6 Criticisms the Resigning Pastor Will Hear

People assume there’s something wrong with the pastor who resigns. It’s been six months since I resigned from the church I was at for 21 years. Although I haven’t heard too many of these comments to my face, these are the comments I’ve heard about other pastors who quit and a few directed my way.

So pastors, when you quit, expect to hear a few of the following:

  1. There must be sin going on.
    Since so many pastors take moral falls—affairs, embezzling, being a jerk, etc.—people assume any pastor who quits must be doing it because of sin. Something more is going on. What is it? Surely someone knows. They dig around, snooping, trying to figure out what he did. Some even ask prying questions of his wife and family, trying to get the scoop on the Real Story of what went on. Clearly resigning from being a pastor is a sign of spiritual backsliding.
  1. Shows he shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with.
    This one I hear a lot. It’s just God’s way of weeding out the guys who are terrible at being a pastor. If they can’t handle it obviously they shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with. Apparently the only people who should ever do ministry are ones who can guarantee success. Curious how that is known before starting? Is observable success the sole measure of who should be doing ministry?
  1. He wasn’t called.
    “People whom God calls don’t quit” is how the story goes. They keep going, presumably until their deathbeds, just like everybody else in the world that only had one job their entire life. I heard this one, “You treated it like a job, not the sacred call it was.” Really? Because I got tired and burned out by lethargic people after 21 years, I’m the one who was wimpy here? The only reason I actually lasted 21 years is because it was more than a job to me. There were easier ways to make a shrinking salary.
  1. Tried to do it on his own and not with God.
    Gotta love this one too. Obviously, since I quit after failing in the church, God wasn’t in it. I must have been arrogantly assuming all along that I was man enough to build God’s church without God. Now I’ve been shown the reality that I wasn’t trusting God enough. Weird, because I remember all the days and nights of crying out to God with tears to stir up the church, to do what I was completely unable to do. This criticism is from someone who has never tried to help anyone ever.
  1. He cares too much about people’s opinions.
    “If a guy truly had his mind set on God’s view of the world and not man’s, he would never be discouraged.” Pastors only quit when they can’t measure up to people’s opinions of ministerial success. Although people’s opinions are largely discouraging and may contribute to many pastors leaving their churches, what about the pastor who quits in light of this person’s opinion? So if your opinion is that a pastor should never quit, and I quit, how is this proof I only follow people’s opinions? No matter what a pastor does, it’s against someone’s opinion.
  1. That’s what happens when you aren’t faithful to God’s Word.
    Presumably if I preached the Word people would come. The Field of Dreams Theory of church growth. If you simply preach the word (which usually means “If you tell me what I want to hear”), the church would have grown huge and everything would be great. Who would quit then? Obviously he only quit because of all his worldly compromise he made while forsaking the truth of Scripture. When the Word became flesh and dwelt among men, those men killed the Word made flesh. People don’t like the Word. Perhaps, and this is just a wild guess, perhaps some pastors quit because it’s obvious no one has any interest in hearing God’s Word?

I don’t know if this is common to other people quitting their jobs, maybe it is, but I don’t think so. I know a guy who has quit two jobs in the past six months, I doubt anyone has questioned his spiritual health. I didn’t.

One of the traps of pastoral ministry is that getting out of it is very hard. The criticism you know you’ll receive for quitting looms, not just from the church but from your mom, your family and friends, and random strangers. I’ve been compared to Jonah several times.

And, to top it all off, many of these criticisms come from the very people you just sacrificed for, the same people who wouldn’t lift a finger to help, the same people who largely led the pastor to resigning in the first place!

In the end, whatever. People can say what they want. It doesn’t matter. If you’re a pastor long enough you know this. I will stand before the Lord with my decisions made inside and outside the church. I don’t think my eternal security is based upon how many years I survived pastoral ministry.

This is a heads up though to all pastors planning on leaving the ministry: this is what will be said about you. Enjoy! Take heart though, these same people were criticizing you in equally dumb ways while you were in the ministry! At least after this one you’ll never hear them again!

In the end, people’s criticisms matter none at all. In one way it’s kind of funny, waiting to hear all the above criticisms. They’ll come. You’ll hear em if you stick around to listen. Pastor Resignation BINGO!

But conclude with the Apostle Paul’s conclusion:

Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
–1 Corinthians 4:2-5

Why Have so Many Pastors Been Resigning Lately?

I have seen a couple statistics that a lot of pastors have resigned in the past year. I don’t know whether the numbers are true or not, is it really more than usual?

Whether it’s true or not, I am one of the pastors who resigned. I can at least tell you my reasons for doing so. Here are some of the current contributing factors that make the pastorate something to resign from!

