Pastors and Vacations

Vacations are nice. During my childhood my parents, who never had much money, always saved up enough so we could take a road trip in the summer. Although there were many miserable moments, I have fond memories of these trips. I couldn’t wait to take my family.

Vacations were a high point in my year.

Then I became a pastor.

Several issues spring up with pastors and vacations:

  1. I need someone to speak for me. If I miss a Sunday (and what’s a pastoral vacation without missing a Sunday), someone has to speak. Church goes on. I used to have a number of guys in church who could fill in for me. Several of them died. Several disqualified themselves for various reasons. I pretty much have one guy left. I hate making him do it. I have to arrange my vacation around whether he’s available or not. He’s gotten much better at preaching, but it’s not his favorite thing. He agonizes over it and takes the responsibility very seriously. I appreciate that, but it puts a burden on me to not leave because I don’t want to burden him.

  2. Many people skip when they know I’ll be gone. About half my church is just waiting for an excuse to not come. Me being gone is a great one. One time, the guy who preached for me said the only people who were there were people in his family. Good for his family being there, but how sad. This is probably the thing that depresses me most about missing a Sunday. Usually I try not to let anyone know I’ll be gone so they can’t plan on skipping. But even then, one time a family got up and walked out when they realized I wasn’t there and a guy they didn’t like got up to speak for me! This is not healthy or right, but it is the situation and it makes missing a Sunday that much more of a burden on me.

  3. There will be inevitable comments made. “Vacation from what? You only work one day a week." “How can you afford to go on vacation? My family hasn’t been able to afford that for years. Must be nice.” Whether anyone says anything or not, I hear them anyway. They’ve been said enough times to let me know people think it. How much I spend, where I go, what hotels I stay in, and all sorts of things will be analyzed and scrutinized. I can’t help but feel guilty if I admit I had fun while gone.

  4. If I miss church, it gives people an OK to miss church themselves. Granted, I miss only one Sunday a year, whereas most people in my church miss about 20. But inevitably, me missing church will be raised as justification for others to miss. “Well you miss Sundays every once in a while too.”

  5. Shouldn’t spiritual leaders be reading the Bible and not vacationing? There’s a spiritual weight to being a pastor that sometimes makes me wonder if I should miss. Is this a good example? Should I be spending all this money and time doing something “fun?” Maybe this is just my head, but I still think it and feel it. Taking a break from pastoring is often taking a break from Bible study and from talking to people. It just feels weird!

After saying all this, I know there will be much advice given to me about getting over it and everyone needs rest and Sabbath day, even God rested. I know, it still doesn’t change any of this.

I don’t feel like I should be gone. When I am gone, I can’t stop thinking about how this is ruining someone’s faith. It’s amazing how many times I’m gone and we will have visitors! Occasionally the person who speaks for me will preach on something controversial and start stuff. Who will be mad this time? When I’m gone, it does burden other people with responsibility.

There is no escaping. People can text and call all the time now anyway.

Pastor vacations are needed. I take them anyway. But I do try not to miss Sundays much. I have responsibilities there and it’s on me to carry them. Granted, it would be nice if I got a break from the weight of being gone and others stepped up a bit. But this IS my job.

In the end, this is one weird job! This weird job makes vacations from the job weird too.

Emails from Failing Pastors to The Failing Pastor

Over my years of whining about being a pastor on the internet, many pastors have contacted me, either in an effort to comfort me, or share in the misery. Although I don’t have anyone’s permission, here are some snippets of emails I’ve received, perhaps some may be of encouragement to you, or at least let you know the pain is real and I’m not totally making stuff up.

