Why don’t churches contact people when they leave?

I’ve heard many people say, “When I left my church no one called me,” or “I wish someone cared enough to ask why I left.”

Here’s my attempt to explain why churches don’t ask why someone left. There are two possible people at fault here: 1) the church and 2) the person who left, with a possibility that both are at fault.

If someone leaves a church and no one calls it could be entirely the church’s fault. Here are some possibilities:

1) Some churches are bad. Maybe it was a bad church where the members didn’t love each other or care. It happens. It could be a dysfunctional place. The pastor might be a total inept loser. If this is the case, sounds like you made the right move, so don’t worry about it.

2) Some churches are big and busy. They have no idea who is there from week to week. If you’re not in a position to be noticed by “those who call people,” they won’t call. This is a big problem for large churches. Many leave them because they don’t feel like they belong. When they leave they don’t get called confirming that they didn’t belong. Don’t worry about it. You were right. Find a smaller church.

3) Some churches are cliquish. If you don’t belong to a clique you don’t get paid attention to. When you leave no one really cares because you weren’t in their clique. They assume you were in some other clique and that clique cares enough to call.

4) Some churches are afraid. There were several people over the years that I was literally afraid of. Like, feared for my and my family’s personal safety. I’m not walking back into that situation. Should I have anyway? It’s entirely possible. I will stand before the Lord with it. On a lesser level than physical harm even, people are scary sometimes.

5) Churches assume someone else is doing that. This happens with big churches, busy churches, distracted churches, and other possible reasons. Many churches are so busy welcoming in new people and favoring the desired members that they aren’t really paying attention to who is there. Maybe you were bad for their image, not their desired demographic.

6) Churches aren’t dumb. I did not contact every single person who left my church. I know why they left and who they left with. I did not desire to hear more of their goofiness. Am I wrong for this? It’s entirely possible. I will stand before the Lord with it.

Sometimes the fault is with the person who leaves.

1) No one knows you left because you were a non-participating member of the body. I have been shocked many times by people who claimed they were a part of my church. My wife saw a lady who hadn’t been to church in more than 10 years who introduced my wife as “her pastor’s wife.” Determining who comes and who doesn’t isn’t always easy.

2) Some members who leave were total cancers in the body. There were a number of people who left the church, which caused the church to breathe a sigh of relief. No one cared why they left; they were just happy they did.

3) There were hurt feelings and it was too difficult to contact. People forget that pastors are people too. We get hurt. Calling someone who has truly hurt me was sometimes impossible. People do really creepy things to pastors. A good pastor won’t rat on them. You’ll never know what happened. There were people I honestly was unable to speak to again. Am I at fault for this? It’s entirely possible.

4) You actually were contacted but your selective, self-justifying memory tells a better story. I’ve been told that so-and-so is mad because no one from church called when they left and I distinctly remember calling them. Sometimes I contacted them several times in several ways. As time goes by, more and more people remember that no one called them, when in reality people did. Or maybe it wasn’t THE PERSON you wanted to have call you. The Lord knows whether you were contacted or not. He will judge the situation accordingly.

5) Before you left, how many people who left that church did you call? Exactly. At your next church, feel free to call people who leave, and then maybe you’ll learn why people don’t like calling people who leave!

6) Maybe you’re weird. There was a couple who left my church, but before they left they had an anonymous person call me during supper to threaten me that they would leave if I didn’t do what they said. I did not do what they said. They left.  I did not call them. We’re not in kindergarten here; we’re fighting a fight against the Kingdom of Darkness. I don’t have time for this. I’m not playing games. Just go. Some people spent their time in church finding fault with everything. When they left, I really didn’t want to hear any more of their whining.

7) You were a moocher. Many people enter churches asking for stuff. Churches and pastors have been around. They know who is merely trying to take advantage of them. People get the impression you’re not there for the church or for others, but to see what you can get out of this church before they catch on to you, and you move on to exploit the next one. Yes, Jesus told us to give to everyone who asks of us. It does get old though. Does that make it right? I don’t know, probably not, but goodness.

In the end, I have no idea why no one contacted you when you left your church. It might be the church’s fault and it might be yours. Maybe just take it as proof that you were right to leave that church. Maybe consider that you don’t remember correctly. Maybe consider you’re a cancer and that church is breathing easier because you are gone.

Self-reflection is always good. Are you at any extent responsible for the fact that no one called you? Maybe you’re not. Maybe you were wronged, it’s possible. But humility is good on both parts.

I didn’t do everything right as a pastor. I made mistakes. I’ve never had anyone leave the church and tell people maybe they were at fault. Never.  The church is always at fault. Always. Every time. I gotta be honest: I don’t buy it.

