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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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).

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Should a Pastor Use Humor in the Pulpit?

I’ve heard arguments for yes and no in answer to this question.

Some view humor in a sermon as being blasphemous, out of place, and irreverent. I understand the point and think it has merit. We are dealing with Big Serious Issues.

Others say humor is fine; it’s part of effective communication and keeps people listening. I get this too. Big Serious Issues can get Big and Boring. What good is it if everyone is asleep while you’re seriously discussing Big Serious Issues?

Ignoring all church tradition and sanctimony, my answer to the question is this: It depends. I’d need to ask some questions to understand the context better to give a correct answer.

1. Is the pastor funny?
If you are not naturally funny, then don’t use humor. We are often not the best judges of our own humor. The best test is if anyone thinks you’re funny when you try to be funny. If you are not funny; do not force humor into your sermons. It will sound stilted and won’t work. Don’t be the guy who reads jokes you found on the internet because you know you need laughs, but then read them all wrong with terrible timing and voice so everyone just cringes. Don’t be that guy. If you are naturally funny, I do think it is fine to be funny.

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What the Failing Pastor Wants for Christmas

I’m not a big fan of holidays. Christmas does very little for me at this point in my life.

Giving gifts has become annoying. I give people things they’ll never use and they return the favor by giving me things I never use. It’s like when God gave Joel Osteen His Son. “What am I gonna do with this? I gotta pay bills!”

My family has all but given up with “thoughtful” gifts. Now we just exchange lists of things we want. Which is dumb. Why not you just go get what you want yourself and I’ll go get what I want myself? Save everyone the hassle.

Anyway, I’m asked by numerous relatives every year what I want for Christmas. Most of what I want for Christmas can’t be bought, but these truly are the things I’d like.

1) World Peace
I sincerely, with all the honesty and integrity of my heart, desire everyone to just shut up and get along. Relax. Don’t argue at every provocation. Get a thick skin. Be gracious. Lighten up. No one is listening anyway. Sssshhh. Be still and know God. I long for the return of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, to set all things right.

2) Spiritual Growth.
I want this for me, first and foremost, but also for my wife, my kids, my family, my church, my city, my country, my nation, and the world. This, in fact, is the thing that would lead to World Peace.

3) Ice Cream, Steak, and Dr. Pepper
Solomon concludes that all is vanity, yet he repeatedly says to spend your hard earned money on food and drink. I have ceased, for the most part, in buying things. When I spend money it’s on food or doing something. I hate stuff lying around my house, cluttering up my desk, and tripping my feet. I want to eat and then go do something to burn those calories so I can eat more.

4) Twitter Dominance
I wish I could get another helping of insight and humor to make my Tweets reach the world and bring about spiritual growth, peace, and a few laughs. I want to do better for you, Twitter World.

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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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3 Things This Pastor Never Says

In my twenty years of being a pastor, there are three things I’ve learned not to say.

1) “I’m busy.”
I hate these words. I hear these words so often, there’s no way I can possibly say them to another human being. No one is ever available for anything because they are “busy.” I later find out ”busy” meant doing something they thought was more fun, which is just about anything other than doing something associated with church

I also don’t say “I’m busy” because I’m not. I can make time for pretty much anything I want to do. I have gotten more used to simply saying “no” to things, rather than giving stupid excuses. I attempt to never give excuses. If I forgot to do something, I will say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Rather than “Oh I didn’t do that because I was so busy.” Constantly getting blown off by people because they are “busy” makes a guy feel like a pile of mud. I don’t want to do that to other people.

I am also the pastor. If I tell people in my church I am too busy for them, that sort of defeats the purpose of my job. If the church keeps you too busy to be with the people in the church, things need to change. It also sounds like I’m complaining about my job, blaming the church for my busy-ness. That’s not a good look

2) “You’re saved.”
People want the assurance of salvation. The Bible pretty much says you will have the assurance of salvation to the degree your life is changed, new, becoming like Christ. 1 John hits the point pretty clearly. Seeing sin decline in your life is a great sign you’re saved. If you tell that to people, they will charge you with being legalistic and promoting works righteousness. People do not want to hear this.

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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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