“Just found your site. I am now on my third senior pastor position over the course of 34 years. Only 53, but I’m tired–fatigued–and the “all spent” feeling has largely defined my attitude/outlook for three or four years. Still I need to work to provide for my family. I feel guilty whenever I think of quitting. I’m afraid of losing the parts of ministry I deeply love. I don’t want my children to be influenced poorly should I give up. Yet, I dream of being free. Freedom to volunteer for what I want to do in the church. Freedom to travel and see family and natural wonders. Freedom to not worry how ends will meet this month. Freedom to not be on the board (non-stop for 32 years). Freedom to take longer than a week off at a time. Freedom to go on vacation and not receive messages and calls. Freedom to go home in the evening and not have church conflicts on my mind. Freedom to not be in the middle of disagreements (i.e. COVID, social justice stuff). Freedom to be a grump. Freedom from discouragement, disappointment, disillusionment. Freedom from wondering that maybe the failures are my fault and I really am a bad pastor, a boring preacher, a poor administrator, an uncaring person. Reading your blog was like reading my own journal if I had one (and assuming I had one, was honest enough to type this stuff).”
___________________________

“Just wanted to say how refreshing it is to hear someone say what you say. I thought I was the only one. At so many ministers’ conferences the one topic of conversation is: “How’s your church doing? Mine is doing great!” So I smile… but inside…
I think you and I were separated at birth.”


_________________________

“I’m a pastor of a church with a normal attendance of 70-80 people. I was planted out by a charismatic/prosperity focused church when I had only been following Jesus for six years. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Needless to say, planting a church from the ground up, with no formal training, a skewed view of the gospel, and an ever increasing anxiety that the church that I still report to is in so many ways not in line with scripture, has been both devastating and glorious. If not for the families who call this church their home, (many of which I’ve been honored to baptize) I would have walked away long ago. I’ve discovered His faithfulness in my fear, His peace in my anxiety. Yet the depression you blogged about is and has been a reality for me. I followed you on Twitter for your tongue and cheek comments. I realize I have no idea who you are or where you pastor. But, today I heard the encouragement of a brother who has walked some of the same paths with Jesus that I am. He will get us home. I just wanted to say thank you!”
____________________

“Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your blog posts. Many of them have been a help and encouragement. I am the pastor of a small church. Me and my family go through/have gone through many of the things that you write about. However, God has consistently proven Himself to us, and we are able to say that His grace is sufficient. If we can ever be a blessing to you all, please let us know. Thank you for being a voice to encourage us small church pastors.
God Bless.”

_____________________

“In your blog, you said 50% of you wants to quit and 50% can’t imagine life without ministry… My fear is not quitting, but that I will coast/drone through the next 30+ years hardened, emptied of compassion, living my ministry the way many of my congregants live their faith.”
_____________________

“Hey, just have to say that your twitter feed is strangely encouraging to me. I say, “strangely” because some of the things you say are “awful” but perfectly state what I think but am afraid to say. It’s encouraging to know I’m not the only one! (I am pastoring a failing church plant in Brazil.)
I just have to ask, do I know you in real life? Some of the things you say seem so close to home, that I just have to wonder!”

__________________________

“After reading your comments about pastor conferences I felt a kindred spirit. I went to a conference once and there was this “Worship Group” (they sang, preached and had a couple of sketches). At the end, they said, “This is what you guys should be doing on a weekly basis at your church.” To be completely honest, it was very good. Great singers, great script. Wonderfully presented. It was about a professional as you could get. So after it was over, I met up with one of the people in leadership of that group and I asked if they’d be presenting another presentation? He said no, they’d been working on just this one presentation for about 6 months. WAIT A MINUTE!!!!! You just kicked my butt for not doing this every weekend and then you tell me you’ve been working on this one show for 6 months? You guys need to shut up and sit down because you have no credibility.
Thanks for letting me vent.”

Pastors vs. Church People, A Classic Confrontation

Many times while praying alone, I will intercede for people in my church.

Intercession soon turns into bemoaning the direction people are heading.

“Lord, help him to take the spiritual lead in his family, because he’s totally not doing that. His kids are going nuts. Oh Lord, the things they are doing. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. I told him. I don’t know. Did he not hear anything I was preaching the last ten years? And then his wife. What’s up with her? No wonder the kids are nuts.”

What started out as true spiritual concern devolves into judging and condemning.

After “interceding” for people in my church for a good fifteen minutes, it’s become clear: it’s me and God on one team and people in my church on the other.

This feeds self-righteousness, bitterness, judgmentalism, and all manner of evil things one shouldn’t do.