So what do we do? We forget those things that are behind, learn from them, and do our best not to repeat our mistakes.

Find a better church or make the church you’re in now better. Be part of the body and be humble and peaceful. Do your part to edify and be edified. Don’t let a bad experience at another church color your opinion of every other church on the planet.

Let’s do better on both parts.

Failing Pastoral Counseling

Counseling people was never my strong point. I wanted to help, but pretty much all I figured out was how to listen and tell people what their problem was. I was pretty skilled there.

How to help them overcome their problem was beyond me.

I usually started with something like, “So, there’s this thing called the Gospel. You don’t seem to understand what it means.” Then I’d try to explain it. But it was quickly shot down because every person in a church thinks they believed the Gospel when they were six and have “heard that all before.”

Things would stall there. This is either because they had no interest in hearing the Gospel again or because I had no clue how to get them to implement the Gospel into their lives when I didn’t think they even understood what it meant.

I got nowhere. I’m not blaming the counselees either. I sincerely couldn’t figure out how to get them to grasp Gospel solutions to their flesh problems.

You’ll know you do pastoral counseling like me when 90% of your counseling opportunities go like this:

Step one: listen to them. Figure out what they are trying to fix, not the symptom but the underlying issue, which is typically, “you need to really grasp the Gospel.” Explain to them the Gospel and make sure they believe and understand it. And not just mentally agree with the facts of the Jesus story, but that they’ve been crucified and raised up to new life where they should be—pursuing righteousness, showing love and forgiveness, sacrificing for others. Give them scripture after scripture dealing with their problem and the Gospel’s solution for it.

Sept two: wait for them to tell you they already did all that. They will sigh and leave depressed, or they will buck up and feel great because they already have the Gospel nailed, so now all their problems will disappear! Either way, they will leave soon after.

Step three: get ready to hear nothing from them for a long time: except for the happy ones, they will email you the next day, “Thanks pastor, I feel so much better today!” Then you’ll hear nothing. Your calls, emails, and texts will be ignored for a time. Eventually they will tell you that they’ve been “busy. But we should really try to get together again.”

Step four: agree to get together again and mention a few specific times that will work for you.

Step five: get ready to hear nothing from them for a long time. You may never see them again, in fact.

Step six: pray and cry before the Lord for their soul.

Step seven: shoot an email, text, or phone call their way every once in a while. After several times doing this with no response, proceed to step eight.

Step eight: resign yourself that another one is lost, you failed again. Consider once again working at the grocery store or being a janitor or working construction or selling cars.

Sound familiar? Then you may be a failing pastoral counselor too! Welcome to the club.

Sorry, I have no advice for you. I could never figure out how to help people.

The only exceptions were people who really, truly seemed to grasp the Gospel and were growing. I could help them, but usually because people who were doing that didn’t have any irreversible problems staring them in the face.

Funny how that works.

I’m a terrible counselor. I admit it. I have no idea how to help you. None. I’m going to quote the Bible a lot and mention the Gospel and the Holy Spirit a bunch. That’s all I got. Sorry.

To all you who know how to do it, great. Go for it. Please. You have plenty of potential customers. I got nothing.

Pastors Ruin People’s Faith, Or so the Story Goes

Let me begin by saying there are and have been many bad pastors who ruin people’s faith. Many a wolf has chomped on God’s sheep. “Test the spirits” is not a throwaway line. Do that. Constantly.

With that being said, I know many pastors and most are sincerely trying to help. Most pastors have sacrificed to do ministry. It’s not an easy job.

No pastor is 100% correct in theology or application. Pastors have a sin nature too. This is why the Bible repeatedly says not to put your trust in people but in God. Do that. Constantly.

I have heard many a backslidden Christian blame a pastor for their backsliding.

(Again, there are bad pastors and they certainly hurt people’s faith, no doubt about that.)

I know some of the pastors who got blamed though and, no, they were not terrible people set on destroying people’s faith.

I’ve been told that my teaching has kept people immature and has hurt them spiritually. People who leave church take time to tell me how much happier they are now that they’re out of my church.

They’ve never been happier. It was my teaching and my church that kept them from all this happiness and peace they now have.

I know who these people are and I understand the desire to let me know how awful I was. But I also know these people were shaky at best in their faith.

Most of these people, when they began attending my church, told me about their last pastor who kept them from all the happiness and peace they now have in my church.

And that’s the problem: Many church goers think going to a new church will solve their problem. Learning a new system, getting initiated is exciting. Makes you feel rebellious. Throwing off the shackles of Last Church for New Church makes you feel like you’re spiritually growing.

