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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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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My Thoughts When Someone Tells Me They Watched a Televangelist Instead of Coming to Church

Telling your pastor what TV preachers you watch while you skip church is not helping your cause.
@FailingPastor

 

 

One thing I hate about being a pastor is listening to people’s excuses for skipping church. I’m not interested. If there is a reason you weren’t there, that’s fine, but excuses drive me nuts.

One of the justifications for not coming to church is telling the pastor what other means of edification you partook in while skipping church. This frequently involves telling your pastor what televangelist you watched Sunday morning instead.

Here’s the thing: The majority of pastors on TV are heretical nut-jobs. Yeah, I said it.

If watching a televangelist makes up for not coming to hear me preach, then good Lord, I should have quit years ago.

Watching heretics is about the worst possible thing you could do while skipping church. You’d be better served getting another hour of sleep. Or wake up and drink coffee and stare out the window Talk to your kids. Even going to their baseball tournament is better than watching televised heresy.

Telling me that you watched a televangelist is not winning any points with me. It makes me worry that you think my messages are similar to what you saw on TV. That imbibing in that drivel equals drinking, what I thought, were rivers of living water proclaimed from God’s Word in my sermon.

I’m now more worried for you. I now feel that you need at least four more church services just to make up for the heretical information that is now swimming loose in the slosh of your brain. Instead of justifying your absence of one church service, you now indebt yourself to four more of my church services.

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How Should a Pastor Respond When Someone Says They Probably Won’t be at Church Sunday?

WHAT THEY SAY: “There’s a chance we won’t be at church Sunday.”

WHAT I HEAR: “We won’t be at church Sunday.”
@FailingPastor

 

Typically people skip church without saying anything before, during, or after the skipping. You are left to peruse Facebook for the details of what they were up to. They’re probably just out having fun with the family. Or they have left your church in a huff and you’ll never see them again. One or the other.

If someone goes out of their way to say to you, “We might not be at church Sunday.” The only reason they are saying this is because they will not be there. When people hint at not being at church, that’s them telling you they won’t be there.

Incidentally, when people say “We will see you at church Sunday,” They probably won’t be there either.

Look, no one is going to be at church Sunday.

Just give up on that.

Content yourself with preaching to those nice quiet chairs that faithfully show up every Sunday. They never complain. They don’t open cellophane wrapped candies. They don’t get up in the middle of your finest sermon point to go to the bathroom. They don’t do that stupid crouching walk across the front of the church in an effort to avoid distracting people, which results in the oddest walk ever, which distracts absolutely everyone, so instead of repenting they are thinking, “People who duck to avoid getting attention actually seem to get a lot of attention.” Empty chairs don’t show up late. They don’t spill coffee on the carpet. They don’t cough and hack and blow loogies. They just sit there patiently and quietly, waiting for you to wrap it up so they can go back to whatever it is chairs do in the dark.

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Why Church Hopping Exists

Our new Church Motto:
If you didn’t like your old church, you won’t like this one either. Go away.
@FailingPastor

 

 

An older man told me he’s left every church he’s been involved with because of conflict with leadership. Imagine my surprise when he left my church over a problem with me.

Another guy who left my church in the rudest way anyone has, later got kicked out of, yes “kicked out of,” the next church he went to.

A family left my church because they disagreed with pretty much everything we did. The wife decided to go to school to be a pastor. Now she can run a church right.

I was told that one family who left my church has also left every church in town. All the pastors know them, as they all were their pastor at one point.

One couple, who attends my church about six-months at a time, constantly bounces in and out of churches six-months at a time, trying all the new pastors as they come in. They never settle anywhere.

The majority of people who have left my church haven’t joined another church. I believe this will work out well for the church, but be a complete disaster for them personally.

When you’ve been a pastor long enough you get used to people coming and going. Sometimes you know why; sometimes you don’t. But news travels. I end up hearing what they are up to after they leave. Based on the later stories and interactions, I understand more why they left and most of the time, it wasn’t our church; it was just troubled people having troubles with everything.

