Justifying Boring Sermons

I preach boring sermons to weed out the pretenders and scare off the entertain-me-now crowd. And also because I’m boring.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I really am a failure at being a pastor. The results are in: I suck at this.

When I examine how I do my job and the pathetic results I’m getting, defensiveness enters the picture. Maybe I’m not that bad. Maybe it’s this church and these people. Maybe it’s the society we live in. Maybe it’s our location and how our church is set up.

I can find spiritual sounding reasons why I get the results I get: My sermons are tough, they are in-depth. I’m probably too spiritual for most people. People can’t handle the sound doctrine I drop on them every week. They can’t bear up. It just means I’m preaching the offense of the cross and confronting sin. People hate the light! I must be throwing lots of light out there, because people sure seem to hate what I’m doing.

I will give some benefit of the doubt that this could be part of the problem. I do think I preach the cross and confront sin. I know a number of people who blatantly told me that’s why they left.

Preaching in-depth, doctrinally sound sermons is a good way to weed out pretenders, people who are there for other reasons. If our churches are massively entertaining, you don’t have any idea why people are there. At least if your church is boring, you know they’re not there for enjoyment!

I know, that’s a sick twisted way to think, but alas, it’s quite true! It’s along the lines of persecution. Persecution is a really good way to find out who is legitimate with their faith and who is playing games. Boring sermons are a safer form of persecution, and creates the same results!

But I know this isn’t the whole story.

It might just be that I suck and my sermons are boring.

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Monty Python, Preaching, and Culturally Relevant Sermons

If Monty Python had never made The Quest for the Holy Grail, all my sermons would be two minutes shorter.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Pastors are supposed to be culturally relevant. We’re supposed to interject cultural things into our sermons to make us appear as though we’re real people and know things about stuff.

The problem is that modern culture is completely stupid. Modern music is no music at all. Modern films are just political propaganda. Television is passé. YouTube and Instagram are just one more waste of time.

It’s hard to pay attention to such inanities, let alone work them into sermons and be relevant.

I prefer reveling in my irrelevance. I have no idea what is going on in modern culture, other than knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that modern culture is completely stupid. I at least know that. I prefer showing my incompetence by quoting things that were cool many years ago.

The greatest movie ever made was Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. There are so many lines in there that fit like hand in glove into sermons. I cannot talk about the resurrection without mentioning “I got better. I feel fine.” Any discussion of government or kings in the Bible so easily slides into “watery tarts distributing swords is no basis for a form of government.” The witch of Endor floats on water like small rocks and churches. I could go on. I can quote the whole movie. Walls of Jericho with the Frenchmen who will taunt you a second time.

The thing is that very few people know Monty Python references anymore. What sad times are these when passing ruffians can’t quote Monty Python. So when I include Monty Python quotes in my sermons, people just think I’m quoting the King James. Either that or people think I’m stupid for saying that Jesus got better after He was crucified.

People have no idea how many lines of Monty Python they know now simply because I’ve repeated them in my sermons.

Continue reading “Monty Python, Preaching, and Culturally Relevant Sermons”

No One Cares About Your Theological Opinions

Whenever I’m tempted to spout theological wisdom, I just remember: Nobody cares.
@FailingPastor

 

Social Media has taught us that success depends upon branding yourself. You have to produce content, get followers, retweets, and likes. Get your message out there. Effectiveness is measured by how many people you can prove bumped into your content.

This mentality has come into the Christian world as well. Pastors feel this pressure constantly.

We are told to follow the Big Name pastors out there and we’re basically taught to envy their numbers. John Piper can put some cheesy good morning poem on his Twitter feed and by noon it has 2.5k likes. I put out one finely crafted Tweet succinctly summing up justification and it gets zero response.

I then feel pathetic and dumb. John Piper, bolstered by the 2.5k people who liked his poem, continues to write weird poems as though people need such things for sanctification to continue. He Tweets away, then occasionally lectures people for spending too much time on social media.

Sigh.

I did a theologically minded blog for over 15 years. There were about five people who regularly read it. There used to be nine, but I banned four of them from commenting anymore, so they eventually left.

I put out all kinds of stuff for my church people to use. I speak three times a week, yet hardly anyone shows up. I put out, what I think, is good theological content. Really helpful and inspiring stuff.

No one cares.