But guess what happens when New Church gets boring or the anticipated nirvana of New Church never materializes (which it won’t)? They leave for the next New Church.

Guess what they say to New Pastor at New Church? “Oh man, that last pastor, never helped me. I’m so glad I’m here now where I have so much happiness and peace like never before.”

The cycle continues.

I used to take it personally when people would leave my church and I’d bump into them at Walmart, or they’d email me and let me know how happy and at peace they are to be out from under my faith-destroying ministry. It hurt.

OK, I still take it personally. It still hurts.

I never set out to destroy anyone’s faith or annihilate their happiness and peace. Most of these people were annoying. I sacrificed just to spend time with them and put up with their insults. They typically fell into weird sins and hurt other people in the church. Yet, in the end, their conclusion is that it was the pastor’s fault their lives aren’t better.

Nope, not buying it.

These people will whirlwind through your church. They will excite you at first because it really looks like you’re helping them and they say they are so happy and at peace finally! You’ll feel like you’re a way better pastor than all those other loser pastors, which you kind of knew anyway!

But it won’t last. Soon you’ll be the loser who is keeping them down. Out the door they will go and the inevitable email letting you know how happy and at peace they are will soon pop up in your inbox.

Pray for them. Pray for the next pastor who will get jerked around by them.

People are weird. Pastors are in the job of dealing with weird people. Get used to it. It still hurts. Check yourself, maybe you didn’t handle them the best, it’s possible.

Work it through before the Lord. His opinion of your ministry and their faith is the only one that matters.

As a Pastor, How do You Not let Anyone Despise You?

Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12 to not let anyone despise your youth. He says more generally in Titus 2:15 to let no man despise you.

I’ve often wondered how this was done.

In my time as a pastor I was despised by 75% of the people who came in and out of my church. I had visitors on their first day at church despise me. I had people who attended my church for years despise me.

I had board members despise me. I got little else other than despisement!

I always hoped that the way to stop people from despising me was to punch them in the face. But as much as I searched, I could not find biblical justification for this conclusion.

I think Paul’s intent is twofold:

1) don’t live in such a way as to cause people to despise you. He follows up the phrase in 1 Timothy with being an example.
2) don’t let their despising of you stop you from preaching the word, which seems his intent in the Titus passage.

As to the first, I felt I did ok with my example. I’m not perfect and I definitely grew in my time as pastor because I started immature. But if anyone hung around me over those years they saw my growth. The people despising me routinely had worse lives than mine. I don’t think I was a terrible example, wasn’t perfect, but wasn’t terrible.

With one exception: I did use self-deprecating humor. I think this led people to feel safe in railing on me. Perhaps my humor didn’t help the situation.

Oh, and another exception: my church was not fancy or formal. There was nothing close to being humanly respectable about what we were doing. I did not carry myself with authority, demand titles, wear special robes, or anything like that. I think our humble church helped people bash.

So, OK, those two things didn’t help, but I don’t know that either one was a bad example; it just led to people despising me.

As to the second, no amount of despising me ever stopped my desire and practice of preaching the Word. I felt I did pretty well there. I even purposely hit on controversial issues, knowing full well who would despise me for doing so.

The more despising I got, the more free I felt to let it rip! If I was going to get rejected anyway, might as well preach the Word.

The despising of me just became regular background noise and was never a major influence in determining what I would preach about or say to people.

Pastors should pursue godliness. We are not to give a reason for unbelievers to blaspheme. We should not act in a way that disparages the ministry. The testimony of the pastor should be blameless, as Paul says.

Again, we all slip up, we are still human, but we should actively be dealing with sin in humility and repentance.

The main job is to proclaim the Word of God. Don’t let anything stop you from that.

If you do these two things–maintain a growth in righteousness and preach the Word—you will still be despised. Marvel not if the world hates you. Anyone who desires to live godly will suffer persecution.

In fact, the people who will despise you the most will be the ones whom you make feel guilty because you are pursuing righteousness and preaching the Word.

You can tell who is guilt-ridden simply by listening to what they say about you and the church. Sinners despise, it’s what they do.

Some pastors deserve being despised because they aren’t pursuing godliness and they aren’t preaching the Word. I despise them too!

Don’t be a pastor who brings it on due to a terrible testimony, and when you get despised anyway, don’t let it stop you from preaching the Word.

Will People Really Come to Church if You “Just Preach the Word?”

Many years ago I had an older gentleman “encourage” me as a young pastor by telling me “if you preach the Word, people will come.”

This sounds good. It might remind you of an incredibly stupid baseball movie involving an Iowa cornfield. But it will not remind you of any Bible verses!

But as a young, idealistic preacher I liked the advice. I believed it too.

