Guest / Limited Access /
A few months ago, I participated in a National Pastors' Conference cosponsored by Christianity Today's parent company. Organizers, who had hoped optimistically for 800 registrants, instead had to scramble to accommodate 1,700, which may indicate our pastors' hunger for companionship and nourishment.

Is there a profession that demands more and rewards less? A pastor spends up to 20 hours a week preparing a sermon and then hears at best on Sunday morning a polite "Good job, Reverend" from a few parishioners at the door—that is, as long as he or she stays within the 22 minutes allotted for preaching. When time for a formal job evaluation rolls around, pastors find themselves rated by plumbers, salesmen, and engineers, many of whom know little about ministry. This same hodgepodge of lay people votes on salary and housing allowances behind closed doors as the pastor sits like a schoolchild in another room.

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us," said the apostle Paul about the ministry. God does indeed make his appeal through human instruments, and after my conversations with pastors, I came away with renewed appreciation for the hazards of that endeavor. They devote hours to the premarital counseling of dreamy young lovers, then years later counsel these same couples, now embittered antagonists, through divorce procedures. They comfort the sick and pray boldly for healing, then somehow must find the strength to stand before weeping relatives at their funerals.

We push our pastors to function as psychotherapists, orators, priests, and chief executive officers. Meanwhile, we place on them a unique burden of isolation and loneliness. The pastor or priest loses any private life. Henri ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
Previous Philip Yancey Columns:
Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
May 21
More from this IssueMay 21 2001
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Editorial: Invalidating Valedictorians
It's time to let high school seniors into our democracy
RecommendedThe Good News Hiding Beneath the Headlines
The Good News Hiding Beneath the Headlines
As we begin another year, Philip Yancey reminds us: Grace hasn’t vanished.
TrendingWhy Do We Have Christmas Trees?
Why Do We Have Christmas Trees?
The history behind evergreens, ornaments, and holiday gift giving.
Editor's PickWhen Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
When Christmas Meets the ‘Umbrage Industry’
If history is any guide, there’s no escaping the hostilities that erupt every December.
Christianity Today
The Back Page | Philip Yancey: Replenishing the Inner Pastor
hide thisMay 21 May 21

In the Magazine

May 21, 2001

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.