Continue reading “No One Cares About Your Theological Opinions”

Who to Blame If Your Church Sucks

Whenever I’m about to bemoan the stupidity of people in my church, I remember that their stupidity is why I got hired.
@FailingPastor

 

I mean, seriously, if I had a great church I wouldn’t be the pastor.

In all honesty, pastors who whine about their churches are quite funny. Many of my jokes about people in my church are made up. Many of the true ones are about people who have left. And, yeah, humans are funny, so I poke on some remaining people. But at the core of it, we’re all in this together.

Speaking of making fun of people who left my church. There was a guy who had a problem with my leadership in the church. He told me my leadership style was “my way or the highway.” He then went on to compare me to his jerk of a dad. He maintained that I enforced too much of a difference between clergy and laymen. I found that funny because my approach to church is so far from a clergy laity split it’s ridiculous.

The only difference between clergy and “laymen” is that the clergy are appointed to do some stuff in church. There should be a standard of conduct and faith maintained, but this same standard should be every Christian’s goal. Clergy are not above the rest. We all have feet of clay. All have sinned and all need Christ.

I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I know this about me. I know my weak spots and have a wife to point out the weak spots I’ve missed.

Pastors will attract people who are similar to them. They just do. If the pastor is intellectual and academic; the church will soon be made up of academics. If he’s hip and cool; then hip and cool people will go to him. There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general this is how it works. I dare say it even goes down to body weight! Fat pastors have fatter churches than skinny ones!

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The Pain of Pastoral Phone Calls

“Please go to voicemail. Please go to voicemail.”

–me, every time I have to call someone
@FailingPastor

 

 

I hate talking on the phone. Cellphones are the worst. If you begin speaking while the other person is speaking it gets cut off. Then both pause to let the other go. Then both speak at the same time. Then they go under a bridge or out of coverage and they are gone, only to call back later where you can hear every third word. The only thing worse is when the connection is clear and you can hear every word.

I hate talking on the phone.

The only people who still talk on the phone, are people who like talking on the phone. Everyone else texts. There is nothing worse than talking on the phone with someone who likes talking on the phone.

There are several lovers of talking on the phone who call me. If I’m not home, they will leave a message, asking me to call them back. I hate calling people back.

I also know, every month or so, there are certain people who like talking on the phone who would like me to call them. So I do. And I pray and I pray, “Lord please, I’m begging you, let this go to voicemail.”

If I can just leave a message, then these folks will know that I tried. I gave them a call and they didn’t answer. It’s not my fault! I wanted to talk on the phone, but no! You did not! Ha, I am now off the hook.

People who like talking on the phone generally like talking about their problems. Pretty much the only time certain people call me is if they have a new problem, which is strikingly similar to their old problems. Usually it has to do with arguments and fights with other people. Because for some reason, and I think we need more research on this, people who like to talk on the phone are typically fighting with everyone.

Talking on the phone to someone who likes talking on the phone about all their drama is life-suckingly horrendous.

There are many phone calls that end with me hanging up and sitting back and praying, “Dear Lord, thank you that is over. Please fill me with enough energy to get out of this chair and go on.”

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When the Pastor’s Family Avoids the Pastor’s Church

When you’re a pastor and your family comes to visit,
but once again makes excuses why they can’t stay for church.

Or is that just me?
@FailingPastor

 

 

“I think we’ll leave before church,” my mom said. “We want to get home before midnight.”

Here’s the thing: my parents live about five hours away and my church ends at 11am. Unless they stop for food for eight hours, there is no possible way they would get home after midnight.

My parents have been to my church one time together, and that was within the first months of me preaching here. Since then one of them has been to a Sunday morning service three times.

This would make sense if my parents were atheists or Mormons or something, but no. My parents are not only long-time Christian folk, we are all in the same denominational affiliation. But they won’t come to my church.

But that’s not all. My wife’s parents have been to my church twice. And, also, just so we’re clear on timeframe, I’ve been a pastor for about 20 years now. In twenty years they’ve been to two church services.

This used to really bother me. It still kind of hurts. At the same time, now it’s more a game for my wife and I to make bets about when they will leave and what the excuse will be this time. Oh, and by the way, all of our parents are currently retired. It’s not like they have anything they need to get back home for.

Nope, they just don’t want to come to my church.

I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. It could just be me. It could be the content of my messages or my delivery or my humor. It might just be the annoyance of listening to the punk kid preach at ya. I get it. I see why that would be hard. But here’s the other thing: my brother in-law is a pastor and my in-laws go to his church multiple times a year. They know people on a first name basis in his church, while knowing no one from our church. And he’s only been at his church for three years. So it has to be more than just a kid preaching.

