Church Members: Don’t be Crappy Sheep
From all indications pastors are having a tough time these days. Hence, the recent survey that revealed nearly one in four pastors admit to having some mental health issues, including depression.
A number of pastoral suicides have made national headlines in recent months. Some, like one in our area a few months back, are known primarily by those living close by.
When I asked a pastor who is part of the same denomination if he had any clue why this dynamic local leader had taken his own life, he replied, “No one knows.”
A Root Cause
I’m not a mental health expert, so I can’t presume to say why such tragedies happen.
However, one cause may be—as a friend put it—“crappy sheep.”
He coined that phrase while talking about a recent visit to an old friend and former coworker who now pastors a church.
Because it’s a good-sized congregation, the pastor didn’t even know my friend and his wife were there until after they went to see him after the service.
As they chatted, the pastor broke into tears. He told of periodic struggles with feelings of despair, and then feeling fine before going out to deliver his latest sermon.
These two men later talked by phone about the situation.
At one point, my friend told the pastor that God didn’t promise all the sheep in a church would be good sheep, just that there were would be sheep.
Unfortunately, he added, some would be crappy sheep.
One of the ingredients in that pastor’s funk: the large numbers of people who showed up only periodically. They were one week, then gone for the next, or two or three.
The pastor related how he was never sure who would show up or how involved they would be in the life of the church.
This pastor had accepted the church’s offer to pastor the congregation, thinking the people wanted a shepherd to care for them and build them up spiritually. Now he wasn’t so sure.
Many pastors can relate. In one survey by the noted Barna Group research organization, only 31 percent of respondents identified as a “practicing Christian.”
The bar was set pretty low too. A person fit the definition if they attended a church service once a month and said their faith is very important in their life.
Someone who shows up once a month for a service strikes me as the classic case of a so-called nominal Christian more than a practicing one.
Lackadaisical Believers (and Church Members)
By whatever measure you use, churches across the nation are infected with lackadaisical, uncommitted people.
These are the kind of folks who treat church as one more option to check-off the week’s to-do list rather than a meaningful, even essential, part of their lives.
The problem that causes is the struggle of maintaining any form of consistent outreach.
A good missions program that can help fulfill the Great Commission starts with the church’s neighborhood and extends to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Yet, keeping such initiatives going takes two essential elements: 1) donations to fund the work, and 2) active participants.
As church leaders struggle to find enough of both components, it’s no wonder they get depressed.
I know plenty of church members who lament the state of modern society and the evidence of abundant moral decay.
Yet too many are also actually part of the problem. Namely, they would fit the description of crappy sheep.