My Failed Attempt to Pastor a Diseased Church

One criticism I hear frequently from Christians is that when a pastor resigns or a church doesn’t grow, it’s because the pastor wasn’t called, or lacked faith, or was doing it in his own power and not the Spirit’s, and other similar things.

In other words, it’s the pastor’s fault if a church doesn’t grow or the pastor quits.

As if the church doesn’t have anything to do with it.

I know good pastors who had churches with problems. Those pastors left in total discouragement. They did a good job. They had good hearts. The church is at least partially at fault.

I’m observant enough to know it’s not always the church’s fault. There are bad pastors who do their job terribly. I am not attempting to justify terrible pastors. My attempt is to defend quality pastors.

I, in my own humble opinion, was a quality pastor! Was I perfect? No, I made mistakes and can list the top ten without too much pause for reflection.

But my heart was right. I was devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word and His Gospel. I preached the Word faithfully. I prayed regularly, visited people, knew the people, and honestly loved the people even if I was often confused about what that love should do. I took stands for righteousness and truth, while doing my best to extend grace and mercy.

I got nowhere.

The church didn’t grow. It shrunk. I earned less per year after 21 years than I did when I began. To all measurable standards of success, I was a complete failure.

Although many miss this, the reason I call myself the Failing Pastor is not because I think I’m a failure; it’s because the church clearly let me know I was. Before the Lord, I did what I thought was right and I’ll let Him judge my ministry. Before people, well, they all let me know what a loser I was.

As I said, it doesn’t take long for me to come up with legit mistakes I made. No pastor thinks they nailed everything correctly.

But I also know my church had issues that more or less made it impossible for anything good to occur.

No doubt some of you are thinking, “Wow, who does this guy think he is?” Let me explain some stuff about the church I was at and you tell me if this church didn’t have issues!

Here are some facts about the church I served for 21 years. All of these things were true of the church before I got there. None of these things were my doing! They were in place before I arrived.

1. They thought the only part of the Bible we had to follow were the epistles of Paul. You could not make any point to them from any other book of the Bible. The Old Testament was right out. The previous pastor even said OUT LOUD that he didn’t think the Apostle Paul understood grace until the last two chapters of 2 Timothy!

2. Salvation was proved by having said The Prayer. That’s it. Nothing else was needed or required. Repentance was out. Obedience was legalism. Faith was simply a mental assent that Jesus did a thing and I like it.

3. Grace was emphasized so much that good works were viewed as being bad. If you did something good, now you had your own righteousness to depend on. It’s better to sin and rely on grace. Should we sin that grace may abound? They pretty much yelled, “ABSOLUTELY, YES!”

4. They determined that baptism and communion were not necessary for the church age. All physical things like that were Jewish and law.

5. They turned grace into legalism. My favorite example is when I wore a tie to church one Sunday a few months into my pastoral career. I was confronted in the hallway, backed up against the wall by the supposed “head of the church,” and told “Why are you wearing a tie? We don’t wear ties here; we’re not legalists.” The irony of that statement has not even to this day ceased to amaze me.

6. They had no board. Church leadership resided in the pastor and his two yes-men. They controlled the money and all decisions in the church and did a fine job lording it over the people. The two yes-men continued to lord it over me when I got there.

7. There were many odd money things going on in the books that I soon discovered upon getting there. Their largest expense of the year was “Miscellaneous.” There was some money laundering going on. It was a mess to sort it out and get it cleaned up.

8. The only thing the church did was a one hour meeting each Sunday. That was it. One hour. Fifty-five minutes of which was the pastor berating the people about his peculiar views of gracish legalism.

9. The previous pastor once preached that he hoped more people in his church would live with each other and do all the sexing outside of marriage so they would know they trusted God’s grace. If anyone disagreed with him, he once said (in a sermon recorded on tape) “you can go to hell.”

10. People on one side of the church didn’t know the names of people on the other side of the church. There was no love, no fellowship, just a worshipping of the pastor with some Pauline verses about grace sprinkled in.

