said that they were supposed to move—the first they’d heard of it. The wife was 8 months pregnant, but they packed up in a day and moved to a parsonage across the state. How things have changed! Children want to stay in the same school. Families own homes. Wives have careers and may not be willing to drop everything to follow God’s call as it is relayed to them by the conference office. So when difficulties of any kind occur, it isn’t uncommon that a pastoral family and their good educations will go off in another direction.

Rise of celebrity ministry. At almost any time of day you can tune in Doug Batchelor, who never broadcasts an unpolished sermon, has all the answers, and is backed by professional musicians. You can infer that his wife and children are perfect, that he never misses an appointment, never argues with his congregation’s leaders, always has a clean car, never burps or has spots of food on his tie. Why wouldn’t you send your tithe to him?

Being a clergyman is challenging right now. Fortunately, our denomination offers plenty of careers for people with ministerial training not to do what they trained for. Our best clergyman transfer into denominational offices, where (according to a recent NAD study) we spend up to $145,000,000 each year for what many believe is superfluous administration. We in the Seventh-day Adventist church have the dubious distinction of having created a system where to be recognized as a good pastor, you will have to leave the profession.

More on that next time.

Loren Seibold is a pastor in the Ohio Conference, and the recently-appointed Executive Editor of Adventist Today.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7194

Yes, we do live in an increasingly hypercritical culture. It’s only gonna get worse. Thank you for the reminder: our pastors need our support and prayers. (Well…there are a few who could do with less support!)


I have met them at interfaith clergy gatherings. I have spoken to them on a confidential basis for years. I have counseled may of them and prayed with them and attended and even officiated at many of their funerals. I have loaned money to them, and helped some to save their marriages by transitioning to other forms of employment. Many have no other refuge or palce to go and some have even committed suicide. I am referring to persons in Adventist ministry, male and female.

During a thirty-five year career in pastoral work and clergy education and chaplaincy training I have spoken to hundreds of Adventist clergy. While there are a few who have learned the survival skills that are required there are way too many Adventist clergy who have left, wish they could leave, are waiting to retire or resign, from active pastoral ministry in the Seventh-day Adventist church. Across the interfaith spectrum it is estimated that 1,500 and 2,000 pastors become ex-clergy every month in the United States alone. This number is astounding!
Countless pastors have concluded that the present form of the pastoral role is not biblical, and God never intended anyone to fill it … especially them.
“I majored in Theology in college. I went to the seminary and I majored in the only thing they teach there: the professional ministry. When I graduated, I realized that I could speak Greek, and Hebrew, and the only thing on earth I was qualified for was to be a pope. But someone else had the job.” Now how could the office of “pastor” not be biblical?
Pastors did exist in the first-century. They were called shepherds, elders, and overseers. All interchangeable terms for the same function. But the modern role and contemporary form of the pastoral function has few points of contact with anything we find in the New Testament.
At the time of this writing, there are reportedly more than 500,000 paid pastors serving churches in the United States. Among this massive number of religious professionals, consider the following statistics that raise questions about the modern pastoral office:
• 94 percent feel pressured to have an ideal family.
• 90 percent work more than forty-six hours a week.
• 81 percent say they have insufficient time with their spouses.
• 80 percent believe that pastoral ministry affects their family negatively.
• 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend.
• 70 percent have lower self-esteem than when they entered the ministry.
• 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
• 80 percent are discouraged or deal with depression.
• More than 40 percent report that they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations.
• 33 percent consider pastoral ministry an outright hazard to the family.
• 33 percent have seriously considered leaving their position in the past year.
• 40 percent of pastoral resignations are due to burnout.
Over the past twenty years, the average length of a pastorate has declined from seven years to
just over four years. Most pastors are expected to juggle sixteen major tasks at once. And many crumble under the pressure.
Unfortunately, few pastors have connected the dots to discover that it is their office that causes this underlying turbulence. For this reason, many people have concluded that Jesus Christ never intended any person to sport all the hats a present-day pastor is expected to wear. He never intended any one person to bear such a load.
Can you see how such pressure would force you into playing a pretentious role—all to keep your authority, your prestige, and your job security? The pastoral profession dictates standards of conduct like any other profession, whether it be teacher, doctor, or lawyer. The profession dictates how pastors are to dress, speak, and act. This is one of the major reasons why many pastors live artificial lives.
According to many expastors, the pastoral role (for them anyway) fostered dishonesty and false pretense. Based on the scores of personal testimonies my friends and I have heard from erstwhile pastors, many—if not most—pastors cannot stay in their office without being corrupted on some level. The power-politics endemic to the office is a huge problem that isolates many of them and poisons their relationship with others.

