Why are the Dusty Old Negative Prophets even in Our Bibles?

I was raised in a Christian tradition that undervalued the Old Testament. The most undervalued part of the Old Testament was the prophets. In our church, all the prophets were minor!

I was told once “I don’t know why anyone would even read the prophets.” I am reading a Bible that used to belong to one of my teachers. It has his notes and highlights in it. The Old Testament is light on highlighting! The prophets are empty. I don’t know if he ever read them.

I don’t think my upbringing is uncommon in this regard. Many people have no idea what the prophets are doing in our Bible. “It’s just a bunch of judgments on places that don’t even exist anymore.”

However, once I began reading the Bible regularly, the prophets fulfilled an important role. Israel was going down, they had turned their back on God while going through the empty motions of religion. The prophets were warning that judgment was coming if they didn’t shape up.

The prophets were at best met with silence, and at worst met with imprisonment or death (with the awesome exception of mopey Jonah!). They saw clearly the rebellion of Israel and God’s displeasure. The people consoled themselves with the message of false prophets who said “Peace, Peace” when there was no peace.

Our neglect of the prophets has now resulted in Christianity being in the exact same spot. Sure our churches look nice and we do many God-looking things, but our heart is not in it. This is proved easily just by looking at the inconsistency of people’s attendance at church. People are busy. Spiritual obligations are typically the first to go. People don’t skip work for church, but they have no problem skipping church for work.

Our heart isn’t in it. We’re missing it. Judgment is coming.

This message goes over about as well as the OT prophet’s message! No one likes to listen to prophets. Prophets were called to talk to people who would not listen. They are professional talkers to walls.

We look around in our churches today and see our wealth and happiness, our impressive shows and programs, surely God is blessing us.

If you read the prophets you’ll know this is EXACTLY what Israel said!

The Apostle Paul tells us that whatever was written before was written for our learning. The prophets are not some dead guys warning other dead guys. Their essential message persists into our day.

No one wants to hear warnings and heavy-handed repentance messages. People want the happy and the peace. We’ll continue ignoring the prophets and patting ourselves on our backs for our happy little worship we decide to do, not knowing we’re following exactly the downfall of Israel.

God is paying attention. He’s still the all-knowing, righteous Judge. He’s not sleeping. He’s watching us treasure up wrath against ourselves for the Day of Wrath. The Judgment is coming. I know it’s not happy enough for us, but it’s still coming. I suggest we wake up and get ready.

Can Churches be Doctrinally Right and Loving?

“Well, of course!” is the happy answer.

But I don’t know. I know the opposite is true: a church can be doctrinally bankrupt and unloving!

The church I came to pastor over 21 years ago was neither doctrinally right nor loving. They had a weird brand of hyper-dispensationalism and over-emphasized the word “grace” to the point of lasciviousness.

The previous pastor once told the congregation he didn’t care if a non-married couple moved in with each other, “it’s all grace, it doesn’t matter.” He said this from the pulpit, not as an aside in a conversation at a restaurant.

Their notion of grace was very extreme, hardly anyone else in Christianity went as far and weird with it as they did. This led them to believe they were the sole possessors of truth. They prided themselves on their doctrinal rightness. They were the sole defenders of truth.

The church was made up of many ex-legalistic people. They happily threw off the bonds of legalism and lived it up in their notion of “grace.”

My favorite episode in learning how weird the church I came to was, was when I wore a tie to church one Sunday. The assumed “leader of the church” came up to me and said, “You shouldn’t wear a tie.” I said, “What?” not as though I didn’t hear him, but more “what in the world are you talking about?”

He replied, “We don’t wear ties; we’re not legalistic.” I was so thrown off by this I don’t think I replied at all. I probably laughed nervously. If you’re not legalistic, then how come you have a dress code about not wearing ties?! So weird.

But that’s where they went. They turned grace into lasciviousness and a reverse-legalism. You indeed sinned so people knew grace was abounding. And they were massive jerks. One outsider described the church this way, “Oh yeah, they talk a lot about grace but don’t show it to anyone.”