So, yeah, go right ahead and tell me the reason I failed at this church was because of me! I confronted all these issues. I confronted the two yes-men (who left soon after). I preached the Bible. This church who didn’t like the Old Testament, guess what I did? “Take your Bible and open to Genesis chapter 1.” Then I spent twelve years expositorally preaching through the Old Testament. Ha! That still cracks me up.

I did not back down from the church’s weirdness and endeavored to do all I could to rescue the perishing in the church. Several were set free from the false teaching. But most clung to it desperately and fought me for years before leaving in terrible, not very gracious, ways.

I added a Sunday School, a midweek Bible Study, social events, we supported missionaries, which they had never done before. I began a benevolence fund. We did communion regularly and I baptized people. I had a board of deacons and always endeavored to train up more elders. I tried doing church the way the New Testament says to do it.

I fought the fight. I thought it might work. It didn’t. It just slowly died.

Two weeks after I resigned the church voted to cancel all church events except one hour of preaching on Sundays. Right back where it started. They didn’t want a church. I didn’t want to pastor a non-church.

Any charge that my resignation was a result of me not caring, only doing it for the money, not being called, or anything else, is rather humorous to me. I took a diseased church and tried to get the people to heal it. They preferred the disease.

I got out before I got diseased.

That’s my story. Sometimes there are bad churches. I applaud all pastors who are fighting to help those churches become true, legit, New Testament churches. It’s a battle worth fighting, even if in the end you “lose.”

You were at least in the arena fighting it out. There came a point for me where I had to get out. It wasn’t working, nor was it going to. I was done. I tried. The swine won’t get any more pearls from me. I’m out.

21 years, to all appearances, I failed. The church is right back where it started before I spent 21 years trying to help it. I have something to do with the failure, I have to admit I wasn’t perfect. But the Lord knows my heart was in it and I tried to do the right thing.

Fight the fight, pastors! Do the right thing before the Lord and don’t let the goats get you down. The Lord is the ultimate judge of my ministry and I’ll let Him do it and let me know if I failed or not. He’ll do the same for you.

Pastor like you’re standing before the Lord, because some day you will be.

__________________
If you want to hear more about my failed attempt to do what I could do help a diseased church, I wrote a book about it. CLICK HERE to get a copy, because I went through the trouble of writing it!

Why My Current Job is so Much Easier than Being a Pastor

I recently tweeted:

I used to be a pastor and now I am a small business owner.

Owning a small business is a breeze and way less stressful. I know everyone thinks all job problems are the same.

They aren’t. Pastoral ministry was brutal.

This has gotten a mixed response. Mostly the response from pastors who have left professional ministry for another career agreed entirely. Maybe two did not, citing their new job as equally stressful (one is a junior high teacher!).

Current pastors were largely sympathetic, but several told me in so many words what a loser I am. One said he enjoyed his church, but also understood my sentiment.

To clarify the confusion, here is a larger explanation as to why I say running a business is way easier than being a pastor.

1. No one is going to hell if I mess up. And, yes, I know all the theological explanations about how I’m not actually sending anyone to hell. I get it. But still. Do you know how many people have left the church over my 21 years of being a pastor and specifically said it was because of me or what I teach? Try doing it for 21 years in a church sucked deep into false teaching, hearing regularly that my teaching has ruined their life, some have left the faith, others sit at home feeling justified. I even think I was preaching what was right. I take the Bible very seriously. I wasn’t playing games. I know I was speaking truth and correcting false teaching in the church. And for 21 years the overall response was denial of what I taught. There comes a point where casting pearls before swine is done.

2. I know what I’m supposed to do. Business is simple: make money. You can judge how you’re doing by the Bottom Line. Being a pastor has no Bottom Line that is measurable. I know God is the judge and I know if I deserve any reward He is the only one who can grant them. I’m fine with that, it’s the only reason I made it 21 years! But so much of my ministry to people stuck in sin and false teaching, I had no clue what I was supposed to do. I wasn’t the one with the problems. I wasn’t the one doing weird stuff, but I was constantly put in a position to figure out how to best show grace and righteousness with weird people doing weird things. I had no discernable way to measure my effectiveness. This is why churches end up counting baptisms, attendance, offerings, building expansions, etc. It’s a tangible way to prove that “God is really working here.” Is it though? I know discipleship, spiritual fruit, Christ-likeness, and spiritual maturity are the measures, but they are hard to measure in others. Pastors who leave churches assume those who were “doing well” when they left are still doing well. Stick around long enough to see that those you thought were progressing really weren’t.