But I’m just stating the facts! And, at the end of the facts, sure looks like me and God against the people.

Continue reading “Pastors vs. Church People, A Classic Confrontation”

Failing Pastor’s Response to Church Buildings and Jesus Statues Being Attacked

Statue Toppling is a thing again.

Iconoclasm is the official name for it, and it’s been around a long time. There is nothing new under the big ol’ sun.

It actually started with people who took the Ten Commandments seriously. “Thou shalt not make any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath.”

It actually reads pretty clear.

But people like images. We like walking by sight. God knew we’d place too much value on our statues. I think He knew they were just one more physical thing we’d fight about.

My opinion about Confederate generals or topplings of Winston Churchill statues does not matter at all. I think it’s highly silly. Inanimate objects should not cause you consternation. They can’t do anything.

They have mouths but they cannot speak, eyes but they cannot see, ears but they cannot hear. You toss one end of the log into the fire to warm yourself, and with the other end you carve an image you worship.

Continue reading “Failing Pastor’s Response to Church Buildings and Jesus Statues Being Attacked”

Guilt Keeps Many Pastors Employed

Through my 20+ years of being a pastor I have thought of quitting many times. The Failing Pastor persona has put me in touch with many other pastors who feel the same way.

Large portions of me want to quit being a pastor. Yet here I am, still a pastor.

There are many reasons I’m still in my job. I’d like to talk about one of them: guilt.

I fear that if I quit I won’t get the same opportunities to serve the Lord. I fear that I will have quit right before a harvest. I fear that everything in my life will fall apart until I’m driven back into the “ministry.” I feel like I’m quitting on God. It’s not just leaving a 9-5 job; it’s all entwined with my spiritual life. It feels like quitting being a pastor is quitting part of my spiritual life. Like I’m turning from faith. It feels like guilt.

Some of these guilt feelings are just dumb. They go away quickly with a little bit of thought and prayer. Yet they come back.

Anytime I feel like walking out the door for good, guilt keeps me put.

I read about Jonah. What if as I walk away I get swallowed by a large aquatic creature? I know for sure I will drive and not take a boat as I head out. Takes care of that threat, but no doubt a giant buffalo will do me in.

Many pastors feel they had a “call” to the ministry. I have some skepticism over such things, mostly from watching people who were “called” to take a church, who then come to not like that church after three years and have yet another “call” to another, supposedly better, church. It looks like people just doing their thing and putting a spiritual veneer on it so no one can question them.

“Sorry, God said I gotta go.” You can’t argue with that.

I don’t think I had a “call” to come to this church I’m at. It fell into my lap, more or less. I heard no voice, no spine tingle, no sign. It just kind of happened. Some have told me that’s the “call.” Obviously God was behind it if it was that easy.

Yeah, I don’t know. Sometimes I’m lazy and just do the thing that happens.

I know why I came to this church. I knew what needed to be done and I tried to do it. It also hasn’t really worked. I’m also tired and burned out and close to punching people if they do that one thing one more time. I hate that feeling.

Sometimes I feel it would be best if I just quit now before messing it up big time. But then The Guilt. “You will reap if you faint not.” Yah, yah, yah.

But here’s the thing: I heard no voice calling me to this church, not even a voice telling me to be a pastor, it was just a thing I felt I had to do. So I did.

I also know that there are many things I have been called to do directly in God’s Word, things that all believers are called to do: Love the Lord, love your neighbor, provide for your family, use your spiritual gifts, do good and develop spiritual fruit.

I can do that anywhere with anyone at any time. It does not require being a pastor. And, in some ways, being a pastor takes away the love aspect by making it “just my job.” I want to know what life is like outside the professional church office (I was born into a pastor’s family, I’ve known nothing else). I want to love my neighbor because I’m following Christ, not because I probably just do it so people will come to my church.

I write these things down because I know other pastors struggle with these thoughts and The Guilt. I’m working thru my thoughts on the subject. I’ve not come to any definite conclusions.

There are perks to being a pastor, there are reasons I do it, it’s not all terrible and in many ways it’s incredible. But I’m also feeling the need to move on. I’m continuing to work these thoughts out and do what is right, not based on guilt or people’s expectations, but as a man who will stand before the Lord and give an account.

