Letters: Burnout; Preacher survey; Patterson’s remarks

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RE: Voices: What pastors need but do not want during burnout

Ross Shelton wrote a very affirming article about burnout, but one thing was not mentioned. Pastors need to make time to exercise.

Most dismiss exercise as “not spiritual” and usually quote Paul when he said physical exercise has little benefit. But Paul didn’t say it has no benefit.

Years ago, I was sitting in a seminary chapel service and the guest speaker asked, “How many of you want to be like Jesus?”

Hands went up everywhere.

Then he said, “Then start walking ten to twenty miles a day because that’s how Jesus traveled.”

People forget that virtually all the heroes of the faith in the Bible walked everywhere they went. Moses was 80 years old when he climbed Mount Sinai, and he climbed it seven times. He climbed several other mountains and walked up one more the day he died.

Jesus and his disciples walked hundreds of miles across the Holy Land during his three-year ministry. Paul was always walking from one town to the next as he proclaimed the gospel and started new churches. Wesley, Whitefield and Livingstone walked hundreds of miles to carry out their ministry.

Unfortunately, the ease of today’s transportation has caused many pastors to be lax in exercise and become overweight. This causes fatigue that exacerbates burnout. Many overeat and eat unhealthy diets.

I served two SBC state conventions and met dozens of pastors who burned out. Everyone who found themselves in therapy were told by their doctors to start up a lifestyle of diet and exercise. This is the best way to combat the sin of gluttony, which is a serious contributor to burnout. ‎

Tim Robinson
Krum, Texas

RE: Baylor survey names a dozen preachers as most effective

Your excellent article naming America’s dozen best preachers, the results of a Baylor University survey, confirms much of what has been discovered by church growth researchers.

While the preacher’s role is not everything when it comes to church growth, it is something. There are some conclusions that can be drawn about these twelve that are true, but these may not be obvious at first glance:

  1. Great preachers tend to be a little older. 

Joel Gregory has been preaching for 50 years. Chuck Swindoll has been preaching for decades. Blessings to the younger preachers on the list, but they are a distinct minority.

Preaching a sermon that is well-organized and engaging is the easy part. Hearing the voice of God and putting that message into the hearts of the people takes years of prayer, tears, swallowing one’s pride and usually some suffering. That doesn’t happen overnight.

Your preacher will graduate with a bag of ministerial “tricks” (that is, techniques), but developing maturity, compassion and the will to put God’s people ahead of self will take longer.

If your church has a young preacher, love, encourage and pray for him. Be aware that it may take decades for him to hit his stride. Be patient.

2. Great preachers tend to be well-educated. 

In the 1990s, I made a study of 11 Churches of Christ that had declined but revived; George Barna says that only about 5 percent of churches that go through a major decline ever recover.

My research showed that the preachers of 10 of the 11 churches had at least a master’s degree. Six had earned doctorates—a percentage far higher from that of most Churches of Christ. None had been educated exclusively at a two-year Bible college or equivalent or were self-educated.

Baylor’s list is similar. The over-educated preacher who stays in his office all day conjugating Greek verbs and never meaningfully serves his people is a distinct exception, if not an outright myth. Education matters, in and out of the pulpit.

3. Great preachers have long tenures at their churches. 

The words “founding preacher” or a synonym appears several times on Baylor’s list. My study showed that effective preachers tended to have tenures at their present congregations of at least 10 years.

Love or hate his theology, but Elmer Towns’ book “The Ten Largest Sunday Schools” was spot-on about methodology. He said the average tenure for ministers of the ten churches he observed was over 20 years. Flavil Yeakley, church growth expert from Harding University, has said, “A long tenure for a minister is no guarantee of [church] growth, but a series of short tenures is a guarantee of no growth.”

Rodger Weems
Grand Prairie, Texas

RE: Voices: Why Paige Patterson’s comments on abuse are dangerous

Male headship cannot have any limits placed upon it. That is what headship means. In charge of and in control of. It means that males call the shots and must be obeyed to whatever degree they desire it.

The moment you subscribe to Paul’s admonition to treat your wife the same way you would treat your own body—you wouldn’t give yourself a black eye so don’t give her one—you are denying the whole concept of male headship.

In my opinion that is why Dr. Paige Patterson says what he says.

Shirley Taylor
Willis, Texas

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