Emails from Failing Pastors to The Failing Pastor

Over my years of whining about being a pastor on the internet, many pastors have contacted me, either in an effort to comfort me, or share in the misery. Although I don’t have anyone’s permission, here are some snippets of emails I’ve received, perhaps some may be of encouragement to you, or at least let you know the pain is real and I’m not totally making stuff up.

“Just found your site. I am now on my third senior pastor position over the course of 34 years. Only 53, but I’m tired–fatigued–and the “all spent” feeling has largely defined my attitude/outlook for three or four years. Still I need to work to provide for my family. I feel guilty whenever I think of quitting. I’m afraid of losing the parts of ministry I deeply love. I don’t want my children to be influenced poorly should I give up. Yet, I dream of being free. Freedom to volunteer for what I want to do in the church. Freedom to travel and see family and natural wonders. Freedom to not worry how ends will meet this month. Freedom to not be on the board (non-stop for 32 years). Freedom to take longer than a week off at a time. Freedom to go on vacation and not receive messages and calls. Freedom to go home in the evening and not have church conflicts on my mind. Freedom to not be in the middle of disagreements (i.e. COVID, social justice stuff). Freedom to be a grump. Freedom from discouragement, disappointment, disillusionment. Freedom from wondering that maybe the failures are my fault and I really am a bad pastor, a boring preacher, a poor administrator, an uncaring person. Reading your blog was like reading my own journal if I had one (and assuming I had one, was honest enough to type this stuff).”
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“Just wanted to say how refreshing it is to hear someone say what you say. I thought I was the only one. At so many ministers’ conferences the one topic of conversation is: “How’s your church doing? Mine is doing great!” So I smile… but inside…
I think you and I were separated at birth.”


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“I’m a pastor of a church with a normal attendance of 70-80 people. I was planted out by a charismatic/prosperity focused church when I had only been following Jesus for six years. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Needless to say, planting a church from the ground up, with no formal training, a skewed view of the gospel, and an ever increasing anxiety that the church that I still report to is in so many ways not in line with scripture, has been both devastating and glorious. If not for the families who call this church their home, (many of which I’ve been honored to baptize) I would have walked away long ago. I’ve discovered His faithfulness in my fear, His peace in my anxiety. Yet the depression you blogged about is and has been a reality for me. I followed you on Twitter for your tongue and cheek comments. I realize I have no idea who you are or where you pastor. But, today I heard the encouragement of a brother who has walked some of the same paths with Jesus that I am. He will get us home. I just wanted to say thank you!”
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“Just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your blog posts. Many of them have been a help and encouragement. I am the pastor of a small church. Me and my family go through/have gone through many of the things that you write about. However, God has consistently proven Himself to us, and we are able to say that His grace is sufficient. If we can ever be a blessing to you all, please let us know. Thank you for being a voice to encourage us small church pastors.
God Bless.”

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“In your blog, you said 50% of you wants to quit and 50% can’t imagine life without ministry… My fear is not quitting, but that I will coast/drone through the next 30+ years hardened, emptied of compassion, living my ministry the way many of my congregants live their faith.”
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“Hey, just have to say that your twitter feed is strangely encouraging to me. I say, “strangely” because some of the things you say are “awful” but perfectly state what I think but am afraid to say. It’s encouraging to know I’m not the only one! (I am pastoring a failing church plant in Brazil.)
I just have to ask, do I know you in real life? Some of the things you say seem so close to home, that I just have to wonder!”

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“After reading your comments about pastor conferences I felt a kindred spirit. I went to a conference once and there was this “Worship Group” (they sang, preached and had a couple of sketches). At the end, they said, “This is what you guys should be doing on a weekly basis at your church.” To be completely honest, it was very good. Great singers, great script. Wonderfully presented. It was about a professional as you could get. So after it was over, I met up with one of the people in leadership of that group and I asked if they’d be presenting another presentation? He said no, they’d been working on just this one presentation for about 6 months. WAIT A MINUTE!!!!! You just kicked my butt for not doing this every weekend and then you tell me you’ve been working on this one show for 6 months? You guys need to shut up and sit down because you have no credibility.
Thanks for letting me vent.”

Pastors vs. Church People, A Classic Confrontation

Many times while praying alone, I will intercede for people in my church.

Intercession soon turns into bemoaning the direction people are heading.

“Lord, help him to take the spiritual lead in his family, because he’s totally not doing that. His kids are going nuts. Oh Lord, the things they are doing. It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. I told him. I don’t know. Did he not hear anything I was preaching the last ten years? And then his wife. What’s up with her? No wonder the kids are nuts.”

