I shared a two-hour ride from the airport a few weeks ago with a fellow author, a volunteer driver, and a writers' conference attendee (a first-time attendee, if I remember right).
On the drive from Denver airport to beautiful Estes Park, Colorado, the conversation somehow turned toward how churches and church folk often treat their pastors. My fellow author has been a pastor herself, and a pastor's wife. The first-time conferee is a close friend to a pastor's wife. And I, of course, have been a pastor most of my adult life.
Though everyone acknowledges that some pastors give worse than they take, my fellow riders lamented the appalling treatment good pastors often receive, while I kept silent. The conferee, since we were on our way to a writers' conference, of all things, suggested that someone ought to write a book about how we treat our pastors. Then my fellow author turned to me.
"What do you think, Bob?"
I didn't think before speaking. I just said, "There's two problems with that. One, the difference between a book and real life is that a book has to be believable. No one would believe the things people say and do to pastors.
"Second," I said, "no one would want to read it. It would be too depressing."
That put a quick damper on the conversation. But I think it's true. Unfortunately.
It's not only my experience. I've seen it way too many times. Good, gifted men and women who serve God wholeheartedly--even sacrificially--and are treated abysmally. It's certainly one of the reasons--maybe the main one--why 95% of the people who train for ministry and begin in ministry do not retire from that role.
It's depressing, I know. But it's the way things are, at least in the American church culture. And it has to change, or the Lord's warning to the church at Ephesus may be fulfilled in our day: "If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:5, NIV).