I’ve been out of pastoral ministry for a good year and a half. And it has definitely been a good year!
One of the main reasons I resigned was that I was not edified at church. Church was a drain on me. I never left church services edified. Furthermore, I felt my edifying effects on others were diminishing. I don’t know if that part is true or not, it might just be self-loathing, it seemed like it. God will judge.
But I do know I was not being edified at church.
This was in large part due to being born in a pastor’s family. Church was another family member, often one that took precedence over the rest of the family members. It ruined my dad. I hated watching him get beat up by church people.
I had a bad attitude about church before I even began as a pastor. Being a pastor myself, getting beat up by church people for 21 years, did not help my bad attitude. It was time to get out.
I have been attending another church over the last good year and a half and have been edified and encouraged, built up and strengthened. And this is good.
In thinking back over the 21 years of non-edifying pastoral work, my faith still did ok. I personally was growing; it just wasn’t due to being built up by the local body of believers.
Not that there weren’t a few people who edified me, there were, but church as a meeting was not edifying. The place where I got the most edification was in my study.
In my study I read the Bible over 40 times cover to cover. I memorized Romans and Galatians. I read hundreds of theology books. I prayed and wept. I studied, wrote, and preached to walls. My study was my place of edification. Church was a place of draining out what I gained in my study.
The fact we call it the “pastor’s office” now instead of the “pastor’s study” says volumes. We’ve lost our focus. We’re running businesses rather than searching the Scriptures daily.
I will always appreciate the dead guys who wrote great books, even the dead guys who wrote not so great books that got me ticked off so I would look things up. I appreciate the living guys who wrote a few books as well, and also many sermons I listened to.
I grew and learned. I prayed and contemplated how to incorporate my knowledge into loving action. Some brutal hours were spent alone in my study, curled up on the floor weeping over broken lives. Some rapturous hours were spent too, glorying in the truth of God’s Word and the beauty of His wisdom, creation, and Gospel.
Pastors, please develop the habit of being alone with the Lord, alone with the Bible, contemplating, meditating on it, and putting it into action in your own life. Even if all your church does is suck the life out of you, have a study that builds you up. I would not have lasted 21 years as a pastor without an edifying study.
Be alone with the Word, both the physical book and the risen Savior Jesus Christ. When the people take and take, have done the work that enables you to give and give.