My 10 Steps to Pastoral Depression

There’s a lake near my house where I go when I’m down to talk things over with the Lord. I pace up and down the dock, sometimes just stand and stare, but all the while praying for help.

I’ve been there many times. I’ve wept there more than any other place. One afternoon in a state of despair, my head thought, “I could just jump in the water and never come back up.” Before that thought scared me, it seemed rather attractive.

Pastoral depression is a thing. Actually, depression is a thing, doesn’t matter what your job is. Pastoral depression is like any other depression, it’s just more shocking because pastors are supposed to have everything together and know Jesus so well. “Knowing Jesus” in American Christianity is supposed to look happy.

Best life now, don’t ya know.

Depression, in some ways, is no big deal. We live in a culture that over-values happiness and anyone not sufficiently happy is deemed to have “issues.” Moses, Elijah, and Job all asked God to kill them. Paul said he desired to depart. Jesus asked “How much longer must I be with this faithless generation?”

Ministry is tough. It’s ok to acknowledge that. But if a pastor admits his struggles, he merely sets himself up for a lecture. “You gotta have faith, man. All things work together for good.”

Pastors spend all week listening to people complain, yet if the pastor dares complain one time, lectures fly. So now the depression is doubled. The pastor has the initial problem and now the pastor is told repeatedly not to be sad about anything. The pastor has no one to talk to.

The steps to my pastoral depression descend like this:

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Dealing with Church Bullies

When I first became pastor, two men in the church viewed themselves as being the assumed decision makers. They hired me and set my wages and gave me my paycheck.

I was a young, new pastor with no pastoral experience. I knew they were the supposed leaders of the church. I showed them respect and asked their opinion when it came to decisions. They regularly refused to say anything and told me to do whatever I wanted.

So I did. I was then regularly told that what I wanted was the stupidest thing a pastor should want. One day after church, my wife and I were invited over to one of the guy’s houses for lunch. We agreed.

When I got there, guess who else was there? So these two decision makers of the church brought me into the living room, leaving the wives to corner my wife, and sat me in the lowest chair in the living room, which as I recall kept my butt about four inches off the floor, practically eating my knees.

They both stood over me and told me how dumb I was and how wrong my latest decision was. Never mind the fact that I asked them what they thought about this decision beforehand and both refused to do or say anything.

I patiently took their lecture and the awkward chair situation, ate lunch, and went back to making stupid decisions.

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The Fun of Judging What Pastors Own

Remember pastors: the kind of car you drive might be the deciding factor in whether someone goes to heaven or hell.
@FailingPastor

 

A guy who was going off on me right before leaving my church was in my driveway, in front of his new SUV, and pointed to my used Toyota Camry and said, “Pretty nice car for a pastor.”

I believe I was so stunned by this that I just stood there. Really? A Toyota Camry is too nice? Incidentally, this happened about ten years ago. The guy is now dead. The Camry is still going.

I don’t mind if people have problems with me, that is to be expected. I do appreciate it, however, if the problems are actually legitimate.

A Toyota Camry is a pretty sensible vehicle. It’s a no-frills model. It serves its purpose, which is all I ask in a car.

Anyone who listens to my preaching knows that I emphasize the idea that you cannot serve God and mammon, that we are to let go of the things of this earth and grab on to eternal things. I mention this almost every week.

Of all the problems I have, materialism isn’t one of them. Ask my wife, my non-materialism annoys her at times. This isn’t even necessarily all for spiritual reasons either. I just hate stuff.

But no matter how careful I am, how sensible and thoughtful my purchases are, you can bet someone will judge them.

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Parenting Advice, Humility, and Pastors’ Kids

The best thing I ever did in my parenting was not write a book about how people should parent.
@FailingPastor

 

Paul says that a pastor should have his kids in subjection. This means that pastors’ kids should basically be good kids.

As we all know, pastors’ kids have had a bad reputation in the past. This could be for any number of reasons. Leading the list of reasons is that no one uses Paul’s qualifications for pastors as an actual basis for hiring pastors.

When my wife and I had our first kid I immediately laid down the law that if our kids go nuts, I will resign from being a pastor. My wife, God bless her, immediately began praying that one of our kids would go nuts.

Unfortunately for us, none of them have and I remain a pastor.

This is said somewhat in jest. Somewhat. My wife also had a fear that she would give birth to the antichrist (someone has to do it), so in that way, we’re doing pretty well.

Everyone has suggestions about how kids should be raised. I chuckle at those who don’t have kids giving parenting advice. I had one guy who had no kids but did work with horses, tell me some horse training tips to use on my kids. No thanks.

Frequently in the church you will hear people brag about their kids and follow it up with the steps they took to bring about this awesomeness in their kids. This is typically done when the kids are young, or perhaps an older kid has gone off to college and they have a couple at home yet. The first one turned out pretty well, so they begin advising others, only to have some of their younger ones go nuts on them.

I hate to chuckle at the perils of others, but it’s hard not to. It’s especially hard to chuckle at a young person going nuts. It is sad, I’m not laughing at them though. I’m just enjoying a heaping serving of parental know-it-all irony.

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Who Would Have Thought That Dividing into Groups in a Church Would Lead to Division?

“Churches need to do more things for singles.”

“You should do more for kids.”

“How come you don’t do more stuff for widows?”

“I don’t see a ministry for single moms, why not?”

“Why doesn’t your church do any drug rehab programs?”

“Pastors should focus on men. We need more men in church.”

“Families. You gotta get the families.”

 

The world likes to shove people in categories based on external identifiers. There is no unity; only groups of people banding together whining for special treatment.

Churches have fallen into this same trap. I imagine it started with dividing churches up by age groups and then slid down the slope to where we are now.

Wherever it started, we need to stop it.

Anyone who walks into a church and immediately wonders where the ministry is to their little group they think they fit in, should just walk right back out.

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The Terror of Being a Christian Who Is Asked to Recommend a Book, Movie, Musician, Etc.

“I don’t agree with everything the author says”

is Christianese for

“Knowing you, you’ll find something wrong with this book. Don’t burn me at the stake when you do.”
@FailingPastor

 

 

I’m a reader. I read so much people even know I’m a reader. I’m not one of those readers who wanders around telling everyone how much they read. I’m reading.

I’m also a pastor, which means everyone is trying to prove to me how spiritual they are.

When you combine those things, it results in many people giving me “Christian” books to read, but then they get nervous because what if pastor doesn’t like my book? Then I won’t be spiritual.

Therefore, every book a Christian has given me to read has been prefaced with, “I don’t agree with everything the author says.”

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The Least Involved People in a Church Give the Church the Most Advice

“We should have more potlucks.”

–people who were not at the last three potlucks
@FailingPastor

 

 

You could switch out “potlucks” and put in picnics, Sunday School classes, church services, choir rehearsals, etc. The people who want more of a thing are usually people who aren’t at those things, which is why they want more.

Trust me, if you came to our church’s potlucks, you wouldn’t want more of them.

It is amazing how frequently the people who tell you what to do have the least concept of what’s going on in the church.

There is a connection between not coming to things and giving advice. Skipping church events gives a person a guilty conscience. Going to things would ease that conscience, but going to things requires going to things. People are too busy for that.

So instead of going to things they will give advice. Giving advice means they are above all the rest of you. That’s probably why they don’t come to your stuff; they’re too good for it. “If you did it my way though, the way an intelligent person would do it, I’d totally be there.”

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