What started out as true spiritual concern devolves into judging and condemning.

After “interceding” for people in my church for a good fifteen minutes, it’s become clear: it’s me and God on one team and people in my church on the other.

This feeds self-righteousness, bitterness, judgmentalism, and all manner of evil things one shouldn’t do.

But I’m just stating the facts! And, at the end of the facts, sure looks like me and God against the people.

Continue reading “Pastors vs. Church People, A Classic Confrontation”

Guilt Keeps Many Pastors Employed

Through my 20+ years of being a pastor I have thought of quitting many times. The Failing Pastor persona has put me in touch with many other pastors who feel the same way.

Large portions of me want to quit being a pastor. Yet here I am, still a pastor.

There are many reasons I’m still in my job. I’d like to talk about one of them: guilt.

I fear that if I quit I won’t get the same opportunities to serve the Lord. I fear that I will have quit right before a harvest. I fear that everything in my life will fall apart until I’m driven back into the “ministry.” I feel like I’m quitting on God. It’s not just leaving a 9-5 job; it’s all entwined with my spiritual life. It feels like quitting being a pastor is quitting part of my spiritual life. Like I’m turning from faith. It feels like guilt.

Some of these guilt feelings are just dumb. They go away quickly with a little bit of thought and prayer. Yet they come back.

Anytime I feel like walking out the door for good, guilt keeps me put.

I read about Jonah. What if as I walk away I get swallowed by a large aquatic creature? I know for sure I will drive and not take a boat as I head out. Takes care of that threat, but no doubt a giant buffalo will do me in.

Many pastors feel they had a “call” to the ministry. I have some skepticism over such things, mostly from watching people who were “called” to take a church, who then come to not like that church after three years and have yet another “call” to another, supposedly better, church. It looks like people just doing their thing and putting a spiritual veneer on it so no one can question them.

“Sorry, God said I gotta go.” You can’t argue with that.

I don’t think I had a “call” to come to this church I’m at. It fell into my lap, more or less. I heard no voice, no spine tingle, no sign. It just kind of happened. Some have told me that’s the “call.” Obviously God was behind it if it was that easy.

Yeah, I don’t know. Sometimes I’m lazy and just do the thing that happens.

I know why I came to this church. I knew what needed to be done and I tried to do it. It also hasn’t really worked. I’m also tired and burned out and close to punching people if they do that one thing one more time. I hate that feeling.

Sometimes I feel it would be best if I just quit now before messing it up big time. But then The Guilt. “You will reap if you faint not.” Yah, yah, yah.

But here’s the thing: I heard no voice calling me to this church, not even a voice telling me to be a pastor, it was just a thing I felt I had to do. So I did.

I also know that there are many things I have been called to do directly in God’s Word, things that all believers are called to do: Love the Lord, love your neighbor, provide for your family, use your spiritual gifts, do good and develop spiritual fruit.

I can do that anywhere with anyone at any time. It does not require being a pastor. And, in some ways, being a pastor takes away the love aspect by making it “just my job.” I want to know what life is like outside the professional church office (I was born into a pastor’s family, I’ve known nothing else). I want to love my neighbor because I’m following Christ, not because I probably just do it so people will come to my church.

I write these things down because I know other pastors struggle with these thoughts and The Guilt. I’m working thru my thoughts on the subject. I’ve not come to any definite conclusions.

There are perks to being a pastor, there are reasons I do it, it’s not all terrible and in many ways it’s incredible. But I’m also feeling the need to move on. I’m continuing to work these thoughts out and do what is right, not based on guilt or people’s expectations, but as a man who will stand before the Lord and give an account.

I want to do the right thing before Him. I pray you do as well. Perhaps we can help each other do that. Fight the fight.

This Pastor is Not Woke

Being “Woke” is the new cool thing the cool kids are doing. Wokeness is the official religion of the atheist Left.

Wokeness is religion. It’s the latest flavor of the Tower of Babel/Humanism venture.

The problem with Wokeness is that it has no set law. There is no final authority. Their goalposts are on a bullet train. Being against authority (the patriarchy) is a central tenet. Since there’s no central authority, there’s no central, unifying law.

If you give in to The Woke Ones you will never win. They will always push you further and further into Wokeness. White men are out. Women are in. White women don’t count though, must be a woman of color. Women of color are out because of gayness. Gays are out because of transgender. Transgender are out because someone now identifies as a gay tree trunk, which is merely a patriarchal authority over weed, man.

