Pastoral Shame and Accusations

Through 21 years of pastoring I was accused of many things:

–I ruled the church with “my way or the highway”

–I was too legalistic

–I wasn’t legalistic enough

–I was becoming Catholic

–I wasn’t Catholic enough

–I abuse my wife and kids

–I have too nice of a car

–I’m too close-minded

–I don’t understand grace

Most of these accusations are complete nonsense, but they also take an accumulative toll on a guy.

I was also aware at times that there was something bigger going on. There was a stretch of events in our church that sure seemed like an organized Satanic/demonic accusation going on. It was weird. Way too coincidental. Satan is an accuser and does a fine job.

And, in all honesty, my worst accuser was myself. My background in life was one of shame and insecurity. I’m legally blind, which created a lifelong feeling of inadequacy, and being made fun of by many didn’t help. My family was a very passive aggressive, guilt-based family. I had no self-confidence. I was trained to think if there was a problem, it was all my fault.

When you’re insecure and guilt-ridden naturally, with strong tendencies toward depression, accusations by others are enough to do you in. The pastorate did not help any of these negative characteristics in me; it massively made them worse.

Now that I’ve had a break from it (I resigned in November of 2020) I’m gaining perspective, not only on my sin and flaws, but also on the culpability of others in the whole mess.

I was recently struck with 1 John 2:1, “You have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” When it was said to me, tears came to my eyes.

The context is about not sinning, and the help we have through Christ when we do. Sin is a tangled mess. I have my own sin and any other person who is around me has theirs. Something is going to go down. I’m either going to be accused, accuse them, or accuse myself, or any number of combinations of accusations.

There are places of confusion where I don’t even know if the accusations are wrong or not. I could go either way!

Regardless of where the accusations come from, I have an advocate with the Father. He’s my defense lawyer to all the prosecution’s accusations. And He’s THE righteous one. Who better to sort through the mess?

Unfortunately, His decision is not always seen or known, leaving me in a cloud of confusion. I have no idea if I did the right thing many times. I know I prayed about it and talked to the Lord, I explained my reasons as best as I understood them, but I’m also aware of my abilities in self-justification.

I have no idea. I’m a terrible judge. I’ll let Jesus Christ the righteous defend me. If I need vindication; I will let Him take care of it. If I need correction; He can give me that too.

Being a pastor is not easy; at least it wasn’t for me. Second-guessing and fault finding ruined my confidence, and that was just the noise in my head! After 21 years of having people in the church pointing out my faults too, well, yeah, not cool.

I have no idea if I did a good job as a pastor. I anxiously await the Lord’s opinion on that. I look forward to clarity. I hope we review everything I did so I can hear whether I did well there or not. Then again, maybe it’s better I don’t know!

Either way, I have an advocate with the Father. He understands my frame and knows that I am dust. I’ll let Him worry about the verdict. I’ll continue to grow and learn and implement. I don’t know what else to do.

From this point forward, anytime I or someone else accuses me, I’m going to tell them to, “Talk to my lawyer, Jesus Christ the righteous!”

But this isn’t a joke. It’s easier said than done. I know the weight of accusations. But with eternity in mind and THE Righteous One on my side, I imagine I will survive. I hope to be like Paul when he said:

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

–1 Corinthians 4:3-5

I hope also to see the blessing in it. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11). To be numbered with the prophets and all those in the great cloud of witnesses. Unfortunately, my negativity and shame kept me from being so arrogant to put myself on a level with them. “I’m just a loser, I’m no Jeremiah or Isaiah. I deserve this treatment.”

It was a deep hole. I’m still trying to find a biblical and healthy way to get out of it. I know the answer is in here somewhere.

Even so, come quickly.

Whose Fault is it that Your Church Sucks?

I’ll get some objections out of the way first:

–The problem is that you think the church is yours.

Stop it. I don’t mean it belongs to me as in I possess the church. I mean it simply as the church I go to, whether as pastor or not the pastor. The church I go to is my church. The church you go to is your church. I mean nothing more than that.

–Church’s don’t suck, they are all part of the Body of Christ.

This is possibly true. But I’d maintain that no, not all churches are part of the Body of Christ. I will spare you the details of pointing out who I mean, but to assume that everyone in every church is part of the Body of Christ is not clear thinking.

–You’re not the judge of a church.