Professional loneliness is another virus that runs high among pastors. The lone-ranger plague drives some ministers into other careers. It drives others into more cruel fates.
All of these pathologies find their root in the history of the pastorate. It’s “lonely at the top” because God never intended for anyone to be at the top—except His Son. In effect, the present-day pastor tries to shoulder the fifty-eight New Testament “one another” exhortations all by himself.
It is no wonder that many of them get crushed under the weight. The contemporary Adventist pastor is the most neglected, abused, misunderstood, person in the church structure. Yet not a strand of Scripture supports the existence of this role and job description. Rather, the present-day pastor was born out of the single-bishop rule first spawned by Ignatius and Cyprian. The bishop evolved into the local presbyter. In the Middle Ages, the presbyter grew into the Catholic priest. In other words, the contemporary pastor is but an old priest written in larger letters.
We need to change drastically how we understand, employ, support, and minister to our pastors. They need more than our tithe and prayers. Pastors are crying out for understanding, accountability, peer review, and someone who will pastor them. While we need to stop gender discrimination in our ranks, we also need respect and love for the persons who are our pastors!


Is part of the problem – the WAY we Seventh day Adventists Do Church?
A profession [going to work] needs to have some fun, some enjoyment, some joy, some pleasure intertwined into it. Otherwise it is only going to be a job. And a Job will eventually cause burnout – as you say, depression, disillusion, health problems, family problems. And maybe even eventually, Resignation in favor of a whole new career in some other field. And this can cause more depression, as one will see themselves as a “failure” for life.
Maybe Pastors need to be LESS a Leader. Maybe they need to be more of a Facilitator for a Member run organization congregation.
In a Sunday church I attend there is at least an hour allowed for socialization, sitting around tables, drinking liquid refreshment and munching on a few snacks. But what REALLY happens is conversation, and a lot of it moves to conversation about Church. In this congregation of about 150-180 practically ALL of the church activities have come out of conversation. Yard care group-- the Merry Gardeners. A Tuesday tutoring program. A $50,000 a year Haitian mission program (money does NOT come from the church budget). A recycling program (even a special place to put used tea bags). Many other groups. Most church members are involved in at least one, and some in several. Were it not for needing a pastor to provide for the Communion service, the church could almost run on its own. It has developed a great leadership team, each member gets to serve for 2 years and persons are on and off in staggered years. so terms of office do not all come at the same time. We just had 6 persons running for 4 slots. Voting took place on one Sunday – all services , 7:45, 8:30, 11:15, 6:pm. Paper Ballots counted at 6 pm.
This leaves the pastor free from a lot of responsibility. He over sees and challenges. But it is the members who are concerned about the Budget, about the Physical Plant, both the building and the grounds, the altar flowers, how things are set up for services. There is a paid secretary available 6 hours 5 days a week. So when the pastor is out, someone is there in the office to assist with business and take messages.