It just doesn’t stop. There is no end.

Therefore, I have decided not to give in to them at all. I do not preach on the Hot Topic of the day Woke Twitter tells me I’m supposed to preach on. I don’t pander to their ideas. They will change next week anyway. Wokeness has a short attention span and I’ll never go far enough in that short amount of time. Too exhausting.

I’ll stay over here following my Good Shepherd next to green pastures and still waters. Perhaps, with the world’s constant Woke Craziness, someone may ask me for a reason for the hope that is in me. The crazier the world, the more rational, peaceful, and hopeful Christianity looks.

Beyond all that, the other tragedy of Wokeness is that since there’s no final authority, there’s also no forgiveness. There is no High Priest.

When you trample on the toes of the Woke, they respond with outrage. They will attempt to get you fired, humiliated, and use every attempt to ruin your life. If they believed in gun ownership, we’d all be in trouble (look for this pivot soon).

There is no forgiveness, they won’t let you up. They destroy you. All you have is damnation with no hope of redemption. What a sad, scary place to live, especially since who knows when you’ll violate one of their ever-changing standards.

Wokeness is contrary to everything the Bible says and all that God is. It’s a return to Babel. Babel didn’t work the first time and it won’t work this time.

Wokeness has to implode. It is not founded on truth. Truth always wins out. Who knows how long this will take.

It is entertaining to watch, unfortunately, people will die because of it. Suicide rates in the next 50 years are going to be terrifying. Ungrounded people do unstable things.

The problem is the same, it’s just a different manifestation of the same reality: no one wants to listen to God and His truth. They will listen to pretty much anything other than that, even a talking serpent.

The solution remains the same too: keep preaching the Word of Truth, in season and out. This is the only answer. All else is vain and leads to death.

Preach the Word. Never quit. Don’t give in to the fads of the outraged world. Lead them to Christ, the Good Shepherd, who can truly give peace that passes understanding.

The Failing Pastor’s “Encouragement” to Struggling Pastors

Earlier this week I wrote a post about not being sure how long I can continue being a pastor. It received quite a bit of response publicly and privately.

Although it is nice to know I am not alone, how discouraging that this is the place so many pastors are in.

Some pastors are living large and don’t have these feelings or frustrations. Others are frustrated for reasons other than those I expressed. I don’t know what to say about those situations.

I would like to talk to those pastors who are doing what they can to faithfully preach the Word, teach and disciple individuals, and otherwise attempt to fulfill the biblical qualifications and expectations of the pastoral role, and yet are met with apathy, rejection, and mockery.

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I think most pastoral frustration, certainly mine, is not a tiredness of work or the church, but just the sheer pointlessness of it. I do my best to faithfully preach God’s Word and it appears the more I endeavor to do this, the more people leave.

My faith does not require the approval of others, but my sincere desires to help people are constantly thwarted. The lives of people who have dropped out of church do not go well. I hurt for them. I don’t know what to do.

This is the time that the happy pastors tell me “There’s nothing you can do. It’s all God.” Which helps nothing, but appears to be top-drawer advice from most.

This advice only adds to my frustration. God is growing everyone else’s church but not mine? Nice to know He’s so helpful. Can I even trust Him? If He’s not on my side, should I even be doing this? Many have told me “no.”

Thanks.

The gates of hell will not prevail against God’s Kingdom. God does not need me to keep the Church alive.

At the same time I have been called to care for one little part of it, to give my life for it, to sacrifice for it, to let my progress in the faith be seen by all, to take heed to my life and my doctrine so that I and my hearers will be saved.

Continue reading “The Failing Pastor’s “Encouragement” to Struggling Pastors”

Why I am Still a Pastor

If you read my stuff, you know I have some “issues” surrounding my pastoral career. It begs the question: Why are you still doing this if it’s that bad?

Here are my answers to that question in no particular order:

1. I do actually occasionally help people. Not many, not as many as I’d like. But there are some. I can see their growth in Christ and to know I had a part in planting or watering is so awesomely cool I can’t even explain it. I fail to see how I’d get this many shots at that by not being a pastor. To be of use to hurting, questioning, and doubting people is very cool.

2. I just wouldn’t do these things otherwise. I get opportunities to be with people in very personal moments. Weddings, funerals, counseling, just talking. I have sat next to more crying people in the last 20 years than I ever thought possible. These are things this job requires me to do and people view me as someone they can invite in. I would never in a million years get this many opportunities to be with people otherwise.