Probably true. But also, if you’re fully involved in your church, you get a pretty good sense of whether it sucks or not. Your judgment may still be wrong, but you can get a sense. Some churches legitimately do.

–You shouldn’t use the word “sucks.”

True I shouldn’t, but it’s a good summation of the idea that no one in your church is doing anything, there is little to no life, people who come to the church don’t even come to church, no one cares if a church thing is cancelled, people will do pretty much anything other than come to church, no one will help fulfill a need, there is no light at the end of any tunnel, and the whole exercise seems futile and a waste of time, it’s just a place people go and sit in so they can feel like God is happy with them for a little bit for having done so. That’s what I mean by “your church sucks.” It’s easier to just say “sucks.”

Now, after dealing with those objections, stating the problem as clearly as I can, whose fault is it that your church sucks? Here are the possible answers to this question that I have heard:

–God’s.

God is the one who builds His Church. This is the way He wants it. Nothing you can do. It’s all Him. He predestined before the foundation of the world that your church would be what it is. And, since you’re in this church, God brought you there and put you there: deal with it. It’s His building. What, do you think people determine the success of a church? Not true. Why would God put His church in the hands of people? The solution is to get the power out of your hands and put it back in God’s.

–Satan’s.

Satan is the prince of the power of the air and the god of this age. You better believe Satan wants to see churches fall apart and be terrible. He’s all over the place in your church, making people lazy and fight with each other. If you’re not actively involved in spiritual warfare, Satan will have his way with your church. If Satan can overthrow the church, what else remains to uphold the Gospel? He’s coming at you daily. Spiritual warfare is the solution.

–The people’s.

Every member of a body of believers has a role. If people in your church are not fulfilling the role they were given through the Holy Spirit’s provision, the church will suffer. Love is the basis of edification. Preach on love. Do more fellowship. Do more programs. Do more work days. Give people a sense of belonging. Force people to get involved. Only when each member takes up their part will the church work.

–The pastor’s.

Churches are as healthy as their pastors. If you have bad shepherds, what chance do the sheep have? The pastor’s sin and unfaithfulness will be shown by how well the church is doing. I’ve seen over and over that a church is revitalized by bringing in a better pastor. If your church sucks it’s because your pastor doesn’t have enough faith, doesn’t pray enough, doesn’t do discipleship enough, doesn’t emphasize grace enough, doesn’t counsel enough, doesn’t preach the word enough, doesn’t visit people enough, doesn’t take holiness seriously enough, etc.

–The building’s.

You need to update your building. It looks old and dated. You need to use more technology; people are accustomed to being in nice buildings with technological advancements. The church needs to keep up. Attract the youth by having an arcade and a gym. Don’t forget laser lights and smoke machines and top notch concert seating and acoustics. Keep building and expanding: build it and they will come.

Which of those sounds like the reason your church sucks? I’ve heard them all because very few people could resist telling me my church sucked and why it did. I’ve heard all of these. I’m sure there are grains of truth sprinkled about in there.

The people blame the pastor. The pastor blames the people. Some blame God for the very things others blame Satan for. And the building; always with the building.

In the end, I have no idea why your church sucks.

I do know that no one who tells you why it sucks will do anything to help it be better. You will never hear any of them say, “You know, it might be partly my fault. How can I help?”

What I Miss and Don’t Miss About Being a Pastor

2021 was the first year I wasn’t a pastor since 1999. It was a good year. Here are the things I enjoyed the most about not being a pastor:

–I never spent a Sunday afternoon worried why someone wasn’t at church.

–I was not concerned with how many people were at church and I never once took it personally when hardly anyone showed up.

–I loved attending church and having no official responsibility for anything.

–Often I would enter church and just go sit down. I didn’t have to schmooze, or talk about all the problems people had with my sermon, or feel awkward when they bring up their weird political points in the hearing of someone else with opposite political points and the ensuing argument I’d have to referee. Lovely.

–Hardly anyone told me about their health problems. I am so grateful I don’t have to know all the details of old ladies’ bowel movements anymore. I can’t express to you how thankful I am for this.

–No one emails, calls, texts, Facebook messengers me with stupid excuses why they weren’t at church.

–I could go to the store after church on Sundays and not run into people who skipped church who would then get all weird and guilty-defensive around me.

–When people ask me what I do for a living I don’t say “pastor” anymore, which is great because people always got weird when they found that out.

Those were the things I was glad to not have to do anymore. But there were things I missed:

–No one calls me with theological questions anymore. It’s like once you’re not a pastor you forget knowing the Bible I guess.