This was a case where a church’s bad doctrine eliminated love entirely. I felt my job was to correct the doctrine and hope that a true understanding of the Gospel would result in love.

I began correcting the doctrine. People left. Many thought I was becoming legalistic because I taught that sin actually was bad and we weren’t supposed to do it.

There was some progress. Some people got it, some already had an issue with the old pastor and his increasingly weird grace stuff. Some love showed up.

But it just never really clicked. After 21 years of banging my head on this one wall, I just got worn out. Unfortunately I was losing love going over this same stupid doctrinal error and getting hurt by so many people. As my doctrine improved, which I believe it did, my love was dying.

The wounds were deep and waiting for the next wound to show up was driving me insane. On top of all that, my grandfather was the previous pastor! As my church increasingly had a problem with me, so did my family. I got it from all sides and I honestly can say that the hurt and rejection sucked love right out of me.

Is it possible for a church to emphasize right doctrine and be loving? I imagine there are many people who think so. I hope it’s true. I’d like to be part of one.

What I know for sure is, besides glib answers of the possibility, I have no idea how it’s done. Which is where Twitter tells me, “Well, that’s because you tried to do it! You can’t do it! Only God can.”

Yup, thanks. Apparently He doesn’t know how to do it either then! I asked Him so many times with tears to do so.

When you’re part of the In-Group in your church, it’s easy to think your church is loving. When your church’s doctrine doesn’t bother you, it’s easy to think your church has right doctrine.

Maybe we’re bad judges on this. Maybe I was a bad judge of my own “ministry.” God is the judge, He will let me know the true judgment, whether I had wood, hay, and stubble, or precious stones.

I pray for pastors that you would figure out the balance between doctrine and love. Knowledge puffs up. It’s what it does. But being stupid can’t be the answer!

It’s a tough thing. I pray you and your church can figure it out.

Can Pastors Have Friends? I know they can have Enemies!

When I was a pastor there were about a dozen guys in my church over the years who treated me like a best friend, for some of them, I think I was their best friend, who later blew up at me, left, and never talked to me again.

We did stuff together. We talked. We laughed. We ate food.

There was a line as a pastor that I could never quite figure out: when was I a pastor and when was I a friend?

In some cases, being a pastor is being a professional friend. People pay you to be their friend. I know that sounds cynical and cold, but my personal experience along with my knowledge of other pastors’ experiences lets me know this is true.

What many of them viewed as friendship I viewed as my job. I wouldn’t have been hanging out with these guys under other circumstances.

Many of these guys expressed problems with me all along. They’d pick apart my sermons, they’d make judgments about my behavior, and find fault with any number of things I did and said. In only one of these cases did I ever go off on one of them as they did on me (I regret this. It wasn’t good).

I tried to exercise patience and forgiveness as that’s what I felt I was supposed to do. But no matter how much patience and forbearance I used with them, inevitably they got mad enough at me to leave the church.

The friendship was gone. The time together, the patience, all of it was thrown out because I did some obscure thing that set them off.

On one hand I get it, if I approached the friendship as my job, they probably picked up on that! I’m not an overly outgoing, social guy, I don’t make friends easily. They were only my friend because I was the pastor and they were my friends because I was their pastor.

I’ve heard it said that pastors can’t have friends. This isn’t true. I had true friends while I was a pastor and they remain friends even after I’m no longer their pastor.

Friendship with pastors breaks off because often there was no real friendship to begin with. They were using me, how spiritual it makes one feel to be friends with a pastor! If the pastor likes me, certainly God does. And I viewed many of these relationships as duty. They weren’t going to last.

On top of that, people leave churches. If you have a friendship with the pastor and you don’t want to go to church anymore, you have to find some ridiculous problem with the pastor so you can blow up at him and get gone.

It took me a while to figure this out, but often this explosion to end the friendship had very little to do with me. I wasn’t perfect, but clearly I didn’t do anything deserving this treatment.

One inside tip: Many men take out their anger at their dads on pastors. I know this sounds weird, but it’s true. The guys who’ve had the worst relationships with their dads were the most explosively rude in their expression of dislike toward me. There’s other stuff going on; it’s not all you.

