The Preacher’s Dilemma: How Much Me is too Much Me?

As a preacher, I’m a one hit wonder. Once I preach, people wonder what I meant and then one guy hits me.
@FailingPastor

 

 

Preaching is hard.

Preaching carries weight with it. It’s not like giving a speech in speech class. Souls are on the line. Heresy is around every verbal bend. You can destroy people’s souls by saying something the wrong way. Not to mention giving an account before God someday for how I represented Him and His word.

Besides personal accountability, you also want to be understood. There’s no point in talking if people have no idea what you said. Tons of books have been written about preaching and effective communication. But there are pitfalls here. Paul says not to use words of human wisdom and smooth talk. We’re not selling something. We bring words of eternal life.

Many pastors decide to be boring. If we’re boring enough then anyone who hears what we say is proof it was God at work.

Others try to be as persuasive as possible, using all manner of salesmanship and personability. By any means necessary, trick them into getting saved by your rhetorical mastery.

Some use humor and entertainment.

I’m a funny guy. No really, I’m serious, I’m funny.

I can do a standup routing every sermon. I have that ability. I’ve done it several times. It feels good and people do enjoy it and hear what I’m saying. But does it convey scriptural truth, or am I just entertaining? Do people go away rejoicing in the Lord or celebrating my comedic genius? Do they remember the Scripture or just my clever illustration?

Pastors have to wrestle with this tension.

Continue reading “The Preacher’s Dilemma: How Much Me is too Much Me?”

When the Pastor’s Family Avoids the Pastor’s Church

When you’re a pastor and your family comes to visit,
but once again makes excuses why they can’t stay for church.

Or is that just me?
@FailingPastor

 

 

“I think we’ll leave before church,” my mom said. “We want to get home before midnight.”

Here’s the thing: my parents live about five hours away and my church ends at 11am. Unless they stop for food for eight hours, there is no possible way they would get home after midnight.

My parents have been to my church one time together, and that was within the first months of me preaching here. Since then one of them has been to a Sunday morning service three times.

This would make sense if my parents were atheists or Mormons or something, but no. My parents are not only long-time Christian folk, we are all in the same denominational affiliation. But they won’t come to my church.

But that’s not all. My wife’s parents have been to my church twice. And, also, just so we’re clear on timeframe, I’ve been a pastor for about 20 years now. In twenty years they’ve been to two church services.

This used to really bother me. It still kind of hurts. At the same time, now it’s more a game for my wife and I to make bets about when they will leave and what the excuse will be this time. Oh, and by the way, all of our parents are currently retired. It’s not like they have anything they need to get back home for.

Nope, they just don’t want to come to my church.

I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. It could just be me. It could be the content of my messages or my delivery or my humor. It might just be the annoyance of listening to the punk kid preach at ya. I get it. I see why that would be hard. But here’s the other thing: my brother in-law is a pastor and my in-laws go to his church multiple times a year. They know people on a first name basis in his church, while knowing no one from our church. And he’s only been at his church for three years. So it has to be more than just a kid preaching.

I’m always told the verse “the prophet is without honor in his home town.” That would make sense except for my brother-in-law shoots that theory to pieces. It depends who the prophet is I guess.

Perhaps my church is the culprit. We’re not a typical church. We don’t have fancy programs and buildings and decor. We don’t have a praise team and largely avoid contemporary music. I know there are worship preferences at play. But I’m your son!

Does it really pain them so much that they can’t endure my church for one hour a year? Apparently. I had no idea how painful my ministry could be to relatives.

I threw this tweet out there to see if other pastors had this experience. Sure enough, quite a few did. One guy said his parents couldn’t make it to his church because his dad had to get home in time to put the garbage out. He says his parents live four hours away.

I’m not the only one who puts up with this. My dad, who used to be a pastor, used to complain that his parents and in-laws never listened to his preaching. Funny how he is annoyed with his family on that but that’s still not enough to get him into my church.

Ministry is hard enough, but to get rejection from your family over it is completely unhelpful. You don’t hear about this sort of problem addressed at fancy pastor conferences or in pastoral ministry books. But this is a deal.

I’m a grown man. I don’t need my mommy’s approval. But it would be nice to know there’s some support out there somewhere. Many Sundays I have gotten hurt by people in my church and it would be nice to call a parent and unload a bit, but I can’t. It’s a layer of comfort and support that does not exist. I don’t know how much difference it would make, how could I? I have never had it. Having that underlying subconscious thought in your head that “even my family thinks I suck at this” sure doesn’t help though.

Anyway, I’m just stating a fact of pastoral ministry I’ve never heard dealt with before. I’m not sure what the answer is. I’m also not sure what would be worse: having my family stay away from my church or having them in it!

 

 

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.  And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
–Luke 14:26-27

Being Intentional About Not Using the Word Intentional

THEM: Evangelism should be intentional.

ME: Yes, the curse of accidental evangelism must be stopped immediately!
@FailingPastor

 

 

I am not a hip or cool pastor. I doubt “hip” and “cool” are even words “hip and cool” pastors use anymore. I don’t even try. Cool is subjective. Too many cool people look stupid to me. I don’t trust “cool.” It shifts with the tides of human esteem.

One of the ways people know I’m not cool is by looking at me. If that doesn’t do it, then listen to me.

I avoid cool words like the plague. Cool words like “intentional.” Just the sound of it makes me want to barf. I’m amazed I was able to type that without puking on my keyboard. Massive levels of restraint here; I have my body under subjection.

