Who Would Have Thought That Dividing into Groups in a Church Would Lead to Division?

“Churches need to do more things for singles.”

“You should do more for kids.”

“How come you don’t do more stuff for widows?”

“I don’t see a ministry for single moms, why not?”

“Why doesn’t your church do any drug rehab programs?”

“Pastors should focus on men. We need more men in church.”

“Families. You gotta get the families.”

 

The world likes to shove people in categories based on external identifiers. There is no unity; only groups of people banding together whining for special treatment.

Churches have fallen into this same trap. I imagine it started with dividing churches up by age groups and then slid down the slope to where we are now.

Wherever it started, we need to stop it.

Anyone who walks into a church and immediately wonders where the ministry is to their little group they think they fit in, should just walk right back out.

Continue reading “Who Would Have Thought That Dividing into Groups in a Church Would Lead to Division?”

The Terror of Being a Christian Who Is Asked to Recommend a Book, Movie, Musician, Etc.

“I don’t agree with everything the author says”

is Christianese for

“Knowing you, you’ll find something wrong with this book. Don’t burn me at the stake when you do.”
@FailingPastor

 

 

I’m a reader. I read so much people even know I’m a reader. I’m not one of those readers who wanders around telling everyone how much they read. I’m reading.

I’m also a pastor, which means everyone is trying to prove to me how spiritual they are.

When you combine those things, it results in many people giving me “Christian” books to read, but then they get nervous because what if pastor doesn’t like my book? Then I won’t be spiritual.

Therefore, every book a Christian has given me to read has been prefaced with, “I don’t agree with everything the author says.”

Continue reading “The Terror of Being a Christian Who Is Asked to Recommend a Book, Movie, Musician, Etc.”

There is One Reason a Pastor Does a Funeral: To Preach the Gospel

THEM AT FUNERAL: He’s in a better place now.

ME: Yeah, that is one nice casket.
@FailingPastor

 

 

The average funeral costs about $6,000-10,000. And that’s for a basic funeral package, not even including frills. Most people don’t know this. You need to tell them.

I preached a sermon once about funerals. I talked about what I say at them, which is the Gospel, so if you don’t want me preaching a Gospel message, don’t ask me to do your funeral. That would suit everyone fine. I also told them about the cost of a funeral and basic ins and outs of the funeral industry.

No one talks about death in America anymore, unless it’s some off-hand witty remark as a good guy shoots a bad guy, or gratuitous video game violence, or some other entertaining form of death. People want to live and get their stuff. No one wants to consider death.

Solomon says that the house of mourning is a place of wisdom, whereas a house of parties is a place to get dumber. Guess which one people like better?

People don’t go to funerals anymore. It’s amazing. I was talking to one funeral home director and he said fewer and fewer funerals have a pastor. The people in the family don’t even know one to ask. He went on to say how few of the pastors who do funerals bring up the Gospel.

I find this depressing. Funerals are the best opportunity you will ever have to deal with life and death. Most people are ignoring death. At a funeral, you can’t. The dead guy is right there in front of you. I like to throw in a little, “One day we will be at your funeral.” Make them feel what it’s like to be the dead guy in the coffin up front.

Death makes people consider large issues. Why do you think Satan enjoys making a joke out of it so much? Large issues like life after death, judgment, mortality, and other soul searching topics come up naturally. How a pastor could not grab this opportunity by the neck and hammer the Gospel home is beyond me.

Continue reading “There is One Reason a Pastor Does a Funeral: To Preach the Gospel”

If It Weren’t For Criticisms of My Sermons, My Sermons Would Be Terrible

If you agree with your pastor 100% of the time, you’re in a cult.
@FailingPastor

 

There is nothing more discouraging to a pastor than spending all week preparing a sermon, getting it together, feeling good about it, and bursting at the seams to deliver it. The juices flow, dreams flash in the mind of conversions and changed lives with weeping and dancing with joy.

Then, three minutes after the “amen” of the closing prayer, Tim, long-time member of the church, walks up and says, “Um, the word you based your sermon on? Yeah, that’s a different Greek word than all the other words those other verses use. Your point doesn’t really carry over.”

If I were a balloon, this would be the time when all the air would blow out of me; I’d make that weird deflating balloon noise, and spin around in the air and then fall flat on the floor. I never checked the Greek. I try to play it off cool, “Oh, well the idea is kind of the same, but yeah, OK, I’ll check on that.”

