I Am Done With Pastoral Ministry

I must admit, I’ve been deceiving you. I know, hard to believe an anon account on Twitter would not be completely forthright.

Last year I resigned as pastor.

I couldn’t do it anymore. To quote the great theologian B. B. King, “The thrill is gone, the thrill is gone away for good.”

I endured as much as I could. I made it over 20 years. In many areas I did my best. In other areas, yeah, I didn’t do great. The areas I didn’t do well in were largely because I couldn’t figure out what to do. I knew what other pastors did, certainly got plenty of advice, but I couldn’t bring myself to do much of that stuff. I struggled.

I can honestly say I gave myself to the profession and took the responsibility seriously. In the time I was pastor I read the Bible cover to cover over 40 times. I wanted to make sure that no matter what passage anyone ever asked me about, I had read it recently. I preached straight through the Bible for 16 years. I wanted people to deal with God’s words, not my opinions or theological camp.

I memorized books of the Bible. Read hundreds of theology books. I visited people. Moved so many couches it’s not funny. Loved and served as best I could. Probably the greatest evidence that I gave myself to my job is that I talked to people on the phone. I think I’ve talked to five people on the phone since resigning and I’m related to three of them.

In the end, I can say that I grew tremendously through the experience. I don’t think I’d be where I am today in Christian growth without being a pastor, I guess I’ll never know that for sure, but all I know is it was a great teacher.

I have been hurt deeply. My back has been stabbed so many times, if it were to happen again the stab would just fall right out my front. There is a hurt in me and a frustration, bitterness, anger, I don’t know what all it is, but it’s deep and it hurts.

At the same time, I also know I’m a sinner and was not innocent. I was not perfect in all my interactions with people. I know I didn’t abuse anyone, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I’ve already begun attending a church. I have no plans to forsake the Church. My pastoral experience showed me what churches need from people; now to see if I’m man enough to be what I wished someone was for my church! Kind of scary.

I can say with utmost assurance that I currently never want to be a pastor again. I will hesitate to say that I won’t ever be one again, but it would have to more or less fall in my lap and/or have me backed into a corner, but I won’t limit what the Spirit might have for me down the road. My flesh is not at all willing, but I suppose, if the Spirit insisted enough, I’d do it again. But man, it would have to be brutally clear and obvious that I should!

Much of the stuff I’ve put on the Twitter account was fabricated, some was borrowed from other pastors, and other bits were completely real. The real stuff was delayed time wise so if my identity came out hopefully no one would be hurt. Everything on the blog was real, didn’t make any of it up.

I’ve enjoyed the Twitter account. It was fun. It was a good release for me. It was also fantastic to commiserate with other pastors. Pretty cool to hear so many pastors were encouraged by things I said.

Thank you for reading and taking part.

I think I’m done with regular Twitter-ing for the most part. If you’d enjoy hearing more from me, I do like writing and think I have some things to share about the pastoral ministry, I’m going to continue writing on the Failing Pastor blog. There should be a button on the lower part of your screen where you can subscribe. You will get an email when I post here.

I’d like to write some about sermon crafting (someone recently joked I should teach homiletics, that got me thinking . . .), knowing the Bible, dealing with people, perhaps more details about my ministry and why I quit, transitioning out of pastoral ministry and into being a “layman,” and basic Christian things. As I plan on being in church for the remainder of my life, I will, no doubt, have more things to pontificate on!

And, at risk of completely getting in trouble, here is the link to the church where I pastored so you know I was legit at one point! For a time the web site will still be online. If you’d like to hear me preach, you can sample way too many of my sermons here.

If this blows up in my face, I have the power to delete everything I’ve ever said or done online! Not really, but I can delete this post pretty easily!

Again, thank you. Please do subscribe to the blog if you’d like to hear more.

For all those remaining in ministry:
You’re a better man than I and you have my respect, for what that’s worth. Fight the fight, be instant in season and out. Preach the word. Grow. Love the people. Uphold the Lord Jesus Christ in all you say and do. You represent Him. Take the responsibility seriously. Remind them to do good works that they be not unfruitful. As much as is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone. You’ll stand before the Lord someday; live like it!