I want to do the right thing before Him. I pray you do as well. Perhaps we can help each other do that. Fight the fight.

This Pastor is Not Woke

Being “Woke” is the new cool thing the cool kids are doing. Wokeness is the official religion of the atheist Left.

Wokeness is religion. It’s the latest flavor of the Tower of Babel/Humanism venture.

The problem with Wokeness is that it has no set law. There is no final authority. Their goalposts are on a bullet train. Being against authority (the patriarchy) is a central tenet. Since there’s no central authority, there’s no central, unifying law.

If you give in to The Woke Ones you will never win. They will always push you further and further into Wokeness. White men are out. Women are in. White women don’t count though, must be a woman of color. Women of color are out because of gayness. Gays are out because of transgender. Transgender are out because someone now identifies as a gay tree trunk, which is merely a patriarchal authority over weed, man.

It just doesn’t stop. There is no end.

Therefore, I have decided not to give in to them at all. I do not preach on the Hot Topic of the day Woke Twitter tells me I’m supposed to preach on. I don’t pander to their ideas. They will change next week anyway. Wokeness has a short attention span and I’ll never go far enough in that short amount of time. Too exhausting.

I’ll stay over here following my Good Shepherd next to green pastures and still waters. Perhaps, with the world’s constant Woke Craziness, someone may ask me for a reason for the hope that is in me. The crazier the world, the more rational, peaceful, and hopeful Christianity looks.

Beyond all that, the other tragedy of Wokeness is that since there’s no final authority, there’s also no forgiveness. There is no High Priest.

When you trample on the toes of the Woke, they respond with outrage. They will attempt to get you fired, humiliated, and use every attempt to ruin your life. If they believed in gun ownership, we’d all be in trouble (look for this pivot soon).

There is no forgiveness, they won’t let you up. They destroy you. All you have is damnation with no hope of redemption. What a sad, scary place to live, especially since who knows when you’ll violate one of their ever-changing standards.

Wokeness is contrary to everything the Bible says and all that God is. It’s a return to Babel. Babel didn’t work the first time and it won’t work this time.

Wokeness has to implode. It is not founded on truth. Truth always wins out. Who knows how long this will take.

It is entertaining to watch, unfortunately, people will die because of it. Suicide rates in the next 50 years are going to be terrifying. Ungrounded people do unstable things.

The problem is the same, it’s just a different manifestation of the same reality: no one wants to listen to God and His truth. They will listen to pretty much anything other than that, even a talking serpent.

The solution remains the same too: keep preaching the Word of Truth, in season and out. This is the only answer. All else is vain and leads to death.

Preach the Word. Never quit. Don’t give in to the fads of the outraged world. Lead them to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who can truly give peace that passes understanding.

The Failing Pastor’s “Encouragement” to Struggling Pastors

Earlier this week I wrote a post about not being sure how long I can continue being a pastor. It received quite a bit of response publicly and privately.

Although it is nice to know I am not alone, how discouraging that this is the place so many pastors are in.

Some pastors are living large and don’t have these feelings or frustrations. Others are frustrated for reasons other than those I expressed. I don’t know what to say about those situations.

I would like to talk to those pastors who are doing what they can to faithfully preach the Word, teach and disciple individuals, and otherwise attempt to fulfill the biblical qualifications and expectations of the pastoral role, and yet are met with apathy, rejection, and mockery.

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I think most pastoral frustration, certainly mine, is not a tiredness of work or the church, but just the sheer pointlessness of it. I do my best to faithfully preach God’s Word and it appears the more I endeavor to do this, the more people leave.

My faith does not require the approval of others, but my sincere desires to help people are constantly thwarted. The lives of people who have dropped out of church do not go well. I hurt for them. I don’t know what to do.

This is the time that the happy pastors tell me “There’s nothing you can do. It’s all God.” Which helps nothing, but appears to be top-drawer advice from most.

This advice only adds to my frustration. God is growing everyone else’s church but not mine? Nice to know He’s so helpful. Can I even trust Him? If He’s not on my side, should I even be doing this? Many have told me “no.”