The idea that one person, in a congregation of whatever number of worshipers, is the only person qualified to stand up at an elevated lectern to tell everybody else what God says, means and wants, is a dinosaur left over from medieval culture when education was nonexistent, and only two people in a village could read, and possibly, write. Today, there are parishioners with much higher credentials, even in theology, having to sit through often mediocre sermon retrieved from and old filing cabinet. I know that to be actually true - as well as pastors, with multiple churches, not showing up at any of them more often than anyone would think. Hopefully that’s an anomaly

Perhaps it is time to think about “doing church” in a different way. I read your interview with Paul Richardson and was impressed by the innovative attempts at rescuing “worship” from ineffective, and even dying, modes that just don’t work any more. We can all read, at this point in time, and so, the Bible is available to us all. For a serious minded Christian, reading the Bible is fundamental. Granted, everyone doesn’t have the theological minutia too extrapolate from simple statements in the Bible; but is that even necessary every week for simply worshiping together as a congregation of believers?

At best, most church services, in those small country churches, are weekly pep-rallies, insuring the congregation that they belong to the "right " group. As Paul Richardson said, simply participating in music, or even just listening to music, can be a spiritual worship experience. We don’t need all the ritual - albeit, minor ritual compared to some forms of worship. Having said that, there is something about grand cathedrals and grand music that set the tone for an extraordinary spiritual experience, no doubt.

With the SDA church diminishing in North America, to the point that pastors often have l,2 3, even 4 little churches to care for, it would seem logical to come up with a more flexible way of structuring a worship service.


Writing from the perspective of a pastor’s child of many years ago, it seems little has changed. He can expect calls in the middle of the night, and nearly always at dinner, the only time the family may be together. Also, moves in the middle of a school year simply because the “higher authorities” decide it would be a good move–not necessarily for the pastor’s family.

But the real trouble begins early, before a young person decides to “study of the ministry.” The program will not be on how to minister to the needs of a congregation somewhere, but how to read Greek and Hebrew, and how to parse the Bible texts; useless information that is seldom used unless he very occasionally explains the original meaning of a word.

Such students should be carefully vetted before entering a ministerial program. First, the prerequisites should be courses in psychology, marriage and family counseling, and anger management. The need for these will far surpass anything else taught in the requisite programs.

Some personality types should never be considered for such training; although sincere family and friends encourage such a course as it is still one of the more noble professions. But the skills necessary to
deal with the many personal problems as a pastor are too often learned on the job, to the detriment of many. Rather than being a “stepping stone” to a “higher” departmental position in an office, it should be given recognition as the most difficult rule in the church organization.


Wow! what candor, what insight. thank you! I was an orthodontist. the craft has left me way behind. I still lecture on proffessional ethics. As technology has increased, Ethics has been reduced by the pressures of cost/benefit. Once upon a time Doug was on an early morning TV spot. I listened enough to know I would not buy a used car from him. I don’t need one now, but if you were selling , I would get right in line. thank you again. Tom Z


I wish I knew more about how to minister to my pastor. This helps a great deal. Thanks Sam and Loren. We definitely take our pastors for granted and forget that they are just as fragile as the rest of us.


It truly must be the hardest job in the world. I mean imagine having to preach sermons to @GeorgeTichy and @ageis711Oxyain! Haha



What a gift of observation, and what a gospel that affords you the candor to observe as you have.

So, I’m wondering, is the weight of it all for the pastor the result of Seventh-day Adventism being fully marinated with the sense that in the end everything will have mattered, and if so the pastor dare not be seen as anything but unstoppable?

Think of the Three Angels’ Message and especially the voice of the Third Angel (spoken loudly so as to be clear) describing the plight of those who have no rest day or night.

God bless Sister White for so inspirationally offering that the Third Angel’s words describe Justification by Faith in verity!

It is not our efforts in which we achieve, but it is in our acceptance of the achievement of Jesus our Creator that results in our life being transformed. And testifying to this will transform the congregation, indeed any congregation it seems. Is there any other choice?

We are commanded to love, but only in the context of our sense of our having been loved, indeed, already having been saved, while we were the very enemies of the Savior.

Anything else is not love but condescension, on our part, and we each rebel from being the object of mere condescension or having nothing to say that isn’t condescending. Condescension is the adult form of bullying, is it not?

