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.

Ask The Failing Pastor: Should I Take a New Church?

When my dad was in seminary he worked at a grocery store. The manager of the store promised him a full-time job and promotion after he graduated.

Instead my dad took a little, rural church in Michigan. He spent four good years there developing life-long friendships. It was a great first church. He loved them and they loved him.

So, naturally, he left.

Years later (I was 7 when we moved from there) he told me he left because, and I quote, “the church couldn’t go anywhere.” In other words, it wasn’t going to grow as it was in a town of 300 people.

My dad took two other churches before he died about 15 years ago. He struggled mightily in those churches. He had some success and again made some lasting friends, but he was broken up by those churches.

Frequently he would say, “I should have stayed at the grocery store.” Or on other days, “I should have stayed in Michigan.”

I always felt bad for him that he left a good little church for the allure of the bigger church in a bigger city. Moving up to bigger was nothing but a headache for him.

My family and I think those churches caused his early death. We have no way of knowing if this is true. Churches aren’t known to give people cancer. But stress does things to a guy.

The grass is sometimes greener on the other side of the fence, but most of the time it’s brown weeds that looked green with the right lighting.

I saw the torture my dad went through taking new churches, so I stayed at one church for 21 years before I couldn’t take it anymore.  

My dad lasted in ministry longer than I did. I think my church was killing me too, although I have not yet gotten cancer.

The bottom line is this:

If you’re a pastor, should you move and take another church or stay in one place your entire ministry?

I have no idea. More than likely either way it will suck and either way it will have some fruit.

Do what you gotta do and don’t worry about it! No matter what you do, people will judge you and find fault with your decision.

Decide things before the Lord. Don’t blame your move on the Lord though, that would be my one piece of advice. All this, “the Lord is calling me to a bigger church” stuff is just guilt-ridden justification in my occasionally humble opinion.

Be firm in your decision. Don’t make excuses. Don’t lie. Tell the church why you’re leaving. Tell the new church why you’re coming, and not some innocuous, self-righteous blather either. Be truthful why you are quitting and why you are going where you’re going.

If you start off in a new church lying and justifying, you will reap that sowing.

At the end of the day, you probably should have stayed at the grocery store job.

Top 5 things that Prepared me the Most for Pastoral Ministry

Let me begin by saying: I do not feel as though I was at all prepared for pastoral ministry. In all honesty, I don’t know that anything could have prepared me for what ended up going down.

Some like to bash on seminaries for not preparing their students. I don’t know. School rarely prepares you for doing anything. It gives you interesting information and connections, but there’s no way it can prepare you for midnight phone calls from a drunk couple, who are often involved in children’s ministry, fighting with each other.

The only thing that will prepare you for pastoral ministry is being in pastoral ministry.

All that being said, there were things I did in my earlier life that helped me the most in my pastoral role.

  1. Scripture Memorization:
    I was in Awana my entire kid life. As a pastor’s kid I was forced to complete all my Awana books to be a good example to all the heathen kids. Despite my routinely bad attitude about it, those verses have stuck in my head. I know how to memorize and verses pop in my head all the time. This is seriously the most helpful thing I did (or was done to me) to prepare me for ministry. Having verses ready at hand, stored away in there, has been amazing. And being able to accuse self-righteous Christian cliques with, “surely you are the people and wisdom will die with you,” sounds awesome and impresses anyone who has actually read Job.
  1. Being a janitor:
    Before I was a pastor I was a janitor for eight years. Cleaning up other people’s mess is humbling. Add on top of that the number of people making the mess who criticize you for not removing their mess as well as they thought it should be removed, was incredible preparation for the unbelievably ridiculous criticisms I heard as a pastor from completely messed up people! The lady who complained to me because the fluorescent lights were humming too loud and she heard voices in them, “isn’t there something you can do to quiet them?” When you are already accustomed to ridiculous complaints on a regular basis, receiving pastoral criticism is much easier. Having a destroyed ego is excellent preparation for what’s about to happen in pastoral ministry.
  1. Living in a pastor’s family:
    Without an entire life spent in a pastor’s home, how would I possibly have developed such a bad attitude about church before even beginning ministry? Nothing prepares you more for the bitterness and frustration the church will cause you than already being bitter and frustrated by church. When your expectations are already non-existent, it really helps when the results are non-existent. Tremendously preparatory.
  1. Church History:
    Knowing where people get their weirdo beliefs, because you know it ain’t from the Bible, is one of the main reasons to study Church History. About 68% of stuff people in your church believe is not actually in the Bible. If you know Church History you will not be shocked when they throw out their latest non-biblical doctrine. You will be prepared for it and perhaps even have an answer for it. There is nothing new under the sun. All the weird stuff people bring in your church has been brought into churches for two thousand years. Study Church History and very little will shock you. You will also learn that no matter how awful your church is, there were many churches that were even worse.
  1. Seminary:
    Seminary taught me the virtue of sitting around for hours listening to old people ramble about loosely biblical stuff. Pastors worth their salt spend lots of time sitting around listening to old people. Old people are great, but they are seldom as entertaining as they think they are. When you’ve heard Bonnie’s story about the toilet backup of ’79 for the thirteenth time, it’s hard to still smile. But if you’ve spent several years listening to tenured professors ramble on for hours, you are more than adequately equipped to endure, and maybe even smile.

