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1. The observance of a Pastor Appreciation Day (the second Sunday in October) began in 1992 when Jerry Frear Jr., founder of Under His Wing Ministries decided that “if secretaries could have their own holiday, so could clergy members.” He began lobbying state legislatures and now seeks a presidential proclamation. The name of the unofficial observance was later to changed to Clergy Appreciation Day and expanded to include all of October as Clergy Appreciation Month.

2. There are no reliable figures on the number of clergy in America. In 2012 the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reported that there were 600,000 clergy serving in various denominations in the U.S. But that figure included retired clergy, chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military, denominational executives, and ordained faculty at divinity schools and seminaries and did not include independent churches that are not connected with a denomination. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an even more peculiar estimate, claiming that only 46,510 Americans are employed as clergy.

3. Many full-time pastors receive some mix of compensation that includes a base salary, housing allowance, health insurance, and retirement. A survey of senior pastors (i.e., the lead pastor in a church with multiple paid pastoral positions) found that the compensation tends to vary based on a number of factors, including church income, region, weekly attendance, years employed, etc. The national average for full-time senior pastor compensation in 2013 was $88,814, but drops to $79,520 when solo pastors (i.e., the sole minister in a church) were included.

4. Relatively few pastors give up on ministry. A survey of pastors of evangelical and historically black churches found an estimated 13 percent of senior pastors in 2005 had left the pastorate ten years later for reasons other than death or retirement. Two percent shifted to non-ministry jobs, and 5 percent stayed in ministry but switched to non-pastoral roles. Combined, those two groups account for known losses of less than 1 percent a year.

5. For senior pastors who have left their church, the main reason is change in calling (37 percent). Conflict in the church is the second most common reason at 26 percent. Other reasons pastors have left the pastorate include family issues (17 percent), moral or ethical issues (13 percent), poor fit (13 percent), burnout (10 percent), personal finances (8 percent), and illness (5 percent). Lack of preparation for the job was cited in 3 percent of cases.

6. Many pastors are stressed about money and the demands of ministry. A survey found that 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming, 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security, 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle, and 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.

7. A survey of Protestant pastors found that nearly 1 in 4 pastors (23 percent) have personally struggled with a mental illness such as depression, while 12 percent say they’ve received a diagnosis for a mental health condition.

8. Protestant pastors reported working between 42 and 63 hours per week, according to a survey of what clergy do during the week. Of all clergy surveyed, a third of their time (33 percent) is spent preparing for preaching and worship, 19 percent on providing pastoral care, 15 percent administering congregation’s work and attending meetings, 13 percent teaching and training people for ministry, and 6 percent in denominational and community affairs. An additional 7 hours is spent on prayer and meditation and 4 hours on reading other than for sermon preparation.

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A Pilgrim's Friend

BusinessInterruptionAs a man who is easily taken “out of the zone,” interruptions are something I find difficult to appreciate. Said more honestly, it is hard for me not to disdain them.

However, since I live in God’s world under Christ’s rule, I understand that my scorn for interruptions is not OK. Even the idea of interruptions is suspect when I live at the pleasure of another who is Sovereign over all. God has created me in Jesus Christ to do the good works He has prepared for me to do, not necessarily the ones I have planned to do (Ephesians 2:10). The Lord will interrupt my self-made plans with His own. I need to learn and love that truth. I not only need to pray, “Thy will be done,” but I also must practice it when His holy interruptions come my way.

I appreciate, therefore, the needed exhortation from Dietrich…

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A month later (May 1942) two Lutheran clergymen made direct contact with the British in Stockholm. These were Dr. Hans Schoenfeld, a member of the Foreign Relations Bureau of the German Evangelical Church, and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an eminent divine and an active conspirator, who on hearing that Dr. George Bell, the Anglican Bishop of Chichester, was visiting in Stockholm hastened there to visit him–Bonhoeffer traveling incognito on forged papers provided him by Colonel Oster of the Abwehr.

Both pastors informed the bishop of the plans of the conspirators and…inquired whether the Western Allies would make a decent peace with a non-Nazi government once Hitler had been overthrown. They asked for an answer–either by a private message or by a public announcement. To impress the bishop that the anti-Hitler conspiracy was a serious business, Bonhoeffer furnished him with a list  of the names of the leaders–an indiscretion which later was to cost him and to make certain the execution of many of the others. 

~ William L Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1320-1321.