This is why we strive to save ourselves and will march under a hail of brimstone heavenward until we cannot take another step in that moment that we face the reality that we are utterly lost vastly beyond our capacity to even envision the possibility of our own salvation.

When we come to accept that it truly cannot be about us, something happens.

Until then, we are parishioners and pastors alike, unstoppable.

It is at this point that we hear the Third Angel speaking of the saints welcoming us as one of them already, justified at last and from the first by faith in Jesus, our creator, our savior, our returning redeemer.

Nothing else has changed, yet in that moment of acceptance, which cannot be of devotion but only of desperation, everything is changed. And in that reality we come to love as we have been loved by Jesus.

Fully accepted by Jesus.

This, of course, is a reality that we appreciate by faith, itself a gift of God, because in reality we have come to realize we truly have no other choice.

We always choose faith when the alternative is oblivion.

Actually, we only choose faith when the alternative is oblivion.

So choice in any ultimate sense is like salvation itself, by faith alone.

It is inspiring that the saints are described as at last patient, having once and for all let faith quench their (innate?) flaming frenzy with fundamentalism.

What’s the prospect for preaching, testifying actually to the Three Angels’ Message from a more practical and personal perspective I wonder?

Is there still another choice?


I trained to be a teacher of religion at Southern (graduated 1975), but once I returned to Norway, I was told I had to put in some years in the ministry–for which I had not trained–before they would consider letting me teach. I have never been as unprepared for anything in my life as I was when I went to Trondheim, Norway in the fall of 1975.

I was essentially hired as an assistant proselytizer. My job was to follow up on people who had signed up for a free Bible without realizing that it came with a 180 pound body attached. (I can still see the shocked faces of these people as they realized that they had been tricked. Fortunately, there were few such people to visit.)

I put in three years before I escaped into editorial work. Ever since I’ve had a great deal of respect for career ministers, if nothing else for their ability to endure. While properly trained SdA ministers can be of great assistance to people going through great personal difficulties, success still seems to be defined in terms of ascension into the hierarchy or proselytizing. For that reason, evangelists–in many cases, nothing more than the carnival barkers and mountebanks of religion–are always more successful than local ministers who are left to pick up the pieces after these glitterati have scorched their districts (and mass baptized their young ones if real candidates are in short supply.)

But even when a church is understood primarily as a community of faith and not an evening class in theology, the job of a minister is hard, especially in the ramshackle religious block houses of the hinterland. When the crib is empty, the horses begin to bite each other a saying goes in Scandinavia. A declining church tends to be like people in decline–obsessed with aches and pains and the promise of a better diagnosis and a better physician. Mother Theresa to the contrary, suffering contracts the mind and more often than not brings out the worst in people. That is why people are drawn to mega-churches with huge crowds and modern music and Gambino-like leaders masquerading as Christian ministers. It’s why people root for the New York Yankees and not the Podunk Sluggers.

To be a pastor in a declining church that was once promised a glorious future as God’s chosen in pre-apocalyptic times is no easier than coaching a failing football franchise that expected post-season play, if not a berth in the Superbowl.



Aage. you nailed it. Kudos from not so innocent bystander. tom Z

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I agree, Aage, that the so-far-failed expectations of SDAism put a peculiar pressure on our pastors. But please note that the studies I cited here were from pastors of other denominations. I think it reflects the loss of interest in faith in general, and pastors find themselves wrestling with what to do with a calling into an organization that the public is increasingly disinterested in.


Thank you, @sam for what you’ve done for pastors, and for your compassion for them. Your mention of loneliness reminds me that most pastors don’t dare talk to anyone. Judicatories may add a conference or presbytery minister (in our denomination we call him a “ministerial secretary”) and say, “You can talk to us!” Which of course you shouldn’t. And don’t be fooled by the idea that your church members are your friends. They are, until something happens that makes them decide not to be. Just remember that in the end, replacing pastors is the reset button for congregations. You are not a friend, but an office held, and someone else can slip into that office.


