My 10 Steps to Pastoral Depression

There’s a lake near my house where I go when I’m down to talk things over with the Lord. I pace up and down the dock, sometimes just stand and stare, but all the while praying for help.

I’ve been there many times. I’ve wept there more than any other place. One afternoon in a state of despair, my head thought, “I could just jump in the water and never come back up.” Before that thought scared me, it seemed rather attractive.

Pastoral depression is a thing. Actually, depression is a thing, doesn’t matter what your job is. Pastoral depression is like any other depression, it’s just more shocking because pastors are supposed to have everything together and know Jesus so well. “Knowing Jesus” in American Christianity is supposed to look happy.

Best life now, don’t ya know.

Depression, in some ways, is no big deal. We live in a culture that over-values happiness and anyone not sufficiently happy is deemed to have “issues.” Moses, Elijah, and Job all asked God to kill them. Paul said he desired to depart. Jesus asked “How much longer must I be with this faithless generation?”

Ministry is tough. It’s ok to acknowledge that. But if a pastor admits his struggles, he merely sets himself up for a lecture. “You gotta have faith, man. All things work together for good.”

Pastors spend all week listening to people complain, yet if the pastor dares complain one time, lectures fly. So now the depression is doubled. The pastor has the initial problem and now the pastor is told repeatedly not to be sad about anything. The pastor has no one to talk to.

The steps to my pastoral depression descend like this:

Continue reading “My 10 Steps to Pastoral Depression”

Dealing with Church Bullies

When I first became pastor, two men in the church viewed themselves as being the assumed decision makers. They hired me and set my wages and gave me my paycheck.

I was a young, new pastor with no pastoral experience. I knew they were the supposed leaders of the church. I showed them respect and asked their opinion when it came to decisions. They regularly refused to say anything and told me to do whatever I wanted.

So I did. I was then regularly told that what I wanted was the stupidest thing a pastor should want. One day after church, my wife and I were invited over to one of the guy’s houses for lunch. We agreed.

When I got there, guess who else was there? So these two decision makers of the church brought me into the living room, leaving the wives to corner my wife, and sat me in the lowest chair in the living room, which as I recall kept my butt about four inches off the floor, practically eating my knees.

They both stood over me and told me how dumb I was and how wrong my latest decision was. Never mind the fact that I asked them what they thought about this decision beforehand and both refused to do or say anything.

I patiently took their lecture and the awkward chair situation, ate lunch, and went back to making stupid decisions.

Continue reading “Dealing with Church Bullies”

The Fun of Judging What Pastors Own

Remember pastors: the kind of car you drive might be the deciding factor in whether someone goes to heaven or hell.
@FailingPastor

 

A guy who was going off on me right before leaving my church was in my driveway, in front of his new SUV, and pointed to my used Toyota Camry and said, “Pretty nice car for a pastor.”

I believe I was so stunned by this that I just stood there. Really? A Toyota Camry is too nice? Incidentally, this happened about ten years ago. The guy is now dead. The Camry is still going.

I don’t mind if people have problems with me, that is to be expected. I do appreciate it, however, if the problems are actually legitimate.

A Toyota Camry is a pretty sensible vehicle. It’s a no-frills model. It serves its purpose, which is all I ask in a car.

Anyone who listens to my preaching knows that I emphasize the idea that you cannot serve God and mammon, that we are to let go of the things of this earth and grab on to eternal things. I mention this almost every week.

Of all the problems I have, materialism isn’t one of them. Ask my wife, my non-materialism annoys her at times. This isn’t even necessarily all for spiritual reasons either. I just hate stuff.

But no matter how careful I am, how sensible and thoughtful my purchases are, you can bet someone will judge them.

Continue reading “The Fun of Judging What Pastors Own”

If You Think Evangelism Is Easy, I’m Guessing You’re Not Doing It

APOSTLE PAUL: I am in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.

OTHER PASTORS: Took me four minutes and I got that guy saved and solved all his problems.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Pretty tired of reading books where the author saves people in between getting off the plane and getting to baggage claim.

Can’t take it anymore.

I’m not downing their evangelistic efforts. I have much respect for people who can strike up conversations with people about anything, let alone the Gospel.

Some plant, some water. I get it. No problem.

The problem I have is assuming that once your blessed 4 minutes with that person is over, they are done now. Totally saved beyond a shadow of a doubt. Everywhere they go people are getting saved in record time.

How do they know this?

Once you get your baggage and get in the taxi, do you see this person again? How do you know they are saved, simply because they said the thing you told them to say?

The Great Commission, which is often trotted out in support of this quick and easy method of evangelism, actually sounds quite hard and drawn out. We’re to make disciples and teach them to do everything Christ commanded.

Continue reading “If You Think Evangelism Is Easy, I’m Guessing You’re Not Doing It”

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?”

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.

Continue reading “You Might Want to Think Twice Before Using Your Pastor as a Job Reference”

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.”

Continue reading “Many of the Problems in the Church are a Result of Know-It-All Pastors”