3. No matter what I say, someone will throw back at me some over simplified spiritual point with a Bible verse attached to tell me how wrong I am. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the reason why my ministry didn’t go well and why I resigned is because “You were serving yourself not God.” “You were just in it for the money.” “You were doing it in your own power not in the Spirit’s power.” Hey, it’s possible, I’m human. But I was there the whole time with the Lord. He and I went through it together. I know what I did and where my heart was. One thing I learned after 21 years of being a pastor is to not listen to glib judgments, especially when received from people on the internet. Say whatever you want, but I’m just letting you know that constantly telling pastors the reason they are failing is because they don’t have faith is one of the reasons they are depressed. Are all pastors supposed to remain pastors until they die? Even OT priests were done after 20 years. I know a guy who has changed careers 6 times in two years. No one has ever quoted a verse or doubted his salvation or told him he lacked faith because he did this. Why, after a guy serves for 21 years at the same church, do the judgmental, sanctimonious statements come flying? It’s a bizarre thing. As Job said to his friends, “Miserable counselors are you all.”

4. My family does not have to sacrifice or get steamrolled. The accusations said about me and my family over the years are amazing. My wife and kids went to all kinds of church stuff. They filled in doing things when no one else showed up. They didn’t get paid. I hardly got paid. I couldn’t provide for them as I would have liked. They saw me get pummeled by people. Take shots and come home and just be shattered. They saw the people who slowly stop coming to church and saw the ridiculous things their lives soon brought forth. Pastor’s families see and hear it all. It’s why so many pastors’ kids walk away. Mine have not. I am eternally grateful for this. And from now on they don’t have to see and hear it all anymore.

5. I don’t have to know all the sordid details of every customer’s life. I knew everyone in my church. I knew most of their sins and problems, sometimes because they told me, sometimes because the church is really good at gossip. I paid attention. I knew what was going on with people. I cared for them. I knew things. I’m so glad I don’t have to know everything about everyone I know anymore. Most of what I knew broke my heart. I spent time with people. Communicated with them regularly. I also knew every single problem they had with me, either because they told me or because the church is really good at gossip. It was too much. I simply couldn’t carry on knowing this much about people. I’m not equipped to do it.

6. Guilty people and their dumb excuses have been wonderfully absent from my life. No one lies to me about what they were doing Sunday. No one immediately changes their behavior and speech around me when they find out I’m a pastor. No one tries to avoid me. Even people who left my church in terrible ways talk to me now that I’m not a pastor. It’s amazing. If you want every relationship in your life to be ruined by people’s guilt, then be a pastor.

I guess I’ll stop here. I‘m sure I could keep going, but this gives the general idea.

Running a business is simple in comparison. I know what I’m doing and I know how I’m doing. No one is guilty around me. No one over spiritualizes stuff around me. After a bad day with the business, no one judges me and throws verses at me letting me know my lack of faith is what caused that. I can just do my business without all the weirdness.

And, as many have asked, I am going to church. I get to preach and teach occasionally. I am way more emotionally and mentally able to do such things and have found it immensely enjoyable.

If you’d like more of what my pastoral ministry was like, some more details of how it went, I did recently publish a book about my experience. It’s one pastor’s experience and certainly I hope it won’t be any other pastor’s experience. Perhaps you will find something helpful in it.

CLICK HERE to get a copy because I went through the trouble of writing it!

The Failing Pastor’s New Book

I am definitely a guy who processes things through writing. This blog and my twitter account have been immensely helpful in helping me process my 21 years of pastoral ministry.

I also began putting together some of my blog posts along with other stuff into book form. My daughter, who is in college for graphic design, made the book look pretty nice and is now available on Amazon.

