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Monday, July 25, 2005

The Pastor and Atrophy: Coasting on the Past

Whychurchesdie_1 Last week, I gave an invitation for all of you to join me as I read through a new book that I think will be very intersting.  It's called Why Churches Die:  Diagnosing Lethal Poisons in the Body of Christ by Mac Brunson and Ergun Caner.  Chapter one is subtitled:  "Extending the Right Fist of Fellowship".  Many of you wrote to say that you had ordered the book and were 'in' for some study and conversation together.  So today we start with Chapter 2 and discuss one of the reasons that churches are dying:  Pastor Atrophy and the easiness of coasting on our past victories and experiences.  This is a rather long introduction story, but it helps set the state for what we'll discuss at the blog this week.  Mac and Ergun write:

Following his graduation from seminary, Steve had his choice of churches that were clamoring for his leadership.  As a result, Steve moved nine times in twenty years.  Each move brought him closer and closer to his dream of a megachurch, with thousands of people in attendance and all the amenities that went along with it.

Please do not assume that Steve was just a stereotypical "climber" who had no spiritual inclinations.  Indeed, in his earliest pastorates, Steve had genuinely desired to see God move among the people he served.  Revivals, special services, and innovative ideas certainly bespoke his desire.  It is just that in each ensuing move, it became easier for Steve to "coast."  Many of the sermons that had inspired the people in his earlier churches began to creep into his new churches.  Methods that had seemed innovative and fresh when Steve first implemented them in those smaller congregations began to become "old hat" to him now.  At times, Steve's wife and children worried that he was on "auto-pilot," cruising along with methods and messages he could do in his sleep.

Added to this pattern was the fact that no pastor can establish lasting relationships in just two years, which was the average of his pastoral tenures.  Just as soon as Steve's family had begun to form friendships in one area, the family was moving again to take a larger church.  Once, in a moment of frustration, Steves wife muttered that the most lasting relationship she had established was with the moving company!

At the age of forty-five, Steve was poised to achieve his dream.  A ministerial friend had recommended him to one of the largest churches in a neighboring state.  Along with the glowing reviews of his seminary friends, Steve felt he was certain to be called.  To ensure he had a final recommendation, Steve called on a prominent pastor who had served as a mentor in Steve's early years.  This minister was universally beloved, and his recommendation would move Steve to the top of the search committee's list.

Placing a phone call on a bright Monday morning, Steve cheerily greeted his pastor-mentor with the news that the committee from the well-known church was going to be calling for a recommendation.

"Of course, you are my first reference,"  Steve said, "because you have known me for the longest period of time." 

During the opening pleasantries, Steve casually mentioned the attendance at his present church and the various denominational positions to which he had been appointed recently.  "It seems that after twenty years of pastoring," Steve concluded, "I am about to enter the big leagues, like you.  Are you ready for the phone call?"

Steve was a bit bewildered at the silence that followed his last sentence.  It was more than just a pause, he thought.  It was a pregnant pause, which often came when a person was thinking of the right words to say something difficult.  Why was his hero taking so long to answer?  Was this man's advanced age finally catching up to him?

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Steve, his mentor spoke slowly, with the words coming with the strength of a resolve that must have been building for some time.

"Steve," he bagan, "I love you like a son, so this is not easy for me."

Steve sat in stunned silence as he sensed a rebuke coming. 

"But I cannot recomment you to this church.  I have heard the same rumors about your name being in consideration there, and I knew the time would come when you would ask me to recommend you, but I cannot."

Steve thought for a minute, and then spoke.

"Is there something wrong with the church?" he asked quizzically.  Steve had heard that churches of this size could often be cauldrons of impious leadership.  "Is the church much too big for its own good?  Does it have big problems?"

"No," the pastor said slowly.  "It is not too big.  In fact, it is one of the best churches I know.  The fact is, Steve, that you are too small for the church.  I hate to say this, but you are not ready for this church."

Steve could not believe what he was hearing.  Not ready?  He had been preparing for this move his entire life!

"Pastor, I cannot believe you think I am not ready.  I have been pastoring for twenty years."

Before Steve could finish his thought, the pastor interrupted him.

"No, Steve, you haven't, he said gently.  "You haven't pastored for twenty years.  You have pastured for two years, ten times."

The wise elder paused to let the words sink in.

