The Only Way to Cure Pastoral Depression and Pride

When I began as a pastor I was fully convinced I could fix the church that was interested in hiring me and I was convinced I could fix all the people in it.

If I had left the church after five years like most pastors do, I could have felt satisfied that I had done my job of fixing. Unfortunately, I stayed for over 20 years.

All those years showed me clearly I was pathetic at fixing churches and people.

My Grandfather was a pastor and he fixed the fourth church he went to. The first three didn’t get mentioned much. But the fourth one, like Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the fourth one stood.

He did so well fixing the church and people that he went on the road and fixed people all over America and even Canada. He flitted from town to town fixing people. He was convinced fixing people was easy and he was the man for the job.

After flitting about the country for years, he settled in to pastor one more church. He continued to claim an amazing ability to fix people. I met many of the people he fixed. Boy howdy, were they not fixed people.

My dad was also a pastor. He tried fixing three churches and had limited success. He fixed a couple people along the way too. But for the most part the churches and the people left him depressed. Especially since his father-in-law fixed people all over the country and routinely shamed my dad for his lack of fixing abilities.

My grandpa fixed people and he became a massive egotistical jerk. My dad didn’t fix people and became ashamed and depressed.

I followed in the steps of my father, except I had even less success in fixing.

My 20+ years demonstrate that I cannot fix people or churches. I write today a humiliated person. My confident knees have been knocked out from under me. I have no personal confidence with which to stand upon.

I have not been a pastor now for eight months. I’ve had plenty of time to think. Separation from the church and the people I couldn’t fix has allowed me to examine things as a spectator.

I’ve thought a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that fixing people is not the calling of a pastor.

If the pastor’s job is to fix people you will have one of two results:

1) You will fix people. This will feed your ego and you’ll become proud, above everyone, a spiritual, white bearded guru on a mountain top handing out advice from on high. You won’t weep with those who weep or rejoice with those who rejoice. You’ll just be a jerk above them all no matter their weeping or rejoicing.

2) You won’t fix people. You will examine everyone for fruit and any sign of non-growth will suck the life out of you. When the stupid people are too stupid to listen, their failure is a reflection on you. How dare they despoil your image! You’ll be depressed, but just as arrogant as the fixer; it will just show itself in pity, bitterness, and anger.

Look at how many pastors have fixed their churches, made it grow to multitudes of success. They write books and travel conference circuits, only to be fired for being a bully or for taking advantage of people.

On the flip side, pastors who couldn’t make their churches grow and could never heal the broken part of the Body are depressed. Suicide ranks high among pastors.

Trying to fix people and churches is a recipe for disaster.

Nowhere in the Pastoral Epistles or anywhere else in the Bible are we told to fix people.

The pastor’s job is to grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people. God gives the increase.

This is hard to do. Easy to say. Easy to nod your head at this advice.

But try it. Try loving people, and growing, and preaching the Word. People will still be people and you’ll be tempted to count victories and grovel in defeats.

The only way you can pastor without fixating on fixing people is to view yourself before the Lord–Doing the right thing before Him regardless of temporal results.

The only way you can have that view is if you have an eternal perspective and have laid hold of eternal life.

The only way you can do that is by seeing that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I’m identified with Christ, thus already dead to this world and alive unto God.

Pastors, know the Gospel. Identify with Christ. Reckon yourself to be dead indeed, no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you.

Earthly measures fire up the ego into either pride or pity. Ignore the world. You’re crucified unto the world and the world is crucified to you. Let it go. Set your affections on things above. Stop counting victories and defeats.

So easy to say; so hard to do, but it is the answer.

You were not called to fix people or churches. You were called to represent Christ as a minister of reconciliation. Grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people and don’t worry about earthly measures.

You will stand before the Lord who will test with fire all you’ve built on the foundation. Earthly praise, recognition, and growing numbers do not impress God. Faithfulness to Him is what we’re here for.

Do that.

Will People Really Come to Church if You “Just Preach the Word?”

Many years ago I had an older gentleman “encourage” me as a young pastor by telling me “if you preach the Word, people will come.”

This sounds good. It might remind you of an incredibly stupid baseball movie involving an Iowa cornfield. But it will not remind you of any Bible verses!

But as a young, idealistic preacher I liked the advice. I believed it too.

