Half of pastors would leave the ministry tomorrow if they could. Seventy percent are fighting depression and 90 percent can't cope with the challenge of ministry.
Those are the statistics Pastor Jonathan Falwell laid out to thousands of ministers who were in Lynchburg, Va., Tuesday for the "Refuel" conference.
The well-known pastor stated bluntly, "Something is wrong in ministry."
Citing surveys from such groups as Barna, LifeWay and Acts 29, Falwell lamented that 1,500 pastors walk away from ministry every month because of moral failure, burnout, conflict, discouragement or depression. He was also shocked to find that 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within their first five years.
Part of the problem, he indicated, is trying to make it to the big numbers and most influential lists or aiming for the most Twitter followers.
"I believe that we have self-imposed measurements of success that are skewed, that are wrong," said Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church – which is notably one of the largest churches in the country.
"The measurements of success are all messed up," he said.
While there is nothing wrong with the "Top 25" or "Top 100" largest churches or most influential lists, trying to make it to those lists has forced many pastors to focus on the masses rather than "the one."
"Stop focusing on the 'big ministry' and the 'big outreach," he urged, noting that ministers place too much pressure on themselves. "Start focusing on one person, one hurting person, who's lost, ... who's desperate to hear the Gospel."
Falwell has been leading Thomas Road Baptist Church since 2007, after his father, Jerry Falwell, passed. He admits that his congregation is large and he can easily hand over duties of ministering to individuals, such as those in the hospital, to other pastors in the church.
But he reminded pastors on Tuesday, "We have a responsibility to minister to the one."
And when pastors are faithful in focusing on one person at a time, Falwell believes God will then fill their churches with lots of "ones."
So he encouraged them, "Don't make it about the lists, the fame, ... the respect. Make it about the one."
The Refuel conference opened Tuesday and will conclude Wednesday. Some of the speakers include renowned preacher Chuck Swindoll and Jim Cymbala of Brooklyn Tabernacle. The sessions can be viewed online at http://innovatechurch.us/site/.