The Failing Pastor’s Wife

I’m not talking about wives who fail at being pastors wives, I’m talking about my wife who is the wife of a failing pastor.

When we came to this church I told them my wife was not an employee. She should not be expected to do a bunch of stuff, and if you have something to tell me, tell me.

These parameters are not remembered by anyone, so it has to be demonstrated consistently. People don’t listen to words; they might eventually pick up on habits.

All the grandiose statements about “my wife is not an employee” are great and everything, but when no one else shows up to watch kids in the nursery, guess who watches kids in the nursery?

I think there were years where my wife heard maybe five of my messages because no one else would serve in the nursery. This was not good. Spare me the lectures about “Well, you need to make people do it, that’s not right.”

Yeah, ok, and who exactly are these people I want to entrust the care of other people’s children to? Not to mention that my wife felt bad making a mom who brought the kids stay in the nursery with the kids. What’s the point of going to church then?

My wife knows my theological brilliance anyway, she’ll just watch the kids. She’d rather give other people an “opportunity” to hear sermons than her.

But it still got old.

The nursery thing was annoying, but we’ve since taken care of that by not having any little kids in our church anymore. But perhaps the two biggest sacrifices she makes being married to a failing pastor are these:

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The Feeling of Failure because no one Listens

I look at God’s word and think, “Man, this is great! These are the words of life.”

When I preach God’s word, I fully expect everyone else to see how great His word is too. But usually people just ignore it, shuffle out the door, and go right back to the idiocy they were dong before.

I sit back and observe the lives around me, I see the beauty of God’s word, I see that the wrecked lives are not hearing God’s word. How can they not want more of this beautiful, life-giving word?

My only conclusion is: it must be me. I must be screwing it up. I must preach really badly. Maybe my life, my testimony, maybe I don’t demonstrate it enough.

I reflect on how I act and what I’ve done in front of these people who continually don’t hear God’s word, I can think of things I did in front of them that weren’t right. I can see my blame. And since I know God’s word is so perfect and beautiful, it can’t be His fault. It’s got to be me.

When people reject God’s word, it must be my fault. I’m to blame. It’s all me.

I feel this way quite often. There is some truth. I can’t deny I have a part in all this.

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4 Kinds of Questions Pastors Get Asked

As a pastor I am accustomed to being questioned. Every week I have people emailing and asking questions in person. I am specifically talking about questions related to the Bible and Christianity, not stuff like, “Did you see the game? or “Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”

People often say, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” People who say this have obviously never been a pastor. There are stupid questions; I’ve been asked most of them. But in the midst of the gloom of inane questions are the shining lights of brilliant questions. These are rare and cherished.

I can throw all these questions into the following categories. Most of these categories consist entirely of stupid questions, with one shining exception, which you will readily recognize when you see it.

1. Testing Questions
Many questions I’m asked are tests. The questioner has no interest at all in my answer. They want to corner me, challenge me, condemn me, mock me, or in some other way make me look ridiculous. These questions used to bother me quite a bit. Now I just answer them as succinctly as possible. “How many angels can stand on a pin head?” My answer: “7.” because seriously how are they going to verify this? These are insincere questions asked by people who want to lecture. These questions are the stupidest questions of all

2. Doubtful Questions
I don’t mind if people ask me about their doubts about the Bible, faith, or Christianity. I’m cool with people questioning such things. Unfortunately, what I’ve realized is that people who have doubts about the veracity of Christianity are usually people who just don’t want to commit to it. So, after I’ve answered their question about their doubt as reasonably as I can, they’ll nod their head and walk away. Six months later they’ll ask the same question. I’ll give the same answer. They nod and go away. Six months later they ask the same question, I give the same answer, they nod the same and walkaway. Six months later . . . on and on and on it goes. These people have doubts and they aren’t interested in the answers because they are enjoying their sin too much. This is stupid.

