5 Things the Failing Pastor Likes About Being a Pastor

Many of my tweets and blog posts are about “negative” things. Mostly that’s because my humor is fueled by making fun of negativity.

But often people just hear me as whiny and complaining.

And they would be correct.

However, making fun of negative things is one way I deal with it.

There are actually many things I enjoy about being a pastor.

OK, “many” was way too big of a word. There are several things I enjoy about being a pastor

1. People crying.
Seriously. People let pastors in to their personal lives, sometimes shockingly so and occasionally disturbingly so, but for many it’s quite healthy and beautiful. I’ve been at the bedsides of dying people. I’ve grieved with people. People share their spiritual struggles, their passion for saving the souls of their loved ones, and their deepest fears, disappointments, and regrets. It’s amazing to me how many grown men have spoken to me through tears over the years. It’s moving and beautiful and I love it.

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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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Dealing With People Who Sleep in Church

Pastors, next time you feel your sermons are too boring, remember: The Apostle Paul once preached someone to death.
@FailingPastor

 

God bless Eutychus. Acts 20 says that Paul was preaching late into the night and dear Eutychus couldn’t take it anymore. He even moved to the window. I’m guessing he did this as a strategy to stay awake.

But even sitting at the window didn’t work. He zonked off and out he fell. Paul raises him from the dead, and then, get this, it says Paul then “talked until morning!” I love this!

Paul bores someone to death, raises him up, and then keeps on preaching for more hours!

Thank God this passage is in the Bible.

Do you know how many pastors over the years of Church History have put people to sleep and yet remained confident to keep going because Acts 20 is in the Bible?

Eutychus probably had an excuse. He probably worked long hours, or walked a long ways to get there. I do think he moved to the window in an effort to keep awake. The spirit was willing, the flesh was exhausted.

I give him the benefit of the doubt. I do this because many people have fallen asleep on me while I was talking. Most of these people work long and late hours. One guy worked a moving shift of crazy hours and often just got done with work before coming to church after working all night. He could have just gone home, but he made the effort to be there.

People are busy and here’s the other thing: I’m not always that exciting.

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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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Sometimes Sermon Criticisms Are Actually Compliments

Criticism from “certain people” is often the best way for the pastor to know his sermon was spot on.
@FailingPastor

 

 

For the most part, I get zero feedback from people about my sermons. Therefore, I have to do a little digging to figure out how “well I did.”

Typically the same people will tell you “good sermon” every week. This means very little. I look for the person who asks a question about something I said. To me, that’s a compliment. I got them thinking.

Then there are the criticisms. It’s easier for people to criticize than to praise. If I mispronounce a word or give the wrong reference, you would think I’d just dropped a hydrogen bomb on a village of innocent women and children.

Then there are those who will walk past quickly, not making eye contact and then will write an email on Tuesday. They always wait until Tuesday. They lull you into calm. “I didn’t hear anything bad on Sunday or Monday, guess I did ok! I must be in the clear!”

Nope, Tuesday morning has an email waiting for me. The email begins with:

“On Sunday you said. . .” something that I sort of said but not entirely. By the time Tuesday comes their emotions have stretched what I said into something ridiculous. They will then copy and paste 327 verses pointing out how “what you said Sunday” is not right.

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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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