So I started preaching the Word. I began in Genesis and started going through chapter by chapter (skipping some of the drier chapters). Eventually it took me 16 years to get all the way through to Revelation.

I learned a ton. Spending each week studying a new chapter of Scripture completely changed my faith.

And therein lay the problem. What I believed changed. It’s ok if the average Christian who rarely talks changes their doctrine. No one seems too troubled. People brag to me all the time about how they’ve recently found the magic doctrine that unlocked untold happiness in their life. No one bats an eye.

But if a pastor changes what he believes, boy howdy, what’s wrong with this guy? Paul says a pastor’s growth should be evident to all. Yeah, good advice Paul.

If you grow, if you learn, you will change some of your doctrine. You just will. This is not allowed for a pastor, unless, of course, you change and believe exactly what everyone in your church wants you to believe.

By the time I finished Revelation, probably 25% of my doctrine had changed and I would say it changed for the better, like way better. Most of what I believed before was stuff I heard people that I assumed knew the Bible say.

Spend 16 years preaching through the Bible and you’ll find out real quick very few people are saying what the Bible says.

I continued preaching what I had learned and I learned more and refined my changes. I felt after 21 years of preaching I was way closer to preaching the Word than ever before. I’m not saying I’m never wrong, or that what I believe is always 100% exactly what the Bible says. But I can confidently say I’m closer.

You would expect that over that 21 year span of increasingly preaching the Word that all those people the old guy said would come just flocked in.

You would be wrong. There was hardly anyone left when I resigned. Funny thing is, the old guy who told me people would come if I preached the Word? He left when I was in Ezekiel 14. Yup, I remember the chapter.

Ezekiel is a long way from Revelation.

I preached the Word and pretty much all it did was make people leave.

Remember how the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us? Remember how He came unto His own and His own received Him not? Remember how they nailed the Word made flesh to a cross? Remember how the Word made flesh told you not to be surprised if the world hates you, it hated Him first?

Yeah, me too. If you preach the Word, expect people to leave.

“But,” I can hear you say, “My pastor preaches the Word and we have hundreds of people, our church is growing by leaps and bounds!”

Yup, I know.

It’s possible there are exceptions to the rule, but they would be exceptions, not the rule.

Instead of saying, “If you preach the Word, people will come.” You should say, “Preach the Word.” That’s it. That’s what Paul said (2 Timothy 4:2). He never once seemed concerned about whether people came or not. He just said, “Preach the Word.”

Do that.

Ask The Failing Pastor: Should I Take a New Church?

When my dad was in seminary he worked at a grocery store. The manager of the store promised him a full-time job and promotion after he graduated.

Instead my dad took a little, rural church in Michigan. He spent four good years there developing life-long friendships. It was a great first church. He loved them and they loved him.

So, naturally, he left.

Years later (I was 7 when we moved from there) he told me he left because, and I quote, “the church couldn’t go anywhere.” In other words, it wasn’t going to grow as it was in a town of 300 people.

My dad took two other churches before he died about 15 years ago. He struggled mightily in those churches. He had some success and again made some lasting friends, but he was broken up by those churches.

Frequently he would say, “I should have stayed at the grocery store.” Or on other days, “I should have stayed in Michigan.”

I always felt bad for him that he left a good little church for the allure of the bigger church in a bigger city. Moving up to bigger was nothing but a headache for him.

My family and I think those churches caused his early death. We have no way of knowing if this is true. Churches aren’t known to give people cancer. But stress does things to a guy.

The grass is sometimes greener on the other side of the fence, but most of the time it’s brown weeds that looked green with the right lighting.

I saw the torture my dad went through taking new churches, so I stayed at one church for 21 years before I couldn’t take it anymore.  

My dad lasted in ministry longer than I did. I think my church was killing me too, although I have not yet gotten cancer.

The bottom line is this:

If you’re a pastor, should you move and take another church or stay in one place your entire ministry?

I have no idea. More than likely either way it will suck and either way it will have some fruit.

Do what you gotta do and don’t worry about it! No matter what you do, people will judge you and find fault with your decision.

Decide things before the Lord. Don’t blame your move on the Lord though, that would be my one piece of advice. All this, “the Lord is calling me to a bigger church” stuff is just guilt-ridden justification in my occasionally humble opinion.