Another factor is that people are fickle. When the apostle Paul did a miracle the crowd thought he was a god, then they changed their mind and wanted to stone him. Jesus was hailed as the coming king in what has been called “The Triumphal Entry,” only to be crucified by the same mob at the end of the week.

This isn’t a Church Thing. Christians have no monopoly on fickleness. Observe the Cancel Culture overspreading our society. Famous people that no one had a problem with, accidentally say something slightly off from what the crowd wants to hear and that person is cancelled. Off with their heads.

People are weird. We just are. We get tired. We want change. True friendship requires forgiveness and patience. Those things are hard. People carry religious baggage into the church, who knows how that will work itself out over time. Not well, usually.

Jesus Christ said, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.”

You can’t be everyone’s friend. You’ll destroy yourself trying.

What you can do is do your best to love people, be patient, forgiving, and forbearing. But also know that at any time for any odd reason they can turn on you. It’s terrible to go into a relationship thinking, “I wonder when this guy will turn on me.” But for the pastor, you’re going to end up thinking that anyway!

God knows our frame, He knows we are dust. We can truly wonder “what is man, that God is mindful of him?” Why does He care for us knowing full well we will be His enemy many times?

Love. God is love. This is part of the job for God.

Even after these guys got mad and disrespected me and ran off, I still love em. I can’t help it. I care about them. I’d still help them today. Well, ok, there’s a couple I’d be happy to never see again, but still, I’d do my best!

It’s part of the job of being a Christian—love your enemies. What praise is there if you love those who love you?

Loving people is part of the job and don’t be surprised if you get fired! Happens to God every day and He’s doing love perfectly.

How to Deal with Pain Caused by Christians and the Church

Hate is easy.

People are creepy sinners who do creepy sinful things to each other. Hatred over this is automatic.

Love is hard.

Jesus Christ, while you were yet a sinner, died for you. While you were an enemy of God, actively going against Him, He died for you.

God is willing to forgive; He’s slow to anger, gracious, and merciful. Why? Because God is love.

Love covers a multitude of sin.

I have many reasons to despise and hate the church and Christians. I’ve been in the church my entire life. There are creepy sinful people in churches. I’ve met most of them.

Daily I hear people online talk about the abuse and pain they’ve suffered in church, my heart breaks a little more with each story. Every public revelation of a church leader who took advantage of someone under their care hurts a little more.

The pain is real. There is no way I’m trying to minimize the pain suffered at the hands of church people.

But you can’t hate those who’ve hurt you.

I hear a lot of resentment. Again, based on some of the stuff that’s happened to some people, I understand the hatred and resentment. I get it. I feel it myself to the degree I’ve been hurt.

But you can’t hang on to it in hatred and resentment. Resentment will tear you to pieces.  It will turn you into the ugliness that hurt you.

If there is any hope for peace and resolution and love in you, it will come through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God will judge each person according to their deeds, whether they were good or bad. He will set all things right. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” says the Lord. That’s His job and He’ll do it. He already is.

Our job is to love our enemies.

I’m not saying it’s easy, nor am I even saying I do it right, but this is what I long for because Jesus did this for me and tells me it’s the way to my own freedom.

If you want to grow in Christ, if you want peace that passes understanding, the Bible is clear: love is the answer.

There is a tendency to morbidly celebrate our pain and all the terrible things we’ve suffered at the hands of sinful people. Be careful with it. Each retelling tends to strengthen the resentment and hatred.

You don’t just sweep it under the rug, pretend it didn’t happen. It did happen. It really hurt. But each retelling needs to be followed by a commitment to forgive. Seventy time seven. Every time you remember it; end with forgiveness.

Again, I know this sounds trite and seems to belittle the pain. That’s not the intent.

The intent is to bring the Gospel into life. If you appreciate the love, grace, and forgiveness you’ve received from Christ, then this should move you to show this to those who acted as your enemy. This is the painful flip side of grace and love.