Thank you.

Spiritual Growth and Bamboo Tree Illustrations

There’s a new sermon illustration going around, I’ve heard it several times in the last couple weeks. Whenever too good to be true illustrations get popular, I get skeptical. I do this weird thing called “Googling it.”

The illustration goes like this:

When you plant a Chinese bamboo tree, you need to water it, nurture it, and fertilize it every day. But nothing happens the first year. You do the same thing the next year, and still nothing happens. That’s right, you see no results for 4 long years!

You’re waiting for results, not seeing any evidence of progress. But then what happens on the fifth year is just awesome. One morning you wake up and see a small bamboo sprig, then the next day an even bigger one and in 5 weeks it has grown up to 90 ft.

The application is obvious: you read your Bible, pray, and go to church. Nothing happens. Still a sinner. Still a pathetic, nominal Christian. But shazam! After four years of no results, one year you will produce so much spiritual fruit you’ll smell like strawberries.

Couple problems with this:

1) Technical gardening people will tell you that there is no such thing as a bamboo tree. They are technically grass, therefore their growing process is completely different from a tree.

2) It is not true that you see no growth for four years, it grows and you can see it grow. Yes, eventually it can grow fast, not 90 feet in five weeks out of nothing fast though.

3) It’s probably also not true that it needs to be nurtured and fertilized every day. Bamboo trees grow in the wild without any effort from anyone at all.

4) This illustration is nothing more than happy thoughts for people who aren’t growing spiritually. “Well, I might be getting pathetic results, but Bamboo Tree Guy said I can be pathetic for years and then, shazam, I will grow fruit out my ears.”

Look, if you’re not growing spiritually, you’re doing something wrong, There’s no magic moment when all of a sudden you sprout out of nowhere.

The Bible consistently says we grow as babies into mature sons. Nowhere does it say we grow like bamboo trees. Paul told Timothy his progress should be evident before people in the church. You can see it. It happens gradually, like a baby turning into a grown adult.

Don’t use stupid illustrations. Look stuff up. Google makes verifying things really easy. Using wrong illustrations gives the impression that you’re lazy and copying your sermons from the internet.

How a Pastor’s Sunday Goes From Wonderful to Depressing

8:00am—I’m up, showered, dressed, got my last sermon prep done, praying, getting ready. Really excited to present what I’ve learned from the Bible this week. Great stuff. People will be grateful to hear this! Excited. So glad it’s Sunday! Let’s do this!

9:00am—leave for church.

9:15am—shoot the breeze with some faithful people who are there early to get things set up.

9:25am—becomes obvious not many people are showing up for Sunday School. This does not bode well. Anytime I’m excited to preach, no one shows up.

9:37am—Sunday School starts late because I’m giving a last shot for any late people to wander in. No one wanders in. Slight depression enters my heart. I press on and do my Sunday school Lesson I was excited to bring.

10:02am—someone challenges one of my points. They were kind of right. My answer was terrible. So stupid, I should have looked up those verses and read more carefully. How did I miss that? Bummer.

10:24am—Sunday School goes late because people were arguing about politics and completely missing the entire point of what I just got done teaching. I close in a brief prayer and wait for church. It’s ok, my sermon is awesome! I’ll turn this around.

10:29am—becoming painfully aware that only three more people are coming to church than were at Sunday School. It’s raining and windy. Lord knows they can’t come when it’s rainy and windy.

10:37am—waiting for any latecomers to show up, there has to be more people than this. There isn’t. My spirit lags. I try to ignore it. Crowds don’t mean everything. Just serve the ones who are here, amen.

10:51am—my sermon begins. A late comer walks in three minutes into the sermon completely throwing off my concentration causing me to lose my place and stumble around repeating myself for four minutes.

11:17am—all heads are looking at the floor. I can’t believe I’m making a great passage of Scripture boring. The pressure mounts. Must do better. If only I could remember what I’m talking about.