If you’re looking to go into pastoral ministry, you’d be well served to major on these five areas of life. You’ll be as well-equipped as possible for what lies ahead, which is basically still not being equipped at all, but hey, you can at least feel a little better the first six months of being a pastor.

Ah, those glorious first six months when you have plans and ideals. People like you because they have no idea who you are or what you believe. Enjoy those first six months. Or, if you’re like me, my six months ended three months before I officially began my pastoral ministry.

In all seriousness though, there is no way you will ever be prepared for the job. My actual true advice is:

  1. Grow in Christ.
  2. Develop your prayer life.
  3. Read the Bible voraciously.
  4. Have some people somewhere who like you for you.
  5. Have outside activities or hobbies that can distract you.
  6. Spend time with old people, you’re about to do a lot of that!
  7. Learn how to ask questions and then learn to listen and remember answers.

Good luck out there! Fight the fight.

What I Learned from Living in a Pastor’s Family

I am a third-generation pastor.

My grandfather, my mom’s dad, was a pastor of several churches. One of them in the suburbs of Chicago grew tremendously. He had stuff going on every night and it was the right time in American Christianity for such things.

As his church grew his family took a back seat. He largely ignored his kids after his church took off. My mom said she knew to hide on board meeting nights because he’d come home mad and she didn’t want any wrath directed at her. Pretty much the only time she was noticed was as an example to the church.

This was during the age of the miniskirt. My grandpa enjoyed talking about grace and flaunting his non-legalism. He insisted his teenage daughter wore the shortest skirt in church. I still can’t believe how messed up that is! He also didn’t help by informing his daughter about her weight and how she looked in those miniskirts.

Meanwhile, he was developing a nation-wide radio program for marriage and family advice from a Christian perspective, a new thing at the time. He rode this wave to much notoriety and money. You better believe I picked up on the irony at a young age.

My mom married a pastor from the hills of Pennsylvania. When they got married my dad was my grandpa’s associate pastor in the thriving suburban church. My grandpa made my dad do all the annoying stuff he didn’t want to do.

My dad’s first solo church was a very small church in rural Michigan. He loved it there, but he also had a strong drive to prove himself, to move up to a bigger church, and compete with his father-in-law more or less. He specifically admitted he left that church because it couldn’t “go anywhere,” which meant it couldn’t grow huge.

He moved to a church in Wisconsin and grew the church to several hundred. He was getting closer, but he felt this church had run its course too, so he took a church in Illinois and got to work growing that one. Unfortunately he died of cancer about ten years into his time at that church.

Most of my growing up took place at the church in Wisconsin. I hated church as a kid. I was there constantly. My parents talked forever after every service. One night as a teenager I picked up my mom and carried her to the car so she would leave and get me home.

My life was more or less spent living for my dad’s church. My dad was a nice guy. He’d do anything for anyone, and I often joined him. He bent over trying to please the craziest of people. In the end, after all that effort and patience, the people would still get ticked off and leave.

A pastor’s unhealthy motivation for ministry will be felt by the pastor’s family.

I saw example after example in my life and my mom’s life of how church was more important than family. The pain our family had because of church. The sacrifices I was forced to make, that I did not volunteer for, really burned me. When I left for college I didn’t go to church for several years.

I was willing to sacrifice some things for the church as a kid, I got it, it was part of the job. But man was I forced to give up way more than I think was right and healthy.

It is only by the grace of God and several godly people in those various churches that I am even in a church today. I saw glimpses of what it could be and that keeps me hopeful.

Pastoral ministry is a strange job. I don’t know that many come out of it with healthy family relationships, which is ironic, since having healthy family relationships is a qualification for ministry according to 1 Timothy 3:4-5!

People often trot out Jesus’ words about hating mother and father, and wife and children to follow Christ as a justification for pastors ignoring their family for their church. I don’t think that’s what Jesus was talking about at all.

If your family relationships are struggling, you’re not doing ministry right. According to Paul, you shouldn’t be in ministry.

Much pastor family tension arises over forcing the family to live up to the human standards placed on them by a church. This destroys kids’ souls when forced to do this. My parents constantly made my sister and I perform for the church. We were examples for other families. We couldn’t just have our friends at our birthday parties; we had to invite every single kid in the church lest someone at church find out their kid wasn’t invited to the pastor’s kid’s party and leave the church.