Unfortunately the church can be a brutal place. I’ve suffered through the brutality myself and I’ve found that harboring resentment does not help. Hatred and thoughts of revenge do not bring healing. They do bring attention and more likes, however, and that’s it’s ugly pull. Everyone enjoys wallowing in mutual hate of enemies.

Gospel love is the answer. It’s not easy, it was sheer suffering for Christ to forgive us. But He says it is the answer.

Christians need to lead the way in forgiveness. No one else is going to. Forgive and be nice to each other! Build each other up in Christ and put His love on display.

What is A Fruitful Ministry?

Pastors are praised for having “fruitful ministries.” I’ve often wondered what that means.

Based on how people use the phrase I think it has to do with how big the church gets under their tenure. How many people are coming, how many additions were made to the building, maybe it will get into how many were baptized or “saved.”

The constant of these things is numbers. “Fruitful” means more numbers. Numbers can only represent physical things. A “fruitful ministry” then seems to mean by common usage: more physical things.

I find this disturbing.

It’s one thing for the book of Acts to say “many were added to their numbers.” Acts was written under the inspiration of the Spirit. The Spirit knows the heart and knew when people were saved and truly added to their numbers.

Our estimation of who is saved is suspect. We don’t know the heart of others, in fact, our own heart is deceitful, which you better believe will skew our counting!

Fruitful ministry isn’t about numbers and counted objects. Here’s what I think fruitful ministry is based on how the Bible describes ministry.

–By the way, when I use the word “minister” I’m not using it like the formal word for pastor. I mean anyone who serves someone else for Christ. The one doing ministry, whatever that ministry looks like.

  1. The fruit of the minister
    The Bible puts high moral qualifications for someone taking upon themselves an official role in the church. Paul tells Timothy that his growth should be seen by others in the church. If love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance are not increasingly seen in the minister, then that minister does not have a fruitful ministry.
  1. The fruit of the minister’s family
    Provided the minister has a family, the family members should be growing in spiritual fruit. One of the qualifications for official church roles according to Paul is that the marriage is sound and the kids are in subjection. If the family of the minister is not growing love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, then that minister does not have a fruitful ministry.
  1. The fruit of those being ministered to
    Fruitful ministry is not measured by how many people showed up to be ministered to. Fruitful ministry is measured by how much spiritual fruit is developed in those ministered to. In other words, if 500 people go to a church and are entertained and fed donuts yet none have gotten anywhere close to edification resulting in fruit, then no fruitful ministry occurred. However, if you minister to one person and that person receives edification resulting in fruit, then that is a fruitful ministry.
  1. The fruit continues to grow
    A true sign of fruitful ministry is that fruit continues to grow long after the minister is gone. Growing fruit is a process and is not dependent on a specific person. A pastor who serves faithfully for 40 years and retires should still bring forth spiritual fruit. If all spiritual interest disappears when the official ministry spotlight is turned off, there wasn’t a fruitful ministry. If the one ministering to you leaves and your life falls apart, it’s questionable whether you were part of a spiritual ministry.

True spiritual fruit is dependent upon the Holy Spirit. The Body of Christ and those gifted to serve it by the Spirit are an essential aspect of spiritual growth. But at no point should your spiritual growth be dependent on one individual. If you only “grow” under one specific person’s ministry, you’re probably in a cult more than a fruitful ministry.

A true minister leads people to Christ and the Holy Spirit. You‘ll continue to grow long after the person is gone.

Spiritual fruit doesn’t stop. The new life of Christ doesn’t retire. The Spirit doesn’t finish His work in you at some point down here on earth. You’re never done. Truly saved people are like a cedar of Lebanon and “will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.”

If love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance are not resulting from what you think is your “ministry,” then it’s not fruitful. It might be big, it might be impressive, and you might have people tell you it’s fruitful, but if there’s no spiritual fruit, it’s not fruitful!

I feel a need to add:
The Spirit can work through not-so-spiritual ministers. I’ve learned incredible spiritual lessons from terrible examples! It can happen, but should not be the model. “Well, if God can use Balaam’s ass, guess I’ll be an ass for Jesus.” The desire should be to grow fruit so others will be built up to grow fruit. Do your part. It should also be added: you may grow tremendously and yet be surrounded by people who don’t seem to grow at all. There is nuance in the entire discussion. Be nuanced in your thinking about it, but not for the sake of finding loopholes for immaturity!