11:32am—I keep running around in circles trying to make sure I got all my points in and said well. Not feeling like that is happening. Keep talking. So many conclusion statements that don’t quite feel concluding enough. Oh well, whatever. End this disaster.

11:39am—two people argue minor points in my sermon. One person only mentions my funny illustration and seems unaware there was a point to it.

11:51am—I ask my wife on the way home if my sermon made sense. “Well, it wasn’t your best.” OK, I’m done. Depression fully takes over. My kids begin fighting in the backseat demonstrating once again that my sermon point was completely missed.

11:53am—I have now snapped and lost my patience with my kids.

12:07pm—there is no lunch meat. I have nothing to eat for lunch now. I go in my room, shut the door and sulk in my chair.

12:43pm—I have now remembered three points I never made in my sermon, the points I was searching for in my succession of conclusion statements. Also I finally have the perfect answer to the person who argued in Sunday School. I’m sure they will send me an email badgering me further.

2:32pm—email received. Feeling a little dizzy reading it. I write three responses, all of which are erased. I carefully craft a fourth response, which all but concedes the point and throws in the towel because at this point I don’t want to think about it anymore.

3:24pm—not only do I relive all the failed moments of this morning they remind me of all the failed times I’ve had lately. And let’s not forget all the ones I had the last 18 years.

4:05pm—my wife and kids are afraid to come near me after I snapped earlier. I’m a terrible father and husband. The stupid church makes me a terrible person.

5:27pm—supper was late and it had mixed vegetables with broccoli in it. Can this day get any worse?

6:32pm—Yes, the day can get worse. I have received four responses to my earlier capitulating email. They know I capitulated and have now lost all respect for me. So have I.

9:07pm—I had a terrible sermon and didn’t handle myself well at church. I’m an awful pastor. I suck at being a father and husband. I’m a worthless person. Complete depression sets in. I lay on the floor and dry sob into the carpet.

10:32pm—I indulge a few sins, because I’m even worse than the chief of sinners, and go to bed. Sunday’s coming.

Anti-Legalism is often just Pro-Laziness

“Trying to be a perfect Christian is legalism.”
–Guy who spends thousands of hours and dollars trying to take the slice out of his tee shot

There are a lot of Christians worried about legalism. Many have been hurt by legalistic churches and people. I get it.

But much of the reaction against legalism sounds an awful lot like rebellion against God’s Word.

There are many Christians who think that legalism is anytime anyone tells you to do anything that is right. Some have accused me of being legalistic because I actually talk about commands in the New Testament, of which there are many.

When God tells us to do stuff; that isn’t legalism.

Some of the most adamant responses to legalism come from people who are very skilled in their professions and hobbies. Many are people who diligently apply themselves at their craft. They put hours into perfecting their golf swing.

But God forbid you tell them to bring their bodies under subjection when it comes to following God’s Word.

I’m constantly amazed at the people who think spiritual things will just happen. People who think fruit will show up whether you planted or watered anything.

Continue reading “Anti-Legalism is often just Pro-Laziness”

How the Failing Pastor Deals with Accidental Run-Ins with People who Left Church

People leave churches.

For the pastor, it’s hard not to take these leavings personally; especially when a large percentage of the Leavers tell you they are leaving because of something you did or said (or didn’t do or say).

Feelings get hurt. Hurt feelings tend to linger. I know we are to forgive 70×7 and stuff, but man, it hurts. I also don’t see anywhere in Scripture where forgiving means forgetting. To me, 70×7 means every time the pain comes back up, I need to get to a place once again where I can forgive it and move on. Until it creeps up again. Then forgive and move on again.

Unfortunately, people who leave in hurtful ways usually don’t die immediately. No bears come out of the woods and eat them. The ground doesn’t open up and swallow them. Fire from heaven seldom seems to consume anyone. Nope, they keep being alive and being around.

You’ll inevitably run into these people. Here’s what I’ve learned about these encounters.

