Top 5 Things that Make This Pastor Sad

Pastoral ministry isn’t hard physically. Many aspects are actually totally enjoyable. One of my favorite things in the world is developing sermons and preaching them. Visiting people has become a good source of entertainment and fellowship. Hospital visits are even becoming more, well “enjoyable” isn’t the right word, manageable?!

Pastoral ministry is hard in other ways. It takes an emotional toll after a while. There are many sad aspects of the job that suck the life and energy out of me. Here are the leading causes of pastoral sadness.

1. Tragedies
Bad things happen to a lot of people. Watching the elderly woman take care of her husband slipping away with Alzheimer’s. Watching people slowly succumb to cancer. Parents who give birth to kids with health issues. Suicide. Accidents and injuries. Man, it’s tough walking with people through these things. It also seems like these things come in bunches. There have been times where these things just compound and I wonder where the energy comes from to deal with another one. I have learned to not take seasons free of these things for granted.

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Pastoral Incompetence, Incompetent Advice, and Prayer Chains

“You know, your church should really have a . . .”

Every pastor has heard sentences begin like this. Who knows how the sentence will end, but probably with you doing something you’re intentionally not doing after much thought and counsel. Most people assume you’re not doing it because you’re a moron.

“You know, our church should have a prayer chain.” This is one I’ve heard countless times. “The last church I went to had a prayer chain and I just loved it, I could keep up with everything and everyone.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s why we don’t have one.” Now listen, if your church does a prayer chain, great, go for it. I am not seeking to dictate what your church does.

I and the board of our church have discussed this issue many times. We don’t have a prayer chain. Here is a brief list of reasons why:

They promote gossip.
They too often share things people don’t want shared.
I’d rather have people in my church talk to each other and be friends and find out what to pray for.
They promote gossip.
Our church isn’t that big; it’s not hard to keep up.
Anything the whole church needs to know is announced at church. Want to know what’s going on at church? Here’s an idea: go to church and you’ll know.
They promote gossip.

I’m not interested in any arguments on these points. This is not up for debate. Nothing you can say to me will change my mind.

Prayer chains are not biblically mandated. Prayer for each other is; but I believe prayer is centered on love. Love would be friends with people and know how to pray for people.

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Dealing With Feelings of Pastoral Inadequacy

If you were to ask me the top five reasons why I feel like a failing pastor I would say:

  1. People don’t come to my church; even “regulars” don’t come very “regular.”
  2. The testimony of the families in our church is, shall we say, sub-par.
  3. I never feel entirely sure what I’m supposed to do with people.
  4. Surely if I were succeeding I would not be crying over this church as much as I do.
  5. Minuscule levels of what is termed “successful evangelism” are taking place.

I’ve heard people confirm my failure in regard to these issues. Many happy pastors would immediately condemn my pastoring based on these five things, (probably with the exception of the crying thing because that sounds very spiritual and “should be that way,” but you probably don’t fully understand the source of those tears, which is mostly just complete pain and agony rather than intercession).

I’ve heard many non-pastors say in relation to these things, “You should quit then.” Perhaps, but these same people will trot out the “Nothing worthwhile is every easy” line if I dare discuss quitting.

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Serving Uncaring, Sanctimonious Jerks

“Hello, pastor, how are you today?”

“Got a little bit of a sore throat.”

“The prayer of faith can heal. Why didn’t you try that?”

This is how one individual greeted me one Sunday morning. The following Sunday, the greeting went like this:

“Hello, pastor, how are you today?”

“Oh, pretty good. My sore throat is better this week.”

“That’s good. You know, you shouldn’t complain, God probably gave you that cold for a reason.”

Now, for reference, this individual skips at least one Sunday a month due to some sort of sickness, injury, mechanical problem, or some other disaster. Yet any time I mention anything remotely not perfect, I get a sanctimonious response from him.

This, in and of itself, is not that big of a deal. But here’s the thing: many people who talk to me (since I’ve become a pastor) feel a need to shame me or lecture me or quote Scripture at me to correct some comment I made.

Without fail these same people will have more problems than the average church attender and will also complain about their problems quite regularly.

Yet I mention that it’s raining outside and I will get a lecture on not complaining about God’s provision for flowers.

I wasn’t complaining, I just said it was raining.

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What Pastoral Success Looks Like to the Failing Pastor

What would pastoral success look like to me?

I can sum it up simply by saying: when my church grows in the unity of the faith into the perfect man, Christ Jesus. I’d want to see Christlikeness in the people in my church. Not perfection, but a definite moving in that direction.

What would that look like?

People would show up, not just to church, but for each other. They would visit each other, provide needs for each other, fellowship on their own initiative, do acts of mercy and kindness for those outside the church, shepherd their own families, witness to their neighbors, and such like.

If these things were happening, I’d feel like I was succeeding at my job.

At the same time, it would probably never be enough to make me not feel like a failure. Christlikeness is a high standard. It is perfection. “Be perfect” is like a thing commanded in the New Testament.

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Top Three Pastor Insults

Insulting pastors is a good source of entertainment for many. The amazing thing is how many feel the need to actually stand in front of the pastor to level the insults. The brazenness of it all is amazing.

There’s a person in my church who has sworn at me and called me more names than anyone else on the planet. It’s unreal. There’s something about being a pastor that causes people to have to go overboard with disagreements, to just blast you in the face. I wonder if it’s an attempt to see if they can get a sinful reaction out of me? I don’t know. Perhaps car mechanics and plumbers deal with the same stuff. I believe they probably do, I just wonder if they get the same frequency.

I’ve never sworn at a mechanic or a plumber or another employee of anywhere. I was a janitor for years and was frequently complained about, but never to my face, it was always to my boss. This pastor gig has opened my eyes to the hostility residing in many people.

Of all the insults I’ve gotten about being a pastor, there are a couple areas that seem to show up most frequently. Here they are and my responses to them.

1) Lack of work

“You only work one day a week”

“What else to you do for a living?”

“This isn’t your real job is it?”

“What do you do all week?”

I’ve gotten this one a lot. In some cases I can’t blame the question. What do I do all week? There are weeks I wonder the same thing. There’s no product produced, there’s no tangible proof that I did anything, so in some ways I have the same question!

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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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