Just remember this: the member a pastor is most cautious about is the guy who takes you out to lunch and says, “I know it’s hard to be a pastor, so I’m here to be your special friend.”


@niteguy2, you contrast us with Sunday churches, but I don’t think there’s that much of a contrast.

I could have added another point to this piece, and that is this: part of the frustration for pastors is that there isn’t a lot of definition to the job. You bring to it what you have to offer. But when do you know you’ve finished? What marks success? Can’t you always do a little bit more? Shouldn’t you have done that task just a little better? You’re never quite sure. When you’re in a declining congregation (or several of them) as many of our district pastors are, that sense of incompletion becomes even more acute.


I don’t think there’s necessarily a greater fear of a failed destiny about us than pastors in other churches have. There are professional dangers we all have in common. Though there are some ways we’re different. #1. we have more points upon which people can be criticized, just by the nature of the particularity of our doctrines and life style, #2. the central thing we build our message around hasn’t happened, after our saying it is about to for 1.7 centuries. #3. The idea that the world must accept our message to be saved is a heavy burden - though I know pastors of other faiths who take a similar emotional burden upon themselves even without that expectation, so I’m not sure that’s peculiar to us.


Incompletion according to WHO, and WHO’S expectations? If it is the Pastor’s then of course this person is going to be disappointed, discouraged, and depressed, and feel a failure that one’s Goals and Expectations about the Community of Believers are not achieved.
But if the Pastor only sees the role as Facilitator of Growth of the Congregation of Believers as a whole and some individually, then the Pastor will be FREE to develop a Growth Program and allow each to mature at their own rate. To allow the Congregation a lot of latitude to decide what THEY want, and to HELP them with that decision.
Perhaps put things on the Table, so to speak, but let the Congregation themselves pick up what they want and leave the rest. Also, allow the Congregation to put things on the table to choose from.
Our congregation said we want to help with the Homeless, with Habitat for Humanity, with collecting food for weekend lunch to the homeless, cook and serve it, involved in an HIV housing program. But these were things the members of the Congregation put on the Table, not the pastor. The Haitian mission program began as a very small Sunday School Class project of $1000 a year. It is still not a “church” sponsored program, but a Member-Run program. The pastor is only the Chaplain – says the opening prayer at the meeting.
All these programs ran before our pastor arrived, and will continue after he goes. So that burden is off him. He gets the Credit at regional meetings.
I just see the great contrast as to how I have seen SDA Churches operated [during my lifetime] in Ohio, TN, and now GA for the time I have been here.

Edit-- Finances.
Many non-SDA churches have a month or 2-3 months before the new year begins to promote a Stewardship Program. Announce the monetary needs for the next year. Begin working on the Budget. Even having Pledge Cards for every household to fill out and put in the plate. These can be amended during the year if financial conditions change. Some allow for Electronic Giving. Even automatic deduction from one’s bank account monthly. Others, one can give by Credit Card at the beginning or ending of service.
Periodic pronouncement of the amount of pledges turned in is made, and also the % of member households participating as the Campaign continues.
For some reason MOST SDA congregations I know do not focus on the Cost of Doing Church with the membership.
A “Sinner” Pastor.
September 2 was an emotional filled day for a Methodist pastor here in town. It was supposed to be a Wonderful Wednesday of food and fellowship for the members. The Pastor had to confess that his name came up on one of those leaked Internet sites. He had paid his $49 2 years ago. But had never gone back to the site since. However, someone discovered his name among the 1000’s released by hackers.
He told the members there [and also his bishop who was present] that he was resigning and they needed to look for a “better” pastor, and he would also be retiring at the same time.
But it actually WAS a Wonderful Wednesday! After he left and the Bishop remained, one after another of the members told how THEY had been Marginalized by the Macon Community, but they found Welcome at this church by this Pastor. Each one asked the Bishop to allow this Pastor to REMAIN their Pastor.
Their Biggest Argument was, they Did Not want a Perfect Pastor. They wanted a Pastor who understood what it was to Sin and to find Redemption and Forgiveness.
Next Sunday, this Pastor will be giving his First Sermon since his retirement, and will continue to be the leading Pastor of this Methodist Church of several hundred members.
When this pastor came to this church in 2007, it was a membership of 37, and about to be closed. Since then it has had phenomenal growth. Has a great outreach program. Serves Breakfast on Sat and Sun mornings to the homeless. Has an active Spanish Church ministry on Sunday. Teaches both Spanish and English classes during the week.
The thing that struck me [an SDA] was the members DID NOT want a Perfect Pastor. They wanted a Sinner Pastor. And their prayers have been answered.