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Top 5 Things that Make This Pastor Sad

Pastoral ministry isn’t hard physically. Many aspects are actually totally enjoyable. One of my favorite things in the world is developing sermons and preaching them. Visiting people has become a good source of entertainment and fellowship. Hospital visits are even becoming more, well “enjoyable” isn’t the right word, manageable?!

Pastoral ministry is hard in other ways. It takes an emotional toll after a while. There are many sad aspects of the job that suck the life and energy out of me. Here are the leading causes of pastoral sadness.

1. Tragedies
Bad things happen to a lot of people. Watching the elderly woman take care of her husband slipping away with Alzheimer’s. Watching people slowly succumb to cancer. Parents who give birth to kids with health issues. Suicide. Accidents and injuries. Man, it’s tough walking with people through these things. It also seems like these things come in bunches. There have been times where these things just compound and I wonder where the energy comes from to deal with another one. I have learned to not take seasons free of these things for granted.

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Preaching Against Things Feels Good, but is it Good?

I like to put emotion in my preaching, not over the top, I’m not skipping and jumping and trying to stir up emotion. I just mean I want to have an emotional attachment to my subject.

Anytime I struggle to come up with another sermon idea (preaching three times a week for 20 years and not doing reruns causes this problem occasionally), my fallback is to talk about subjects I’m passionate about.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is that “passion” usually means “disgust.” I generally revert to preaching about things I despise, doctrines that are wrong, and frequently I call out theologians, churches, and denominations that promote such things.

Now, this is fun and will allow you to write a quick sermon. The audience eats it up too. There are laughs and nodding of heads. Everyone leaves feeling good about themselves and their church.

But is this good? Is it good for people to leave church feeling better about US than we do about THEM? Does this foster love?

The longer I’m a pastor the less appealing this approach becomes to me. I still fall into it from time to time, old habits die hard, but I’m making a concerted effort to eliminate bashing on others in my preaching.

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Pastoral Incompetence, Incompetent Advice, and Prayer Chains

“You know, your church should really have a . . .”

Every pastor has heard sentences begin like this. Who knows how the sentence will end, but probably with you doing something you’re intentionally not doing after much thought and counsel. Most people assume you’re not doing it because you’re a moron.

“You know, our church should have a prayer chain.” This is one I’ve heard countless times. “The last church I went to had a prayer chain and I just loved it, I could keep up with everything and everyone.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why we don’t have one.” Now listen, if your church does a prayer chain, great, go for it. I am not seeking to dictate what your church does.

I and the board of our church have discussed this issue many times. We don’t have a prayer chain. Here is a brief list of reasons why:

They promote gossip.
They too often share things people don’t want shared.
I’d rather have people in my church talk to each other and be friends and find out what to pray for.
They promote gossip.
Our church isn’t that big; it’s not hard to keep up.
Anything the whole church needs to know is announced at church. Want to know what’s going on at church? Here’s an idea: go to church and you’ll know.
They promote gossip.

I’m not interested in any arguments on these points. This is not up for debate. Nothing you can say to me will change my mind.

Prayer chains are not biblically mandated. Prayer for each other is; but I believe prayer is centered on love. Love would be friends with people and know how to pray for people.

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Dealing With Feelings of Pastoral Inadequacy

If you were to ask me the top five reasons why I feel like a failing pastor I would say:

  1. People don’t come to my church; even “regulars” don’t come very “regular.”
  2. The testimony of the families in our church is, shall we say, sub-par.
  3. I never feel entirely sure what I’m supposed to do with people.
  4. Surely if I were succeeding I would not be crying over this church as much as I do.
  5. Minuscule levels of what is termed “successful evangelism” are taking place.

I’ve heard people confirm my failure in regard to these issues. Many happy pastors would immediately condemn my pastoring based on these five things, (probably with the exception of the crying thing because that sounds very spiritual and “should be that way,” but you probably don’t fully understand the source of those tears, which is mostly just complete pain and agony rather than intercession).

I’ve heard many non-pastors say in relation to these things, “You should quit then.” Perhaps, but these same people will trot out the “Nothing worthwhile is every easy” line if I dare discuss quitting.

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