The Isms Against Christianity and How to Battle Them

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a member of the Russian Orthodox Church during Russia’s communist heydays. He was not a fan. He spent eight years in a gulag for criticizing Stalin in a private letter. His book The Gulag Archipelago is one I’m still trying to read.

He has incredible insights into atheism, Marxism, Leninism, Communism, socialism and life. His first hand witness to the tragedies of these isms is worth our attention.

I’d like to point you to a quote of his I recently saw:

“Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions.”

The hatred of God is not a fruit of these isms; it is the very foundation. It is no shock that the most Communist of nations is also the most atheistic of nations. They go together. Collectivism of the sort that Marx and Lenin came up with, along with other collectivist systems, smacks of the Tower of Babel.

Another quote for us to consider is this:

“Communism is breathing down the neck of all moderate forms of socialism, which are unstable.”

America has begun down the road to hating and rejecting God. It is now cool to be an atheist. This atheism rests upon a hatred of God. People have long hated God, this is no new thing; the isms just have new names. Strong governments are always a sign that the people have turned from God. This isn’t a judgment from on high; it’s reaping what you sow. Remember when Israel asked for a king? Not a good idea. God said they were rejecting Him by doing so.

Unfortunately, the church is heading right down the government trap. We are celebrating OUR politicians and not realizing that the whole political system is never something we are to put our trust in.

The answer to government getting bigger is not to pick a side. The answer is to, as always, promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who happens to be the King of Kings.

God is the Creator of the universe. Humanity is the one part of creation that has volition. Even the rocks would cry out if given the chance. But people? Nope, we’re the dumber than rocks. We enjoy worshiping and serving the creation more than the Creator.

It is this pull within us toward creation rather than the Creation that is the seed of atheism, which then gives rise to socialism and communism and other destructive systems which will inevitably destroy creation and kill people who are made in God’s image.

America is made up of people. People, as a group, will always refuse to worship their Creator. Individuals can be freed from the system through the Gospel. This is always the answer, even though many are bored and disappointed with this answer.

The Gospel means loving enemies, serving, maybe dying, but in all cases denying self for God’s will. It is hard. It is not esteemed by the world. It won’t make the news or get tremendous victories. We suffer with Christ that we may be glorified with Him.

The church doesn’t find this very fun. What’s more fun is to pick a side and go, fight, win! Get on the news for our tremendous world-esteemed wins. The church chucks the Gospel. We are currently doing this. Atheism is growing. Socialism is chasing us down. Worse things will follow, they always do. The church continues to whine about symptoms instead of promoting the cure.

There’s always been a remnant. There remains one today. Have the Gospel given guts to stand for Jesus Christ and not bow the knee to the human decline that surrounds us on the broad road.

Listen to those who’ve come before. Heed the warning. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Fight the fight until you see Christ. Our victory will be then. Be sober. Be vigilant. We have an enemy who wants to eat you for lunch.

Put on the armor of God and stand!

Trusting God with CS Lewis’ Dog

“But of course these conjectures as to why God does what He does are probably of no more value than my dog’s ideas of what I am up to when I sit and read.”
–C S Lewis

I found this quote in Lewis’ book, Reflections on the Psalms. This isn’t one of those weird quotes weirdly attributed to Lewis. He actually said it!

I laughed when I read it. I have a dog. She is always greatly disappointed when she follows me down the hall, thinking we’re about to do thrilling things only to see me sit in my chair yet again and read.

She stands and stares at me for a bit. Then resigns herself that I’m actually staying in the chair and not doing thrilling stuff. Oh well. Better luck next time. Off she goes to lie down in some pillowed location.

I’ve often wondered what she thinks I’m doing. I am flattered that Lewis thinks the same way! Also makes me wonder what it was like to be CS Lewis’ dog.