Be firm in your decision. Don’t make excuses. Don’t lie. Tell the church why you’re leaving. Tell the new church why you’re coming, and not some innocuous, self-righteous blather either. Be truthful why you are quitting and why you are going where you’re going.

If you start off in a new church lying and justifying, you will reap that sowing.

At the end of the day, you probably should have stayed at the grocery store job.

How to Deal with Pain Caused by Christians and the Church

Hate is easy.

People are creepy sinners who do creepy sinful things to each other. Hatred over this is automatic.

Love is hard.

Jesus Christ, while you were yet a sinner, died for you. While you were an enemy of God, actively going against Him, He died for you.

God is willing to forgive; He’s slow to anger, gracious, and merciful. Why? Because God is love.

Love covers a multitude of sin.

I have many reasons to despise and hate the church and Christians. I’ve been in the church my entire life. There are creepy sinful people in churches. I’ve met most of them.

Daily I hear people online talk about the abuse and pain they’ve suffered in church, my heart breaks a little more with each story. Every public revelation of a church leader who took advantage of someone under their care hurts a little more.

The pain is real. There is no way I’m trying to minimize the pain suffered at the hands of church people.

But you can’t hate those who’ve hurt you.

I hear a lot of resentment. Again, based on some of the stuff that’s happened to some people, I understand the hatred and resentment. I get it. I feel it myself to the degree I’ve been hurt.

But you can’t hang on to it in hatred and resentment. Resentment will tear you to pieces.  It will turn you into the ugliness that hurt you.

If there is any hope for peace and resolution and love in you, it will come through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God will judge each person according to their deeds, whether they were good or bad. He will set all things right. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” says the Lord. That’s His job and He’ll do it. He already is.

Our job is to love our enemies.

I’m not saying it’s easy, nor am I even saying I do it right, but this is what I long for because Jesus did this for me and tells me it’s the way to my own freedom.

If you want to grow in Christ, if you want peace that passes understanding, the Bible is clear: love is the answer.

There is a tendency to morbidly celebrate our pain and all the terrible things we’ve suffered at the hands of sinful people. Be careful with it. Each retelling tends to strengthen the resentment and hatred.

You don’t just sweep it under the rug, pretend it didn’t happen. It did happen. It really hurt. But each retelling needs to be followed by a commitment to forgive. Seventy time seven. Every time you remember it; end with forgiveness.

Again, I know this sounds trite and seems to belittle the pain. That’s not the intent.

The intent is to bring the Gospel into life. If you appreciate the love, grace, and forgiveness you’ve received from Christ, then this should move you to show this to those who acted as your enemy. This is the painful flip side of grace and love.

Unfortunately the church can be a brutal place. I’ve suffered through the brutality myself and I’ve found that harboring resentment does not help. Hatred and thoughts of revenge do not bring healing. They do bring attention and more likes, however, and that’s it’s ugly pull. Everyone enjoys wallowing in mutual hate of enemies.

Gospel love is the answer. It’s not easy, it was sheer suffering for Christ to forgive us. But He says it is the answer.

Christians need to lead the way in forgiveness. No one else is going to. Forgive and be nice to each other! Build each other up in Christ and put His love on display.

How Can I Encourage My Pastor?

Since announcing my resignation from pastoral ministry, several people have asked me “how can I encourage my pastor?”

It’s cool to be asked this. Every pastor is different, no doubt, but here are my thoughts on the subject.

