According to new findings in the Pulpit & Pew National Clergy Survey, a solid majority of clergy is deeply satisfied with the pastoral ministry. Seven out of ten of those surveyed report they have never considered abandoning their vocation. In other words, most pastors claim to have found happiness in the ministry.
Why is this disturbing? Some of us in academia have made a decent living chronicling the malaise of our fellow clergy. For years we’ve had our students read the appropriate literature—from Elmer Gantry to Wise Blood—on the implicit assumption that these and other portraits of slightly out-of-whack ministers accurately represent the norm of vocational misery among Protestant clergy. Indeed, the tormented Hazel Motes in Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood appears to have more in common with the tormented apostle Paul than those, like us, who have found happiness in ministry.