Chicago

10/5/2015 Annie Cotton/Christian Aid Mission

Residents inspect damage from what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus.
Residents inspect damage from what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the town of Douma, eastern Ghouta in Damascus. (Reuters)

At several steps on their path to death by beheading and crucifixion last month, 11 indigenous Christian workers near Aleppo, Syria, had the option to leave the area and live. The 12-year-old son of a ministry team leader also could have spared his life by denying Christ.

The indigenous missionaries were not required to stay at their ministry base in a village near Aleppo, Syria; rather, the ministry director who trained them had entreated them to leave. As the Islamic State (ISIS), other rebel groups and Syrian government forces turned Aleppo into a war zone of carnage and destruction, ISIS took over several outlying villages. The Syrian ministry workers in those villages chose to stay in order to provide aid in the name of Christ to survivors.

“I asked them to leave, but I gave them the freedom to choose,” said the ministry director, his voice tremulous as he recalled their horrific deaths. “As their leader, I should have insisted that they leave.”

They stayed because they believed they were called to share Christ with those caught in the crossfire, he said.

“Every time we talked to them,” the director said, “they were always saying, ‘We want to stay here—this is what God has told us to do. This is what we want to do.’ They just wanted to stay and share the gospel.”

Those who chose to stay could have scattered and hid in other areas, as their surviving family members did. On a visit to the surviving relatives in hiding, the ministry director learned of the cruel executions.

The relatives said ISIS militants on Aug. 7 captured the Christian workers in a village whose name is withheld for security reasons. On Aug. 28, the militants asked if they had renounced Islam for Christianity. When the Christians said that they had, the rebels asked if they wanted to return to Islam. The Christians said they would never renounce Christ.

The 41-year-old team leader, his young son and two ministry members in their 20s were questioned at one village site where ISIS militants had summoned a crowd. The team leader presided over nine house churches he had helped to establish. His son was two months away from his 13th birthday.

“All were badly brutalized and then crucified,” the ministry leader said. “They were left on their crosses for two days. No one was allowed to remove them.”

The martyrs died beside signs the ISIS militants had put up identifying them as “infidels.”

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Via Emmaus

lifeThe local church was always at the center of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s heart and theology. In his studies he wrote his first dissertation on life in the church (“The Communion of Saints: A Dogmatic Inquiry into the Sociology of the Church”).  As a theological professor he labored to train pastors for the church. And in his later writings, he often returned to muse on life together in the local church.

It’s this subject that entitles one of his most famous works, Life Together, posthumously subtitled, “The Classic Exploration of Christian Community.” Coming in at 122 pages, Life Together is not a long book. But it is one that invites you to think deeply about God’s design for his people. Overflowing with wisdom, you will run your highlighter dry if you are given to marking up books.

As we consider the One Anothers in our weekly sermons, I would encourage you to pick up a copy. A small investment…

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according to Script

. . . only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes. It is quite unbiblical to hold the first proposition without the second. We think we understand when we hear that obedience is possible only where there is faith. Does not obedience follow faith as good fruit grows on a good tree? First, faith, then obedience. If by that we mean that it is faith which justifies, and not the act of obedience, all well and good, for that is the essential and unexceptional presupposition of all that follows. If, however, we make a chronological distinction between faith and obedience, and make obedience subsequent to faith, we are divorcing the one from the other–and then we get the practical question, when must obedience begin? Obedience remains separated from faith. From the point of view of justification it is necessary thus to separate them, but we…

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First Thoughts: Biblical meditation (part 1)

By Adam Bradley

As I continue to share with you some of the things God spoke to me about whilst on sabbatical, I want to focus this week on the important but often neglected tool (or, in old money, discipline) that is meditation.

It’s amazing how, as I write the word meditation, my mind drifts swiftly to images of people with crossed legs, chanting some repetitive religious mantra. Why is it that, as Christians, we so quickly lose sight of the central place that biblical mediation has played in the lives of our forefathers (and mothers) for the last two thousand years? Take for example Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was executed by the Nazis. When asked why he meditated he replied, ‘Because I am a Christian’. In addition to the witness of so many in the church over the last 2,000 years, we find the practice of mediation used by those faithfully following the Lord again and again in scripture – at least 55 times in the Old Testament alone! Find examples in Genesis 24:63, Psalm 63:6 and Psalm 119:148.

So what is biblical mediation?

Richard Foster describes biblical meditation as ‘very simply, … the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word‘. How does it differ from just reading the Bible?

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