  1. Nothing really
    I mean, seriously, any pastor worth their salt is serving the Lord Jesus Christ. If the pastor’s ultimate encouragement does not come from Christ, then things will not turn out well! Pastors need to learn not to be dependent on people for encouragement. Easier said than done. At the same time pastors need to find out how to not be discouraged by people. I found this impossible. I’m of the temperament that will find reason to be discouraged no matter what. So, this is the annoying part of the answer: not much really. Much of being encouraged is up to the pastor.
  1. Grow in Christ
    The people who encouraged me most all had one thing in common: they were massively concerned about their spiritual health and growth. Nothing makes me feel better about my ministry than seeing that some people grew in Christ. Words aren’t enough, I don’t want to hear people tell me they grew; growth is evident if it happens. You will know them by their fruit.
    The people most effusive in their praise of me after I resigned were people I never saw grow; they were, in fact, people I rarely saw! Many of them were heading the opposite direction. They knew that. They felt guilty, which is why they were effusive with praise! Nice words don’t cut it. True life-changing growth is the best, because not only do they grow, they help others grow.
  1. Money
    This probably isn’t true for all pastors since many churches are businesses and raking in big money. But for small town, small church pastors, man a little cash is helpful. There were years I had literally no money. I had a wife and three little kids and no money left. This was great for me in growing my faith and showing me the Lord’s provision, but there were also sleepless nights and inner tension while those lessons were learned. A little extra gift here and there was fantastic. Financially support the church as well. Take an interest in the ministries and missionaries your church’s money goes to. Actually know where the money goes and perhaps this will help you be more generous. Be invested.
  1. A personal touch
    Get to know what your pastor likes. Show some true interest in the PERSON, not the image of a pastor. Stained glass crosses or pictures of Jesus smiling over children are given by people who don’t know their pastor. Not one pastor in all the earth wants more of these things! It’s a generic gift to shut up the pastor who they know nothing about. Give me some ice cream, or my favorite candy bar, or a gift certificate to a steak restaurant. Get to know your pastor, get things that you’d get for a friend because you actually know and care about this PERSON.
  2. Show up
    Don’t lie. Don’t make stupid excuses. Show up to church stuff. Nothing more depressing than working on great content for sermons or putting in time to plan events and then having two people show up. Heart breaking. Show up. People skip church for just about everything. It was nice to hear someone skipped something else to be at church! Rarely happened, but it was cool when it did. Sacrifice to be there.

These are some ideas. The basic point though is: Grow in Christ. People who grow in Christ show love to their pastor. They show up to church. They edify others. They don’t lie and make excuses. They give generously. They are understanding and gracious and aren’t going to get upset about irrelevant things.

Grow in Christ. There is nothing more pastors want from the people under their care.

The #2 Best Thing About Not Being a Pastor Anymore

My last few months of Sundays as pastor were brutal. Nothing really happened out of the ordinary, just same churchy things as always.

But my head was in a bad place. I couldn’t pull myself out. I didn’t want to be at church. I didn’t want to preach. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to do anything except get it over with and go home.

I’d had depressing times before, but this one was to the core of my being. I couldn’t shake it. Tension built in me: how can I keep doing this job feeling like this? This can’t be right, man.

My plan for a number of years was to quit after our last kid graduated high school. That happens, Lord willing, in a couple months.

Perhaps it was being so close to the end? Seniors in high school get Senioritis. They’re so close to being done with school, yet they have to go through the motions until graduation day. Maybe I caught it from my son?

There was angst all around this past year, much of which made being a pastor more difficult. Listening to church members fixate on politics and passive-aggressively attack each other on Facebook posts. People freaking about viruses and how the church was to respond, which alienated someone all the time no matter what. There was a massive family issue going on in my extended family that drew my attention elsewhere.

In other words, there was a lot of troubling things on my plate. Maybe it was just overwhelming to my system.

All I knew is that Sundays is where it all culminated and beat me into the ground. Saturday nights were just dread. Sunday mornings, I couldn’t even pray. I didn’t even want to think about church. Just let me go and get it done with. Then I’d spend all afternoon fighting anger and inevitably end up sobbing at some point.

Man, I was a mess.

Well, I gotta tell ya. Sundays are way better now!

I’ve been going to church. I don’t have to do anything at a church for the first time in 21 years. I don’t have to worry about who isn’t there, or why, or who will be mad next. I don’t have to have regrets all afternoon and evening about how I messed up my sermon.

It’s just gone. It’s all gone! And it is delightful!

Now, I will admit, it’s hard to sit and not have a say. I can’t help but let my mind wander into what I would preach about this passage, or how I’d have said that point better, or criticize the application.

But the upside far outweighs the downside. Sundays are fantastic. I get edified. I talk to people who simply are talking to me not some mental image of “pastor.” I can relax and actually think about my spiritual health and not fixate on all the screwed up people in front of me.

Ahhhhh.

It’s a beautiful thing. Not sure how long it will last. I feel the pull already to get involved, which is good, probably. But right now, I’m pretty happy with Sundays.

The #1 Best Thing About Not Being a Pastor Anymore

Pastors evoke guilt wherever they go. Simply being in front of people makes them spew forth guilt-ridden justifications, excuses, and lies to cover their inadequacies your presence pulls up in their head.