Dogs don’t understand what humans are doing. Humans don’t understand what God is doing. Yeah, we’re observing similar stuff, but our understanding is so cloudy.

My dog just carries on. People on the other hand, criticize, whine, and complain. Some even blaspheme and turn from God entirely.

This is one area where dogs, often called “man’s best friend,” are way better than people. Confused people often get angry. Confused dogs typically just go lie down and wait for the confusing thing to stop and normal thing to start again.

We really have no idea what God is up to. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

Don’t let your confusion make you criticize God. He knows what He’s doing. The fact that you don’t is not a problem with God! Regardless of what God is up to or whether He’s doing what you want Him to do; God is pretty smart and worthy of trust. Be patient. Go take a nap in a pillowed location.

How Can I Encourage My Pastor?

Since announcing my resignation from pastoral ministry, several people have asked me “how can I encourage my pastor?”

It’s cool to be asked this. Every pastor is different, no doubt, but here are my thoughts on the subject.

  1. Nothing really
    I mean, seriously, any pastor worth their salt is serving the Lord Jesus Christ. If the pastor’s ultimate encouragement does not come from Christ, then things will not turn out well! Pastors need to learn not to be dependent on people for encouragement. Easier said than done. At the same time pastors need to find out how to not be discouraged by people. I found this impossible. I’m of the temperament that will find reason to be discouraged no matter what. So, this is the annoying part of the answer: not much really. Much of being encouraged is up to the pastor.
  1. Grow in Christ
    The people who encouraged me most all had one thing in common: they were massively concerned about their spiritual health and growth. Nothing makes me feel better about my ministry than seeing that some people grew in Christ. Words aren’t enough, I don’t want to hear people tell me they grew; growth is evident if it happens. You will know them by their fruit.
    The people most effusive in their praise of me after I resigned were people I never saw grow; they were, in fact, people I rarely saw! Many of them were heading the opposite direction. They knew that. They felt guilty, which is why they were effusive with praise! Nice words don’t cut it. True life-changing growth is the best, because not only do they grow, they help others grow.
  1. Money
    This probably isn’t true for all pastors since many churches are businesses and raking in big money. But for small town, small church pastors, man a little cash is helpful. There were years I had literally no money. I had a wife and three little kids and no money left. This was great for me in growing my faith and showing me the Lord’s provision, but there were also sleepless nights and inner tension while those lessons were learned. A little extra gift here and there was fantastic. Financially support the church as well. Take an interest in the ministries and missionaries your church’s money goes to. Actually know where the money goes and perhaps this will help you be more generous. Be invested.
  1. A personal touch
    Get to know what your pastor likes. Show some true interest in the PERSON, not the image of a pastor. Stained glass crosses or pictures of Jesus smiling over children are given by people who don’t know their pastor. Not one pastor in all the earth wants more of these things! It’s a generic gift to shut up the pastor who they know nothing about. Give me some ice cream, or my favorite candy bar, or a gift certificate to a steak restaurant. Get to know your pastor, get things that you’d get for a friend because you actually know and care about this PERSON.
  2. Show up
    Don’t lie. Don’t make stupid excuses. Show up to church stuff. Nothing more depressing than working on great content for sermons or putting in time to plan events and then having two people show up. Heart breaking. Show up. People skip church for just about everything. It was nice to hear someone skipped something else to be at church! Rarely happened, but it was cool when it did. Sacrifice to be there.

These are some ideas. The basic point though is: Grow in Christ. People who grow in Christ show love to their pastor. They show up to church. They edify others. They don’t lie and make excuses. They give generously. They are understanding and gracious and aren’t going to get upset about irrelevant things.

Grow in Christ. There is nothing more pastors want from the people under their care.

The #2 Best Thing About Not Being a Pastor Anymore

My last few months of Sundays as pastor were brutal. Nothing really happened out of the ordinary, just same churchy things as always.

But my head was in a bad place. I couldn’t pull myself out. I didn’t want to be at church. I didn’t want to preach. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to do anything except get it over with and go home.

I’d had depressing times before, but this one was to the core of my being. I couldn’t shake it. Tension built in me: how can I keep doing this job feeling like this? This can’t be right, man.

