Pastors: You Will Be Judged About Everything; Here’s How to Handle It

I did not enter the ministry for money or power or respect. I did it for the constant criticism of everything I do and say.
@FailingPastor

 

 

There are several pastors in my family. I saw these older men in my family get pummeled by the ministry. I did not enter the ministry without an idea of what was going to occur. Growing up in that environment did cause me to hate church.

When I attended college I stopped going to church. I read my Bible and I attended a Christian college and got a degree in Biblical Studies, so it’s not like I became an atheist or anything. I just needed a break from church.

There was a point in my second year of college where I knew I was going to be a pastor. This greatly depressed me at first, but then it made sense. I know what the church is. I know what people do in churches. I have knowledge that could be put to good use.

I discussed this pastoral idea with one of the guys in my family who was a pastor. He said. “Don’t do it. It’ll break your heart.”

He was deeply saddened by my decision. But he also said, “But I understand. If you have to do it; you have to do it.”

Unfortunately, I did have to.

The stuff I saw happen to those guys began happening to me. The same stupid problems and struggles I watched them endure became mine to endure. I knew what to expect, and wow, did the church deliver on those expectations.

I’ve been criticized for the clothes I wear, the car I bought, the house and neighborhood I live in, where I send my kids to school, saying “shut up” in a sermon, arguing a call in church softball, not arguing a call in church softball, being too legalistic, not being legalistic enough, not knowing grace, making too much of grace, every doctrinal opinion I’ve ever expressed has rubbed someone the wrong way. I was even once criticized for being seen riding my bike.

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How “Great” a Church is Bears no Reflection on How “Great” the Pastor Is

Pastors, remember: how your church is doing, good or bad, is not a reflection on how your faith is doing.
@ FailingPastor

 

 

 

Seems like every week another pastor of a large church takes a fall. At this point, heading a large church is a guaranteed fall. Perhaps it’s time we strongly consider whether large churches are healthy for anyone to lead.

Success goes to our head. We start thinking we actually had something to do with it. We constantly talk about how “God is blessing us” in our ministries, which then makes us feel like God really likes us, way more than all those pastors of pathetic churches. Next thing you know, you think you can get away with murder.

At the same time, plenty of small church pastors take falls too, it just doesn’t make the news as much. Pastoring a small church comes with its own challenges and its own threats to our pride.

Let’s face it: people are the least qualified people to lead people.

Perhaps that’s why we’re constantly told that Christ is the head of the church. I don’t know, could be.

The fact that your church is doing well means nothing in relation to how well the pastor’s faith is doing. We should admit that at this point. A church “doing well” usually just means lots of people are there and lots of things are happening. Here’s the thing: lots of people are doing lots of things at Wal-Mart too.

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Should Who is in the Audience Influence the Sermon?

Most of being a pastor is wondering if certain people will be there, followed by wondering why certain people weren’t there.
@FailingPastor

 

 

While preparing sermons, I often consider how certain people will react to what I’m preaching. I can see their faces. I reflect on past conversations with them and the verses that trip them up. Every person in church has issues and verses they struggle with that I’ve learned over time.

When those issues and verses come up, sometimes I want those people to be there and sometimes I don’t.

Whether they are there or not doesn’t change my sermon content; I’m no Pilate, making decisions to keep the crowd happy. But I will shift my tone or attitude and I find this to be good. I want to be sensitive to people’s true concerns without compromising the message.

I also know that many doctrinal issues have been disputed for hundreds of years. My one sermon is not going to settle the argument. As I prepare my sermons I go over how to say things in light of these people, in light of their past issues, or even on a church-wide basis and the history our church has had with these issues.

Once the sermon is preached, I anticipate the reaction those people will have to the sermon. Will they say anything to me? Will they complain? Will their life change?

Usually I’m met with silence. I got to talking to someone and so did they and then they were gone.

Then I wonder for the rest of the week if they will email or call. Then I wonder if they’ll show up to church.

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Criticizing My Sermon is Criticizing My Faith and it Hurts

My faith would be much happier without constant feedback about it from everyone and their mother.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Preaching is to be a major part of what a pastor does. I like my preaching to be personal, an extension of my faith. If I haven’t lived with it, struggled with it, or incorporated it into my life in some sense, I probably don’t preach about it.

This is good because it gives personality, emotion, and first-hand experience to the passage preached on. I think it becomes authentic and real. My sermons are not copied out of a book; they are taken from my life.

