I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.

To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.

All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.

Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.

  1. The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
  2. Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
  3. Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
  4. Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
  5. Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
  6. Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
  7. Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
  8. Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
  9. More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
  10. Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.

These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.

But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.


This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 1, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.


  • Scotty Searan

    This was a good article.
    Being a pastor has never been for the fainthearted.
    But for the reasons listed it is more harder, especially if they are a full gospel pastor.
    The fact remains that we are getting closer to the end of time and our Lord Jesus Christ return.
    Satan is putting on his final onslaught.
    You’ve been around long enough and you have seen the churches grow further away from God, gradually compromising till you can’t tell a Saint of God from a sinner.
    Though some churches may have grown larger, most have grown smaller.
    I believe the decline started in the 40’s with advent of World War II. The mothers was taken out of the holy God inspired roll of being a homemaker and went into manufacturing to keep war supplies built.
    Then in 50’s we had the advent of Television and it created a lot of lust covetousness. which is sins
    We let them be the babysitter and we are paying the price today.
    This is a thumbnail version. we pushed aside our convictions, because some preachers said it was legalism.
    I do not care, what people may think of me, but we need more legalism in the churches, because iot kept people from sinning
    Can we as Saints of God agree on what is worldliness?

  • Tom Sowell

    Great article. Two things you brought up I have been saying for years: 1. Social media is tearing the church apart. 2. You need to find a balance between the old and the new. Why do you need to have a contemporary service and a traditional service? There should be compromise on both sides. In my mind this is a church divided, and Jesus said a house divided against itself will surely fall.

  • I’ve been a preacher for over 30 years… I’m afraid I don’t see what this guy is saying. Social media (SM) allows me to stay in touch with folks and I have no trouble challenging bad behavior there if need be. Before SM I had gossipers try to destroy me in another church. It was as bad without SM as it is for some preachers with it. In the same way… most of the other point have always been true as well.

    Instead of worrying about what makes ministry harder, we should focus on how things like SM can make our ministries more powerful for God. I’m told there was a time when Mother Teresa was on an airplane with some of her nuns. One of the nuns came to Teresa and said “We have a problem”. Teresa calmly said “No, we have a blessing”. In other words, that which is seen as a difficulty or problem often turn into powerful tools for God

  • I followed in the footsteps of my father, and I molded his style of being a pastor, not a CEO of a non-profit organization, not a business man, and not a bull-headed and bold dictator. I learned in seminary how to interpret scripture and to preach well and be a pastoral and caring shepherd and spiritual leader. But I kept getting pushed out of every church I served due to administration and leadership reasons. Now I am teaching at a community college and working in the mortuary business and working as a janitor. It’s a shame that one with a M. Div degree is working three part time jobs that have nothing to do with professional ministry. But I am not going to put myself back into that burdensome situation again. Great article . I could not agree more. My father served for over 60 years as a minister, but he served the generations before mine. Many of my fellow seminarians are no longer in the ministry for the reasons given above.

  • Lucas Nzogere

    Yes Dr Rainer ,this may be real in the western countries ,but in Africa most of the issues you mentioned are not applicable ,we still have alot to do to preach the Gospel, actually we have different challenges comparing to you,especially in rural areas ,where we need transport, communication and supports to Servants .People needs to hear the Gospel and change lives, but we are struggling to invest in the Harvest.
    So for you those ten issues may be challenging ,but for Africa no.,

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