Problems of a People Pleasing Pastor

I think most pastors think they are doing pastoring the right way. Many even think they are doing it biblically.

Perhaps some are, but I think the major influence on how a guy pastors is simply personality. I come from a people-pleasing family. Serving people and being empathetic is what we do. We feel things for people and do what we can to help. This all sounds good and there are many verses that say we should do such things.

However, most of my empathy, care, and service was done out of fear. People pleasers are afraid of rejection, among other things. Much of my service was not done out of spiritual conviction but out of fleshly fear. This was especially true when my church began to shrink and I wasn’t getting paid much. I couldn’t afford more people to leave.

I would say my family and I were on the extreme end of people pleasers. My dad was probably the most people pleasery person ever. I was never as bad as he was. People liked him as their pastor, but he also attracted bullies. Bullies identify weak people and take advantage of them. I was pretty successful at attracting them too!

Both my dad and I did a lot of good for a lot of people, yet we also have long lists of people who took advantage of us, people who trampled on us and we were not always able to stand up for ourselves. We can justify it as Christlikeness; in reality it was simply fear.

Then there are those on the other end of the spectrum. Those who are oblivious to other people’s feelings. They don’t mind fighting and arguing. They are confident in who they are and what they believe and kind of don’t respect anyone but their own brilliant selves. They are sometimes known as Calvinists. I tease, I tease. Sort of.

These are the pastors who when I express my frustrations and failures as a pastor tell me I wasn’t called to ministry. They don’t empathize at all; they simply pile on and tell me how utterly awful I am. They are right to the extent that I was wrong, but they go too far. They don’t understand that the reason they don’t have the same experiences as a pastor as I do is because they are oblivious to all the things that make people with my personality miserable. I felt them too much; they feel them none at all. Both are problematic.

(One way to tell which end of the spectrum you are on is this: when someone argues with you do you enjoy it and it makes your day, or do you get tight and can feel your pulse in your eyes?!)

I think the best pastor is a combination of both, knowing when to please and when not to. Paul said if he yet pleased me he would not be the servant of Christ. The same Paul also said he became all things to all men so that by all means he might save some. That’s the balance.

I was unable to hit it. Most of my inability was wired into me. I was raised to fear people, although I have gotten better. Yes, I did lots of nice things and took many shots without responding and served. But I also resented the people I had to serve, especially if there was no reciprocation. That’s what people pleasers do. We please people with the assumption they will please us back. If I visit this person they will come to church. They don’t. I get bitter.

The non-people pleaser doesn’t get this at all. Their response to that paragraph is “yup, you are one sick person. Never should have been a pastor, that’s for sure.” Pause for a second though. Perhaps your response is a sign that you are too far the other way. You don’t weep with those who weep, you belittle those who weep.

A good pastor would have balance. They know how to serve out of love, out of Christlike compassion, yet also know how to confront and speak truth. I could and did speak truth, but felt awful about it for days afterward. Sick to my stomach at times when people had problems with what I said. Was that right? I don’t know. I know I cared deeply about people hearing the Gospel.

I don’t yet know the answer to either side of the spectrum. How does a pastor reach the right balance? I don’t know, that’s why I resigned! But I also know, after a year and a half out of ministry, where my problems came from. I’m still seeking to address this issue in my personality and in my faith even if I never pastor again. I want to do things right. I want to fix what is wrong and make progress.

In the end, the fact that you do pastoring a certain way and it feels good or “works,” or it feels terrible and “doesn’t work,” doesn’t necessarily mean anything. God’s opinion on the matter is what counts. I’ve learned that my personality dictated much of what I did as a pastor. This wasn’t always good and was sometimes terrible. We’re all in this together, aint none of us perfect. There is hope though! Growth is always out there for us to go for. Keep going for it.

Where I Was Edified as a Pastor (it Wasn’t Church)

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.

Tremendous.

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.

What Killed My Joy in Pastoral Ministry

In my darkest times of pastoral depression, I was reminded of such verses as Luke 6:22-23, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”

I’d buck up my spirit, manufacture some joy type thing, and get back to it. Except it never lasted. I used to think this was a lack in my spiritual growth, and that’s possible, I’m not perfect. But the more I think about it, the problem wasn’t the joy part; the problem was the persecution part.

No one treated me that bad. Sure there were some unfriendly moments and comments. I did get hurt pretty bad by some people, but those times were spread over 21 years. It really wasn’t that bad. The real problem wasn’t rejection and hatred; the thing that got me most was being ignored. Hardly anyone cared.