Not only does this make better sermons, it also keeps me on the road to spiritual growth. If I aint living it; I’ve got nothing to say!

The massive downside to it is that my sermons are mine. That’s me up there. That’s my heart being talked about each time. When criticism is leveled at my sermon or doctrine; that’s criticism of my faith and my heart.

It hurts to have something so personal be criticized, ridiculed, and rejected. It gets old after a while and makes a guy wonder why he keeps doing it. My faith has taken a beating since becoming a pastor. People’s opinions affect you. You may not want them too, but they do, for good and bad. Weighing their opinions against your own and God’s is a weekly battle. One I don’t always win. I imagine I’m not the only pastor who deals with this.

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You Might Want to Think Twice Before Using Your Pastor as a Job Reference

CRANKY CHURCH MEMBER: Can I use you as a job reference?

ME: Sure, if you don’t want the job.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I am amazed at some of the people who have asked me to be a job reference for them. Especially the ones where I have to write a paragraph about their character. It’s not just my phone number that no one will ever call; I have to describe who they are.

Now, in some cases, it’s an honor to be asked and I am more than happy to recommend them. These are people who have been friendly, helpful, and faithful. There is nothing bad I could say about them.

Then there are other people. People who complain about stuff, rarely show up, generally cause problems, and often post unbelievable pictures on Facebook about what they do outside of church.

I mean, what exactly do they think I’m going to say?

I’ve told my church in the past that if you use me as a job reference I will tell the truth. I wrote for one person that they rarely show up to anything and I wouldn’t trust them with any kind of real responsibility. I figure a boss should know that and someone has to tell them.

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The Best Way to Get Sermon Ideas: Live Your Faith

THEM: Good sermon. How much time did you take to prepare it?

ME: About 15 years.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I’ve preached about 2,500 times in my pastoral career. That’s not a ton in comparison to some, but it’s still a lot. Never once have I gone online to borrow a sermon. I will admit to copying and or using some good points I’ve heard, or taking an idea from a book or sermon and making it my own, but I’ve never point for point preached someone else’s sermon.

I put work into my sermons. I make them my own. They have my flavor and personality on them when I get done. I have to take in a lot of information in order to get this many sermons to come out. I read the Bible a lot, for it has a remarkable ability to give a guy sermon ideas.

Many sermon ideas percolate in my head for a long time. I have theories and ideas I loosely hold and then keep reading my Bible until I can test them. Are there other verses that go along with this idea? If so, I pile them together over time and go with it.

When I sit down to make a sermon I don’t invent it out of nothing. I have a reserve of things I’ve been thinking about and verses memorized, read, and written down for further consideration. I put my time in.

I once heard John MacArthur say that a pastor should spend 40-hours a week preparing his sermon. I find that insane. Is he typing his notes with his feet or something? How can it possibly take that long? I can only assume he reads many theology books or translates from the Greek or something.

I really don’t find that amount of time to be necessary. And, of course, his sermons are better than mine, so you should probably listen to his advice more than mine. Consider the source, folks.

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Volunteers and Other Terrible Things

The worst idea in all Church History is having everyone take their chair and put it on the chair rack themselves.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Churches are always looking for volunteers. My church is not.

I have given up on asking for volunteers. The people most wiling to volunteer are frequently also the people least likely to be able to perform the work for which they volunteered. Volunteers are generally people who think they can do the job. The only people who think they can do a job are people who don’t know what the job is.

Cynicism makes up much of this opinion, but experience has informed it as well.

When we needed more volunteers for our kids’ ministry, we would throw out a general appeal. Terrible people ended up filling those roles. We had pregnant unmarried women, people arrested for drugs and drunk driving, and people who hated every minute of being there and merely agreed due to our guilt-ridden pleas.

I eventually cancelled the kids’ ministry due to the terrible level of “leadership” we were providing kids. I was hoping this would reform the leaders. Nope, they just got mad, left the church, and blamed my pathetic leadership.

Church buildings are maintained by volunteer work. I’m amazed more church buildings have not burned to the ground.

Chair carts are all the proof you need. If you tell a group to fold up their chairs and stack them on the cart; the leaned over, stuck together, facing every which direction mass of chairs, kind of on the cart, that will result will make you cry. Half the cart will be taken up by leaned over chairs, which makes others lean their chairs up against the cart rather than on the cart. This defeats the entire purpose of having a cart for chairs, people.

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