My plan for a number of years was to quit after our last kid graduated high school. That happens, Lord willing, in a couple months.

Perhaps it was being so close to the end? Seniors in high school get Senioritis. They’re so close to being done with school, yet they have to go through the motions until graduation day. Maybe I caught it from my son?

There was angst all around this past year, much of which made being a pastor more difficult. Listening to church members fixate on politics and passive-aggressively attack each other on Facebook posts. People freaking about viruses and how the church was to respond, which alienated someone all the time no matter what. There was a massive family issue going on in my extended family that drew my attention elsewhere.

In other words, there was a lot of troubling things on my plate. Maybe it was just overwhelming to my system.

All I knew is that Sundays is where it all culminated and beat me into the ground. Saturday nights were just dread. Sunday mornings, I couldn’t even pray. I didn’t even want to think about church. Just let me go and get it done with. Then I’d spend all afternoon fighting anger and inevitably end up sobbing at some point.

Man, I was a mess.

Well, I gotta tell ya. Sundays are way better now!

I’ve been going to church. I don’t have to do anything at a church for the first time in 21 years. I don’t have to worry about who isn’t there, or why, or who will be mad next. I don’t have to have regrets all afternoon and evening about how I messed up my sermon.

It’s just gone. It’s all gone! And it is delightful!

Now, I will admit, it’s hard to sit and not have a say. I can’t help but let my mind wander into what I would preach about this passage, or how I’d have said that point better, or criticize the application.

But the upside far outweighs the downside. Sundays are fantastic. I get edified. I talk to people who simply are talking to me not some mental image of “pastor.” I can relax and actually think about my spiritual health and not fixate on all the screwed up people in front of me.

Ahhhhh.

It’s a beautiful thing. Not sure how long it will last. I feel the pull already to get involved, which is good, probably. But right now, I’m pretty happy with Sundays.

The #1 Best Thing About Not Being a Pastor Anymore

Pastors evoke guilt wherever they go. Simply being in front of people makes them spew forth guilt-ridden justifications, excuses, and lies to cover their inadequacies your presence pulls up in their head.

Oh, I hated this.

I resigned from pastoring a while ago now. One of the best results of this is that I have not heard one person give me a stupid excuse why they weren’t at church!

Excuses annoyed me to no end.

After church on Sundays, my family often stopped at the local Wal-Mart or grocery store to pick up a couple things while in town. Inevitably we would see someone who skipped church. Guilt exuded from their pores.

All I said was, “Hi.” Then, for five minutes I’d hear their reasons for skipping church and how they did devotions today and they’ll be sure to watch that one preacher on TV their aunt likes. Dude, I just wanted some bread. Just running in to grab it and get going.

I tried not to guilt people to attend church. I figured if they want to be there; they’d be there. If they don’t want to be there, the church is probably better off without their bad attitude.

That was my reasoning. Probably I was just chicken to confront people.

If people skipped two weeks in a row I’d check in on them. My heart always sank when people skipped a couple weeks in a row. I hated making that call. Who knows what I’d hear.

Worst case scenario is they’d left the church and were ticked off at me. Best case scenario I’d have to listen to completely lame excuses and justifications, otherwise known as “lies,” about why they weren’t there.

There were always a couple people who refreshingly said, “Yeah, I just didn’t feel like going.” I appreciated the honesty. I’d take that over made up health concerns or blaming it on the same weather everyone else had.

Speaking of weather; bad weather on a Sunday is a great way to tell who’s playing and who’s for real. There are exceptions. In Northern Wisconsin we can have pretty bad weather. But the people who consider bad weather to be moist roads or anything below 47 when it’s cloudy or 35 when it’s sunny, are fake.

I was rarely shocked at who completely tanked spiritually or who flaked out on their faith. I knew this simply by watching what level of weather kept them from church. Bad weather on Sunday is a good barometer of how well people will handle persecution!

Simply seeing their pastor makes people feel guilty and guilt makes people be weird. I don’t miss that at all. It’s a true source of joy for me!