1. The Leavers will typically be happy.
People who left usually couch their leaving in spiritual terms. Therefore, they must prove to you that they are better off since they’ve left your disaster of a church that was stifling their spiritual growth. Thus they will be happy. Excessively happy. Ridiculously happy. Happiness is the American signal that all is well. Their happiness will be rubbed in your face non-stop. Get used to it. Smile. Nod. Carry on.

2. The Leavers are just as uncomfortable as you are.
I’m just running into Wal-Mart to get some bread, just minding my business, thinking about sandwiches for lunch. And boom, there they are; the jerk faced Leavers. Fear shoots through all parties. But then the smiles come out. Small talk. Pretend nothing happened, no feelings hurt. Be happy. “Whelp, gotta go” I say as I lift up my loaf of bread. “Lunch is waiting.” Wilderness experts say that if you meet a bear in the wild, don’t worry, the bear is more scared than you are. Leavers are too. Smile. Nod. Carry on.

3. If you did nothing wrong, don’t act like you did.
Pastors typically take people leaving as a personal fault. I could have done more. I shouldn’t have said what I said. You can’t help but feel like you were wrong. There are some cases where I was. But in the majority of cases I can honestly say I don’t think I was massively wrong in any way. If that’s the case, don’t act guilty. I have nothing to fear, nothing to hide, nothing to cover up, and nothing to be ashamed about. If that is true, bring some confidence to the conversation. Let them be the squirmy one. Smile. Nod. Carry on.

4. Act oblivious.
I have developed avoidance skills. Anytime I’m in public I think about the odds of certain people being there. I usually run into the same people at the same places. My ears are alert for people’s voices. I’m constantly scanning out of the corners of my eyes watching out for anything that smacks of a Leaver. I can suddenly get massively interested in the nutrition labels of Doritos when I need to. Usually the Leaver is glad you are ignoring them. They’ll ignore you too. In the off chance they don’t, you’ll at least be prepared for when they approach. Then smile. Nod. Carry on.

5. Don’t be fake.
There are certain Leavers who really honestly were massive jerks to me and people in the church. I feel no need to be friendly. We both know what went down. I’m not playing games. I’m not joking about stuff. I’m not amused. I won’t be a jerk, but I’ll also convey the point that I’m not interested in any further interaction with this psychotic person. There are dangerous people out there that I don’t want to mess with anymore. These are the smallest percentage of my Leavers, but I know who they are and I will not engage. I’m done. Handed them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. I don’t smile or nod. But I do carry on.

Any time I’m in public I’m slightly nervous. Who will I run into next? There are stores in town I do not go in anymore because I know a Leaver works there. You can call it childish if you want. I’m sure this isn’t grace or love or forgiveness. So be it. We all have our limits. I don’t want to blow my testimony and that’s the only way I’ve figured out how to do that with certain people.

Leavers are a massive downer to the ministry. I’m not claiming to be the expert, probably not Christ-like enough, but these are my tactics. Maybe they’ll help. If nothing else, you can feel superior to me and my weaknesses. Fine. I smile. Nod. And carry on.

The Pastor’s Job Is Not to Fix People

As soon as the pastor gets into the mindset of “You people are messed up. It is my job to fix you.” It is all over for all of them.
@FailingPastor

I grew up in a pastor’s home. Every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night I sat in the car on the way home listening to my parents talk about the messed up people in our church.

I knew who criticized my dad’s sermon. I knew who had an issue about the special music. I know who didn’t like the hymn selection. I knew all the problems and the people who caused them.

I also saw the pain and agony this caused my father.

When a young boy sees his pastor dad suffering and knows why he is and who caused it, that young boy becomes bitter and angry, not only at those people, but at the church.

That’s where I was for many years.

I grew up thinking that I belonged to THE FAMILY that had all the solutions. Everyone else was messed up. My family was pretty close to perfect. We existed to rescue all the idiots around us.

It doesn’t take psychoanalysis to know that this created some “issues” in my head about people.

When you grow up thinking that everyone is a moron set about to cause you pain and suffering, which is why I must save them, you’re going to have some strained relationships.

It does not shock me now, looking back, to understand why so many of my friends left me behind. We were rarely enjoying each other’s company; I was trying to fix them.