–Preaching is gone. I loved preaching and studying. I miss preaching and studying.

–I miss getting paid.

–There were many confidential issues people would bring to me, a closeness and a desire to help, which again, now that I’m not an official pastor, people don’t think I can help anymore.

–As awkward as weddings, funerals, and hospital and death bed visits were, it was also nice to be in those personal moments with people. Those things developed friendships and closeness, a unity that is now missing. I’m not called anymore to comfort and console.

That’s about it. The things I miss, I miss much less than the things I don’t miss. I’m glad I got out when I did. Will I ever get back in? It’s possible, but it’d have to be the right situation at the right time in the right place and I have no idea how any of that would be determined.

I was always curious what life would look like outside of pastoral ministry. I’m pleased with it. I still go to church several times a week. I still read the Bible. I still check in with people. We still have people over to the house.

It’s pretty much the same minus all the unbelievably annoying aspects of pastoral ministry. I’m grateful for that. I’ve already gotten opportunities to preach and teach at our new church, so that’s been enjoyable.

So, it’s worked out well. Thanks for reading.

Personality Driven Churches are Diseased

Pastoral Pro Tip:

If you’re going to pastor a Personality-Driven church,

It really helps if you have a personality that people don’t get sick of real quick.

A church is more than a pastor.

As I look back at the 21 years I was pastor at a church, I’ve identified this as being a prime problem.

The church I pastored was personality driven before I got there. The previous pastor ran the show. If you liked him; you stayed at the church. If you didn’t like him; you left.

I walked into this and this mindset was directed toward me. I tried getting more people involved and had limited success.

But everyone who ever left the church left because they got tired of me. If my personality is the center of a Personality-Driven church, well sir, that there church is gonna have problems.

The more people left because of me, the fewer people were left to do stuff. Toward the end I was the only person doing pretty much everything. There were three other people who bore some burdens, but in the end, it was on me to keep “it” going.

Part of the trap was that there were many aspects of being the only one doing stuff that were nice! I didn’t have to do stuff I didn’t want to do, no one cared if I quit stuff (they weren’t going to do it and probably weren’t coming anyway), I could make decisions quickly, etc.

But all the problems were also all mine. Rarely did anyone lift a finger to help me in any problem. “That’s why you get the big bucks” they would laugh and then go home not to think of church again until next Sunday.

This eventually put me in a death spiral. I really just needed some help. I asked for help. Help never came. I got some sympathy for a few weeks, but never any help. If I wanted something done, I’d have to do it, and take all the blame when it inevitably failed.

I was easy to pick on after a while. Even newcomers learned quickly you could make fun of me and disrespect me. No one would do anything. I lost all confidence.

Many pastors of Personality Driven churches become egotistical jerks. I became a self-loathing, whiny, insecure loser. Two sides of one coin.

One thing I do know is that if you are a pastor at a Personality Driven church, you’re going to get messed up.

I don’t know what the answer is. I couldn’t break the cycle. I eventually just resigned, I couldn’t figure out what else to do. I just knew if I kept going it was gonna turn ugly.

If I do pastor again, which is possible, I’m not doing it alone. I’m not walking back into a situation where everything is up to the pastor. A church that has nothing but the charisma of the Head Guy is a dysfunctional church.

You don’t want to be in a Personality Driven church. If you are, I hope you can change it. You need to. But I apologize for not having any advice in how that change might occur.

I would definitely suggest that you quit as pastor before you hurt people. The Body of Christ is not one giant ear or eyeball. It’s many members all doing their part in one Body. That’s the ideal. Lots of churches don’t want this.

If you’re in a church that doesn’t want all members doing their part, look out. That body will soon be terminally diseased. And, if you’re not careful, pastor, it’ll take you down too.

Failing Pastoral Counseling

Counseling people was never my strong point. I wanted to help, but pretty much all I figured out was how to listen and tell people what their problem was. I was pretty skilled there.

How to help them overcome their problem was beyond me.

I usually started with something like, “So, there’s this thing called the Gospel. You don’t seem to understand what it means.” Then I’d try to explain it. But it was quickly shot down because every person in a church thinks they believed the Gospel when they were six and have “heard that all before.”

Things would stall there. This is either because they had no interest in hearing the Gospel again or because I had no clue how to get them to implement the Gospel into their lives when I didn’t think they even understood what it meant.

