According to Lifeway Research, 75% of pastors find people’s apathy or lack of commitment to be a challenge in ministry. Bobby Pell, pastor of Northwoods Church, joins Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, to discuss the Greatest Needs of Pastors study and how pastors might respond when they see apathy in the church.
Ben Mandrell: I’m here with Bobby Pell, who pastors a church in Evansville, Indiana. And Bobby, we’re talking to pastors about the struggle and some of the challenges that we’re seeing in Lifeway Research. Seventy-five percent of the pastors who participated in this study indicated that they’re challenged by apathy that they see among their church members.
Can you talk about that a little bit? What is that struggle like to see apathy?
Bobby Pell: I think it’s real. I mean we all have a congregation that, you know, they don’t show up or they hurt. And they don’t have the commitment that we desire, and they leave. And you wonder why. I think that there’s a tension that I don’t think should go away.
You have this tension of I’m supposed to be their shepherd, and as I’m supposed to be their shepherd, the responsibility there feels personal.
BM: Yeah, should I chase it down, or should I just let them go.
BP: That’s right. So you have that on one end and then from a biblical perspective, you have, “Shepherd the flock that is among you.” You have “Shepherd the flock of God.” It’s His flock. So I’m trying to figure out how personal do I take it? Because it feels personal at times.
BM: Let me ask you this. This is something I haven’t asked anybody about yet—but the impact of social media. Now we can see what they’re doing in their free time. They’re hanging out at ball games; they’re going to this and that. They’re just not back at church, which creates a whole other kind of mental energy spend: “Why are they doing that but not this?” How are you managing that?
BP: Once again, it feels personal because I begin to ask, “Does this mean I’ve not discipled people well?”
BM: You immediately go to failure. Like you failed them.
BM: Right. What have we not done? And I recognize they’re making choices. They’re making choices of priority. And in the end, that’s on them. But the questions that go through your head are questions first, for me, about what have we not done so that they would make the right calls?
BM: Why isn’t it valuable to them?
BP: That’s right.
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