The Failing Pastor’s “Encouragement” to Struggling Pastors

Earlier this week I wrote a post about not being sure how long I can continue being a pastor. It received quite a bit of response publicly and privately.

Although it is nice to know I am not alone, how discouraging that this is the place so many pastors are in.

Some pastors are living large and don’t have these feelings or frustrations. Others are frustrated for reasons other than those I expressed. I don’t know what to say about those situations.

I would like to talk to those pastors who are doing what they can to faithfully preach the Word, teach and disciple individuals, and otherwise attempt to fulfill the biblical qualifications and expectations of the pastoral role, and yet are met with apathy, rejection, and mockery.

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I think most pastoral frustration, certainly mine, is not a tiredness of work or the church, but just the sheer pointlessness of it. I do my best to faithfully preach God’s Word and it appears the more I endeavor to do this, the more people leave.

My faith does not require the approval of others, but my sincere desires to help people are constantly thwarted. The lives of people who have dropped out of church do not go well. I hurt for them. I don’t know what to do.

This is the time that the happy pastors tell me “There’s nothing you can do. It’s all God.” Which helps nothing, but appears to be top-drawer advice from most.

This advice only adds to my frustration. God is growing everyone else’s church but not mine? Nice to know He’s so helpful. Can I even trust Him? If He’s not on my side, should I even be doing this? Many have told me “no.”

Thanks.

The gates of hell will not prevail against God’s Kingdom. God does not need me to keep the Church alive.

At the same time I have been called to care for one little part of it, to give my life for it, to sacrifice for it, to let my progress in the faith be seen by all, to take heed to my life and my doctrine so that I and my hearers will be saved.

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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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Preaching Against Things Feels Good, but is it Good?

I like to put emotion in my preaching, not over the top, I’m not skipping and jumping and trying to stir up emotion. I just mean I want to have an emotional attachment to my subject.

Anytime I struggle to come up with another sermon idea (preaching three times a week for 20 years and not doing reruns causes this problem occasionally), my fallback is to talk about subjects I’m passionate about.

However, one thing I’ve noticed is that “passion” usually means “disgust.” I generally revert to preaching about things I despise, doctrines that are wrong, and frequently I call out theologians, churches, and denominations that promote such things.

Now, this is fun and will allow you to write a quick sermon. The audience eats it up too. There are laughs and nodding of heads. Everyone leaves feeling good about themselves and their church.

But is this good? Is it good for people to leave church feeling better about US than we do about THEM? Does this foster love?

The longer I’m a pastor the less appealing this approach becomes to me. I still fall into it from time to time, old habits die hard, but I’m making a concerted effort to eliminate bashing on others in my preaching.

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How do you Know if the Holy Spirit is in Your Ministry?

I’ve been told many times that if the Holy Spirit is involved in my church there will be growth in numbers. I’ve been told that the Holy Spirit will always provide money, resources, volunteers, and anything else to carry out the ministry. If the Spirit is in your church, your church will be the awesomest church ever!

When people start telling me that the Holy Spirit guarantees external, material, measurable success, I wonder if they’ve ever read the Bible.

The Spirit called a number of prophets to go talk to a group of people who were not going to listen. They were told up front: Go talk to them, but understand that they aren’t going to listen to you. They’ll probably try to kill you.

Jesus Christ had no place to lay His head. He had 72 disciples, then 12, then 11, then zero for a bit. The Apostle Paul said he was left alone, no man stood with him. He learned to be content even when he was in famine, nakedness, and distress.

There is nothing in the Bible that leads me to believe that when the Holy Spirit shows up everything is externally, measurably awesome. Hebrews 11, people. Some believers were sawn in pieces!

We want to determine the Spirit’s effectiveness by measures of human effectiveness. Lately the church has been led to believe we must have success like businesses do: more money, bigger buildings, sprawling campuses, more people/employees, etc. If your church looks like Amazon and Apple, then God has blessed you and the Spirit is doing amazing things (Just like He is at Amazon and Apple apparently).

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Why there is so Little Arguing on the Failing Pastor Account

One thing I’ve noticed about Christian Internet is the unbelievable amount of arguing. Now, Christians have no corner on this market. Everyone argues on the internet.

I just find it more disappointing to see it so much on Christian Internet.

Do you people not know that arguing with Christians is what church is for?

But what you’ll note about this account is that there’s very little arguing. Oh sure, people voice their disagreements with me. That’s fine. But I’ve noticed it just don’t thrive here like it does other places. Arguing doesn’t flourish here for at least two reasons:

1) This is my account and I don’t take the bait.
2) Most of the faithful readers of this account are pastors who are also worn out by arguing and don’t take the bait either.

There are a number of reasons why I don’t take the bait and argue.

1) I do not care about your opinions.
Now before you get mad at me, call me a jerk, and argue my point, let me explain. I honestly do care about you if I know you. But here’s the thing: I don’t know you. You don’t know me. Let the anonymity chill us both. Don’t take an anonymous person’s opinions that seriously. Argue with your friends and family; they theoretically care about you.

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3 Things This Pastor Never Says

In my twenty years of being a pastor, there are three things I’ve learned not to say.

1) “I’m busy.”
I hate these words. I hear these words so often, there’s no way I can possibly say them to another human being. No one is ever available for anything because they are “busy.” I later find out ”busy” meant doing something they thought was more fun, which is just about anything other than doing something associated with church

I also don’t say “I’m busy” because I’m not. I can make time for pretty much anything I want to do. I have gotten more used to simply saying “no” to things, rather than giving stupid excuses. I attempt to never give excuses. If I forgot to do something, I will say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Rather than “Oh I didn’t do that because I was so busy.” Constantly getting blown off by people because they are “busy” makes a guy feel like a pile of mud. I don’t want to do that to other people.

I am also the pastor. If I tell people in my church I am too busy for them, that sort of defeats the purpose of my job. If the church keeps you too busy to be with the people in the church, things need to change. It also sounds like I’m complaining about my job, blaming the church for my busy-ness. That’s not a good look

2) “You’re saved.”
People want the assurance of salvation. The Bible pretty much says you will have the assurance of salvation to the degree your life is changed, new, becoming like Christ. 1 John hits the point pretty clearly. Seeing sin decline in your life is a great sign you’re saved. If you tell that to people, they will charge you with being legalistic and promoting works righteousness. People do not want to hear this.

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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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Should Pastors do Altar Calls?

There’s no need to ask em, by the time I’m done preaching, every head is bowed and every eye is closed.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I have never done an altar call.

I have no problem with other people doing altar calls. I’m not one of those guys who feels a need to mercilessly mock people who do evangelism differently than I do. Do what you need to do before the Lord with a pure conscience.

I have seen altar calls done very poorly, but also quite nicely.

One of the worst I saw was at a junior high camp chapel service. Summer heat had raised the temperature of the chapel to approximately 174 degrees. The junior highers were hot, restless, and choking on sweaty sock stench.

The evangelist concluded his message with an altar call that went something like this:

“If any of you would like to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior tonight, you can go outside where it’s cooler and meet with some counselors. They have cookies and juice available as well, so you can take your time and really talk things over.”

The Holy Spirit fell on this group of kids. There was no rushing mighty wind (except the normal rushing mighty wind associated with junior high boys) or tongues of flame, but so sue me if 90% of that group of kids didn’t run out the doors to get saved.

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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.”

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