Now that I’ve been a pastor for a long time and had some distance from this mentality, and also been shown in many painful ways that my mentality was wrong, I’m changing my views of ministry.

The people in your church are not your projects. They are not “things” you put up with. They are not people who exist for you to demonstrate your skillz and take money from as they bow in adoration of your powers.

No, the people in your church are people. People just like you. People who have issues and sin and yeah, they are messed up. And, by the way, so are you and I.

The job of a pastor is to bring people to Christ. To do the best we can to live out the truth of God’s word and the love of His Gospel. We take every opportunity to know, care for, and serve those around us in hopes of making the Gospel powerful.

We don’t do this for followers, pay raises, building projects, or pastoral bragging rights. We do this because this is what Christ did for us.

Christ is perfect and surrounded by fallen humanity. He didn’t try to fix them; He didn’t charge them money to talk to Him. He laid down His life for them, for us, for me.

It is very easy to lose sight of this and start thinking that we pastors have it all together. The people need us; we don’t need them. They have the problems; we have the solutions. We then judge them as beneath us.

One reason why pastors fail to have friendships is because we look down on people too much and deem others to be beneath us. We show respect of persons rather than the love of Christ.

Watch out for this danger, pastors. It won’t end up well for you or for anyone you come in contact with. We’re all in need of a Savior and lucky for us, we have a great one. Let’s help each other get to Him.

Blind People Want Blind Pastors

People only see in the Bible what they want to see. People are massively adept at ignoring Scripture.

People will gravitate to those passages that make them feel how they desire to feel about their sin. Some want all grace and love and happy. Some want all judgment, holiness, and heavy dread. Some just want everything on an even keel and will ignore the “extreme” passages.

The Bible speaks of believers being “enlightened.” Having our eyes opened. Not being blind. There’s a reason God uses this imagery concerning us. It’s because we aren’t naturally seeing things for what they are. We aren’t seeing the verses right in front of our faces.

Christians gravitate toward the denominations or churches that are blind in the right spots. Therefore, blind Christians desire blind pastors. Or, as Paul says, people desire teachers who will scratch their ears and tell them what they already agree with.

Just as it was in the days of Jesus Christ dealing with the scribes and Pharisees, the blind lead the blind.

All the while the blind think they are seeing perfectly.

Blindness sounds like this:

“I only believe what the Bible says.”
“I believe what Jesus believed.”
“My supernatural experience proves I believe right doctrine.”
“Anyone who disagrees with me is a heretic.”
“If you don’t go to our church/adhere to our doctrine, you are going to hell.”

I hear such statements, to varying degrees of bluntness, frequently by Christians. It’s scary. If you honestly think you believe exactly what the Bible says, you aren’t believing what the Bible says! If you think you believe absolutely everything Jesus taught, then you didn’t hear His warnings about people who thought they believed everything God said. “We have one father and that is God.” “Your father is the devil.”

Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall.

There’s a reason the Bible tells us to ask for wisdom: it’s because you don’t have it all yet. If you think you do, welcome to the Job’s Friends’ Club.

The Bible tells us to ask that our eyes might see and our ears might hear. As soon as you think you’ve arrived and see everything; you begin the long, slow decent into massive error.

Doctrinal cliques have a feeling of security and rightness. They also go a long way in making people twice the children of hell.

Make sure the church under your care is not getting uppity about “having right doctrine.” Watch out for the party spirit that assumes we are the people and wisdom will die with us.

Humility is what faith looks like. Knowledge puffs up, even right knowledge. It’s what knowledge does. Keep the humility to continue to know how much you don’t know and keep asking in dependence for more wisdom. He gives to those who ask. If you’ve stopped asking for wisdom because you feel you’re already wise, beware!

Grace and Crazy People in the Church

Undoubtedly you assume this post is about showing grace even to crazy people. You should. It goes without saying. Which is why I’m not really saying that here.