It makes me think of Revelation and the Church of Laodicea, “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” I know there are many theories about what this means. In recent years it’s cool to talk about an irrigation system up in the mountains with cold water and yadda, yadda, yadda. That illustration sounds too good to be true. Without doing any fact checking, it sure smells fake.

We don’t like saying that God wishes people were on or off, that it’s better to be an unflinching, confident unbeliever. But I don’t know. From my experience, I can totally see it being that. I love it when someone responded to Christ and the Word, I loved being a part of helping people see more. I did not like outright rejection, yet I also knew where the person stood. It was easier to take than lying ambivalence and apathy. That drove me nuts.

If you want to know the main cause of my pastoral depression and eventual resignation, I’d chalk it up to luke-warmness. “Pick a side!” I wanted to yell. “How long will you halt between two opinions?” Or as James put it, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Choose you this day whom you will serve.

The people in the middle, the ones who sort of came and sort of listened and played the game and said the same things and had the same problems, they defeated me. The ones who were always stuck, always learning and never coming to the truth, they ate me up inside. The ones who wanted to sin and then have the church or me absolve them so they could get back to sinning again. It tore me up.

This futility, this pointlessness, this vanity of the whole thing made me tap out. I did not leap for joy under persecution because I didn’t get any persecution. I just got nothing followed by more nothing. Twenty one years of nothing. Deadness. Apathy. There was no discernible point. I doubt I would have enjoyed persecution and hatred more than apathy, but there would have at least been something to hang my hat on. I could have felt part of the great cloud of witnesses, to have been numbered with the prophets. That would be sweet.

Instead, I was ignored. There was nothing to feed my joy. There were few successes. There were few rejections. Just blah. Blah does not lead to joy. I’m hoping there will be a reward in heaven for talking to walls. I won’t count on it, but it would be nice. If there is one, I will definitely leap for joy then because I got lots of that reward coming.

What People Mean when they tell their Pastor “Good Sermon”

I was told, “Good sermon” every single Sunday I preached. Even I know I didn’t have a good sermon every single Sunday of my 21-year pastoral career. So, what exactly do people mean when they say, “Good sermon?” There are several possibilities.

1. They actually thought it was a good sermon.

I mean, you know, it could happen. There’s an outside chance that you had a good sermon with good content and delivery that met someone right where they needed to be met. It’s possible. Unlikely, but possible. So, let’s be optimistic and assume they meant “Good sermon,” because it actually was a good sermon.

2. They don’t know what else to say.

In many churches the pastor stands between the audience and the exit. In order to get out of the room you have to say something. “Good sermon” is a nice way to deflect attention, hide behind the compliment while making the escape. A giant smoke screen while the wife and kids scoot by real quick.

3. Lies, it’s all lies.

Most people are nice, they don’t want to pick a fight with the pastor. It’s easier to say “good sermon” than in it is to mention a few fine points of doctrine they thought were off. Many people don’t like confrontation.  It’s just a little white lie, doesn’t hurt anyone.

4. The one illustration they heard was good.

Most people aren’t listening to the sermon. They are staring at the ceiling or on their phone. They did, however, hear that one time when you told that story about the McRIb. They liked that. They have no idea what point was illustrated, but the McRib story was a nice diversion. Helped them pass the time.

5. Sarcasm.

It’s like when I hold up a plate with grease all over it after my son does the dishes, “Hey, nice job washing dishes, boy.” They hated the sermon. It was awful, you’re a heretic, they should have preached instead of you. It’s just sarcastic derision. Usually you can tell if it’s sarcasm, but the three page email you’ll get Tuesday will definitely confirm it.

I don’t like being cynical. “Love believes all things,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. I struggle with that. I’d like to simply take a compliment, but I struggle, especially when it’s the same person every Sunday without fail. It seems insincere after a while.

The way I know it was a good sermon is when people implement biblical change into their life. That’s the ultimate and maybe only real compliment: changed lives. That’s too much to ask for and hard to see though, so you’re left with “good sermon.”

When people say “Good sermon,” I say, “Thank you” and let it go at that. Judgment Day will let me know how good my sermons were. If the Lord says to me, “Good sermons,” I will be ecstatic. Until then I’ll keep doubting the compliments, but hoping they’re true.  

And, hey, good job reading this post.

Why don’t churches contact people when they leave?

I’ve heard many people say, “When I left my church no one called me,” or “I wish someone cared enough to ask why I left.”

Here’s my attempt to explain why churches don’t ask why someone left. There are two possible people at fault here: 1) the church and 2) the person who left, with a possibility that both are at fault.