Intentional means “to do something deliberately, on purpose.” The antonym is “accidental.” I looked this up in a dictionary, because of that whole “I’m not cool” thing I was talking about earlier.

So, here’s my question: who are these people who are doing accidental evangelism? Furthermore, please explain, with as many small words as possible, why these people must be suppressed?

I’m totally cool with people doing accidental evangelism. There’s a chance it’s way more effective than your pre-planned, cookie-cutter, intentional approach.

I know, I’m just being an old curmudgeon, an old curmudgeon, by the way, who is not cool. But still, I will raise my point and scold all you young, hip guys that words mean things and we should be careful.

I was once told that pastors need to be “thought leaders.” As opposed to Feeling Followers I suppose. Am I leading other people’s thoughts? Isn’t that typically referred to as “brainwashing?” I don’t want to be in charge of people’s thoughts. I want people to have the mind of Christ.

Continue reading “Being Intentional About Not Using the Word Intentional”

Why Church Hopping Exists

Our new Church Motto:
If you didn’t like your old church, you won’t like this one either. Go away.
@FailingPastor

 

 

An older man told me he’s left every church he’s been involved with because of conflict with leadership. Imagine my surprise when he left my church over a problem with me.

Another guy who left my church in the rudest way anyone has, later got kicked out of, yes “kicked out of,” the next church he went to.

A family left my church because they disagreed with pretty much everything we did. The wife decided to go to school to be a pastor. Now she can run a church right.

I was told that one family who left my church has also left every church in town. All the pastors know them, as they all were their pastor at one point.

One couple, who attends my church about six-months at a time, constantly bounces in and out of churches six-months at a time, trying all the new pastors as they come in. They never settle anywhere.

The majority of people who have left my church haven’t joined another church. I believe this will work out well for the church, but be a complete disaster for them personally.

When you’ve been a pastor long enough you get used to people coming and going. Sometimes you know why; sometimes you don’t. But news travels. I end up hearing what they are up to after they leave. Based on the later stories and interactions, I understand more why they left and most of the time, it wasn’t our church; it was just troubled people having troubles with everything.

When people leave my church, I try not to take it personally. I feel bad for them, most of them go on to prove they have deep spiritual issues that need dealing with. Some do hurt the church. Some hurt me deeply. Some are misunderstandings and personality conflicts that make me wonder if I should still be a pastor. Others just make sense.

“There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people,” is the cute cliché that’s supposed to make us feel better about our ineptitude. There is a point to be made there, but I still think churches can be better.

Hopping around until you find one that already meets all your requirements, will not only frustrate you, it won’t help any church.

There is much irony in pastors complaining about church-hoppers when pastors stay at a church for four years on average. Perhaps people are just following our lead? Dedicate yourself to a church.

Churches are not commodities to be weighed and compared and priced. The church is a family. You’re not supposed to ditch your family for a better one. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where ditching your family for another one is no longer taboo.

The church is a body. When one member hurts, all members hurt. We do our part collectively to keep the whole body strong. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where most of us are overweight and lazy. We don’t take care of problems, we just get them medically treated or covered up. Easier to buy a drug than maintain disciplined diet and exercise.

The church is like a building. It’s made to last, to weather the storm, and provide shelter and comfort for years. Of course, this illustration doesn’t make much sense in our culture where people move and we ditch old parts of town for new houses on the outskirts.

So, yeah, none of the illustrations for church make much sense anymore. It should not shock you that people are not loyal to your church. Grass tends to be greener in other fields. Other pastors are always better than the one you have.

I don’t let people leave without checking in on them. It saddens me to see the state of the church today, but more so to see the state of people who leave churches all the time. These are hurting people and the church is hurting right along with them.

 

 

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
–Ephesians 4:15-16

Being Offended at Church Skippers

Sometimes, when people tell me they won’t be at church cuz they’re going camping,

I pray for rain.
@FailingPastor

 

 

I have a very small church. When people are gone you can definitely tell. I try not to guilt people into coming to church. I’ve fought very hard to avoid this. I want people to come because they want to be there.

Unfortunately, I know that the only people who are there are the only ones who want to be there.

I understand having to be out of town and going on vacation. I do, I really do. I don’t begrudge people missing a Sunday here and there.

But there’s still this thing in me, this part that is stabbed in the back whenever people miss church. I admit that I take it personally.

I try not to. I can’t tell you how hard I try not to take it personally. I would strongly encourage any pastor out there to not take it personally when people miss.

But in all honesty, I have no idea how not to do that.

Continue reading “Being Offended at Church Skippers”

The Church Is A Giant Mission Field

1ST YEAR PASTOR: I will win this city for Jesus!

10TH YEAR PASTOR: I’m pretty concerned about the people in my church at this point.
@FailingPastor

 

 

In one of my first board meetings I led as a pastor, I laid out my plan to build our church. I was going to start satellite churches in small towns near us. I’d have a school and I’d be the principal. I was going to take over the city for Jesus.

I came with the assumption that people in my church were saved, intelligent, well-informed, and ready to serve the Lord, all they needed was visionary leadership.

After several years I began worrying about the salvation of some of the people in my church. A couple years after that, I was worried if anyone was saved. A couple years later, I wasn’t even sure I was saved.

I wonder if I’m the only pastor who thinks he got saved years after starting his pastor job?

Continue reading “The Church Is A Giant Mission Field”