BGST This Week logo issue 31

Good books logoPastors at Greater Risk  
by H.B. London, Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman (Regal Books, 2003) A two-part Review by Dr John Lim


This book was first titled, “Pastors at Risk” and published by Victor Books (1993).  Now, ten years later it has been updated, revised and some new insights have been added.  It is now titled “Pastors at Greater Risk” because the authors sensed that “the risks in ministry are greater than ever” (p. 14).  It is under a different publisher.  This is a book for pastors and church leaders as well. This is one of those books you do not want to speed read.  It is serious reading, but thankfully is easy reading.

It’s three sections and "deal with the risks that pastors tell us they face.  In section 1, we explore in detail where these  risks come from.  In section 2, we investigate the risks pastors face right in their own families.  In section 3, we look at the risks confronting pastors in their inner, personal lives" (p. 16).

Dr James Dobson, in his Foreword writes: “It is impossible to overstate how deeply I feel about the importance of upholding the men and women who serve us through the ministry of the church….  The pastor, in addition to carrying this heavy responsibility for the church and society, usually has a family of his own at home”  (p. 9).

 This shared concern of Dr Dobson for the personal and professional life of the pastor was first aired on his “Focus on the Family” broadcast.  In that conversation, which is the book’s first chapter, “Warning: Crisis in Progress,” Mr. London, one of the two authors, recites a list of alarming risk factors gathered by the 1991 Fuller Institute Survey of Pastors.  Here are some:  

  • 90% of pastors work more than 46 hours per week;

  • 80% believed that pastoral ministry adversely affected their families;

  • 33% said that being in the ministry was an “outright hazard” to their family;  

  • 90% felt they were inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands;

  • 37% confessed being involved in inappropriate sexual behaviour with someone in the church;

  • 70% did not have someone whom they can consider a close friend. (p.20)

The authors reinforce these shocking statistics with the findings of other pastoral surveys.  In Focus on the Family’s random survey of 5000 pastors, 40% said they considered leaving their positions in the previous three months (pp. 25-26). 

 In chapter two, the authors dealt with “Ministry Keeps Getting Tougher.”  The advice is “Ministry is vastly different from what it used to be---I must retool my ministry with strategies to meet effectively the challenges I’m facing” (p. 37).  Then they went on to list some 20 hazards ministers face today.

“Who Decides What You Do?” (Chapter Three) addresses the problems of inflated expectations and the resultant leadership crisis. To help fight the downward spiral of disillusionment, the authors encourage pastors to redefine their vision for the ministry---including themselves and their families---according to the Golden Rule, in a set of worthier, more realistic expectations. Goals should include the pursuit of excellence and a life “saturated with Christ.”  But they must also recognize human limitations and consider the source when expectations are expressed by others.

 Chapter Four, “Avoiding the Hazards in Ministry Marriage,” the authors zeroed in on pastors’ marriages.  With the help of Gordon and Gail McDonald, whose lives and ministry were pulled apart by infidelity but eventually were restored, London and Wiseman trace the pitfalls set in the way of ministers and their spouses. The McDonalds point out that, ironically, in an age where sex is all around, intimacy is often lost, and self-deceit is a key factor in entertaining temptation, in a cultural climate where truth is becoming less and less valued. Pastors are especially vulnerable to moral failure when they feel they are above reproach, and when their congregation accords them success and accolades.

The authors then made the following prescriptions for nurturing a healthy pastoral marriage (pp. 109 – 113):

  • Allow your pastoral and marital vows to complement one another, making both an adventure.

  • Focus on the process of marriage; fulfilling moments will often form milestones along the way.

  • Spot warning signals, before becoming locked into a dreary, unfulfilling routine.

  • Live by spiritual principles of mercy and forgiveness, as an example to other married couples and as a marriage energizer.

  • Commit to wholeness, tending to the matters of spiritual care and emotional nourishment.

  • Put marriage on the calendar, and let nothing get in the way of time together. 

  • Remember that pampering is never deserved and that this generosity is simply a gift of appreciation.

  • Develop a small group of splint people. “Give such a group opportunity to hold you accountable and tell you what needs to be fixed, changed or eliminated.”

  • Live a repentance lifestyle.

In Chapters Five and Six (“God Made Your Wife Special” and “Showcase Kids or Strong Families” respectively), the authors visit the pastor’s home to consider the pastor’s family; his wife and the notorious PK (preacher’s kid).  In a true example, a 16-year old caught drinking wreaks havoc on the family and the ministry of a pastor who looks good from the outside because of his outward achievements, but, says the authors, “his inner spiritual resources are dry and brittle” (p. 150).

The authors offer some advice in this matter here. They say that the pastors with this kind of dilemma should be more concerned about their children than their reputations.  Instead of looking for someone to blame, this pastor needs to show unconditional love while confronting the problem, realizing that the teen will soon be an adult and recognizing that there must be support from the congregation for “a serious bump in the road” which is “not a life-threatening episode.” Meanwhile, the minister must confront his own insincerity.

It is especially important for pastors and their spouses to provide guidance and leadership for their children through the career crises and inconveniences that often come with being part of a pastor’s family. The authors advise parents of “PKs” to remember to please the people that matter most to them -- their families -- by nurturing their relationship with God and by seeking outside support for their lifetime role as parents.

I would like to stop here and continue this review in the next issue of BTW.  But, dear fellow ministers, I would highly recommend you to purchase a copy and read it.  I have discovered it to be an exceedingly helpful book that brings significant hope and practical solutions to the constant and major changes so many pastors faced today.

(This book is available from BGST Library: LC 253 LON.)


Last Wednesday we had one of our lady-student, Khoo Ka Bit, who spoke from Jn. 21:4-22 on the topic, "The Lord Who Commissions Us Cares for Us." Our Lord loves and cares for our physical needs (21:4-14), and our spiritual needs (21:15-17). In response to this, we ought to "follow Jesus" (21:18-22). In our following, we must deny ourselves (vv. 18-19) and focus on Jesus alone (vv 20-22).

On 18 August Dr Aquila Lee will be chairing the Chapel.


  1. With immediate effect, visitors to BGST library will be required to exchange some form of identification for a Visitor Pass. This is in preparation for our move to the marketplace. Thank you for your kind understanding.

  2. A weekly prayer meeting was started by students of BGST on 21st July 2004. We seek to have fellowship and pray for BGST staff, helpers, friends and students. The prayer meeting will be held every Wednesday following Chapel and lunch fellowship. So all are welcome to join us at 2.30pm at Rm 305. We hope everyone who like to "Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thes 5:17, NIV), come and pray for one another. Any enquiries may be directed to  Bernard Chaing at Hp:91014551.

  3. Library will close earlier at 1pm on 21 August in preparation for the panel presentation on “Caring for Today’s Youth”.


Budget for the month of Aug 2004 =$51,200
Funds received to-date (13 Aug)    =$11,789  
Funds needed for current month    =$39,411

Budget for Aug - Dec 2004            =$271,735


A Blessed Birthday to…

Mr Stephen Looi  17/8

Ms Violet Lim  17/8

Pastor Edmund Wong  18/8

Ms Daisy Yeo  19/8

Prof Koh How Eng  20/8

Dr Chia Hwee Pin  21/8

Mr Joseph Heng  22/8


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