So I started preaching the Word. I began in Genesis and started going through chapter by chapter (skipping some of the drier chapters). Eventually it took me 16 years to get all the way through to Revelation.

I learned a ton. Spending each week studying a new chapter of Scripture completely changed my faith.

And therein lay the problem. What I believed changed. It’s ok if the average Christian who rarely talks changes their doctrine. No one seems too troubled. People brag to me all the time about how they’ve recently found the magic doctrine that unlocked untold happiness in their life. No one bats an eye.

But if a pastor changes what he believes, boy howdy, what’s wrong with this guy? Paul says a pastor’s growth should be evident to all. Yeah, good advice Paul.

If you grow, if you learn, you will change some of your doctrine. You just will. This is not allowed for a pastor, unless, of course, you change and believe exactly what everyone in your church wants you to believe.

By the time I finished Revelation, probably 25% of my doctrine had changed and I would say it changed for the better, like way better. Most of what I believed before was stuff I heard people that I assumed knew the Bible say.

Spend 16 years preaching through the Bible and you’ll find out real quick very few people are saying what the Bible says.

I continued preaching what I had learned and I learned more and refined my changes. I felt after 21 years of preaching I was way closer to preaching the Word than ever before. I’m not saying I’m never wrong, or that what I believe is always 100% exactly what the Bible says. But I can confidently say I’m closer.

You would expect that over that 21 year span of increasingly preaching the Word that all those people the old guy said would come just flocked in.

You would be wrong. There was hardly anyone left when I resigned. Funny thing is, the old guy who told me people would come if I preached the Word? He left when I was in Ezekiel 14. Yup, I remember the chapter.

Ezekiel is a long way from Revelation.

I preached the Word and pretty much all it did was make people leave.

Remember how the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us? Remember how He came unto His own and His own received Him not? Remember how they nailed the Word made flesh to a cross? Remember how the Word made flesh told you not to be surprised if the world hates you, it hated Him first?

Yeah, me too. If you preach the Word, expect people to leave.

“But,” I can hear you say, “My pastor preaches the Word and we have hundreds of people, our church is growing by leaps and bounds!”

Yup, I know.

It’s possible there are exceptions to the rule, but they would be exceptions, not the rule.

Instead of saying, “If you preach the Word, people will come.” You should say, “Preach the Word.” That’s it. That’s what Paul said (2 Timothy 4:2). He never once seemed concerned about whether people came or not. He just said, “Preach the Word.”

Do that.

When Should Church Discipline be Used?

Protecting the church is a big job of a pastor. False teachers and manipulative jerks abound, if left unchecked, they will destroy people and ruin the church.

At the same time, every person has a little false teaching and manipulative jerkness in them! If the pastor ran out every one of them there’d be no church left to protect.

So the pastor is stuck figuring out how much weird stuff to put up with from people before enacting church discipline.

In my case, church discipline was up to me. The board was mostly unhelpful in actively supporting or going with me to address unruly people. I was sent all by my lonesome into the wolf den. Our church had pastoral discipline more than church discipline. This was terrible for me, but I fear many other pastors are in the same spot.

So, I went by myself. Every time I ever did this the person automatically left right then. Therefore, I knew if I ever went to confront someone, there was a really good chance they would leave.

I didn’t want people to leave the church. I’d rather have them in than out. At least if they’re in there’s a chance they can hear the truth and be edified by the collective body of believers.

Paul says there’s a point in which you turn people over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. That’s harsh. I had a hard time getting there (although there were some I was quite eager to do so!).

How much junk should a church put up with from a church person? When is the line crossed where church discipline, or whatever happens with bad apples, begins?

Here were my criteria to confront dorks in the church.

  1. Are they causing division?

There were plenty of people in my church over the years that were not helpful. They believed weird things and told me I was wrong. That was ok. I can put up with that, again, it wasn’t helpful, but it wasn’t doing anything worthy of church discipline. However, if they were promoting and pushing their weird beliefs on others, or they were trying to form cliques, then I’d step in.
–You are free to believe weird things, but don’t spread your weird to others in an effort to divide the church.

  1. Are they hurting another believer?

This is a little subjective. Believers are to edify one another. The two other options are: hurt others or have no effect on others. I welcomed believers who had a desire to edify others, I put up with those who didn’t do anything, but those who hurt others had to go. Hurting other believers looks like one of these

  1. a) leading people into false doctrine
  2. b) doing unrepentant, bold sin that was an awful example
  3. c) convincing others to sin like them
  4. d) various forms of emotional or even physical abuse

If a believer was being hurt under my watch, I held myself accountable for that. The pastor’s job is not just protecting the flock, but the individual sheep. Defend your people.
–people sin and will hurt each other, it happens, but if it appears as though you are calloused or intentional about hurting them, you must be taken out.