How to Not Grow Your Church by the Failing Pastor can be yours today!

I detail the things I did that I thought were biblical that ended up making my church shrink. Not sure if that will happen in every church if these things are done, but it sure did in mine!

The book is short and broken up into short sections. The advice inside might very will ruin your life. But take it from me: it’s totally worth it.

Probably.

CLICK HERE to get your copy. It’s available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book.

My Resignation Sermon

I put a battery in my old MP3 player that I used to record my sermons and found an audio file I don’t remember making!

It was a rehearsal sermon of my resignation from my church. I did it in the quiet of my office with the intent of posting it for the church to hear.

The situation was a little weird as to why I recorded it. My mother was struggling with cancer and the week of my resignation she took a turn for the worse. I thought I might miss the Sunday my resignation was planned for to have to go see her.

I managed to stay in town until then, so I never used this audio file at all, which is why it escaped my memory.

Anyway, for pastors out there who are thinking of resigning or are curious about pastoral resignations, here’s how mine went! I basically said this to the church in person, just a lot more crying and blubbering was involved. I did not record the actual resignation sermon knowing I’d just be sniffing through the whole thing.

It’s over two years later now. I am glad I did not toast the church or go out burning bridges, which I could have done. My flesh would have enjoyed that. But I am grateful that did not occur. You can, or at least I can, hear when I got close!

So, I put this here in the off chance someone is interested. Click here to give it a listen.

How Can I Get Out of Pastoral Ministry?

About once a week I receive a message from a pastor who found my Failing Pastor blog or Twitter account who is discouraged and wants to know how to get out of ministry.

This is cool and sad.

I’ve been out of pastoral ministry for over a year now. I don’t get much material for Twitter or the blog anymore. It’s crossed my mind to quit many times. But the private messages I get from hurting pastors keeps me doing it.

I remember so well the loneliness I felt as a failing pastor. Nothing I did mattered or seemed to help. The surrounding apathy was sucking the life out of me. But I didn’t know what other job I could do.

Several times a year I hit the depths of quitting depression. I sent out resumes to teach for Christian schools. I even sent a few for janitorial positions. All my education and experience was in and for church. The exit seemed impossible.

I didn’t want to move to another church. I’d just have to start the battle all over. Stabbed in the back for brand new reasons by brand new people. Step in issues I didn’t know about all over again. No thanks.

I figured my only true out would be going into business. Doing something I was entirely in charge of. I didn’t need a fancy resume or have to meet any qualifications.

I’ve always liked books. I began buying and selling books. For about three years my wife and I talked about having a bookstore. I researched bookstores, interviewed bookstore owners, and learned more about the book business while selling books online.

My hope was to hang on until our last kid graduated from high school. All the kids would be out of the house, expenses would lower, and we’d be free to try it out. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hang on that long. A very frustrating time hit and I lost all joy and hope and motivation. I had to get out. If I stayed in longer I’d hurt someone.

Also during this time my mom was dying and she was not handling it well. I was stressed from both things. I resigned on a Sunday. Took my Mom into the hospital on that Tuesday and two weeks later she died. Things went so quickly and dramatically, I never even told her I resigned from being a pastor.

We opened our bookstore about three months ago and are completely thrilled with the decision and how things have worked out.

Pastors ask me all the time “How do you make money now? I’d quit in a heartbeat if I could make money some other way.” This is what I did. It’s probably not what you should do. I have no idea.

I know the pain and the anguish and I feel for you. I do. I get it so much. All I can suggest is that you work on an alternative plan while still pastoring. This is especially true if you have a family. Your decision affects other people.

At the same time, I got to the point where I had to scrap my plan because I was done. Like, legit done. I felt something shift in me. I had to get out. You might be there too. In that case, you go on faith that the Lord will help you out.

We are in an economy right now where everyone is looking for good help. I know it might be embarrassing to get the job at Home Depot, but hey, it’s better to do that than to disparage the ministry with a bad attitude. Take a grunt job for a while and work on an alternate plan.

