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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There is One Reason a Pastor Does a Funeral: To Preach the Gospel

THEM AT FUNERAL: He’s in a better place now.

ME: Yeah, that is one nice casket.
@FailingPastor

 

 

The average funeral costs about $6,000-10,000. And that’s for a basic funeral package, not even including frills. Most people don’t know this. You need to tell them.

I preached a sermon once about funerals. I talked about what I say at them, which is the Gospel, so if you don’t want me preaching a Gospel message, don’t ask me to do your funeral. That would suit everyone fine. I also told them about the cost of a funeral and basic ins and outs of the funeral industry.

No one talks about death in America anymore, unless it’s some off-hand witty remark as a good guy shoots a bad guy, or gratuitous video game violence, or some other entertaining form of death. People want to live and get their stuff. No one wants to consider death.

Solomon says that the house of mourning is a place of wisdom, whereas a house of parties is a place to get dumber. Guess which one people like better?

People don’t go to funerals anymore. It’s amazing. I was talking to one funeral home director and he said fewer and fewer funerals have a pastor. The people in the family don’t even know one to ask. He went on to say how few of the pastors who do funerals bring up the Gospel.

I find this depressing. Funerals are the best opportunity you will ever have to deal with life and death. Most people are ignoring death. At a funeral, you can’t. The dead guy is right there in front of you. I like to throw in a little, “One day we will be at your funeral.” Make them feel what it’s like to be the dead guy in the coffin up front.

Death makes people consider large issues. Why do you think Satan enjoys making a joke out of it so much? Large issues like life after death, judgment, mortality, and other soul searching topics come up naturally. How a pastor could not grab this opportunity by the neck and hammer the Gospel home is beyond me.

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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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If You Think Evangelism Is Easy, I’m Guessing You’re Not Doing It

APOSTLE PAUL: I am in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.

OTHER PASTORS: Took me four minutes and I got that guy saved and solved all his problems.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Pretty tired of reading books where the author saves people in between getting off the plane and getting to baggage claim.

Can’t take it anymore.

I’m not downing their evangelistic efforts. I have much respect for people who can strike up conversations with people about anything, let alone the Gospel.

Some plant, some water. I get it. No problem.

The problem I have is assuming that once your blessed 4 minutes with that person is over, they are done now. Totally saved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Everywhere they go people are getting saved in record time.

How do they know this?

Once you get your baggage and get in the taxi, do you see this person again? How do you know they are saved, simply because they said the thing you told them to say?

The Great Commission, which is often trotted out in support of this quick and easy method of evangelism, actually sounds quite hard and drawn out. We’re to make disciples and teach them to do everything Christ commanded.

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Using Business Models to Hire Pastors is Bearing Ugly Fruit

THE CHURCH: I bet if we follow the world’s ideas of leadership it will work out great!

THE CHURCH 10 YEARS LATER: Huh, that’s weird, it’s not working. Welp, let’s keep at it.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Almost every week there is a news story about a pastor of a large church taking a fall. There are stories about para-church organizations that have grown big and their leaders abuse their power. There are reports of churches covering up sexual abuse and knowingly having felons lead ministry.

The news is quite depressing, especially since the world takes particular glee in reporting such things. Beating on pastors is good fun.

I, in no way, defend creepy pastors. They deserve to get punished by the law in the here and now and I believe for eternity they will receive their due for their behavior as well.

There’s even part of me that takes glee in seeing terrible pastors get caught and busted. They ought to be. Unfortunately, the mourning I feel far outweighs any gleefulness. The disastrous reputation we’ve given the church, causing the “Gentiles” to blaspheme, is a heavy weight that all pastors live under.

People view pastors with suspicion. That’s not a bad thing necessarily. Using skepticism in choosing a pastor is a good thing, it’s just too bad it takes abuse to make that a thing. Instead of being skeptical about what the pastor is teaching, now people are skeptical if the pastor can keep his hands under control and his pants zipped.

One of the main reasons there are so many pastors getting into trouble is because there are too many pastors. James gave the wise advice to not have many of you be teachers (James 3:1). Paul’s guidelines for choosing church leaders are mainly moral issues.

But today we use business models for choosing pastors and building churches. We look for degrees and track records of success. At some point in pastoral search committees someone will raise Paul’s qualifications, but it’s sort of tacked on and gets interpreted as, “Is this guy nice?”

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Volunteers and Other Terrible Things

The worst idea in all Church History is having everyone take their chair and put it on the chair rack themselves.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Churches are always looking for volunteers. My church is not.

I have given up on asking for volunteers. The people most wiling to volunteer are frequently also the people least likely to be able to perform the work for which they volunteered. Volunteers are generally people who think they can do the job. The only people who think they can do a job are people who don’t know what the job is.

Cynicism makes up much of this opinion, but experience has informed it as well.

When we needed more volunteers for our kids’ ministry, we would throw out a general appeal. Terrible people ended up filling those roles. We had pregnant unmarried women, people arrested for drugs and drunk driving, and people who hated every minute of being there and merely agreed due to our guilt-ridden pleas.

I eventually cancelled the kids’ ministry due to the terrible level of “leadership” we were providing kids. I was hoping this would reform the leaders. Nope, they just got mad, left the church, and blamed my pathetic leadership.

Church buildings are maintained by volunteer work. I’m amazed more church buildings have not burned to the ground.

Chair carts are all the proof you need. If you tell a group to fold up their chairs and stack them on the cart; the leaned over, stuck together, facing every which direction mass of chairs, kind of on the cart, that will result will make you cry. Half the cart will be taken up by leaned over chairs, which makes others lean their chairs up against the cart rather than on the cart. This defeats the entire purpose of having a cart for chairs, people.

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Pastors and Politics

THEM: Pastors should voice more political opinions.

ME: OK. Most Republicans and Democrats are going to hell. You should tell them the Gospel.
@FailingPastor

 

 

We’ve had some contentious elections in our country lately. People are wound a little tight.

During the last big “most important election of our lives” season, a lady in church told me she was thinking she wouldn’t come back to church if she had to be around people who disagreed with her political views. She then told me that it was my job to tell them how to vote. Yup, it was my fault they were following their parent’s traditional political line.

She did skip church for a few weeks, but when her guys won the election she came back. Several months later she told me how much she loved our church and how she would, and I quote, “never think of leaving it.”

I stay out of politics. The only time politics enter my sermon is when I mention how I stay out of politics, or when the Bible passage at hand tells us to respect government authority, or when an issue that is in the Bible passage I’m dealing with has a modern political angle everyone is fired up about that has to be addressed.

I don’t tell people how to vote. I don’t tell people to vote even. I make no mention of civic duty, nor do I pledge the flag in church or anything. I’m all for the separation of church and state and do my part to keep it real.

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