I got nowhere. I’m not blaming the counselees either. I sincerely couldn’t figure out how to get them to grasp Gospel solutions to their flesh problems.

You’ll know you do pastoral counseling like me when 90% of your counseling opportunities go like this:

Step one: listen to them. Figure out what they are trying to fix, not the symptom but the underlying issue, which is typically, “you need to really grasp the Gospel.” Explain to them the Gospel and make sure they believe and understand it. And not just mentally agree with the facts of the Jesus story, but that they’ve been crucified and raised up to new life where they should be—pursuing righteousness, showing love and forgiveness, sacrificing for others. Give them scripture after scripture dealing with their problem and the Gospel’s solution for it.

Sept two: wait for them to tell you they already did all that. They will sigh and leave depressed, or they will buck up and feel great because they already have the Gospel nailed, so now all their problems will disappear! Either way, they will leave soon after.

Step three: get ready to hear nothing from them for a long time: except for the happy ones, they will email you the next day, “Thanks pastor, I feel so much better today!” Then you’ll hear nothing. Your calls, emails, and texts will be ignored for a time. Eventually they will tell you that they’ve been “busy. But we should really try to get together again.”

Step four: agree to get together again and mention a few specific times that will work for you.

Step five: get ready to hear nothing from them for a long time. You may never see them again, in fact.

Step six: pray and cry before the Lord for their soul.

Step seven: shoot an email, text, or phone call their way every once in a while. After several times doing this with no response, proceed to step eight.

Step eight: resign yourself that another one is lost, you failed again. Consider once again working at the grocery store or being a janitor or working construction or selling cars.

Sound familiar? Then you may be a failing pastoral counselor too! Welcome to the club.

Sorry, I have no advice for you. I could never figure out how to help people.

The only exceptions were people who really, truly seemed to grasp the Gospel and were growing. I could help them, but usually because people who were doing that didn’t have any irreversible problems staring them in the face.

Funny how that works.

I’m a terrible counselor. I admit it. I have no idea how to help you. None. I’m going to quote the Bible a lot and mention the Gospel and the Holy Spirit a bunch. That’s all I got. Sorry.

To all you who know how to do it, great. Go for it. Please. You have plenty of potential customers. I got nothing.

Pastors Ruin People’s Faith, Or so the Story Goes

Let me begin by saying there are and have been many bad pastors who ruin people’s faith. Many a wolf has chomped on God’s sheep. “Test the spirits” is not a throwaway line. Do that. Constantly.

With that being said, I know many pastors and most are sincerely trying to help. Most pastors have sacrificed to do ministry. It’s not an easy job.

No pastor is 100% correct in theology or application. Pastors have a sin nature too. This is why the Bible repeatedly says not to put your trust in people but in God. Do that. Constantly.

I have heard many a backslidden Christian blame a pastor for their backsliding.

(Again, there are bad pastors and they certainly hurt people’s faith, no doubt about that.)

I know some of the pastors who got blamed though and, no, they were not terrible people set on destroying people’s faith.

I’ve been told that my teaching has kept people immature and has hurt them spiritually. People who leave church take time to tell me how much happier they are now that they’re out of my church.

They’ve never been happier. It was my teaching and my church that kept them from all this happiness and peace they now have.

I know who these people are and I understand the desire to let me know how awful I was. But I also know these people were shaky at best in their faith.

Most of these people, when they began attending my church, told me about their last pastor who kept them from all the happiness and peace they now have in my church.

And that’s the problem: Many church goers think going to a new church will solve their problem. Learning a new system, getting initiated is exciting. Makes you feel rebellious. Throwing off the shackles of Last Church for New Church makes you feel like you’re spiritually growing.

But guess what happens when New Church gets boring or the anticipated nirvana of New Church never materializes (which it won’t)? They leave for the next New Church.

Guess what they say to New Pastor at New Church? “Oh man, that last pastor, never helped me. I’m so glad I’m here now where I have so much happiness and peace like never before.”

The cycle continues.

I used to take it personally when people would leave my church and I’d bump into them at Walmart, or they’d email me and let me know how happy and at peace they are to be out from under my faith-destroying ministry. It hurt.

OK, I still take it personally. It still hurts.

I never set out to destroy anyone’s faith or annihilate their happiness and peace. Most of these people were annoying. I sacrificed just to spend time with them and put up with their insults. They typically fell into weird sins and hurt other people in the church. Yet, in the end, their conclusion is that it was the pastor’s fault their lives aren’t better.