I don’t know. I feel unqualified to give advice really. All I can do is tell you what I did. I know several pastors who went into business as an avenue out of ministry. It’s scary, but also a fascinating learning experience. Many pastoral functions are good preparation for going into business: dealing with people, operating budgets, filling out forms/office work, etc.

As an added bonus: I have received more encouragement and compliments in the last three months in our bookstore than I did in 21 years of being a pastor! That’s kind of nice! I know it’s not everything and it’s really not all that important, but when you get beat up for so long, it is nice to be appreciated!

Anyway, I feel for you if you feel stuck in your pastoral job. You’ll get criticized and judged by other pastors and anyone else you share your feelings with. It’s a bummer and part of what makes pastoral depression even worse.

I don’t judge. I know what it’s like. It’s tough. Life is bigger than ministry. Do the right thing before the Lord and I am convinced He will take care of you. Make the right call for you before Him. Hang in there. Fight the fight.

Problems of a People Pleasing Pastor

I think most pastors think they are doing pastoring the right way. Many even think they are doing it biblically.

Perhaps some are, but I think the major influence on how a guy pastors is simply personality. I come from a people-pleasing family. Serving people and being empathetic is what we do. We feel things for people and do what we can to help. This all sounds good and there are many verses that say we should do such things.

However, most of my empathy, care, and service was done out of fear. People pleasers are afraid of rejection, among other things. Much of my service was not done out of spiritual conviction but out of fleshly fear. This was especially true when my church began to shrink and I wasn’t getting paid much. I couldn’t afford more people to leave.

I would say my family and I were on the extreme end of people pleasers. My dad was probably the most people pleasery person ever. I was never as bad as he was. People liked him as their pastor, but he also attracted bullies. Bullies identify weak people and take advantage of them. I was pretty successful at attracting them too!

Both my dad and I did a lot of good for a lot of people, yet we also have long lists of people who took advantage of us, people who trampled on us and we were not always able to stand up for ourselves. We can justify it as Christlikeness; in reality it was simply fear.

Then there are those on the other end of the spectrum. Those who are oblivious to other people’s feelings. They don’t mind fighting and arguing. They are confident in who they are and what they believe and kind of don’t respect anyone but their own brilliant selves. They are sometimes known as Calvinists. I tease, I tease. Sort of.

These are the pastors who when I express my frustrations and failures as a pastor tell me I wasn’t called to ministry. They don’t empathize at all; they simply pile on and tell me how utterly awful I am. They are right to the extent that I was wrong, but they go too far. They don’t understand that the reason they don’t have the same experiences as a pastor as I do is because they are oblivious to all the things that make people with my personality miserable. I felt them too much; they feel them none at all. Both are problematic.

(One way to tell which end of the spectrum you are on is this: when someone argues with you do you enjoy it and it makes your day, or do you get tight and can feel your pulse in your eyes?!)

I think the best pastor is a combination of both, knowing when to please and when not to. Paul said if he yet pleased me he would not be the servant of Christ. The same Paul also said he became all things to all men so that by all means he might save some. That’s the balance.

I was unable to hit it. Most of my inability was wired into me. I was raised to fear people, although I have gotten better. Yes, I did lots of nice things and took many shots without responding and served. But I also resented the people I had to serve, especially if there was no reciprocation. That’s what people pleasers do. We please people with the assumption they will please us back. If I visit this person they will come to church. They don’t. I get bitter.

The non-people pleaser doesn’t get this at all. Their response to that paragraph is “yup, you are one sick person. Never should have been a pastor, that’s for sure.” Pause for a second though. Perhaps your response is a sign that you are too far the other way. You don’t weep with those who weep, you belittle those who weep.

A good pastor would have balance. They know how to serve out of love, out of Christlike compassion, yet also know how to confront and speak truth. I could and did speak truth, but felt awful about it for days afterward. Sick to my stomach at times when people had problems with what I said. Was that right? I don’t know. I know I cared deeply about people hearing the Gospel.

I don’t yet know the answer to either side of the spectrum. How does a pastor reach the right balance? I don’t know, that’s why I resigned! But I also know, after a year and a half out of ministry, where my problems came from. I’m still seeking to address this issue in my personality and in my faith even if I never pastor again. I want to do things right. I want to fix what is wrong and make progress.