Oh, I hated this.

I resigned from pastoring a while ago now. One of the best results of this is that I have not heard one person give me a stupid excuse why they weren’t at church!

Excuses annoyed me to no end.

After church on Sundays, my family often stopped at the local Wal-Mart or grocery store to pick up a couple things while in town. Inevitably we would see someone who skipped church. Guilt exuded from their pores.

All I said was, “Hi.” Then, for five minutes I’d hear their reasons for skipping church and how they did devotions today and they’ll be sure to watch that one preacher on TV their aunt likes. Dude, I just wanted some bread. Just running in to grab it and get going.

I tried not to guilt people to attend church. I figured if they want to be there; they’d be there. If they don’t want to be there, the church is probably better off without their bad attitude.

That was my reasoning. Probably I was just chicken to confront people.

If people skipped two weeks in a row I’d check in on them. My heart always sank when people skipped a couple weeks in a row. I hated making that call. Who knows what I’d hear.

Worst case scenario is they’d left the church and were ticked off at me. Best case scenario I’d have to listen to completely lame excuses and justifications, otherwise known as “lies,” about why they weren’t there.

There were always a couple people who refreshingly said, “Yeah, I just didn’t feel like going.” I appreciated the honesty. I’d take that over made up health concerns or blaming it on the same weather everyone else had.

Speaking of weather; bad weather on a Sunday is a great way to tell who’s playing and who’s for real. There are exceptions. In Northern Wisconsin we can have pretty bad weather. But the people who consider bad weather to be moist roads or anything below 47 when it’s cloudy or 35 when it’s sunny, are fake.

I was rarely shocked at who completely tanked spiritually or who flaked out on their faith. I knew this simply by watching what level of weather kept them from church. Bad weather on Sunday is a good barometer of how well people will handle persecution!

Simply seeing their pastor makes people feel guilty and guilt makes people be weird. I don’t miss that at all. It’s a true source of joy for me!

I Am Done With Pastoral Ministry

I must admit, I’ve been deceiving you. I know, hard to believe an anon account on Twitter would not be completely forthright.

Last year I resigned as pastor.

I couldn’t do it anymore. To quote the great theologian B. B. King, “The thrill is gone, the thrill is gone away for good.”

I endured as much as I could. I made it over 20 years. In many areas I did my best. In other areas, yeah, I didn’t do great. The areas I didn’t do well in were largely because I couldn’t figure out what to do. I knew what other pastors did, certainly got plenty of advice, but I couldn’t bring myself to do much of that stuff. I struggled.

I can honestly say I gave myself to the profession and took the responsibility seriously. In the time I was pastor I read the Bible cover to cover over 40 times. I wanted to make sure that no matter what passage anyone ever asked me about, I had read it recently. I preached straight through the Bible for 16 years. I wanted people to deal with God’s words, not my opinions or theological camp.

I memorized books of the Bible. Read hundreds of theology books. I visited people. Moved so many couches it’s not funny. Loved and served as best I could. Probably the greatest evidence that I gave myself to my job is that I talked to people on the phone. I think I’ve talked to five people on the phone since resigning and I’m related to three of them.

In the end, I can say that I grew tremendously through the experience. I don’t think I’d be where I am today in Christian growth without being a pastor, I guess I’ll never know that for sure, but all I know is it was a great teacher.

I have been hurt deeply. My back has been stabbed so many times, if it were to happen again the stab would just fall right out my front. There is a hurt in me and a frustration, bitterness, anger, I don’t know what all it is, but it’s deep and it hurts.

At the same time, I also know I’m a sinner and was not innocent. I was not perfect in all my interactions with people. I know I didn’t abuse anyone, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I’ve already begun attending a church. I have no plans to forsake the Church. My pastoral experience showed me what churches need from people; now to see if I’m man enough to be what I wished someone was for my church! Kind of scary.

I can say with utmost assurance that I currently never want to be a pastor again. I will hesitate to say that I won’t ever be one again, but it would have to more or less fall in my lap and/or have me backed into a corner, but I won’t limit what the Spirit might have for me down the road. My flesh is not at all willing, but I suppose, if the Spirit insisted enough, I’d do it again. But man, it would have to be brutally clear and obvious that I should!