Nope, not buying it.

These people will whirlwind through your church. They will excite you at first because it really looks like you’re helping them and they say they are so happy and at peace finally! You’ll feel like you’re a way better pastor than all those other loser pastors, which you kind of knew anyway!

But it won’t last. Soon you’ll be the loser who is keeping them down. Out the door they will go and the inevitable email letting you know how happy and at peace they are will soon pop up in your inbox.

Pray for them. Pray for the next pastor who will get jerked around by them.

People are weird. Pastors are in the job of dealing with weird people. Get used to it. It still hurts. Check yourself, maybe you didn’t handle them the best, it’s possible.

Work it through before the Lord. His opinion of your ministry and their faith is the only one that matters.

It’s Been a Year Since I Resigned from Being a Pastor.

It’s been a year and a month since I resigned from being a pastor.

I wasn’t sure how I would do outside “the ministry” since I’ve been doing it since leaving seminary in 1999.

I gotta be honest: I’m doing just fine!

I had questions about what I would do if I weren’t a pastor: Would I still go to church? Would I be able to listen to sermons? Will I love people and serve them now that I don’t get paid to do so? How will I make money?

I’m still working on that last one. We’re doing fine, haven’t exhausted our options, but it is challenging.

I do go to church. I even go to Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. Thank you. From being a pastor I have seen how important church attendance and being part of a body of believers is to spiritual growth. Bad things happen to people when they isolate themselves from Christian fellowship. I need church.

I can listen to sermons. Yeah, it’s tough sometimes. I would have said things differently. My style is what I enjoy listening to and not everyone has my style, but that’s my problem. My style isn’t the only one. I also know how it feels to preach and get responses. I’ve relaxed tremendously.

Pretty sure I still love people and serve. I don’t get as many opportunities now that I’m not a pastor. It’s one of the things I miss. People used to call me for help. Now no one calls me for any reason. But I still make myself available and look for opportunities. The new church I’m a part of is still learning who I am and I’m still learning who they are. It takes me awhile to make friends (see my 21 years of being a pastor for why that is). But we’re warming up. I have a desire to be helpful.

It has been my honor and privilege to preach a handful of times this past year when our pastor had a medical condition that sidelined him. That was cool for me. I got to preach and didn’t have to worry about all the pastoral angles in play! That was fun. Almost too fun, but I think I kept myself in check!

The church I resigned from has done some things that have confirmed my decision to leave, which was nice, if not disappointing. I’m still in contact with some of them and continue our friendships.

All in all, life goes on as does my faith. It’s nice to know my faith continues while not being a pastor. I figured that was the case but sometimes a guy gets to wondering! It’s even crossed my mind that I could be a pastor again. Wasn’t sure that would happen! Somewhat shocking to me and somewhat disappointing to my wife.

Going into this new church and my new role in it, I’ve tried to be more positive in my head. I have a negative, pessimistic bent and it did not help my pastoral career. I want to battle that and be in this church better. Forget those things that are behind and press forward.

That being said, my whole shtick here on The Failing Pastor is to be pessimistic and negative. That’s how my humor works. So I’m debating what to do with this stuff. From the feedback I’ve received, several pastors find my experiences helpful. I hope that is the case. I want to help.

I also want to be more positive about church and the pastor role. It’s easier doing that when I’m not in it! But it’s also not as funny to me! I will survive.

So, that’s what’s been going on. Thanks for reading. I’m honored that you’re interested!

The Only Way to Cure Pastoral Depression and Pride

When I began as a pastor I was fully convinced I could fix the church that was interested in hiring me and I was convinced I could fix all the people in it.

If I had left the church after five years like most pastors do, I could have felt satisfied that I had done my job of fixing. Unfortunately, I stayed for over 20 years.

All those years showed me clearly I was pathetic at fixing churches and people.

My Grandfather was a pastor and he fixed the fourth church he went to. The first three didn’t get mentioned much. But the fourth one, like Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the fourth one stood.

He did so well fixing the church and people that he went on the road and fixed people all over America and even Canada. He flitted from town to town fixing people. He was convinced fixing people was easy and he was the man for the job.

After flitting about the country for years, he settled in to pastor one more church. He continued to claim an amazing ability to fix people. I met many of the people he fixed. Boy howdy, were they not fixed people.