I’m always told the verse “the prophet is without honor in his home town.” That would make sense except for my brother-in-law shoots that theory to pieces. It depends who the prophet is I guess.

Perhaps my church is the culprit. We’re not a typical church. We don’t have fancy programs and buildings and decor. We don’t have a praise team and largely avoid contemporary music. I know there are worship preferences at play. But I’m your son!

Does it really pain them so much that they can’t endure my church for one hour a year? Apparently. I had no idea how painful my ministry could be to relatives.

I threw this tweet out there to see if other pastors had this experience. Sure enough, quite a few did. One guy said his parents couldn’t make it to his church because his dad had to get home in time to put the garbage out. He says his parents live four hours away.

I’m not the only one who puts up with this. My dad, who used to be a pastor, used to complain that his parents and in-laws never listened to his preaching. Funny how he is annoyed with his family on that but that’s still not enough to get him into my church.

Ministry is hard enough, but to get rejection from your family over it is completely unhelpful. You don’t hear about this sort of problem addressed at fancy pastor conferences or in pastoral ministry books. But this is a deal.

I’m a grown man. I don’t need my mommy’s approval. But it would be nice to know there’s some support out there somewhere. Many Sundays I have gotten hurt by people in my church and it would be nice to call a parent and unload a bit, but I can’t. It’s a layer of comfort and support that does not exist. I don’t know how much difference it would make, how could I? I have never had it. Having that underlying subconscious thought in your head that “even my family thinks I suck at this” sure doesn’t help though.

Anyway, I’m just stating a fact of pastoral ministry I’ve never heard dealt with before. I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m also not sure what would be worse: having my family stay away from my church or having them in it!

 

 

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
–Luke 14:26-27

Can You Truly Count How Many Got Saved?

I’ve never matched Peter’s success at Pentecost,
but I did save the same kid at youth group 3,000 times.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Pentecost was by far the most productive evangelistic meeting in the Bible, outside of Jonah in Nineveh. It is certainly the largest revival in the New Testament.

Pentecost is often held up as a model, a comparison to make you feel pathetic about your terrible ministry.

There are reports from time to time about massive evangelistic revivals and thousands coming to the Lord. I am skeptical. I just am. I can’t help it. I wish I could believe that your thousands of people who got saved at your revival truly got saved, but I’ve been around awhile now and I’m skeptical.

I know 3,000 got saved when Peter preached because God said so in the Bible. God did not make any pronouncements about how many got saved at your revival. The test of time makes those numbers look ridiculous. Does Christlikeness show up in those lives? Usually it doesn’t.

People are fixated on numbers. I think we love hearing about Peter’s great success at Pentecost because it feeds our numbers obsession. We think the effectiveness of a revival or an evangelistic opportunity is proven by how many got saved.

If no one got saved then “the Spirit did not move.” If many people got saved then you know “the Spirit was moving.”

I disagree. The Spirit moves all the time. Even “failed” evangelism, by which I mean no one got saved, is still better than no evangelism, and quite frankly, still might work for a more non-obvious reason.

Bottom line is this: the guy I lead to the Lord 3,000 times is just as important as the 3,000 individuals Peter saved on Pentecost. The Spirit may be moving in both cases.

Most ministers will skip the opportunity to talk with the guy who has been saved 3,000 times for the brighter lights of revival crowds. We base the expenditure of our time and energy on what the payoff is. It’s like the priest of Micah’s who took off when the tribe of Dan came calling. Why serve in a guy’s house when you can serve a whole tribe? (That’s in Judges 17-18 by the way.)

I think we hold up Peter’s response on Pentecost as our goal, anything short of that is a failure. Here’s the thing: Peter never duplicated that event. In fact, none of the apostles did. Pentecost was a special event; it was the coming of the Spirit with power. It created a big response.

The bottom line is that I don’t know who is saved. If you claim to have saved 3,000 souls, I don’t know. How do I know that? If I claim to have finally saved the guy after the 3,000th time telling him the Gospel, I still don’t know.

God is the judge. Don’t compare your supposed results to other’s results. Don’t fixate on numbers. Preach the Gospel. Love people. Pray. Let God do the judging. He’ll do His job; we should do ours.

 

 

And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel?
–Judges 18:19