What I want to talk about is the number of crazy people I’ve had in my church who can’t stop talking about grace, specifically God’s grace toward them. They take several forms:

  1. The Jerk
    They don’t even try to be nice to others. They constantly find fault with the pastor and many sermon points. They don’t show up to help others. They don’t give money. They don’t do anything except be mean to people. They will make other people in your church cry, and sometimes are the main reason people will leave your church–just to get away from The Jerk.
  1. The Sinner
    Now, I know, I know, everyone is a sinner. But these people, they go for it. They get themselves into all manner of weird sin. Every time you talk to them they are recovering from a sinful downfall. They are stuck in addictions of one sort or another. They can’t defeat sin, they aren’t even trying really, except for brief moments of sorrow that they get over way before ever doing any battle with their sin. They hurt people and destroy the testimony of the church and the name of Jesus Christ, because their sin does no one any favors.
  1. The Boss
    Some people join churches to take them over, or at least get a degree of power. They move in with suggestions, they actually volunteer (Beware of volunteers!). At first they seem really helpful, how cool to have someone want to be more involved. Then you notice they keep wanting to take things over. Next thing you know, they’re in charge of half the church. You’ll have a church split on your hands before too long. You have to let them do their thing because: grace.

One thing these people have in common is that they can’t stop talking about grace.

Now, for the record, I’m a huge fan of God’s grace! Wouldn’t be here without it. It is a great thing. Amazing, even.

But people who can’t stop talking about, maybe even to the extent that it’s pretty much the only thing they do talk about, are insane.

Here, as far as I can tell, is what they mean when they emphasize grace all the time:

God shows them grace, so you should too. That’s it. They will never talk about how they need to show others grace.

It is my opinion that grace is the key word of the Christian Narcissist. I don’t know if emphasizing grace makes narcissists of people, or if being a narcissist makes you emphasize grace, I just know there’s a connection.

The Jerk is all about himself. They are banking on God being gracious. Since God is gracious, why bother to change? Why take criticism or negative feedback seriously? God doesn’t have a problem with them, suck it up! Grace is the ultimate cop-out for not growing. This mindset (that God loves em just how they are) will keep them just how they are, and it will probably feed their grandiose views and make them even more of a jerk. Nothing empowers sin like thinking God approves of everything you do.

The Sinner will never battle sin, will never overcome their addictions. They’ll feel bad when their sin gets them in trouble, but their repentance will end long before any change occurs. Grace is often the final nail in the repentance coffin. Why go through the tough work of changing when God already forgives me? They will never get victory over any sin, because why bother? God’s already cool with their sin. Grace.

The Boss will react with shock if you question their motives or their power grabbing. How dare you question God’s servant! God’s blessed recipient of grace! Grace inflates the ego of these types. Again, God is on their side, who are you to find fault? Furthermore, they will point out all you are doing wrong, because remember, grace to them never means they have to be gracious, it only means they get to do whatever they want. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll let em do what they want, too!

Now, again, let me just state, I’m a fan of God’s grace. This isn’t my hate for God’s grace. It’s a sincere frustration with an unbiblical understanding of Grace.

God’s grace was not given to us so we can sin.
God’s grace was given to us so we might show grace to others.

We even must show grace to people who abuse grace. But grace doesn’t mean approval of sin. Grace works with love. Love rejoices in the truth. God is gracious. God also convicts people of sin and judges. Grace isn’t the only word in the Bible.

You know you have God’s grace when you become more gracious. Dealing with grace abusers has been very difficult for me. In one sense they are right: grace does deal with our sin. Correcting people who are half-right is tough!

Anytime you call them out on their misunderstanding of grace they will accuse you of being under the law or putting a yoke of bondage on them or some such nonsense. It’s very frustrating.

Maybe I’m the only one who has experienced this abuse of grace. Maybe it’s my community and not a Christian-wide phenomenon. I doubt it. “Should we sin that grace may abound? No, in no way” is in the Bible for a reason! This is what people frequently do to grace.

It’s sad that such a beautiful word has been hijacked and ruined. All I know is that when a person comes into my church blathering on and on about grace, warning bells go off in my head. Watch out for it.

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.”