In the end, the fact that you do pastoring a certain way and it feels good or “works,” or it feels terrible and “doesn’t work,” doesn’t necessarily mean anything. God’s opinion on the matter is what counts. I’ve learned that my personality dictated much of what I did as a pastor. This wasn’t always good and was sometimes terrible. We’re all in this together, aint none of us perfect. There is hope though! Growth is always out there for us to go for. Keep going for it.

What I Miss and Don’t Miss About Being a Pastor

2021 was the first year I wasn’t a pastor since 1999. It was a good year. Here are the things I enjoyed the most about not being a pastor:

–I never spent a Sunday afternoon worried why someone wasn’t at church.

–I was not concerned with how many people were at church and I never once took it personally when hardly anyone showed up.

–I loved attending church and having no official responsibility for anything.

–Often I would enter church and just go sit down. I didn’t have to schmooze, or talk about all the problems people had with my sermon, or feel awkward when they bring up their weird political points in the hearing of someone else with opposite political points and the ensuing argument I’d have to referee. Lovely.

–Hardly anyone told me about their health problems. I am so grateful I don’t have to know all the details of old ladies’ bowel movements anymore. I can’t express to you how thankful I am for this.

–No one emails, calls, texts, Facebook messengers me with stupid excuses why they weren’t at church.

–I could go to the store after church on Sundays and not run into people who skipped church who would then get all weird and guilty-defensive around me.

–When people ask me what I do for a living I don’t say “pastor” anymore, which is great because people always got weird when they found that out.

Those were the things I was glad to not have to do anymore. But there were things I missed:

–No one calls me with theological questions anymore. It’s like once you’re not a pastor you forget knowing the Bible I guess.

–Preaching is gone. I loved preaching and studying. I miss preaching and studying.

–I miss getting paid.

–There were many confidential issues people would bring to me, a closeness and a desire to help, which again, now that I’m not an official pastor, people don’t think I can help anymore.

–As awkward as weddings, funerals, and hospital and death bed visits were, it was also nice to be in those personal moments with people. Those things developed friendships and closeness, a unity that is now missing. I’m not called anymore to comfort and console.

That’s about it. The things I miss, I miss much less than the things I don’t miss. I’m glad I got out when I did. Will I ever get back in? It’s possible, but it’d have to be the right situation at the right time in the right place and I have no idea how any of that would be determined.

I was always curious what life would look like outside of pastoral ministry. I’m pleased with it. I still go to church several times a week. I still read the Bible. I still check in with people. We still have people over to the house.

It’s pretty much the same minus all the unbelievably annoying aspects of pastoral ministry. I’m grateful for that. I’ve already gotten opportunities to preach and teach at our new church, so that’s been enjoyable.

So, it’s worked out well. Thanks for reading.

Personality Driven Churches are Diseased

Pastoral Pro Tip:

If you’re going to pastor a Personality-Driven church,

It really helps if you have a personality that people don’t get sick of real quick.

A church is more than a pastor.

As I look back at the 21 years I was pastor at a church, I’ve identified this as being a prime problem.

The church I pastored was personality driven before I got there. The previous pastor ran the show. If you liked him; you stayed at the church. If you didn’t like him; you left.

I walked into this and this mindset was directed toward me. I tried getting more people involved and had limited success.

But everyone who ever left the church left because they got tired of me. If my personality is the center of a Personality-Driven church, well sir, that there church is gonna have problems.

The more people left because of me, the fewer people were left to do stuff. Toward the end I was the only person doing pretty much everything. There were three other people who bore some burdens, but in the end, it was on me to keep “it” going.

Part of the trap was that there were many aspects of being the only one doing stuff that were nice! I didn’t have to do stuff I didn’t want to do, no one cared if I quit stuff (they weren’t going to do it and probably weren’t coming anyway), I could make decisions quickly, etc.

But all the problems were also all mine. Rarely did anyone lift a finger to help me in any problem. “That’s why you get the big bucks” they would laugh and then go home not to think of church again until next Sunday.