  1. Are they ruining the testimony of Christ?

Every sin ruins the testimony of Christ. People sin, there’s a certain degree of forgiveness and forbearance to be employed. This isn’t just about them embarrassing your church either. I think pastors get more worked up about the reputation of their church (and thus their own personal reputation) more than the reputation of Christ. Church represents something huge. Paul dealing with the guy having an affair with his step mom in 1 Corinthians is a perfect example of this. The world is watching. We represent Christ. An actively sinful lifestyle must be confronted. This gets tricky though. I’ve seen divorce play out this way. One couple gets divorced in a church and shortly thereafter several others will. Should I kick newly divorced people out of church then? It’s tough. It just is. People sin. We all ruin the testimony of Christ. It’s tough but something has to be done or else the Son of God is trampled underfoot.
–You sin, but if you turn your sin into a lifestyle that consistently destroys the testimony of Christ, the Word, and the Church (the Body of Christ) then something must be done.

I found these church discipline areas one of the toughest parts of being a pastor. When to step in, how to step in, and who will go with me? I was routinely confused about what I was supposed to do.

On top of that, we’re supposed to act out of love. Many churches have ceased church discipline because it appears unloving. That’s stupid. God, who is love, is the one who said we should use church discipline.

But it must be done right. It’s not about kicking out people who annoy the pastor, or don’t respect or agree with the pastor. It’s about protecting the church and the reputation of Christ and His Gospel.

The point of church discipline is not to create an echo chamber. The point is the salvation of souls. Restoration is the goal of all church discipline. We want them back; they just can’t be doing that if they return.

Being in charge of such decisions and the whole discipline process is a great burden. Being in a spot to know what to do with other people’s stupid is no fun. But it’s part of the job and the church is counting on you to do it well.

So do it well.

Why Have so Many Pastors Been Resigning Lately?

I have seen a couple statistics that a lot of pastors have resigned in the past year. I don’t know whether the numbers are true or not, is it really more than usual?

Whether it’s true or not, I am one of the pastors who resigned. I can at least tell you my reasons for doing so. Here are some of the current contributing factors that make the pastorate something to resign from!

  1. Material Prosperity
    There has been a time of prosperity over the last ten years or so in America and the church and Christians got carried along with it. New churches sprang up and older churches built bigger barns. This is a giant underlying issue that is the root cause of many of the following reasons.
  1. Lack of Disciples
    Actual godly Christians are few and far between. Our Church Growth techniques have worked, but what you attract them with, you keep them with. The modern church, although appearing to be huge, has about 33 actual godly Christians. Slight exaggeration, but essentially true! There’s lots of noise and activity along with very little edification and spiritual growth. The modern church looks big and impressive, but it is hollow. It is a giant loaf of bread with lots of leaveny air pockets and very little dough.
  1. Church Now Exists to Entertain
    It is unbelievably hard to be a pastor attempting to make disciples and preach the Word in season and out while people leave your church to go places that offer more polished music and kid’s programs. All the hip pastors who will take moral tumbles at some point in the near future, do quite well before the moral failings do them in. Read Jeremiah or Ezekiel to know what this feels like. The consistent preaching of the Word is mocked and rejected while false prophets claiming “Peace, peace” when there is no peace, attract the crowds. The people you’ve sacrificed for in an effort to edify them leave for these pleasure palaces of churches, sucking the joy and life right out of ministry.
  1. “Busy” People
    While the 33 godly Christians go to church, all the other people are out being “busy.” Pastors hear people say they are “busy” approximately 754 times a week. It’s probably true too: worldly people are indeed busy in the world. When everything the church offers is rejected because people need to hunt, fish, work, attend youth sports, go on vacation, or skip church for various other “busy” reasons, it creates massive depression. At the same time, people joke about binge watching Netflix. How come so many can binge watch Netflix while being too busy to go to church? Odd.
  1. Pandemics
    The Covid pandemic and subsequent response to it has caused people to skip church for “health reasons.” Some of this is legitimate and is not condemned in those cases. However, the amount of people who can’t go to church for “health reasons” who post photos of what they did with their friends all weekend was/is quite large. The excitement in people’s voices when they actually had a legitimate reason to skip church was nauseating. I can attest that the people who skipped church for Covid were largely the same group who skipped it the year before because they were “busy.” Their Facebook profile lets me know they are still busy, just happy to have a legit sounding excuse now.
  1. Financial Freedom
    Perhaps another issue, and this one might hurt a little, is that everyone seems to have money coming out their ears right now. The government is handing out money like candy on Halloween. There have always been pastors itching to get out of ministry (for many of these stated reasons) but couldn’t afford it. Perhaps our stimulus money and extended unemployment allowed many pastors to finally take that leap.
  2. Politics
    Churches are dependent on money to a frightening extent in our day. Churches have built large buildings and support impressive shows, er, church services. These things cost money. Churches need rich people. This forces the church and their rich people to be mindful of earthly things like politics, which increasingly controls everything. We need lower taxes on one side and we need the government to provide living wages on the other side. Fights ensue. The amount of time I listened to church members argue politics before and after church would make you think politics was our main focus at church. Politics has overtaken the church. This does not create a proper environment for edification.
  3. Pandemic Decisions
    To mask or not to mask was THE question and was a recipe for fighting, division, and skipping church. Pastors get sick and tired of making decisions that will guarantee half the church will be mad and leave no matter what is decided. Everyone knows what is best for the church to do and everyone has a different opinion. You hate people if you mask; you hate people if you don’t. You hate God if you cancel church; you hate God if you don’t cancel church. Everyone’s an expert. I got to the point where I felt, “Fine, you people know everything; go for it. I don’t need this.” And I didn’t.
  4. Disrespect
    America has always been disrespectful to authority and this trend has gotten worse. The past couple years the disrespect of politicians, police, and various other authorities has been on full violent display. People take this same attitude toward pastors. Unless you are an extrovert, people-pleasing pastor acting like everyone’s best friend and you never take a stand on anything, churches view you as their own private punching bag. I have been shocked at some of the stuff people have said and done to me over the years. Although any one single incident bothers me very little, over the course of 20 years, it does get old. It’s just unnecessary and unhelpful.
  5. Pastoral Futility
    People are largely not in the church for spiritual reasons. It’s just another part of the world for most. The world’s junk is brought in and defeats the entire purpose for meeting as a church. The main reason I resigned is because what’s the point? Everything I was doing seemed futile, misunderstood, and easily rejected by the people I was doing it for. It leaves a guy feeling like there’s no reason to continue. Why bother, no one’s listening anyway? The Word of God is not heard over the deafening din of the world’s clamor. I have no interest in trying to yell louder. After over 20-years of being a pastor, I had to get out for my own spiritual sanity, to get me to a place where I could again hear the still, small voice of God.

