I recently tweeted:
I used to be a pastor and now I am a small business owner.
Owning a small business is a breeze and way less stressful. I know everyone thinks all job problems are the same.
They aren’t. Pastoral ministry was brutal.
This has gotten a mixed response. Mostly the response from pastors who have left professional ministry for another career agreed entirely. Maybe two did not, citing their new job as equally stressful (one is a junior high teacher!).
Current pastors were largely sympathetic, but several told me in so many words what a loser I am. One said he enjoyed his church, but also understood my sentiment.
To clarify the confusion, here is a larger explanation as to why I say running a business is way easier than being a pastor.
1. No one is going to hell if I mess up. And, yes, I know all the theological explanations about how I’m not actually sending anyone to hell. I get it. But still. Do you know how many people have left the church over my 21 years of being a pastor and specifically said it was because of me or what I teach? Try doing it for 21 years in a church sucked deep into false teaching, hearing regularly that my teaching has ruined their life, some have left the faith, others sit at home feeling justified. I even think I was preaching what was right. I take the Bible very seriously. I wasn’t playing games. I know I was speaking truth and correcting false teaching in the church. And for 21 years the overall response was denial of what I taught. There comes a point where casting pearls before swine is done.
2. I know what I’m supposed to do. Business is simple: make money. You can judge how you’re doing by the Bottom Line. Being a pastor has no Bottom Line that is measurable. I know God is the judge and I know if I deserve any reward He is the only one who can grant them. I’m fine with that, it’s the only reason I made it 21 years! But so much of my ministry to people stuck in sin and false teaching, I had no clue what I was supposed to do. I wasn’t the one with the problems. I wasn’t the one doing weird stuff, but I was constantly put in a position to figure out how to best show grace and righteousness with weird people doing weird things. I had no discernable way to measure my effectiveness. This is why churches end up counting baptisms, attendance, offerings, building expansions, etc. It’s a tangible way to prove that “God is really working here.” Is it though? I know discipleship, spiritual fruit, Christ-likeness, and spiritual maturity are the measures, but they are hard to measure in others. Pastors who leave churches assume those who were “doing well” when they left are still doing well. Stick around long enough to see that those you thought were progressing really weren’t.
3. No matter what I say, someone will throw back at me some over simplified spiritual point with a Bible verse attached to tell me how wrong I am. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the reason why my ministry didn’t go well and why I resigned is because “You were serving yourself not God.” “You were just in it for the money.” “You were doing it in your own power not in the Spirit’s power.” Hey, it’s possible, I’m human. But I was there the whole time with the Lord. He and I went through it together. I know what I did and where my heart was. One thing I learned after 21 years of being a pastor is to not listen to glib judgments, especially when received from people on the internet. Say whatever you want, but I’m just letting you know that constantly telling pastors the reason they are failing is because they don’t have faith is one of the reasons they are depressed. Are all pastors supposed to remain pastors until they die? Even OT priests were done after 20 years. I know a guy who has changed careers 6 times in two years. No one has ever quoted a verse or doubted his salvation or told him he lacked faith because he did this. Why, after a guy serves for 21 years at the same church, do the judgmental, sanctimonious statements come flying? It’s a bizarre thing. As Job said to his friends, “Miserable counselors are you all.”
4. My family does not have to sacrifice or get steamrolled. The accusations said about me and my family over the years are amazing. My wife and kids went to all kinds of church stuff. They filled in doing things when no one else showed up. They didn’t get paid. I hardly got paid. I couldn’t provide for them as I would have liked. They saw me get pummeled by people. Take shots and come home and just be shattered. They saw the people who slowly stop coming to church and saw the ridiculous things their lives soon brought forth. Pastor’s families see and hear it all. It’s why so many pastors’ kids walk away. Mine have not. I am eternally grateful for this. And from now on they don’t have to see and hear it all anymore.
5. I don’t have to know all the sordid details of every customer’s life. I knew everyone in my church. I knew most of their sins and problems, sometimes because they told me, sometimes because the church is really good at gossip. I paid attention. I knew what was going on with people. I cared for them. I knew things. I’m so glad I don’t have to know everything about everyone I know anymore. Most of what I knew broke my heart. I spent time with people. Communicated with them regularly. I also knew every single problem they had with me, either because they told me or because the church is really good at gossip. It was too much. I simply couldn’t carry on knowing this much about people. I’m not equipped to do it.
6. Guilty people and their dumb excuses have been wonderfully absent from my life. No one lies to me about what they were doing Sunday. No one immediately changes their behavior and speech around me when they find out I’m a pastor. No one tries to avoid me. Even people who left my church in terrible ways talk to me now that I’m not a pastor. It’s amazing. If you want every relationship in your life to be ruined by people’s guilt, then be a pastor.
I guess I’ll stop here. I‘m sure I could keep going, but this gives the general idea.
Running a business is simple in comparison. I know what I’m doing and I know how I’m doing. No one is guilty around me. No one over spiritualizes stuff around me. After a bad day with the business, no one judges me and throws verses at me letting me know my lack of faith is what caused that. I can just do my business without all the weirdness.
And, as many have asked, I am going to church. I get to preach and teach occasionally. I am way more emotionally and mentally able to do such things and have found it immensely enjoyable.
If you’d like more of what my pastoral ministry was like, some more details of how it went, I did recently publish a book about my experience. It’s one pastor’s experience and certainly I hope it won’t be any other pastor’s experience. Perhaps you will find something helpful in it.
CLICK HERE to get a copy because I went through the trouble of writing it!
5 thoughts on “Why My Current Job is so Much Easier than Being a Pastor”
Very true. As a current pastor, I long for the life you speak of.
Pastors who don’t find ministry brutal are doing it wrong or are too shallow to know what’s going on.
I am very tempted to agree with this statement, leaving a little bit of room for the right guy at the right time in the right church. I do think it’s possible for it to go well, just highly unlikely!
That’s fair. I’m anxiously awaiting our next chapter. Just waiting for the Lord to fully close this chapter.
Love this long tweet and the handle too. I found it by searching for “My pastor is a douche,” a topic I had hoped to find some comments about and maybe start a thread. As a lifelong Christian and a layman with a very active teaching and home church ministry, I am interested in the “doesn’t count” mindset that pastors and laymen sometimes voice: in Thomas’ reply above, it doesn’t count unless it’s “brutal ministry,” or in the original tweet, it doesn’t count unless it’s “counting baptisms, attendance, offerings, building expansions, etc.” Would love to start an email conversation about exactly what does count, if only to help me understand why my own congregational pastor is a douche, or maybe it’s me who’s the douche — and how to make peace with either answer.