The Pastor and Sin

Pastors sin. This may shock some and be unbelievably obvious to others. I don’t know. People are weird when it comes to pastors.

Perhaps I should more accurately say, “This pastor sins.” Perhaps there are some pastors out there who don’t. I don’t know every single pastor in the world. Perhaps there are some. In fact, maybe I’m in the minority.

The way many pastors act and talk, they certainly want you to believe they don’t sin. They preach in such a way that everyone knows the preacher is high above them in spiritual stature. They give the impression that sin is something you little people deal with.

There are also people who hold pastors on a pedestal and can’t imagine a pastor ever doing anything wrong, and, if a pastor does sin, they should resign immediately. God forbid they catch you sinning. There are many church attenders who feel it is their duty to keep the pastor judged and potentially fired.

Although I risk starting a fight, I really don’t get the pastors who use the title “Reverend.” I could never use such a title. Reverend literally means “one deserving of reverence.” Reverence means “worthy of awe and respect.”

Now, I do think a pastor should behave in a way that produces respect, and I don’t mind if people respect a pastor, but to have the nerve to call yourself worthy of respect? That takes balls right there.

I said “balls.” There are some who would take that as a sin. I have just shot to pieces my statement earlier that pastors should act in a way that produces respect.

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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 Church Bullies

When I first became pastor, two men in the church viewed themselves as being the assumed decision makers. They hired me and set my wages and gave me my paycheck.

I was a young, new pastor with no pastoral experience. I knew they were the supposed leaders of the church. I showed them respect and asked their opinion when it came to decisions. They regularly refused to say anything and told me to do whatever I wanted.

So I did. I was then regularly told that what I wanted was the stupidest thing a pastor should want. One day after church, my wife and I were invited over to one of the guy’s houses for lunch. We agreed.

When I got there, guess who else was there? So these two decision makers of the church brought me into the living room, leaving the wives to corner my wife, and sat me in the lowest chair in the living room, which as I recall kept my butt about four inches off the floor, practically eating my knees.

They both stood over me and told me how dumb I was and how wrong my latest decision was. Never mind the fact that I asked them what they thought about this decision beforehand and both refused to do or say anything.

I patiently took their lecture and the awkward chair situation, ate lunch, and went back to making stupid decisions.

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The Fun of Judging What Pastors Own

Remember pastors: the kind of car you drive might be the deciding factor in whether someone goes to heaven or hell.
@FailingPastor

 

A guy who was going off on me right before leaving my church was in my driveway, in front of his new SUV, and pointed to my used Toyota Camry and said, “Pretty nice car for a pastor.”

I believe I was so stunned by this that I just stood there. Really? A Toyota Camry is too nice? Incidentally, this happened about ten years ago. The guy is now dead. The Camry is still going.

I don’t mind if people have problems with me, that is to be expected. I do appreciate it, however, if the problems are actually legitimate.

A Toyota Camry is a pretty sensible vehicle. It’s a no-frills model. It serves its purpose, which is all I ask in a car.

Anyone who listens to my preaching knows that I emphasize the idea that you cannot serve God and mammon, that we are to let go of the things of this earth and grab on to eternal things. I mention this almost every week.

Of all the problems I have, materialism isn’t one of them. Ask my wife, my non-materialism annoys her at times. This isn’t even necessarily all for spiritual reasons either. I just hate stuff.

But no matter how careful I am, how sensible and thoughtful my purchases are, you can bet someone will judge them.

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If It Weren’t For Criticisms of My Sermons, My Sermons Would Be Terrible

If you agree with your pastor 100% of the time, you’re in a cult.
@FailingPastor

 

There is nothing more discouraging to a pastor than spending all week preparing a sermon, getting it together, feeling good about it, and bursting at the seams to deliver it. The juices flow, dreams flash in the mind of conversions and changed lives with weeping and dancing with joy.

Then, three minutes after the “amen” of the closing prayer, Tim, long-time member of the church, walks up and says, “Um, the word you based your sermon on? Yeah, that’s a different Greek word than all the other words those other verses use. Your point doesn’t really carry over.”

If I were a balloon, this would be the time when all the air would blow out of me; I’d make that weird deflating balloon noise, and spin around in the air and then fall flat on the floor. I never checked the Greek. I try to play it off cool, “Oh, well the idea is kind of the same, but yeah, OK, I’ll check on that.”

I go home and check. Yup, Tim was right. I was wrong. My point isn’t actually the point of the rest of those verses. My whole sermon, nay, my whole last week is shot. I blew it. How could I miss that detail? It’s not like Tim isn’t checking everything on his phone the entire time I’m preaching. I know better.

Tim’s are annoying. Tim’s are also amazingly helpful. Tim’s typically share their information well, they try not to be jerks, they know you and you know them. Tim is trying to help. Yet no matter how well Tim helps, how gracious he may be, the deflation is real. Being corrected like that is no fun.

But over the years of dealing with the Tim’s of the church, along with the ones who argue and are wrong and the ones who argue and are right, sometimes done with grace, other times down with disrespectful anger or glee, the pastor grows.

Even when people are completely wrong in their arguments, even when their complaint is perhaps the stupidest thing ever, the pastor can still learn. I listen to the complaints and the fault-finding. Right or wrong they make me think. They make me prepare better for next time. They help me analyze a point or an angle on a subject I never considered before.

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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 Most Helpful Commentaries are the ones that Are Helpful

“Well, I feel better now.”

–When the verse you don’t understand is skipped by your favorite commentary.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I have a love/hate relationship with commentaries. Many are a complete waste of time. I have my favorite commentaries I regularly use. But after regular use, I pick up on their weak spots, their slightly off doctrine, and their weird theories.

In preparing my sermons, I will read about seven commentaries on the passages I’m dealing with. I get seven takes. It’s amazing how often these takes are completely different. In my sermons I frequently say, “You can look this up in seven commentaries and get seven different interpretations. Here’s an eighth.”

After spending years coming up with three messages a week, I pretty much know what the commentaries are going to say. I have also developed my own take on most parts of the Bible now. I really am not dependent on commentaries. I just browse them for interesting ideas, or insights into Greek and Hebrew and stuff like that.

And, if all seven commentaries agree and I don’t, I will rethink my take on where I’m coming from. I can still be wrong. But here’s the thing: so can they!

Over reliance on commentaries is worrisome. Especially after a good ten years of preaching. You should really know your Bible enough to develop a sermon without quoting commentaries through the whole thing.

There are passages I don’t know what to do with. Take head coverings for instance. No really. Please, take them.

I have no idea what to do with Paul’s thing on head coverings for women. Seven commentaries will give seven theories.

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