By Mike McManus
Why are 1,500 clergy leaving pastoral ministry each month?
Many have been driven out by the “Clergy Killer Phenomenon.” As one pastor put it in a powerful new documentary, “BETRAYED: The Clergy Killer’s DNA,” “So many ministers are being destroyed by evil and evil people in the life of the church who are willing to take the throat out of the pastor.”
Another adds, “It may be one or two or eight to ten in a congregation who give themselves to evil purposes for their own narcissistic benefits.” A third asserted, “These people who act with viscous hearts are often called clergy killers.”
Sadly, they are effective. As one scholar put it, “Most people do not live a full career in the ministry.” In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 90% of clergy in all denominations will not stay in ministry long enough to reach the age of retirement!
Why? Three-fifths of congregations have forced a pastor to leave and 70% of clergy report a continuing struggle with depression.
A female pastor can be seen in the film’s trailer, asserting, “There is no better place for evil to hang out than in the church.”
However, the evil of “clergy killers” is unknown to most parishioners. As one knowledgeable expert put it, “Most people do not have a clue that this is going on.”
The Rev. Jason Miller called the “BETRAYED” film “an extraordinary Christian Documentary” in which “leading theologians, ministers and preachers in breathtaking sequences” explain “The Clergy Killer Phenomenon.”
He believes the film is “the optimum protection for ministers.” Perhaps, but only if church members, clergy and lay leaders see the documentary so they can understand the pressure that many pastors are facing on a daily basis.
The week after Easter may be a shocking time to describe this pandemic which stretches the globe – yet is virtually unknown to most church members. The joy, great music and moving preaching on Easter resonates for many days later.
“Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed” – are the words still ringing in minds.
Yet all of the Apostles except John were slaughtered for bearing witness. The Acts of the Apostles report upon the death of Stephen, the first martyr. And who was cheering in the crowd? Saul who later converted and changed his name to Paul.
We tend to think that clergy persecution happened 2,000 years ago – not in contemporary times. However, the Hartford Institute for Religious Research reports that a stunning 83% of clergy spouses want their spouse to leave the ministry, and half of clergy would leave if they had another way to make a living.
In fact, only a tenth of pastors retire while still in ministry. As one pastor confesses on camera in BETRAYED, “Congregational life is nothing but politics.”
Some of the blame must be laid upon the shoulders of bishops and other denominational leaders who close their eyes to the destruction of their clergy. As one observer laments on camera“Many of our bishops, I am sad to say, have lost their faith.” Another shakes his head, “Clergy are expendable. Churches are not.”
Clergy killers can be found in most congregations. “The church is the one place where they feel they can voice their opinion and do things that are disruptive. You are free to fight in the church,” sighs one observer. Another calls it “spiritual warfare” and “combat.”
The enemies of the church are individuals operating outside of God’s will, but within the church. Of course, “Most come to church not to do battle but to pray,” said one pastor.
However, those people of good will need to be educated. That’s the purpose of the 93 minute film, “BETRAYED: The Clergy Killer’s DNA” which was produced by U.S. Films.
Rev. Dr. David Moreland asserts, “I pray you will join the growing number of men and women who are finding this film to be of paramount importance for healthy congregational life, and a tremendous resource for overworked clergy who are often targeted by clergy killers.”
During Easter week, the Ecumenical Educational Council announced that it chose “BETRAYED: The Clergy Killer’s DNA” as “the most important documentary of 2013.”
Dr. Jason Miller called it a “cinematic treasure” which “concentrates on the real unsung heroes of our Christian faith,” those who lead our churches.
Get the film and show it to your pastor and ask if he has been targeted by clergy killers – so he is no longer standing alone, and has allies to counter the evil.
Michael J. McManus, President of Marriage Savers and a syndicated columnist