  1. Material Prosperity
    There has been a time of prosperity over the last ten years or so in America and the church and Christians got carried along with it. New churches sprang up and older churches built bigger barns. This is a giant underlying issue that is the root cause of many of the following reasons.
  1. Lack of Disciples
    Actual godly Christians are few and far between. Our Church Growth techniques have worked, but what you attract them with, you keep them with. The modern church, although appearing to be huge, has about 33 actual godly Christians. Slight exaggeration, but essentially true! There’s lots of noise and activity along with very little edification and spiritual growth. The modern church looks big and impressive, but it is hollow. It is a giant loaf of bread with lots of leaveny air pockets and very little dough.
  1. Church Now Exists to Entertain
    It is unbelievably hard to be a pastor attempting to make disciples and preach the Word in season and out while people leave your church to go places that offer more polished music and kid’s programs. All the hip pastors who will take moral tumbles at some point in the near future, do quite well before the moral failings do them in. Read Jeremiah or Ezekiel to know what this feels like. The consistent preaching of the Word is mocked and rejected while false prophets claiming “Peace, peace” when there is no peace, attract the crowds. The people you’ve sacrificed for in an effort to edify them leave for these pleasure palaces of churches, sucking the joy and life right out of ministry.
  1. “Busy” People
    While the 33 godly Christians go to church, all the other people are out being “busy.” Pastors hear people say they are “busy” approximately 754 times a week. It’s probably true too: worldly people are indeed busy in the world. When everything the church offers is rejected because people need to hunt, fish, work, attend youth sports, go on vacation, or skip church for various other “busy” reasons, it creates massive depression. At the same time, people joke about binge watching Netflix. How come so many can binge watch Netflix while being too busy to go to church? Odd.
  1. Pandemics
    The Covid pandemic and subsequent response to it has caused people to skip church for “health reasons.” Some of this is legitimate and is not condemned in those cases. However, the amount of people who can’t go to church for “health reasons” who post photos of what they did with their friends all weekend was/is quite large. The excitement in people’s voices when they actually had a legitimate reason to skip church was nauseating. I can attest that the people who skipped church for Covid were largely the same group who skipped it the year before because they were “busy.” Their Facebook profile lets me know they are still busy, just happy to have a legit sounding excuse now.
  1. Financial Freedom
    Perhaps another issue, and this one might hurt a little, is that everyone seems to have money coming out their ears right now. The government is handing out money like candy on Halloween. There have always been pastors itching to get out of ministry (for many of these stated reasons) but couldn’t afford it. Perhaps our stimulus money and extended unemployment allowed many pastors to finally take that leap.
  2. Politics
    Churches are dependent on money to a frightening extent in our day. Churches have built large buildings and support impressive shows, er, church services. These things cost money. Churches need rich people. This forces the church and their rich people to be mindful of earthly things like politics, which increasingly controls everything. We need lower taxes on one side and we need the government to provide living wages on the other side. Fights ensue. The amount of time I listened to church members argue politics before and after church would make you think politics was our main focus at church. Politics has overtaken the church. This does not create a proper environment for edification.
  3. Pandemic Decisions
    To mask or not to mask was THE question and was a recipe for fighting, division, and skipping church. Pastors get sick and tired of making decisions that will guarantee half the church will be mad and leave no matter what is decided. Everyone knows what is best for the church to do and everyone has a different opinion. You hate people if you mask; you hate people if you don’t. You hate God if you cancel church; you hate God if you don’t cancel church. Everyone’s an expert. I got to the point where I felt, “Fine, you people know everything; go for it. I don’t need this.” And I didn’t.
  4. Disrespect
    America has always been disrespectful to authority and this trend has gotten worse. The past couple years the disrespect of politicians, police, and various other authorities has been on full violent display. People take this same attitude toward pastors. Unless you are an extrovert, people-pleasing pastor acting like everyone’s best friend and you never take a stand on anything, churches view you as their own private punching bag. I have been shocked at some of the stuff people have said and done to me over the years. Although any one single incident bothers me very little, over the course of 20 years, it does get old. It’s just unnecessary and unhelpful.
  5. Pastoral Futility
    People are largely not in the church for spiritual reasons. It’s just another part of the world for most. The world’s junk is brought in and defeats the entire purpose for meeting as a church. The main reason I resigned is because what’s the point? Everything I was doing seemed futile, misunderstood, and easily rejected by the people I was doing it for. It leaves a guy feeling like there’s no reason to continue. Why bother, no one’s listening anyway? The Word of God is not heard over the deafening din of the world’s clamor. I have no interest in trying to yell louder. After over 20-years of being a pastor, I had to get out for my own spiritual sanity, to get me to a place where I could again hear the still, small voice of God.