This eventually put me in a death spiral. I really just needed some help. I asked for help. Help never came. I got some sympathy for a few weeks, but never any help. If I wanted something done, I’d have to do it, and take all the blame when it inevitably failed.

I was easy to pick on after a while. Even newcomers learned quickly you could make fun of me and disrespect me. No one would do anything. I lost all confidence.

Many pastors of Personality Driven churches become egotistical jerks. I became a self-loathing, whiny, insecure loser. Two sides of one coin.

One thing I do know is that if you are a pastor at a Personality Driven church, you’re going to get messed up.

I don’t know what the answer is. I couldn’t break the cycle. I eventually just resigned, I couldn’t figure out what else to do. I just knew if I kept going it was gonna turn ugly.

If I do pastor again, which is possible, I’m not doing it alone. I’m not walking back into a situation where everything is up to the pastor. A church that has nothing but the charisma of the Head Guy is a dysfunctional church.

You don’t want to be in a Personality Driven church. If you are, I hope you can change it. You need to. But I apologize for not having any advice in how that change might occur.

I would definitely suggest that you quit as pastor before you hurt people. The Body of Christ is not one giant ear or eyeball. It’s many members all doing their part in one Body. That’s the ideal. Lots of churches don’t want this.

If you’re in a church that doesn’t want all members doing their part, look out. That body will soon be terminally diseased. And, if you’re not careful, pastor, it’ll take you down too.

It’s Been a Year Since I Resigned from Being a Pastor.

It’s been a year and a month since I resigned from being a pastor.

I wasn’t sure how I would do outside “the ministry” since I’ve been doing it since leaving seminary in 1999.

I gotta be honest: I’m doing just fine!

I had questions about what I would do if I weren’t a pastor: Would I still go to church? Would I be able to listen to sermons? Will I love people and serve them now that I don’t get paid to do so? How will I make money?

I’m still working on that last one. We’re doing fine, haven’t exhausted our options, but it is challenging.

I do go to church. I even go to Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting. Thank you. From being a pastor I have seen how important church attendance and being part of a body of believers is to spiritual growth. Bad things happen to people when they isolate themselves from Christian fellowship. I need church.

I can listen to sermons. Yeah, it’s tough sometimes. I would have said things differently. My style is what I enjoy listening to and not everyone has my style, but that’s my problem. My style isn’t the only one. I also know how it feels to preach and get responses. I’ve relaxed tremendously.

Pretty sure I still love people and serve. I don’t get as many opportunities now that I’m not a pastor. It’s one of the things I miss. People used to call me for help. Now no one calls me for any reason. But I still make myself available and look for opportunities. The new church I’m a part of is still learning who I am and I’m still learning who they are. It takes me awhile to make friends (see my 21 years of being a pastor for why that is). But we’re warming up. I have a desire to be helpful.

It has been my honor and privilege to preach a handful of times this past year when our pastor had a medical condition that sidelined him. That was cool for me. I got to preach and didn’t have to worry about all the pastoral angles in play! That was fun. Almost too fun, but I think I kept myself in check!

The church I resigned from has done some things that have confirmed my decision to leave, which was nice, if not disappointing. I’m still in contact with some of them and continue our friendships.

All in all, life goes on as does my faith. It’s nice to know my faith continues while not being a pastor. I figured that was the case but sometimes a guy gets to wondering! It’s even crossed my mind that I could be a pastor again. Wasn’t sure that would happen! Somewhat shocking to me and somewhat disappointing to my wife.

Going into this new church and my new role in it, I’ve tried to be more positive in my head. I have a negative, pessimistic bent and it did not help my pastoral career. I want to battle that and be in this church better. Forget those things that are behind and press forward.

That being said, my whole shtick here on The Failing Pastor is to be pessimistic and negative. That’s how my humor works. So I’m debating what to do with this stuff. From the feedback I’ve received, several pastors find my experiences helpful. I hope that is the case. I want to help.

I also want to be more positive about church and the pastor role. It’s easier doing that when I’m not in it! But it’s also not as funny to me! I will survive.