I resigned last year because in large part the church is made up of people who really don’t want God and I didn’t want to be around that anymore. I don’t know how else to say it: today’s church is not interested in hearing from the Lord. Why talk to walls anymore? I couldn’t find a compelling reason, so I resigned. Was this the right decision? Not according to many, but I will stand before the Lord with it and only His opinion counts as He is my judge.

My hat’s off to all those pastors still slugging it out, faithfully teaching the Word of God week in and week out. Your reward will be in heaven, as it surely will not be here. Fight the fight.

Can Churches be Doctrinally Right and Loving?

“Well, of course!” is the happy answer.

But I don’t know. I know the opposite is true: a church can be doctrinally bankrupt and unloving!

The church I came to pastor over 21 years ago was neither doctrinally right nor loving. They had a weird brand of hyper-dispensationalism and over-emphasized the word “grace” to the point of lasciviousness.

The previous pastor once told the congregation he didn’t care if a non-married couple moved in with each other, “it’s all grace, it doesn’t matter.” He said this from the pulpit, not as an aside in a conversation at a restaurant.

Their notion of grace was very extreme, hardly anyone else in Christianity went as far and weird with it as they did. This led them to believe they were the sole possessors of truth. They prided themselves on their doctrinal rightness. They were the sole defenders of truth.

The church was made up of many ex-legalistic people. They happily threw off the bonds of legalism and lived it up in their notion of “grace.”

My favorite episode in learning how weird the church I came to was, was when I wore a tie to church one Sunday. The assumed “leader of the church” came up to me and said, “You shouldn’t wear a tie.” I said, “What?” not as though I didn’t hear him, but more “what in the world are you talking about?”

He replied, “We don’t wear ties; we’re not legalistic.” I was so thrown off by this I don’t think I replied at all. I probably laughed nervously. If you’re not legalistic, then how come you have a dress code about not wearing ties?! So weird.

But that’s where they went. They turned grace into lasciviousness and a reverse-legalism. You indeed sinned so people knew grace was abounding. And they were massive jerks. One outsider described the church this way, “Oh yeah, they talk a lot about grace but don’t show it to anyone.”

This was a case where a church’s bad doctrine eliminated love entirely. I felt my job was to correct the doctrine and hope that a true understanding of the Gospel would result in love.

I began correcting the doctrine. People left. Many thought I was becoming legalistic because I taught that sin actually was bad and we weren’t supposed to do it.

