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.

Continue reading “How to be a Sane Failing Pastor, Which Should be Your Pastoral Goal”

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.

Continue reading “Sometimes Sermon Criticisms Are Actually Compliments”

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.

Continue reading “The Most Helpful Commentaries are the ones that Are Helpful”

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.

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

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.

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

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.

Continue reading “Should Who is in the Audience Influence the Sermon?”

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.

Continue reading “Criticizing My Sermon is Criticizing My Faith and it Hurts”