I go home and check. Yup, Tim was right. I was wrong. My point isn’t actually the point of the rest of those verses. My whole sermon, nay, my whole last week is shot. I blew it. How could I miss that detail? It’s not like Tim isn’t checking everything on his phone the entire time I’m preaching. I know better.

Tim’s are annoying. Tim’s are also amazingly helpful. Tim’s typically share their information well, they try not to be jerks, they know you and you know them. Tim is trying to help. Yet no matter how well Tim helps, how gracious he may be, the deflation is real. Being corrected like that is no fun.

But over the years of dealing with the Tim’s of the church, along with the ones who argue and are wrong and the ones who argue and are right, sometimes done with grace, other times down with disrespectful anger or glee, the pastor grows.

Even when people are completely wrong in their arguments, even when their complaint is perhaps the stupidest thing ever, the pastor can still learn. I listen to the complaints and the fault-finding. Right or wrong they make me think. They make me prepare better for next time. They help me analyze a point or an angle on a subject I never considered before.

Continue reading “If It Weren’t For Criticisms of My Sermons, My Sermons Would Be Terrible”

How to be a Sane Failing Pastor, Which Should be Your Pastoral Goal

“Their church is doing great. They just built a second building.”

–What people base church success on and why so many pastors feel like failures.
@FailingPastor

 

One of the main sources of pastoral depression, and all other forms of depression, is comparison.

“Comparison steals contentment” is the old quote you hear in various forms. There is truth there.

Most comparison is based on what you see. Being the pastor of a small church with a pathetic building situation is depressing on many levels.

People in your church will frequently demand the impossible from the group and make fun of its small size. It develops a complex as everyone feels a little foolish in our little group. People visit the church and then never come back, making the whole group feel rejected, embarrassed, and a tad defensive.

People from other churches constantly tell you how great their church is. How many got saved. How many attend. How much their new building project costs. The new exciting programs your church could never afford that they started and won their whole city to Christ.

Pastors are constantly given advice from “more successful” pastors (and there will always be a more successful pastor) about how to do things and “here’s your problem.” If we could all just be as cool as those cool guys in their cool churches.

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Sometimes Sermon Criticisms Are Actually Compliments

Criticism from “certain people” is often the best way for the pastor to know his sermon was spot on.
@FailingPastor

 

 

For the most part, I get zero feedback from people about my sermons. Therefore, I have to do a little digging to figure out how “well I did.”

Typically the same people will tell you “good sermon” every week. This means very little. I look for the person who asks a question about something I said. To me, that’s a compliment. I got them thinking.

Then there are the criticisms. It’s easier for people to criticize than to praise. If I mispronounce a word or give the wrong reference, you would think I’d just dropped a hydrogen bomb on a village of innocent women and children.

Then there are those who will walk past quickly, not making eye contact and then will write an email on Tuesday. They always wait until Tuesday. They lull you into calm. “I didn’t hear anything bad on Sunday or Monday, guess I did ok! I must be in the clear!”

Nope, Tuesday morning has an email waiting for me. The email begins with:

“On Sunday you said. . .” something that I sort of said but not entirely. By the time Tuesday comes their emotions have stretched what I said into something ridiculous. They will then copy and paste 327 verses pointing out how “what you said Sunday” is not right.

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Sunday Afternoons Are Brutal

THEM: Do you ever doubt your salvation?

ME: Only on Sunday afternoons.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I believe once a person is saved they are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise until the day of redemption. That once we are in Christ’s hands, we are in the Father’s hands, and nothing can pluck us out of that safe place.

I believe this and I believe I am one of the saved ones who can claim these promises. I believe this with all my heart. What the Bible says happens to believers; I’ve seen happen in me. I see a new life that would not be there otherwise. I have confidence that I will be made like Him when I see Him as He is.

Then there’s Sunday afternoon.

“Oh dear Lord, why does nothing happen? Why is everyone asleep? Why does it appear as though the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with anything I’m doing in this church? Why does no one hear anything except my illustrations? The questions people come up with; I didn’t even remotely touch on anything their questions had to do with. What sermon are these people hearing? And then there was that illustration I used and I probably said too much and I know what’s-her-name is going to write me an email about my word choice there. And beforehand, I totally botched that handshake greeting thing with the guy who gets ticked off about everything. Where were all the people today? That’s three weeks in a row the Jones family has been gone. I suppose they’ve left the church. Again.”

Even worse is that now, thanks to social media, I can totally find out what the people were doing during church. They were with their families. They were on a trip with their drinking buddies. They were sleeping. They were doing a Bible study and gaining way more insight than they would have at church, of course.

Continue reading “Sunday Afternoons Are Brutal”