Useful observations, though I really do wonder about Adventist pastors who anticipate putting in just 40 hours a week for their flock and their community, before putting their feet up. Don’t worry - I’ve been there, having been in pastoral ministry for long years. And even medical doctors most often carry a heavier workload than that, and it can be round the clock too.

Pastors, if they can ever be readily described as professionals, are much more. Pastoral care and evangelism like medicine is a vocation and a calling under which one is never off duty.

Your use of the ‘C’ word [clergyman] in this context worries me, even more than the use of the ‘O’ word [ordination]. Why? Because it points to a sacramental model of ministry. Dr Wendy Jackson, a Senior Lecturer at Avondale Seminary in her chapter in the book South Pacific Perspectives on Ordination, which will be launched tomorrow at Avondale, asks the important question ‘Is there a Distinction Between the Status of Clergy and Laity?.’ Her answer is an emphatic NO.

I quote, "In contrast to the contemporary usage of the term “clergy,” the NT never uses the term kleros to describe a group of leaders. Rather, it is used to describe all of God’s people who arehis possession and share in the benefits of belonging to God (1 Pet 5:3; Acts 26;18 and Col 1:12). The entire group of Christian believers are part of the *kleros.

An examination of the Greek laos from which we get the English word laity is derived is also helpful. Laos takes on several meanings in the NT. The Gospel writers use it to descibe a group of people or a crowd, and more specifically when discussing the nation of Israel. In the rest of the NT the word often moves beyond both these meanings to signify the idea of the Christian community as a whole. Christians are rightly called the laos of God. Both words, laos and kleros are used in ways that signify the Christian community as a whole. The NT context does not support a difference between them." (p 201, 202).

Nor should Adventists! We would actually make it easier for ourselves if we abandoned the word ‘clergy’ as it is used in reference to our pastoral care givers. We might well find it easier to encourage fellow Adventists to embrace rites of appointment to offices and pastoral care giving roles, without reference to gender if we did. For if certain individuals are ‘ordained’ to a higher status, I can more readily understand the real hesitation of many in our midst.

No Adventists don’t have ‘clergymen.’ Therefore many arguments against the ordination of women that are used by Christians of other persuasions just do not fit with an Adventist understanding of these things.


Nice essay. Another thing that is happening to the pastors is that many of them are not paid a living wage. Many pastors are put on stipend rather than paid a full salary plus benefits. Graduates of the various schools of evangelism are hired by conferences not necessarily because of an ideological antipathy toward the Seminary but because those graduates are easier to underpay. We are all aware that the economic trade-off between pastors and schools has partially resolved itself in the closure of hundreds of schools in North American Division. What is not as well known is that in order to keep some schools open conferences have been forced to underpay a significant number of pastors. And we should not forget that many pastor spouses engaged in full-time ministry are not paid anything at all.

Most Seventh-day Adventists are ignorant of Seventh-day Adventist Church economic reality. I have heard many sermons given by union and conference stewardship directors, but I don’t recall ever hearing a frank explanation about the economics of the Church. Expectations of the ignorant are very low. As long as the church is able to pay its bills at the end of the month, church members will typically surmise that the church is meeting the Lord’s expectations. I don’t know why it is so hard for a conference administrator to initiate what a psychologist would call an intervention. But we never see any sort of a frank appraisal offered by a conference administrator to the patriarchs and matriarchs of a church under his or her care.