My entire childhood was dictated by our appearance before the church. Don’t do that to your kids. They are not showpieces, they are not examples; they are people with souls who happen to be your kids.

Pastors: protect your kids from the church. If you have to leave ministry to guarantee your kids will not hate Christianity, please do so. The eternal weight of your kid’s souls will be far more important to you on Judgment Day than whether you kept the Robinson family happy for one more month.

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.

An Update on My Non-Pastoral Life

It’s been six months since I resigned from being a pastor. I have enjoyed it! We began attending a new church back in December and I have enjoyed not being in charge of it!

I have long desired to simply go to church and be edified, to not have to do anything for a while. To sit and take it in. To be friendly to people simply from being friendly not out of professional duty. To go home afterwards and not beat myself up the rest of the day for all the poor encounters, or things I forgot to say in my sermon, or dumb stuff I did say.

It’s been magical! I have felt no burden in relationship to church for the first time in 21 years.

Several weeks after attending our new church I met with the pastor. I knew him before, we are pretty close doctrinally, which is why I went to his church.

In the course of our meeting he asked me if I would ever be willing to preach for him if illness or other things popped up.

I know how nice it is to have people who can fill in for you, even if they never do, it’s nice to know they could. Gives a pastor some relief to know being gone is ok. I said, “sure.” Why not? What are the odds?

Well, the odds were pretty good.

Our pastor is in the hospital in pretty rough shape. He has several physical conditions that are acting up, some of which were kicked off by a bout with Covid.

Even after he recovers he will need heart surgery. He’s going to be out quite a while. I preached last Sunday for the first time there. The board is now asking to meet with me next week to set up a long term arrangement to fill in.

Part of me is sad because I feel for my pastor. He’s a good guy. He’s going through a lot and it’s putting his family through a lot. This is no fun for any of them.

Part of me is scared because when I resigned I told my wife I would never pastor again unless it fell into my lap. Not that I’m going to be the pastor there, but I’m getting drawn back in. A pastoral role of one sort or another appears to be falling in my lap. This terrifies me.

Part of me is excited because I love preaching. I also told my wife that even if I were never a pastor again, I would be involved in a church and I’d love to preach some. I’m surprised it happened this quickly, but I look forward to the opportunity to proclaim God’s word.

I’m endeavoring to not make this all about me. Our pastor and our church are hurting. This is a thing I can do to help both. I want to do my best before the Lord in this opportunity.

This is not how I saw things going, nor would it ever be how I’d want things to go. But it is how it’s gone and here I am. I’d appreciate your prayers in figuring out how to handle all of this.

How to be a Successful Failing Pastor

In my first year of pastoring I knew everything.

The church doubled in size and we had to add chairs to fit the crowd one Sunday.

People came to me for counseling.

I was someone!

Fortunately, all these things ended real quick.

It began when I realized I had no idea what I was preaching about. I was toeing the party line, going along with the church’s doctrine and slowly realized that it wasn’t entirely consistent with the Bible.

This put me in a conundrum. Here I thought I knew everything and all of a sudden I realized I didn’t know anything. Even I wasn’t buying my arguments for what I was preaching.

I began expressing in my sermons some of my doubts and questions about the standard doctrine. This caused people to get mad at me and leave the church.

As people leave, people who don’t know much assume others must know something, so then a leaving trend slowly begins. People stopped coming to me for counsel, look at how he shipwrecked the church, what can he possibly know?

There was a stretch of time when we didn’t break 20 people a Sunday for months. We didn’t even bother setting up all the chairs let alone adding more.

This was a brutal thing to live through. I can’t tell you how brutal it was on me. I was shattered in many ways. I wish I could tell you it all turned around once I learned the Magic Lesson that Unlocked the Church’s Potential, one I’ll sell to you for $49.95!

But no, the church never recovered.

But in hindsight I thank God it happened like this! If I had continued to preach the church’s established doctrine, which was in error, and the church continued to flourish, who knows where I’d have ended up.

People fear failure, but I gotta be honest, from what I’ve seen with pastors in churches, success seems to be as, or maybe even more damaging than failure.

Success goes to your head. Arrogance creates abuse, power trips, flippancy, gathering “yes men” who do your bidding, and all manner of weird stuff.

There are very few people equipped to handle success. I would not have been one of them.

In fairness, I sucked pretty bad at handling failure too! I’m perhaps equipped for mediocrity!

The Bible says a couple times that humility goes before glory. If your glory comes first, don’t be shocked when humility follows. Take heed you who stand, a fall might be coming.

Take heart failing pastors! Success might be the worst possible thing that could happen to you!