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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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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Many of the Problems in the Church are a Result of Know-It-All Pastors

I’ve preached several messages that made me glad no one listens to me.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Any pastor who is doing his job will learn more about the Bible. The more biblical knowledge a person gets the more that person will change their beliefs. If your beliefs are not changing then you must not be taking in any new information. If you are not taking in any new information about the Bible you are either 1) not reading it or 2) you already know all of it.

The best way to learn the Bible is to try teaching it. Through years of preaching the Word I am continually confronted with new information, or more context, or more links between verses, ideas, and themes in the Bible, that adjust what I previously believed.

I used to keep recordings of my sermons. I don’t any more. This is for two reasons:

1) The tapes and cd’s were taking up too much room.
2) I couldn’t stand listening to myself teach things I no longer believed and furthermore, I didn’t want anyone who heard me now to hear what I used to say!

Those who have stuck with me over the years and paid attention know how much my doctrine has shifted. But most don’t stick around that long. People choose churches based on whether or not they are told what they already believe. Churches who teach what you already believe are known as “churches with good doctrine.”

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Grace, Forgiveness, and Jerks Who Leave Churches

PAIN-IN-THE-NECK PEOPLE LEAVING THE CHURCH: I’m sorry we ever came to this church.

ME: Apology accepted.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Of all the people who have left my church, not one of them has ever apologized.

Maybe that shouldn’t surprise me. People who leave churches always do it for high sounding spiritual reasons. Part of the fun of tearing apart the pastor is to make yourself feel spiritually superior, above the lowly ones you are leaving.

But I mean, think about it, is it possible that every single person who has left my church (and there have been many) was innocent? Is it possible that none of them ever did anything wrong to the church? Is it possible that only I made mistakes?

I have apologized to pretty much every person who has left my church and had a civil conversation with me about it, usually after calling them repeatedly or just showing up at their house because they weren’t going to initiate the conversation.

Which is another point: why is it that so many leave without saying anything? Is this a guilt admission that they know they weren’t perfect in the situation?

I don’t know. I probably spend too much time thinking about people who don’t think about me.

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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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Serving People Who Despise You and Other Perks of Being a Pastor

Pros and cons of loving people:
Pros: Loving
Cons: People
@FailingPastor

 

 

One of the bits of advice I heard when I was considering pastoral ministry was, “Love the people.”

That sounds common sensical and is very true. It is also very difficult.

It’s easy to love the idea of people. It’s easy to love people when you assume they will be so grateful for your life-changing sermons and advice that saved their marriage and helped them raise great kids.

But when people call you during supper to warn you they will leave your church “unless” you bow to their demands, love gets tougher. When people yell out disagreements at you during your sermon and invite people to their house afterward to inform them of how dumb the pastor is, love is hard. When old timers from the church invite you over for dinner, only to find out it’s an ambush so they can stand over you and lecture you about how you are ruining “their church,” love gets hard. When you are accused of being legalistic the same week someone leaves your church because you don’t enforce enough rules on the people, love gets confusing along with hard.

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Failing Youth Ministry

Our VBS theme this year: “Giving Us your Kid For 10 Hours 1 Week Won’t Overpower Your Family’s Neglect of all things Spiritual.”
@FailingPastor

 

 

Most are not shocked when kids who grew up in church leave the faith when they leave mom and dad’s house. I’ve heard statistics that like 80% of church kids leave the faith in their early 20’s.

We’re used to this news and yeah, some people are concerned about it, but most of the solutions to the problem demonstrate a lack of true concern. Usually we just double-down on what we’re already doing.

People are taught Christianity as kids; therefore Christianity is often linked in with “what kids believe.” To be an adult, someone who is sophisticated and a free-thinker, you have to depart from what you learned as a kid.

In today’s climate where atheism and materialism are considered cool and enlightened, kids flee the church. What’s rarely reported on is how many of these kids come back, especially when they have kids. I doubt the number is gigantic, but I know some who left the church for many years in their 20’s who later came back. The world holds out answers; young people try those answers. The world’s answers aren’t good; they tire of them and return to what is solid and helpful.

In all honesty, I doubt any kid is saved. I’m not saying none are, I’m merely saying I doubt they are. Kids don’t know enough. They don’t know the alternatives. All they know is what mom and dad say. They go with that and if mom and dad are playing games with faith, the kids will call them on that, blame the church, and leave what they think “the faith” is.

It is stupid to think that dropping your kids off at church will do the work for you. Kids follow the parents. Kids who leave the church generally have parents who aren’t in church much.

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