When people leave my church, I try not to take it personally. I feel bad for them, most of them go on to prove they have deep spiritual issues that need dealing with. Some do hurt the church. Some hurt me deeply. Some are misunderstandings and personality conflicts that make me wonder if I should still be a pastor. Others just make sense.

“There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people,” is the cute cliché that’s supposed to make us feel better about our ineptitude. There is a point to be made there, but I still think churches can be better.

Hopping around until you find one that already meets all your requirements, will not only frustrate you, it won’t help any church.

There is much irony in pastors complaining about church-hoppers when pastors stay at a church for four years on average. Perhaps people are just following our lead? Dedicate yourself to a church.

Churches are not commodities to be weighed and compared and priced. The church is a family. You’re not supposed to ditch your family for a better one. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where ditching your family for another one is no longer taboo.

The church is a body. When one member hurts, all members hurt. We do our part collectively to keep the whole body strong. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where most of us are overweight and lazy. We don’t take care of problems, we just get them medically treated or covered up. Easier to buy a drug than maintain disciplined diet and exercise.

The church is like a building. It’s made to last, to weather the storm, and provide shelter and comfort for years. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where people move and we ditch old parts of town for new houses on the outskirts.

So, yeah, none of the illustrations for church make much sense anymore. It should not shock you that people are not loyal to your church. Grass tends to be greener in other fields. Other pastors are always better than the one you have.

I don’t let people leave without checking in on them. It saddens me to see the state of the church today, but more so to see the state of people who leave churches all the time. These are hurting people and the church is hurting right along with them.

 

 

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
–Ephesians 4:15-16

How to Get People to Come to a Church Event

“You understand that no one is going to show up, right?”

 –Me every time someone excitedly tells me what new thing they want to start at church.
@FailingPastor

 

People always have ideas of great events the church can do. Obviously my ideas aren’t working, so the smart people will excitedly suggest an event. “Go for it,” I say. “But just know that no one is going to come.”

They pat my little head and give a condescending little smile to the cute, widdle pastor. “Oh you poor soul. Of course they will. Unlike your events, ours will actually be good.”

People will excitedly go about organizing their event and tell everyone about it. They’ll do all the things they know will work. The big day comes and no one shows up.

I don’t say anything. Why bother.

Unfortunately, this also happens at funerals and important events. People don’t show up for those things either. Here’s the thing: If you don’t show up for other people’s funerals; people probably aren’t going to show up for yours either.

If you don’t show up for people’s Bible studies; they won’t show up for yours either. If you don’t attend people’s picnics; they won’t attend yours either.

This is a hard cycle to break. I’ve yet to figure it out. Yeah, there are techniques you can use to manipulate people into showing up, but I’d rather just have people who want to be there be there. Unfortunately, if attendance is any indicator, no one wants to be there.

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Failing Pastor’s Opinion on “Christianity is a Relationship not a Religion”

“Christianity is not a religion it’s a relationship”

–said by many who can’t keep church unity nor marriage vows.
@FailingPastor

 

Let me begin by saying that I do believe a believer can have a relationship with God through Christ by the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

That being said, the idea that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion is a false dichotomy. Why can’t it be both? It, in fact, is.

“Religion” is a word that gets lots of heat. I’m really not sure why. Religion merely means stuff you do religiously, as in regularly, habitually, as a pattern. People religiously do their mornings the same. We do the same stuff at work. We do the same stuff when we come home from work. We are “creatures of habit.” Habit and religion are pretty much the same.

My wife and I have a great relationship. We love each other and have fun together. We also religiously do the same things. We eat the same types of supper, go to the same restaurants, go to bed at the same time. In fact, as any married person knows, if you veer from your typical behavior, your spouse will very quickly ask, “Why are you doing that? You never do that.”

I began eating cereal at night. I told my wife one week to get me a box of Froot Loops from the store. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. The Spanish Inquisition broke out, which I was not expecting (no one expects the Spanish Inquisition). “Look, I just want a bowl of Froot Loops, that’s all. It’s no big deal.”

Relationships are religious, that’s kind of what makes them relationships.

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