If someone leaves a church and no one calls it could be entirely the church’s fault. Here are some possibilities:

1) Some churches are bad. Maybe it was a bad church where the members didn’t love each other or care. It happens. It could be a dysfunctional place. The pastor might be a total inept loser. If this is the case, sounds like you made the right move, so don’t worry about it.

2) Some churches are big and busy. They have no idea who is there from week to week. If you’re not in a position to be noticed by “those who call people,” they won’t call. This is a big problem for large churches. Many leave them because they don’t feel like they belong. When they leave they don’t get called confirming that they didn’t belong. Don’t worry about it. You were right. Find a smaller church.

3) Some churches are cliquish. If you don’t belong to a clique you don’t get paid attention to. When you leave no one really cares because you weren’t in their clique. They assume you were in some other clique and that clique cares enough to call.

4) Some churches are afraid. There were several people over the years that I was literally afraid of. Like, feared for my and my family’s personal safety. I’m not walking back into that situation. Should I have anyway? It’s entirely possible. I will stand before the Lord with it. On a lesser level than physical harm even, people are scary sometimes.

5) Churches assume someone else is doing that. This happens with big churches, busy churches, distracted churches, and other possible reasons. Many churches are so busy welcoming in new people and favoring the desired members that they aren’t really paying attention to who is there. Maybe you were bad for their image, not their desired demographic.

6) Churches aren’t dumb. I did not contact every single person who left my church. I know why they left and who they left with. I did not desire to hear more of their goofiness. Am I wrong for this? It’s entirely possible. I will stand before the Lord with it.

Sometimes the fault is with the person who leaves.

1) No one knows you left because you were a non-participating member of the body. I have been shocked many times by people who claimed they were a part of my church. My wife saw a lady who hadn’t been to church in more than 10 years who introduced my wife as “her pastor’s wife.” Determining who comes and who doesn’t isn’t always easy.

2) Some members who leave were total cancers in the body. There were a number of people who left the church, which caused the church to breathe a sigh of relief. No one cared why they left; they were just happy they did.

3) There were hurt feelings and it was too difficult to contact. People forget that pastors are people too. We get hurt. Calling someone who has truly hurt me was sometimes impossible. People do really creepy things to pastors. A good pastor won’t rat on them. You’ll never know what happened. There were people I honestly was unable to speak to again. Am I at fault for this? It’s entirely possible.

4) You actually were contacted but your selective, self-justifying memory tells a better story. I’ve been told that so-and-so is mad because no one from church called when they left and I distinctly remember calling them. Sometimes I contacted them several times in several ways. As time goes by, more and more people remember that no one called them, when in reality people did. Or maybe it wasn’t THE PERSON you wanted to have call you. The Lord knows whether you were contacted or not. He will judge the situation accordingly.

5) Before you left, how many people who left that church did you call? Exactly. At your next church, feel free to call people who leave, and then maybe you’ll learn why people don’t like calling people who leave!

6) Maybe you’re weird. There was a couple who left my church, but before they left they had an anonymous person call me during supper to threaten me that they would leave if I didn’t do what they said. I did not do what they said. They left.  I did not call them. We’re not in kindergarten here; we’re fighting a fight against the Kingdom of Darkness. I don’t have time for this. I’m not playing games. Just go. Some people spent their time in church finding fault with everything. When they left, I really didn’t want to hear any more of their whining.

7) You were a moocher. Many people enter churches asking for stuff. Churches and pastors have been around. They know who is merely trying to take advantage of them. People get the impression you’re not there for the church or for others, but to see what you can get out of this church before they catch on to you, and you move on to exploit the next one. Yes, Jesus told us to give to everyone who asks of us. It does get old though. Does that make it right? I don’t know, probably not, but goodness.

In the end, I have no idea why no one contacted you when you left your church. It might be the church’s fault and it might be yours. Maybe just take it as proof that you were right to leave that church. Maybe consider that you don’t remember correctly. Maybe consider you’re a cancer and that church is breathing easier because you are gone.

Self-reflection is always good. Are you at any extent responsible for the fact that no one called you? Maybe you’re not. Maybe you were wronged, it’s possible. But humility is good on both parts.

I didn’t do everything right as a pastor. I made mistakes. I’ve never had anyone leave the church and tell people maybe they were at fault. Never.  The church is always at fault. Always. Every time. I gotta be honest: I don’t buy it.

So what do we do? We forget those things that are behind, learn from them, and do our best not to repeat our mistakes.

Find a better church or make the church you’re in now better. Be part of the body and be humble and peaceful. Do your part to edify and be edified. Don’t let a bad experience at another church color your opinion of every other church on the planet.

Let’s do better on both parts.

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.