My dad was also a pastor. He tried fixing three churches and had limited success. He fixed a couple people along the way too. But for the most part the churches and the people left him depressed. Especially since his father-in-law fixed people all over the country and routinely shamed my dad for his lack of fixing abilities.

My grandpa fixed people and he became a massive egotistical jerk. My dad didn’t fix people and became ashamed and depressed.

I followed in the steps of my father, except I had even less success in fixing.

My 20+ years demonstrate that I cannot fix people or churches. I write today a humiliated person. My confident knees have been knocked out from under me. I have no personal confidence with which to stand upon.

I have not been a pastor now for eight months. I’ve had plenty of time to think. Separation from the church and the people I couldn’t fix has allowed me to examine things as a spectator.

I’ve thought a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that fixing people is not the calling of a pastor.

If the pastor’s job is to fix people you will have one of two results:

1) You will fix people. This will feed your ego and you’ll become proud, above everyone, a spiritual, white bearded guru on a mountain top handing out advice from on high. You won’t weep with those who weep or rejoice with those who rejoice. You’ll just be a jerk above them all no matter their weeping or rejoicing.

2) You won’t fix people. You will examine everyone for fruit and any sign of non-growth will suck the life out of you. When the stupid people are too stupid to listen, their failure is a reflection on you. How dare they despoil your image! You’ll be depressed, but just as arrogant as the fixer; it will just show itself in pity, bitterness, and anger.

Look at how many pastors have fixed their churches, made it grow to multitudes of success. They write books and travel conference circuits, only to be fired for being a bully or for taking advantage of people.

On the flip side, pastors who couldn’t make their churches grow and could never heal the broken part of the Body are depressed. Suicide ranks high among pastors.

Trying to fix people and churches is a recipe for disaster.

Nowhere in the Pastoral Epistles or anywhere else in the Bible are we told to fix people.

The pastor’s job is to grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people. God gives the increase.

This is hard to do. Easy to say. Easy to nod your head at this advice.

But try it. Try loving people, and growing, and preaching the Word. People will still be people and you’ll be tempted to count victories and grovel in defeats.

The only way you can pastor without fixating on fixing people is to view yourself before the Lord–Doing the right thing before Him regardless of temporal results.

The only way you can have that view is if you have an eternal perspective and have laid hold of eternal life.

The only way you can do that is by seeing that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I’m identified with Christ, thus already dead to this world and alive unto God.

Pastors, know the Gospel. Identify with Christ. Reckon yourself to be dead indeed, no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you.

Earthly measures fire up the ego into either pride or pity. Ignore the world. You’re crucified unto the world and the world is crucified to you. Let it go. Set your affections on things above. Stop counting victories and defeats.

So easy to say; so hard to do, but it is the answer.

You were not called to fix people or churches. You were called to represent Christ as a minister of reconciliation. Grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people and don’t worry about earthly measures.

You will stand before the Lord who will test with fire all you’ve built on the foundation. Earthly praise, recognition, and growing numbers do not impress God. Faithfulness to Him is what we’re here for.

Do that.

Pastors Can’t Magically Fix People

Many young/immature Christians and unbelievers are under the impression that mature believers got their suddenly, that there’s a short cut to maturity and all problems disappear. Based on this, they assume pastors have the magic button to zap people into spiritual maturity.

There is no magic button. There is no zap.

Spiritual maturity comes by work, struggle, suffering, and various temptations, along with the self-control, patience, humility, and love given to the believer by the Holy Spirit gained over time typically through the work, struggle, suffering, and temptations.

Much disillusionment with pastors is because “I went to the pastor and he didn’t fix anything” experience. The assumption is that a few conversations with the pastor oughta do the trick.

Pastors don’t always help this either. We’ve all heard pastors brag about all the people they fixed. “I just take em out for a cup of coffee and by the end they’re great!” I actually had an older pastor tell me this constantly.

I also remember counseling several of the people he bragged about fixing. They were far from fixed, but in his head, he fixed em all (they weren’t fixed after I counseled them either).

Churches don’t help this either! Various churches have invented experiences to convince people they are growing. They provide a zap of spiritual feeling. It’s exciting and fun. Seems to work for a month or so. But as with most supposed spiritual zaps, the emotion dies off along with the apparent growth.

People coming out of these churches tend to be twice the children of hell. They tried Christianity; it didn’t work, and now they are done with it all.