Thanks.

The gates of hell will not prevail against God’s Kingdom. God does not need me to keep the Church alive.

At the same time I have been called to care for one little part of it, to give my life for it, to sacrifice for it, to let my progress in the faith be seen by all, to take heed to my life and my doctrine so that I and my hearers will be saved.

Continue reading “The Failing Pastor’s “Encouragement” to Struggling Pastors”

True Pastoral Pain

There are days where I’m not sure why I even bother being a pastor.

These days are not helped by pithy advice, happy thoughts, and “God is in control” statements.

There is a deep soul hurt. A pain that is so real, so vital; there’s no blood, no broken bones, no evidence of physical trauma. But on the inside I’m bleeding out.

It’s a hurt for people. It’s a hurt that wants to do so much more. A hurt that I have no idea what “so much more” means.

If I knew what to do for people; I’d do it. I just have no clue. I’ve tried everything I know. Been doing this long enough to have exhausted my ideas and resources. And yes, I know, “See, that’s your problem! It’s not about you and your ideas and resources. You gotta let go and let God.” I know. I tried that idea too.

I do what I think I can, what I think I am gifted to do. It’s not working. I feel helpless and yet I long so badly to help.

My personal life is fine. My marriage is good, my kids are turning out quite nicely, I’m doing ok financially. Spiritually I’m doing better than ever, making real strides against sin.

But as a pastor, nothing is working.

Continue reading “True Pastoral Pain”

The Cause of All Church Splits and the Solution to Our Disunity: From an Anonymous Moron on the Internet

I like reading Church History. It lets me know my church is just one in a long line of stupid churches.

Solomon tells us there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon is correct.

Churches have come and gone, and most have split first. Christians are disturbed by the Church Tradition of splitting churches. So much division, so much hostility, how can this be true of people who follow the Prince of Peace?

There are many reasons why this is the case. One is that the Prince of Peace said He came the first time, not to bring peace but a sword. As Paul said, “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” Division kind of has to happen. There are wolves pretending to be sheep, test the spirits for there are “many false prophets.”

At the core of most of the division is a tension that runs all the way thru Church History. Rather than explain it, I’ll show examples of the tension:

Reason vs. Emotion
Cold Knowledge vs. Warm Love
The Bible vs. The Spirit
The Institution of the Church vs. The Body of Christ Church
Expository Preaching vs. Singing

All these things are the same battle.

Continue reading “The Cause of All Church Splits and the Solution to Our Disunity: From an Anonymous Moron on the Internet”

4 Ways to Deal With Ignorant Advice Givers

One of the joys of being in any sort of leadership role, or at least in a position where you have to make decisions, is getting unsolicited advice and criticism. It goes with the territory. Pastors have no monopoly on being criticized and advised.

I have found that typically (certainly not always) the people who advise the most are people who are least involved.

My favorite advisor in my church is a woman who is at church about 18 times a year. We have about 130 regular church services a year. She’s at about 18. She rarely comes to anything else our church does either.

But she will always let me know what other churches are doing and wonders why we don’t do that. She’s given me more ideas about how to raise money, attract people, do music, do kid’s stuff, how I should communicate with people, etc. Her combined advice far outnumbers all other advice I’ve received from anyone else.

And, here’s the deal, because she’s not at church much, most of her advice isn’t even possible. She has no concept of what she’s talking about or the realities of our church. I’ve even told her that “yes, I’m aware what other churches do. The board has talked about this. We’ve decided it doesn’t fit with what we’re doing here.” She’ll just give a confused look, laugh, and dismiss our collective intelligence. Usually she’ll throw in another piece of advice before departing to find something else to advise.

Giving advice is frequently a cover for guilt. They know they aren’t doing what they could to actually help. So they make up for it by advising, which sure feels like help without having to actually do anything. Advisors are always superior. They know more. People who are guilty desire to do something that makes them feel better.

Advisors abound. You will have to deal with them. Here are 4 ways to deal with advisors who have little concept of what they’re talking about.

Continue reading “4 Ways to Deal With Ignorant Advice Givers”