Serving People Who Despise You and Other Perks of Being a Pastor

Pros and cons of loving people:
Pros: Loving
Cons: People
@FailingPastor

 

 

One of the bits of advice I heard when I was considering pastoral ministry was, “Love the people.”

That sounds common sensical and is very true. It is also very difficult.

It’s easy to love the idea of people. It’s easy to love people when you assume they will be so grateful for your life-changing sermons and advice that saved their marriage and helped them raise great kids.

But when people call you during supper to warn you they will leave your church “unless” you bow to their demands, love gets tougher. When people yell out disagreements at you during your sermon and invite people to their house afterward to inform them of how dumb the pastor is, love is hard. When old timers from the church invite you over for dinner, only to find out it’s an ambush so they can stand over you and lecture you about how you are ruining “their church,” love gets hard. When you are accused of being legalistic the same week someone leaves your church because you don’t enforce enough rules on the people, love gets confusing along with hard.

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Pastors: If You Always Know What You’re Doing; You’re Probably Not Doing it Right

The worst part about being a pastor is that I have no idea what I’m doing.
@FailingPastor

 

Regular people with regular jobs get performance reviews. They have a boss who tells them what to do and are given raises, promotions, or demotions based on how they perform. Even business owners can track the bottom line; the money will let them know how well they are doing.

But pastors have no bosses, at least not most. Some of you weird church hierarchy denomination people have such a thing, but alas, you’re weird. I have no performance reviews. Pastors are constantly told not to measure effectiveness by money or attendance.

So, what do I base my performance on? How do I know if I’m doing a good job?

“The spiritual growth of the people.” Oh great. And how, pray tell, does a guy judge that? And, furthermore, when a guy does judge that, boy howdy, how does he come out of that feeling like he has a clue that he’s doing anything right?

I have no idea what I’m doing.

As far as I can tell, the best way to know what a pastor should be doing is to not be a pastor. All non-pastors know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

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Justifying Boring Sermons

I preach boring sermons to weed out the pretenders and scare off the entertain-me-now crowd. And also because I’m boring.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I really am a failure at being a pastor. The results are in: I suck at this.

When I examine how I do my job and the pathetic results I’m getting, defensiveness enters the picture. Maybe I’m not that bad. Maybe it’s this church and these people. Maybe it’s the society we live in. Maybe it’s our location and how our church is set up.

I can find spiritual sounding reasons why I get the results I get: My sermons are tough, they are in-depth. I’m probably too spiritual for most people. People can’t handle the sound doctrine I drop on them every week. They can’t bear up. It just means I’m preaching the offense of the cross and confronting sin. People hate the light! I must be throwing lots of light out there, because people sure seem to hate what I’m doing.

I will give some benefit of the doubt that this could be part of the problem. I do think I preach the cross and confront sin. I know a number of people who blatantly told me that’s why they left.

Preaching in-depth, doctrinally sound sermons is a good way to weed out pretenders, people who are there for other reasons. If our churches are massively entertaining, you don’t have any idea why people are there. At least if your church is boring, you know they’re not there for enjoyment!

I know, that’s a sick twisted way to think, but alas, it’s quite true! It’s along the lines of persecution. Persecution is a really good way to find out who is legitimate with their faith and who is playing games. Boring sermons are a safer form of persecution, and creates the same results!

But I know this isn’t the whole story.

It might just be that I suck and my sermons are boring.

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Monty Python, Preaching, and Culturally Relevant Sermons

If Monty Python had never made The Quest for the Holy Grail, all my sermons would be two minutes shorter.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Pastors are supposed to be culturally relevant. We’re supposed to interject cultural things into our sermons to make us appear as though we’re real people and know things about stuff.

The problem is that modern culture is completely stupid. Modern music is no music at all. Modern films are just political propaganda. Television is passé. YouTube and Instagram are just one more waste of time.

It’s hard to pay attention to such inanities, let alone work them into sermons and be relevant.

I prefer reveling in my irrelevance. I have no idea what is going on in modern culture, other than knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that modern culture is completely stupid. I at least know that. I prefer showing my incompetence by quoting things that were cool many years ago.