I resigned last year because in large part the church is made up of people who really don’t want God and I didn’t want to be around that anymore. I don’t know how else to say it: today’s church is not interested in hearing from the Lord. Why talk to walls anymore? I couldn’t find a compelling reason, so I resigned. Was this the right decision? Not according to many, but I will stand before the Lord with it and only His opinion counts as He is my judge.

My hat’s off to all those pastors still slugging it out, faithfully teaching the Word of God week in and week out. Your reward will be in heaven, as it surely will not be here. Fight the fight.

An Update on My Non-Pastoral Life

It’s been six months since I resigned from being a pastor. I have enjoyed it! We began attending a new church back in December and I have enjoyed not being in charge of it!

I have long desired to simply go to church and be edified, to not have to do anything for a while. To sit and take it in. To be friendly to people simply from being friendly not out of professional duty. To go home afterwards and not beat myself up the rest of the day for all the poor encounters, or things I forgot to say in my sermon, or dumb stuff I did say.

It’s been magical! I have felt no burden in relationship to church for the first time in 21 years.

Several weeks after attending our new church I met with the pastor. I knew him before, we are pretty close doctrinally, which is why I went to his church.

In the course of our meeting he asked me if I would ever be willing to preach for him if illness or other things popped up.

I know how nice it is to have people who can fill in for you, even if they never do, it’s nice to know they could. Gives a pastor some relief to know being gone is ok. I said, “sure.” Why not? What are the odds?

Well, the odds were pretty good.

Our pastor is in the hospital in pretty rough shape. He has several physical conditions that are acting up, some of which were kicked off by a bout with Covid.

Even after he recovers he will need heart surgery. He’s going to be out quite a while. I preached last Sunday for the first time there. The board is now asking to meet with me next week to set up a long term arrangement to fill in.

Part of me is sad because I feel for my pastor. He’s a good guy. He’s going through a lot and it’s putting his family through a lot. This is no fun for any of them.

Part of me is scared because when I resigned I told my wife I would never pastor again unless it fell into my lap. Not that I’m going to be the pastor there, but I’m getting drawn back in. A pastoral role of one sort or another appears to be falling in my lap. This terrifies me.

Part of me is excited because I love preaching. I also told my wife that even if I were never a pastor again, I would be involved in a church and I’d love to preach some. I’m surprised it happened this quickly, but I look forward to the opportunity to proclaim God’s word.

I’m endeavoring to not make this all about me. Our pastor and our church are hurting. This is a thing I can do to help both. I want to do my best before the Lord in this opportunity.

This is not how I saw things going, nor would it ever be how I’d want things to go. But it is how it’s gone and here I am. I’d appreciate your prayers in figuring out how to handle all of this.

How to be a Successful Failing Pastor

In my first year of pastoring I knew everything.

The church doubled in size and we had to add chairs to fit the crowd one Sunday.

People came to me for counseling.

I was someone!

Fortunately, all these things ended real quick.

It began when I realized I had no idea what I was preaching about. I was toeing the party line, going along with the church’s doctrine and slowly realized that it wasn’t entirely consistent with the Bible.

This put me in a conundrum. Here I thought I knew everything and all of a sudden I realized I didn’t know anything. Even I wasn’t buying my arguments for what I was preaching.

I began expressing in my sermons some of my doubts and questions about the standard doctrine. This caused people to get mad at me and leave the church.

As people leave, people who don’t know much assume others must know something, so then a leaving trend slowly begins. People stopped coming to me for counsel, look at how he shipwrecked the church, what can he possibly know?

There was a stretch of time when we didn’t break 20 people a Sunday for months. We didn’t even bother setting up all the chairs let alone adding more.

This was a brutal thing to live through. I can’t tell you how brutal it was on me. I was shattered in many ways. I wish I could tell you it all turned around once I learned the Magic Lesson that Unlocked the Church’s Potential, one I’ll sell to you for $49.95!

But no, the church never recovered.

But in hindsight I thank God it happened like this! If I had continued to preach the church’s established doctrine, which was in error, and the church continued to flourish, who knows where I’d have ended up.

People fear failure, but I gotta be honest, from what I’ve seen with pastors in churches, success seems to be as, or maybe even more damaging than failure.

Success goes to your head. Arrogance creates abuse, power trips, flippancy, gathering “yes men” who do your bidding, and all manner of weird stuff.

There are very few people equipped to handle success. I would not have been one of them.

In fairness, I sucked pretty bad at handling failure too! I’m perhaps equipped for mediocrity!

The Bible says a couple times that humility goes before glory. If your glory comes first, don’t be shocked when humility follows. Take heed you who stand, a fall might be coming.

Take heart failing pastors! Success might be the worst possible thing that could happen to you!

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!