One of the most painful aspects of being a pastor is seeing hurting people resist the hard work necessary to attain spiritual growth. No one wants to hear about self-control and discipline. They just want the zap.

This human tendency is also why so many are trapped by get rich quick schemes. Why people think weight loss happens with magic pills. Why people think excellence at anything comes by good intentions rather than work.

People are lazy, but we want success. Spiritual growth is a thing people think they want, but the ones who truly want it, just like the ones who want to grow wealth, or lose weight, or excel at any interest, will put the work in.

The work is part of the suffering. Tribulation works patience, experience, and hope. You won’t get there without some tribulating.

Hate to break it to ya, but there’s no magic button and no zappy thing. Buckle down and do the work. Bring your body under subjection. Run to win.

And, after hearing this, many conclude I’m legalistic and undermining the power of the Spirit, or throwing out grace for a yoke of bondage, or some other spiritual sounding thing.

You don’t have to do the work, you can pretend and play happy mind games. Get back to me in 10 years, let me know how it went.

This is the reality, yet no one wants to hear it. So the pastor watches people reject this truth over and over and run their lives into the ground. It’s impossible to not be worn down by this. Meanwhile, all the yahoo pastors promising their latest Get Spiritual Quick zappy, magic trick have crowded churches.

Oh well, I’d rather go out staying faithful to God’s Word than playing such games. It still kills to watch so many lives ruined by short cutting the process to the absolute ruination of faith.

But I will affirm constantly that believers ought to do good works if they want to grow (Titus 3:8). It’s a consistent theme in the New Testament.

“And let our’s also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.”
–Titus 3:14

As a Pastor, How do You Not let Anyone Despise You?

Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 to not let anyone despise your youth. He says more generally in Titus 2:15 to let no man despise you.

I’ve often wondered how this was done.

In my time as a pastor I was despised by 75% of the people who came in and out of my church. I had visitors on their first day at church despise me. I had people who attended my church for years despise me.

I had board members despise me. I got little else other than despisement!

I always hoped that the way to stop people from despising me was to punch them in the face. But as much as I searched, I could not find biblical justification for this conclusion.

I think Paul’s intent is twofold:

1) don’t live in such a way as to cause people to despise you. He follows up the phrase in 1 Timothy with being an example.
2) don’t let their despising of you stop you from preaching the word, which seems his intent in the Titus passage.

As to the first, I felt I did ok with my example. I’m not perfect and I definitely grew in my time as pastor because I started immature. But if anyone hung around me over those years they saw my growth. The people despising me routinely had worse lives than mine. I don’t think I was a terrible example, wasn’t perfect, but wasn’t terrible.

With one exception: I did use self-deprecating humor. I think this led people to feel safe in railing on me. Perhaps my humor didn’t help the situation.

Oh, and another exception: my church was not fancy or formal. There was nothing close to being humanly respectable about what we were doing. I did not carry myself with authority, demand titles, wear special robes, or anything like that. I think our humble church helped people bash.

So, OK, those two things didn’t help, but I don’t know that either one was a bad example; it just led to people despising me.

As to the second, no amount of despising me ever stopped my desire and practice of preaching the Word. I felt I did pretty well there. I even purposely hit on controversial issues, knowing full well who would despise me for doing so.

The more despising I got, the more free I felt to let it rip! If I was going to get rejected anyway, might as well preach the Word.

The despising of me just became regular background noise and was never a major influence in determining what I would preach about or say to people.

Pastors should pursue godliness. We are not to give a reason for unbelievers to blaspheme. We should not act in a way that disparages the ministry. The testimony of the pastor should be blameless, as Paul says.

Again, we all slip up, we are still human, but we should actively be dealing with sin in humility and repentance.

The main job is to proclaim the Word of God. Don’t let anything stop you from that.

If you do these two things–maintain a growth in righteousness and preach the Word—you will still be despised. Marvel not if the world hates you. Anyone who desires to live godly will suffer persecution.

In fact, the people who will despise you the most will be the ones whom you make feel guilty because you are pursuing righteousness and preaching the Word.

You can tell who is guilt-ridden simply by listening to what they say about you and the church. Sinners despise, it’s what they do.

Some pastors deserve being despised because they aren’t pursuing godliness and they aren’t preaching the Word. I despise them too!

Don’t be a pastor who brings it on due to a terrible testimony, and when you get despised anyway, don’t let it stop you from preaching the Word.