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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The Cause of All Church Splits and the Solution to Our Disunity: From an Anonymous Moron on the Internet

I like reading Church History. It lets me know my church is just one in a long line of stupid churches.

Solomon tells us there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon is correct.

Churches have come and gone, and most have split first. Christians are disturbed by the Church Tradition of splitting churches. So much division, so much hostility, how can this be true of people who follow the Prince of Peace?

There are many reasons why this is the case. One is that the Prince of Peace said He came the first time, not to bring peace but a sword. As Paul said, “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” Division kind of has to happen. There are wolves pretending to be sheep, test the spirits for there are “many false prophets.”

At the core of most of the division is a tension that runs all the way thru Church History. Rather than explain it, I’ll show examples of the tension:

Reason vs. Emotion
Cold Knowledge vs. Warm Love
The Bible vs. The Spirit
The Institution of the Church vs. The Body of Christ Church
Expository Preaching vs. Singing

All these things are the same battle.

Continue reading “The Cause of All Church Splits and the Solution to Our Disunity: From an Anonymous Moron on the Internet”

When Should a Pastor Quit?

My church gives me many reasons to quit. I don’t want to list them; it will just make me depressed and sound whiny. Just trust me; it does.

I have thought about quitting many times. Ask my wife, and she’s only heard a tiny fraction of them.

Many times the quitting-feeling is just self-pity. Things didn’t go as well as I wanted them too, that one person is doing “their thing” again, no one showed up again, another board member is acting weird again, and stuff like that. I get over these fairly quickly.

But there have been some dark times, times where all point and motivation were completely gone. I phoned it in for a while. No one noticed because no one was there, which didn’t help.

I once asked a pastor who makes a partial living telling other pastors how to be a pastor, when a pastor should admit defeat and move on.

“After five years is the standard principle,” was his answer. My mouth dropped.

“Five years? Wow, I could have quit my church four times!”

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The Top Four Times a Pastor Wants a Bigger Church

Humans measure success by numbers. People clamor for more followers, more subscribers, more attention, more money, more buildings. Success is measured numerically.

All pastors feel pressure to get higher numbers: More attenders, more members, more baptisms, more conversions, more money, more buildings, more programs, etc. More, more, more.

Unfortunately (although this is actually fortunate), spiritual success cannot be measured numerically. The Pharisees sought justification in the sight of people. Their success was known because it was seen. Jesus thought they were the least righteous people He ever met.

God judges success completely differently than we do.

Which leads me to my point: why do you want a bigger church? I am the pastor of a small church. Many would be shocked by how small I mean “small“ to be. I have come to notice that there are specific times I want a bigger church.

1. When a visitor comes.
Why is it that whenever a visitor comes, or an out of town family member of a person at church visits, no one else shows up? Why is the lowest attended service the one new people come to? This happens especially when I have an out of town visitor or family member of my own come! People pick that day to skip. How humiliating.

2. When I talk to other pastors.
Pastors, who should all be on the same team, love comparing our successes. As Paul would warn, “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Pastors, who should feel the most sensitive about pastoral depression, are one of the leading groups of people who make me feel terrible about myself and my church. Pastor conferences, books, blogs, podcasts, eventually all slip into the mentality that the only time God is present or blessing a place is when it is growing.

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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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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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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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