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 People Who Sleep in Church

Pastors, next time you feel your sermons are too boring, remember: The Apostle Paul once preached someone to death.
@FailingPastor

 

God bless Eutychus. Acts 20 says that Paul was preaching late into the night and dear Eutychus couldn’t take it anymore. He even moved to the window. I’m guessing he did this as a strategy to stay awake.

But even sitting at the window didn’t work. He zonked off and out he fell. Paul raises him from the dead, and then, get this, it says Paul then “talked until morning!” I love this!

Paul bores someone to death, raises him up, and then keeps on preaching for more hours!

Thank God this passage is in the Bible.

Do you know how many pastors over the years of Church History have put people to sleep and yet remained confident to keep going because Acts 20 is in the Bible?

Eutychus probably had an excuse. He probably worked long hours, or walked a long ways to get there. I do think he moved to the window in an effort to keep awake. The spirit was willing, the flesh was exhausted.

I give him the benefit of the doubt. I do this because many people have fallen asleep on me while I was talking. Most of these people work long and late hours. One guy worked a moving shift of crazy hours and often just got done with work before coming to church after working all night. He could have just gone home, but he made the effort to be there.

People are busy and here’s the other thing: I’m not always that exciting.

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How to be a Sane Failing Pastor, Which Should be Your Pastoral Goal

“Their church is doing great. They just built a second building.”

–What people base church success on and why so many pastors feel like failures.
@FailingPastor

 

One of the main sources of pastoral depression, and all other forms of depression, is comparison.

“Comparison steals contentment” is the old quote you hear in various forms. There is truth there.

Most comparison is based on what you see. Being the pastor of a small church with a pathetic building situation is depressing on many levels.

People in your church will frequently demand the impossible from the group and make fun of its small size. It develops a complex as everyone feels a little foolish in our little group. People visit the church and then never come back, making the whole group feel rejected, embarrassed, and a tad defensive.

People from other churches constantly tell you how great their church is. How many got saved. How many attend. How much their new building project costs. The new exciting programs your church could never afford that they started and won their whole city to Christ.

Pastors are constantly given advice from “more successful” pastors (and there will always be a more successful pastor) about how to do things and “here’s your problem.” If we could all just be as cool as those cool guys in their cool churches.

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Sunday Afternoons Are Brutal

THEM: Do you ever doubt your salvation?

ME: Only on Sunday afternoons.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I believe once a person is saved they are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise until the day of redemption. That once we are in Christ’s hands, we are in the Father’s hands, and nothing can pluck us out of that safe place.

I believe this and I believe I am one of the saved ones who can claim these promises. I believe this with all my heart. What the Bible says happens to believers; I’ve seen happen in me. I see a new life that would not be there otherwise. I have confidence that I will be made like Him when I see Him as He is.

Then there’s Sunday afternoon.

“Oh dear Lord, why does nothing happen? Why is everyone asleep? Why does it appear as though the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with anything I’m doing in this church? Why does no one hear anything except my illustrations? The questions people come up with; I didn’t even remotely touch on anything their questions had to do with. What sermon are these people hearing? And then there was that illustration I used and I probably said too much and I know what’s-her-name is going to write me an email about my word choice there. And beforehand, I totally botched that handshake greeting thing with the guy who gets ticked off about everything. Where were all the people today? That’s three weeks in a row the Jones family has been gone. I suppose they’ve left the church. Again.”

Even worse is that now, thanks to social media, I can totally find out what the people were doing during church. They were with their families. They were on a trip with their drinking buddies. They were sleeping. They were doing a Bible study and gaining way more insight than they would have at church, of course.

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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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7 Ways to Create a Terrible Sermon

I’ve preached over a thousand sermons in my pastoral career. I’m sure I’ve spent at least 10 hours preparing each sermon, so that would be over 10,000 hours, the supposed magic number of achieving expertise.

However, many people tell me my sermons aren’t all that great. In fact, just last week I was told my sermon was nothing more than an “emotional rant.” I’m always amazed at how awful people tell me I do my job when I think I’m doing just fine. Not great perhaps, but serviceable. Nope. Mostly trash.

So, I guess I can’t claim to be an expert on preaching good sermons, but I’m at least pretty confident in how to preach terrible ones. Here are the top seven ways to create a terrible sermon. Take it from me, a guy who knows.

1) Start with an illustration.
Get a funny story, or a story that conveys to people how hard/virtuous/sacrificial your life is. Take that thing you’d like to brag about and craft a sermon around it. Use a concordance to find a couple verses that touch on something or other that the story loosely is related to. Finish by making a couple good moral points like: read your Bible, pray more, love your neighbor, be more like me, or stuff like that.

2) Preach current events.
Let the Social Justice Warriors on Twitter guide you. “It’s a shame more pastors don’t preach about free range chickens” says Twitter. Can do! Free range chicken sermon coming up! “The church’s silence on global warming is alarming,” Twitter says the next week. No prob, Bob! Global hot air coming your way!

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Failing Youth Ministry

Our VBS theme this year: “Giving Us your Kid For 10 Hours 1 Week Won’t Overpower Your Family’s Neglect of all things Spiritual.”
@FailingPastor

 

 

Most are not shocked when kids who grew up in church leave the faith when they leave mom and dad’s house. I’ve heard statistics that like 80% of church kids leave the faith in their early 20’s.

We’re used to this news and yeah, some people are concerned about it, but most of the solutions to the problem demonstrate a lack of true concern. Usually we just double-down on what we’re already doing.

People are taught Christianity as kids; therefore Christianity is often linked in with “what kids believe.” To be an adult, someone who is sophisticated and a free-thinker, you have to depart from what you learned as a kid.

In today’s climate where atheism and materialism are considered cool and enlightened, kids flee the church. What’s rarely reported on is how many of these kids come back, especially when they have kids. I doubt the number is gigantic, but I know some who left the church for many years in their 20’s who later came back. The world holds out answers; young people try those answers. The world’s answers aren’t good; they tire of them and return to what is solid and helpful.

In all honesty, I doubt any kid is saved. I’m not saying none are, I’m merely saying I doubt they are. Kids don’t know enough. They don’t know the alternatives. All they know is what mom and dad say. They go with that and if mom and dad are playing games with faith, the kids will call them on that, blame the church, and leave what they think “the faith” is.

It is stupid to think that dropping your kids off at church will do the work for you. Kids follow the parents. Kids who leave the church generally have parents who aren’t in church much.

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