Much of the stuff I’ve put on the Twitter account was fabricated, some was borrowed from other pastors, and other bits were completely real. The real stuff was delayed time wise so if my identity came out hopefully no one would be hurt. Everything on the blog was real, didn’t make any of it up.

I’ve enjoyed the Twitter account. It was fun. It was a good release for me. It was also fantastic to commiserate with other pastors. Pretty cool to hear so many pastors were encouraged by things I said.

Thank you for reading and taking part.

I think I’m done with regular Twitter-ing for the most part. If you’d enjoy hearing more from me, I do like writing and think I have some things to share about the pastoral ministry, I’m going to continue writing on the Failing Pastor blog. There should be a button on the lower part of your screen where you can subscribe. You will get an email when I post here.

I’d like to write some about sermon crafting (someone recently joked I should teach homiletics, that got me thinking . . .), knowing the Bible, dealing with people, perhaps more details about my ministry and why I quit, transitioning out of pastoral ministry and into being a “layman,” and basic Christian things. As I plan on being in church for the remainder of my life, I will, no doubt, have more things to pontificate on!

And, at risk of completely getting in trouble, here is the link to the church where I pastored so you know I was legit at one point! For a time the web site will still be online. If you’d like to hear me preach, you can sample way too many of my sermons here.

If this blows up in my face, I have the power to delete everything I’ve ever said or done online! Not really, but I can delete this post pretty easily!

Again, thank you. Please do subscribe to the blog if you’d like to hear more.

For all those remaining in ministry:
You’re a better man than I and you have my respect, for what that’s worth. Fight the fight, be instant in season and out. Preach the word. Grow. Love the people. Uphold the Lord Jesus Christ in all you say and do. You represent Him. Take the responsibility seriously. Remind them to do good works that they be not unfruitful. As much as is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone. You’ll stand before the Lord someday; live like it!

Thank you.

The Pastor’s Job Is Not to Fix People

As soon as the pastor gets into the mindset of “You people are messed up. It is my job to fix you.” It is all over for all of them.
@FailingPastor

I grew up in a pastor’s home. Every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night I sat in the car on the way home listening to my parents talk about the messed up people in our church.

I knew who criticized my dad’s sermon. I knew who had an issue about the special music. I know who didn’t like the hymn selection. I knew all the problems and the people who caused them.

I also saw the pain and agony this caused my father.

When a young boy sees his pastor dad suffering and knows why he is and who caused it, that young boy becomes bitter and angry, not only at those people, but at the church.

That’s where I was for many years.

I grew up thinking that I belonged to THE FAMILY that had all the solutions. Everyone else was messed up. My family was pretty close to perfect. We existed to rescue all the idiots around us.

It doesn’t take psychoanalysis to know that this created some “issues” in my head about people.

When you grow up thinking that everyone is a moron set about to cause you pain and suffering, which is why I must save them, you’re going to have some strained relationships.

It does not shock me now, looking back, to understand why so many of my friends left me behind. We were rarely enjoying each other’s company; I was trying to fix them.

Now that I’ve been a pastor for a long time and had some distance from this mentality, and also been shown in many painful ways that my mentality was wrong, I’m changing my views of ministry.

The people in your church are not your projects. They are not “things” you put up with. They are not people who exist for you to demonstrate your skillz and take money from as they bow in adoration of your powers.

No, the people in your church are people. People just like you. People who have issues and sin and yeah, they are messed up. And, by the way, so are you and I.

The job of a pastor is to bring people to Christ. To do the best we can to live out the truth of God’s word and the love of His Gospel. We take every opportunity to know, care for, and serve those around us in hopes of making the Gospel powerful.

We don’t do this for followers, pay raises, building projects, or pastoral bragging rights. We do this because this is what Christ did for us.

Christ is perfect and surrounded by fallen humanity. He didn’t try to fix them; He didn’t charge them money to talk to Him. He laid down His life for them, for us, for me.

It is very easy to lose sight of this and start thinking that we pastors have it all together. The people need us; we don’t need them. They have the problems; we have the solutions. We then judge them as beneath us.

One reason why pastors fail to have friendships is because we look down on people too much and deem others to be beneath us. We show respect of persons rather than the love of Christ.

Watch out for this danger, pastors. It won’t end up well for you or for anyone you come in contact with. We’re all in need of a Savior and lucky for us, we have a great one. Let’s help each other get to Him.

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.”