Serving Uncaring, Sanctimonious Jerks

“Hello, pastor, how are you today?”

“Got a little bit of a sore throat.”

“The prayer of faith can heal. Why didn’t you try that?”

This is how one individual greeted me one Sunday morning. The following Sunday, the greeting went like this:

“Hello, pastor, how are you today?”

“Oh, pretty good. My sore throat is better this week.”

“That’s good. You know, you shouldn’t complain, God probably gave you that cold for a reason.”

Now, for reference, this individual skips at least one Sunday a month due to some sort of sickness, injury, mechanical problem, or some other disaster. Yet any time I mention anything remotely not perfect, I get a sanctimonious response from him.

This, in and of itself, is not that big of a deal. But here’s the thing: many people who talk to me (since I’ve become a pastor) feel a need to shame me or lecture me or quote Scripture at me to correct some comment I made.

Without fail these same people will have more problems than the average church attender and will also complain about their problems quite regularly.

Yet I mention that it’s raining outside and I will get a lecture on not complaining about God’s provision for flowers.

I wasn’t complaining, I just said it was raining.

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What Pastoral Success Looks Like to the Failing Pastor

What would pastoral success look like to me?

I can sum it up simply by saying: when my church grows in the unity of the faith into the perfect man, Christ Jesus. I’d want to see Christlikeness in the people in my church. Not perfection, but a definite moving in that direction.

What would that look like?

People would show up, not just to church, but for each other. They would visit each other, provide needs for each other, fellowship on their own initiative, do acts of mercy and kindness for those outside the church, shepherd their own families, witness to their neighbors, and such like.

If these things were happening, I’d feel like I was succeeding at my job.

At the same time, it would probably never be enough to make me not feel like a failure. Christlikeness is a high standard. It is perfection. “Be perfect” is like a thing commanded in the New Testament.

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My Opinion About People Who “Can’t Find a Church With Good Doctrine”

“I can’t find a church with good doctrine.”

–People who have weird doctrine
@FailingPastor

 

 

I’ve heard many complaints that people can’t find a church with good doctrine. They always say this with a wink-wink, nod-nod expression, a wry smile and a nod of the head, as if everyone knows bad doctrine is the only thing that exists in churches today.

I’m fully aware of the bad doctrine that is in the church. You don’t have to use much energy to convince me of the doctrinal wasteland that is the American Church.

At the same time, let me also say this: Every single person who has said this to me has doctrine I would not consider to be good.

For instance, I happen to be a pastor of a church with good doctrine! How come you aren’t coming to my church?!

The idea that people are searching churches for “good doctrine” is laughable to me. Exactly what do people mean by “good doctrine?”

As far as I can tell, “good doctrine” means, everything I already believe.

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Top Three Pastor Insults

Insulting pastors is a good source of entertainment for many. The amazing thing is how many feel the need to actually stand in front of the pastor to level the insults. The brazenness of it all is amazing.

There’s a person in my church who has sworn at me and called me more names than anyone else on the planet. It’s unreal. There’s something about being a pastor that causes people to have to go overboard with disagreements, to just blast you in the face. I wonder if it’s an attempt to see if they can get a sinful reaction out of me? I don’t know. Perhaps car mechanics and plumbers deal with the same stuff. I believe they probably do, I just wonder if they get the same frequency.

I’ve never sworn at a mechanic or a plumber or another employee of anywhere. I was a janitor for years and was frequently complained about, but never to my face, it was always to my boss. This pastor gig has opened my eyes to the hostility residing in many people.

Of all the insults I’ve gotten about being a pastor, there are a couple areas that seem to show up most frequently. Here they are and my responses to them.

1) Lack of work

“You only work one day a week”

“What else to you do for a living?”

“This isn’t your real job is it?”

“What do you do all week?”

I’ve gotten this one a lot. In some cases I can’t blame the question. What do I do all week? There are weeks I wonder the same thing. There’s no product produced, there’s no tangible proof that I did anything, so in some ways I have the same question!

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How to Destroy Your Church in Less than a Month

Just so you know, I speak from experience.

There was a time when my church did well. One Sunday we had to bring out more chairs there were so many people. That was cool.

Except the entire time my church was “doing well” and I preached to filled chairs, I felt completely compromised and miserable. I was preaching a party line and had actually no idea what I was talking about.

I began reading the Bible obsessively. I saw things I never saw before. I began preaching those things. People began to leave slowly. But there was one thing I did which completely pulled the rug out from under everything and the church has not yet recovered. And, just so you know, this was ten years ago now.

If you’d like to know how I ruined my church in one month, or would like to try it yourself (it was exciting), here’s how you do it.

1) Identify your church’s pet program. This is the thing your church is most proud of, what it brags about most. This is the thing that takes up people’s time and money and energy. For us it was a youth group. Our youth group was almost twice the size of our church.

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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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