3. I have grown in Christ tremendously. Much of what I share on the Failing Pastor is my flesh’s cynical take on being a pastor. The reality is a tad more balanced. I have had so many people and things ripped away from me, I’ve only had Christ left. Only His Word to stand on. If my pastoral career had been successful, I’m quite sure I’d have lost my soul. I cannot thank Him enough for how terrible my church is for what it’s done for me spiritually!

Continue reading “Why I am Still a Pastor”

A Poor Pastor’s Advice to Poor Pastors

It used to be that being a pastor was synonymous with being poor. This changed at some point with televangelism or something. I don’t know. I just know it changed.

Pastors became celebrities and churches began competing with Business for larger buildings and programs. As churches grew; so did pastors’ salaries. (One might cynically conclude the desire for a larger church is actually a desire for a larger salary. But only very bad, cynical people would actually state that opinion publically.)

While many pastors are making a comfortable living, there are many who struggle to get by.

I’d be one of those pastors.

It’s cute and easy to tell me how to grow my church and be like those famous pastors with large churches and salaries, but no. It doesn’t work in towns in rural America. I can Saddleback on that Church Growth horse all day and it aint happening. I would also feel like a complete sellout that is close to shipwrecking his faith if I did that.

Over the years I have supplemented my income in several ways. I’ve worked as housekeeping in local resorts. I’ve done grounds crew for a millionaire’s home. I do some writing. I flip things on the internet. None of these things has made me rich, but they’ve all gotten my family and I through to this point. My wife has also taken part in such things and now that our kids are out of the house, she works part-time. She’s struggled along at my side the whole time too. My kids were all employed at young ages as well. It was a family effort.

Continue reading “A Poor Pastor’s Advice to Poor Pastors”

The Failing Pastor’s Wife

I’m not talking about wives who fail at being pastors wives, I’m talking about my wife who is the wife of a failing pastor.

When we came to this church I told them my wife was not an employee. She should not be expected to do a bunch of stuff, and if you have something to tell me, tell me.

These parameters are not remembered by anyone, so it has to be demonstrated consistently. People don’t listen to words; they might eventually pick up on habits.

All the grandiose statements about “my wife is not an employee” are great and everything, but when no one else shows up to watch kids in the nursery, guess who watches kids in the nursery?

I think there were years where my wife heard maybe five of my messages because no one else would serve in the nursery. This was not good. Spare me the lectures about “Well, you need to make people do it, that’s not right.”

Yeah, ok, and who exactly are these people I want to entrust the care of other people’s children to? Not to mention that my wife felt bad making a mom who brought the kids stay in the nursery with the kids. What’s the point of going to church then?

My wife knows my theological brilliance anyway, she’ll just watch the kids. She’d rather give other people an “opportunity” to hear sermons than her.

But it still got old.

The nursery thing was annoying, but we’ve since taken care of that by not having any little kids in our church anymore. But perhaps the two biggest sacrifices she makes being married to a failing pastor are these:

Continue reading “The Failing Pastor’s Wife”

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.

Continue reading “Dealing With Feelings of Pastoral Inadequacy”

How do you Know if the Holy Spirit is in Your Ministry?

I’ve been told many times that if the Holy Spirit is involved in my church there will be growth in numbers. I’ve been told that the Holy Spirit will always provide money, resources, volunteers, and anything else to carry out the ministry. If the Spirit is in your church, your church will be the awesomest church ever!

When people start telling me that the Holy Spirit guarantees external, material, measurable success, I wonder if they’ve ever read the Bible.

The Spirit called a number of prophets to go talk to a group of people who were not going to listen. They were told up front: Go talk to them, but understand that they aren’t going to listen to you. They’ll probably try to kill you.

Jesus Christ had no place to lay His head. He had 72 disciples, then 12, then 11, then zero for a bit. The Apostle Paul said he was left alone, no man stood with him. He learned to be content even when he was in famine, nakedness, and distress.

There is nothing in the Bible that leads me to believe that when the Holy Spirit shows up everything is externally, measurably awesome. Hebrews 11, people. Some believers were sawn in pieces!

We want to determine the Spirit’s effectiveness by measures of human effectiveness. Lately the church has been led to believe we must have success like businesses do: more money, bigger buildings, sprawling campuses, more people/employees, etc. If your church looks like Amazon and Apple, then God has blessed you and the Spirit is doing amazing things (Just like He is at Amazon and Apple apparently).

Continue reading “How do you Know if the Holy Spirit is in Your Ministry?”