There was some progress. Some people got it, some already had an issue with the old pastor and his increasingly weird grace stuff. Some love showed up.

But it just never really clicked. After 21 years of banging my head on this one wall, I just got worn out. Unfortunately I was losing love going over this same stupid doctrinal error and getting hurt by so many people. As my doctrine improved, which I believe it did, my love was dying.

The wounds were deep and waiting for the next wound to show up was driving me insane. On top of all that, my grandfather was the previous pastor! As my church increasingly had a problem with me, so did my family. I got it from all sides and I honestly can say that the hurt and rejection sucked love right out of me.

Is it possible for a church to emphasize right doctrine and be loving? I imagine there are many people who think so. I hope it’s true. I’d like to be part of one.

What I know for sure is, besides glib answers of the possibility, I have no idea how it’s done. Which is where Twitter tells me, “Well, that’s because you tried to do it! You can’t do it! Only God can.”

Yup, thanks. Apparently He doesn’t know how to do it either then! I asked Him so many times with tears to do so.

When you’re part of the In-Group in your church, it’s easy to think your church is loving. When your church’s doctrine doesn’t bother you, it’s easy to think your church has right doctrine.

Maybe we’re bad judges on this. Maybe I was a bad judge of my own “ministry.” God is the judge, He will let me know the true judgment, whether I had wood, hay, and stubble, or precious stones.

I pray for pastors that you would figure out the balance between doctrine and love. Knowledge puffs up. It’s what it does. But being stupid can’t be the answer!

It’s a tough thing. I pray you and your church can figure it out.

Can Pastors Have Friends? I know they can have Enemies!

When I was a pastor there were about a dozen guys in my church over the years who treated me like a best friend, for some of them, I think I was their best friend, who later blew up at me, left, and never talked to me again.

We did stuff together. We talked. We laughed. We ate food.

There was a line as a pastor that I could never quite figure out: when was I a pastor and when was I a friend?

In some cases, being a pastor is being a professional friend. People pay you to be their friend. I know that sounds cynical and cold, but my personal experience along with my knowledge of other pastors’ experiences lets me know this is true.

What many of them viewed as friendship I viewed as my job. I wouldn’t have been hanging out with these guys under other circumstances.

Many of these guys expressed problems with me all along. They’d pick apart my sermons, they’d make judgments about my behavior, and find fault with any number of things I did and said. In only one of these cases did I ever go off on one of them as they did on me (I regret this. It wasn’t good).

I tried to exercise patience and forgiveness as that’s what I felt I was supposed to do. But no matter how much patience and forbearance I used with them, inevitably they got mad enough at me to leave the church.

The friendship was gone. The time together, the patience, all of it was thrown out because I did some obscure thing that set them off.

On one hand I get it, if I approached the friendship as my job, they probably picked up on that! I’m not an overly outgoing, social guy, I don’t make friends easily. They were only my friend because I was the pastor and they were my friends because I was their pastor.

I’ve heard it said that pastors can’t have friends. This isn’t true. I had true friends while I was a pastor and they remain friends even after I’m no longer their pastor.

Friendship with pastors breaks off because often there was no real friendship to begin with. They were using me, how spiritual it makes one feel to be friends with a pastor! If the pastor likes me, certainly God does. And I viewed many of these relationships as duty. They weren’t going to last.

On top of that, people leave churches. If you have a friendship with the pastor and you don’t want to go to church anymore, you have to find some ridiculous problem with the pastor so you can blow up at him and get gone.

It took me a while to figure this out, but often this explosion to end the friendship had very little to do with me. I wasn’t perfect, but clearly I didn’t do anything deserving this treatment.

One inside tip: Many men take out their anger at their dads on pastors. I know this sounds weird, but it’s true. The guys who’ve had the worst relationships with their dads were the most explosively rude in their expression of dislike toward me. There’s other stuff going on; it’s not all you.

Another factor is that people are fickle. When the apostle Paul did a miracle the crowd thought he was a god, then they changed their mind and wanted to stone him. Jesus was hailed as the coming king in what has been called “The Triumphal Entry,” only to be crucified by the same mob at the end of the week.

This isn’t a Church Thing. Christians have no monopoly on fickleness. Observe the Cancel Culture overspreading our society. Famous people that no one had a problem with, accidentally say something slightly off from what the crowd wants to hear and that person is cancelled. Off with their heads.

People are weird. We just are. We get tired. We want change. True friendship requires forgiveness and patience. Those things are hard. People carry religious baggage into the church, who knows how that will work itself out over time. Not well, usually.

Jesus Christ said, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.”

You can’t be everyone’s friend. You’ll destroy yourself trying.