So, that’s what’s been going on. Thanks for reading. I’m honored that you’re interested!

The Only Way to Cure Pastoral Depression and Pride

When I began as a pastor I was fully convinced I could fix the church that was interested in hiring me and I was convinced I could fix all the people in it.

If I had left the church after five years like most pastors do, I could have felt satisfied that I had done my job of fixing. Unfortunately, I stayed for over 20 years.

All those years showed me clearly I was pathetic at fixing churches and people.

My Grandfather was a pastor and he fixed the fourth church he went to. The first three didn’t get mentioned much. But the fourth one, like Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the fourth one stood.

He did so well fixing the church and people that he went on the road and fixed people all over America and even Canada. He flitted from town to town fixing people. He was convinced fixing people was easy and he was the man for the job.

After flitting about the country for years, he settled in to pastor one more church. He continued to claim an amazing ability to fix people. I met many of the people he fixed. Boy howdy, were they not fixed people.

My dad was also a pastor. He tried fixing three churches and had limited success. He fixed a couple people along the way too. But for the most part the churches and the people left him depressed. Especially since his father-in-law fixed people all over the country and routinely shamed my dad for his lack of fixing abilities.

My grandpa fixed people and he became a massive egotistical jerk. My dad didn’t fix people and became ashamed and depressed.

I followed in the steps of my father, except I had even less success in fixing.

My 20+ years demonstrate that I cannot fix people or churches. I write today a humiliated person. My confident knees have been knocked out from under me. I have no personal confidence with which to stand upon.

I have not been a pastor now for eight months. I’ve had plenty of time to think. Separation from the church and the people I couldn’t fix has allowed me to examine things as a spectator.

I’ve thought a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that fixing people is not the calling of a pastor.

If the pastor’s job is to fix people you will have one of two results:

1) You will fix people. This will feed your ego and you’ll become proud, above everyone, a spiritual, white bearded guru on a mountain top handing out advice from on high. You won’t weep with those who weep or rejoice with those who rejoice. You’ll just be a jerk above them all no matter their weeping or rejoicing.

2) You won’t fix people. You will examine everyone for fruit and any sign of non-growth will suck the life out of you. When the stupid people are too stupid to listen, their failure is a reflection on you. How dare they despoil your image! You’ll be depressed, but just as arrogant as the fixer; it will just show itself in pity, bitterness, and anger.

Look at how many pastors have fixed their churches, made it grow to multitudes of success. They write books and travel conference circuits, only to be fired for being a bully or for taking advantage of people.

On the flip side, pastors who couldn’t make their churches grow and could never heal the broken part of the Body are depressed. Suicide ranks high among pastors.

Trying to fix people and churches is a recipe for disaster.

Nowhere in the Pastoral Epistles or anywhere else in the Bible are we told to fix people.

The pastor’s job is to grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people. God gives the increase.

This is hard to do. Easy to say. Easy to nod your head at this advice.

But try it. Try loving people, and growing, and preaching the Word. People will still be people and you’ll be tempted to count victories and grovel in defeats.

The only way you can pastor without fixating on fixing people is to view yourself before the Lord–Doing the right thing before Him regardless of temporal results.

The only way you can have that view is if you have an eternal perspective and have laid hold of eternal life.

The only way you can do that is by seeing that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I’m identified with Christ, thus already dead to this world and alive unto God.

Pastors, know the Gospel. Identify with Christ. Reckon yourself to be dead indeed, no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you.

Earthly measures fire up the ego into either pride or pity. Ignore the world. You’re crucified unto the world and the world is crucified to you. Let it go. Set your affections on things above. Stop counting victories and defeats.

So easy to say; so hard to do, but it is the answer.

You were not called to fix people or churches. You were called to represent Christ as a minister of reconciliation. Grow in Christ, preach the Word, and love people and don’t worry about earthly measures.

You will stand before the Lord who will test with fire all you’ve built on the foundation. Earthly praise, recognition, and growing numbers do not impress God. Faithfulness to Him is what we’re here for.

Do that.