The greatest movie ever made was Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. There are so many lines in there that fit like hand in glove into sermons. I cannot talk about the resurrection without mentioning “I got better. I feel fine.” Any discussion of government or kings in the Bible so easily slides into “watery tarts distributing swords is no basis for a form of government.” The witch of Endor floats on water like small rocks and churches. I could go on. I can quote the whole movie. Walls of Jericho with the Frenchmen who will taunt you a second time.

The thing is that very few people know Monty Python references anymore. What sad times are these when passing ruffians can’t quote Monty Python. So when I include Monty Python quotes in my sermons, people just think I’m quoting the King James. Either that or people think I’m stupid for saying that Jesus got better after He was crucified.

People have no idea how many lines of Monty Python they know now simply because I’ve repeated them in my sermons.

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Church Fellowship is Overrated

I love fellowship, if by “fellowship” you mean reading books alone in my office with the door closed.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Churches are all about fellowship. Fellowship is all about talking to each other and eating food. I’m cool with eating food.

I’ve never been a fan of talking. I never feel like I have anything relevant to add to any conversation. All my stories are lame and easily topped. My facts are usually wrong. My political insights are easily destroyed strawman opinions. Anything remotely good I share comes across as bragging.

I’d prefer silence at meals. As the great theologian, George Thorogood said, “When I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself.”

Amen.

The best times of Christian fellowship I’ve ever had are one-on-one conversation. Group gatherings drain me and lead to very little in the way of edification. Generally it’s just people talking over one another. Fellowship leads to headaches for me.

I prefer going home, sitting in my chair and fellowshipping with dead authors. Why does fellowship always have to be with living, talking people?

A. W. Tozer, Oswald Chambers, C. S. Lewis, and so many others have such great insights that provoke so much thought and growth in me. It’s hard to convince me that going and talking about the weather and the football game would be better.

I’ve learned too much from dead people to ever be swayed into spending lots of time with living people.

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The Ideal Church Board Member

Board members were alarmed at how low attendance was today. Or they would have been, if they had been there.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Pastors making fun of their board is as old as pastors and boards. Some of the epic battles I’ve heard about, the total warfare that breaks out in board meetings, are things of legend.

I’ve never had such things. There was one meeting where I and a board member had a disagreement about a person, similar to Paul and Barnabas arguing over Mark. It was almost the exact situation. Voices were raised, but nothing untoward was said. We parted friends.

Other than that, our meetings have been quite civil. The reason for this, in my opinion, is that my board doesn’t really care that much about what goes on in our church. I’m not saying that as a terrible character flaw, they are just busy people and I don’t think church concerns rank that high on their radar of concerns.

I know this because for the majority of my time in my church board members are rarely all at a Sunday service. It’s slightly better now, but still only happens maybe half the Sundays.

You can tell how much your board members care about their church by how often they are around it. Not coming to church is a classic sign that people don’t care about your church or anything you are preaching, doing, or leading.

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Raising Pastors’ Kids

My kids are not better than yours cuz they are pastor’s kids. They are better than yours cuz they are better than yours.
@FailingPastors

 

 

Pastors’ kids have a bad reputation. This could be because pastors have bad kids.

It could also be that people have very high expectations for pastors’ kids. Every little misstep of pastors’ kids gets noticed and remembered and gossiped about.

I don’t know where the stereotype comes from in all honesty. I’ve known lots of pastors’ kids and I honestly don’t know any that I’d describe as being “bad.” I mean, kids are kids. Kids are by nature not good all the time. My kids have done bad things, some of which were observed by others. But anyone who knows my kids would say they are good kids.

I am not a person who likes bad kids, so I’d know it if my kids were bad.

My kids are, quite frankly, good kids. They get good grades, they don’t get in trouble at school, they have jobs, they are respectful to authority, and various other measures of kid goodness. My kids are beginning to move out of my house, one already has. My kids are not little anymore; they are young adults. And they are good kids.

Let me tell you one massive reason why they are good kids: because I’m a good father.

Yup, I went ahead and said it.

My kids were born like anyone else’s kids. They had their fair share of strengths and weaknesses. Two of them were hyper and nuts. One of them was quieter and more subtle with her nuts. But they were all nuts. It took a massive amount of time, patience, energy, and cardiovascular exercise to discipline my kids. I was all-in on my fathering. I was determined to win every battle of wills. No matter how long it took, I wore them out until they learned I was the boss.

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