What you can do is do your best to love people, be patient, forgiving, and forbearing. But also know that at any time for any odd reason they can turn on you. It’s terrible to go into a relationship thinking, “I wonder when this guy will turn on me.” But for the pastor, you’re going to end up thinking that anyway!

God knows our frame, He knows we are dust. We can truly wonder “what is man, that God is mindful of him?” Why does He care for us knowing full well we will be His enemy many times?

Love. God is love. This is part of the job for God.

Even after these guys got mad and disrespected me and ran off, I still love em. I can’t help it. I care about them. I’d still help them today. Well, ok, there’s a couple I’d be happy to never see again, but still, I’d do my best!

It’s part of the job of being a Christian—love your enemies. What praise is there if you love those who love you?

Loving people is part of the job and don’t be surprised if you get fired! Happens to God every day and He’s doing love perfectly.

I Am Done With Pastoral Ministry

I must admit, I’ve been deceiving you. I know, hard to believe an anon account on Twitter would not be completely forthright.

Last year I resigned as pastor.

I couldn’t do it anymore. To quote the great theologian B. B. King, “The thrill is gone, the thrill is gone away for good.”

I endured as much as I could. I made it over 20 years. In many areas I did my best. In other areas, yeah, I didn’t do great. The areas I didn’t do well in were largely because I couldn’t figure out what to do. I knew what other pastors did, certainly got plenty of advice, but I couldn’t bring myself to do much of that stuff. I struggled.

I can honestly say I gave myself to the profession and took the responsibility seriously. In the time I was pastor I read the Bible cover to cover over 40 times. I wanted to make sure that no matter what passage anyone ever asked me about, I had read it recently. I preached straight through the Bible for 16 years. I wanted people to deal with God’s words, not my opinions or theological camp.

I memorized books of the Bible. Read hundreds of theology books. I visited people. Moved so many couches it’s not funny. Loved and served as best I could. Probably the greatest evidence that I gave myself to my job is that I talked to people on the phone. I think I’ve talked to five people on the phone since resigning and I’m related to three of them.

In the end, I can say that I grew tremendously through the experience. I don’t think I’d be where I am today in Christian growth without being a pastor, I guess I’ll never know that for sure, but all I know is it was a great teacher.

I have been hurt deeply. My back has been stabbed so many times, if it were to happen again the stab would just fall right out my front. There is a hurt in me and a frustration, bitterness, anger, I don’t know what all it is, but it’s deep and it hurts.

At the same time, I also know I’m a sinner and was not innocent. I was not perfect in all my interactions with people. I know I didn’t abuse anyone, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

I’ve already begun attending a church. I have no plans to forsake the Church. My pastoral experience showed me what churches need from people; now to see if I’m man enough to be what I wished someone was for my church! Kind of scary.

I can say with utmost assurance that I currently never want to be a pastor again. I will hesitate to say that I won’t ever be one again, but it would have to more or less fall in my lap and/or have me backed into a corner, but I won’t limit what the Spirit might have for me down the road. My flesh is not at all willing, but I suppose, if the Spirit insisted enough, I’d do it again. But man, it would have to be brutally clear and obvious that I should!

Much of the stuff I’ve put on the Twitter account was fabricated, some was borrowed from other pastors, and other bits were completely real. The real stuff was delayed time wise so if my identity came out hopefully no one would be hurt. Everything on the blog was real, didn’t make any of it up.

I’ve enjoyed the Twitter account. It was fun. It was a good release for me. It was also fantastic to commiserate with other pastors. Pretty cool to hear so many pastors were encouraged by things I said.

Thank you for reading and taking part.

I think I’m done with regular Twitter-ing for the most part. If you’d enjoy hearing more from me, I do like writing and think I have some things to share about the pastoral ministry, I’m going to continue writing on the Failing Pastor blog. There should be a button on the lower part of your screen where you can subscribe. You will get an email when I post here.

I’d like to write some about sermon crafting (someone recently joked I should teach homiletics, that got me thinking . . .), knowing the Bible, dealing with people, perhaps more details about my ministry and why I quit, transitioning out of pastoral ministry and into being a “layman,” and basic Christian things. As I plan on being in church for the remainder of my life, I will, no doubt, have more things to pontificate on!

For all those remaining in ministry:
You’re a better man than I and you have my respect, for what that’s worth. Fight the fight, be instant in season and out. Preach the word. Grow. Love the people. Uphold the Lord Jesus Christ in all you say and do. You represent Him. Take the responsibility seriously. Remind them to do good works that they be not unfruitful. As much as is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with everyone. You’ll stand before the Lord someday; live like it!

Thank you.