"You have never established yourself anywhere, Steve.  Everytime a bigger opportunity comes along, your ambition gets the best of you, and you jump.  Consequently, you have never really built anything.  You always come to a location where another man has poured himself into the work.  You are like the guy who sits on the bench an entire basketball game, and then comes in during the final two minutes, makes one or two passes, and then screams, 'We won!'  You didn't win anything.  You have coasted for twenty years on other men's sweat and labor."

Steve sat at his desk, shocked an numb.  Feebly, he asked, "How can you say that, Pastor?"  He felt all of his aspirations and dreams slipping away, and a cold, gnawing pain developing in the pit of his stomach.

"Son," the senior pastor said slowly, "you are preaching the same sermons now that you were preaching fifteen years ago.  The only things that have changed are the illustrations.  You are doing the same programs, making the same points, and following the same protocols that you did when we served in neighboring churches so many years ago.

"This church would eat you live if you went there," the pastor continued.  "Your spiritual muscles haven't been tested in over a decade, and you just can't coast in a church like this.  You have to be ready for such a challenge, and you just are not.

"As soon as a problem arises at this church, you will do what you always do-- begin to look for a 'bigger and better' thing than this church.  The thing is, there is no 'bigger and better' thing than this church.  You will become frustrated and overwhelmed.  You have coasted on your talents for too long, and you have allowed your abilities as a natural speaker to get in the way of true, God-send victories."

Steve sat still and silent, with the phone barely touching his ear.  Tears trickled down his cheek as he muttered a hollow benediction to the phone call, and he weakly hung up the receiver.  At first, his natural instinct was to react with anger.  Surely this man had betrayed him.  Surely he had a right to cross him off his references and chalk it up to senility.

But Steve knew better... Slowly, the realization came over Steve like a bad case of the flu -- he was suffering from the Isaac Syndrom.  Steve was coasting on yesterday's victories.  He had not tried anything new or fresh in years.  He was suffering from spiritual atrophy, and he knew it, deep within his heart.

---

So... this is how the authors introduce the first thing they say is contributing to dying churches.  And, much to our surprise, this one has to do with pastors.  :)

Have you ever fallen into the trap of Pastor Steve in this story?  Isn't it easy to coast?  Isn't it easy to move on to something better?  I think this is a problem that most all of us have faced at one time or another. 

In the book, the authors talk about Isaac and his case of Spiritual Atrophy; and they also look at how Noah, Elijah, and Caleb dealth with this problem as well.

FOR DISCUSSION:  Have you ever dealth with spiritual atrophy?  Tell us about it?  How did you turn the tables?  (and, for those who are ready this book... what else really stood out to you from chapter 2?)

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July 25, 2005 in Leadership Issues, Senior Pastors, SPECIAL: Why Churches Die | Permalink

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Yes!I know about spiritual atrophy? For regardless of one's skills or talents there can comes that moment in one's life when that which you want is not obtained. And or you can start resting on your awards. Or even can even stop investing the time doing the soul seaching that is required and necessary neede to rightly divide the Word anew because your old messages have that kick in them.

The communities we as pastors/ clergy / laity live in are worldly places. In the
" hood " let us say, we each have our ambiti1ons , our aspirations and our dreams. Also each of us have to deal with the fact that " baby needs a new pair of shoes" and who among us likes rejection and which one of us enjoys daiiy dealing with the challenges that are before us.

Yet the good news is that spiritual atrophy is not the end all in and of it self. For the believe, after going through the ego trip, there is an answer. The question is are we ready to pay the price that must be paid. For myself I had to come out from behind my castle walks and walk among the people. For it is a very different world when one has an ambition in reference to a new appointment or a promotion and you see someone who would be happy with less to nothing because that would be more than they have. Some how when you humble yourself before God, getting away from those meetings where your brothers make statements like; "Did you preach it on Sunday" and you stand in the shoes of those in need, you can be lifted up from yesterday's victories and placed down in the valley of the " Now ". There in the valley it is not about selection but election, it is not about what man giveth but what God has ordained. And as one called on to be a voice and a servant, it is in the valley or in the alley or in nusring home or the half way house,or with the man or women that has been raped realization comes that one's biggest opportunity is in serving the Master.

In closing let me say this, having a small group of people, prayer warriors and mentors who can tell you like it is and who can feed you fresh spiriutal food is vital.

Posted by: Rev. Harold E. Palmer Jr. | Jul 25, 2005 1:10:59 PM

Yes! I have had it! I left a church plant endeavor after 3 years. I was the second Pastor after the first one was there for 4 years. I came in to a mess, after leaving a stable student ministry, tenure of almost 10 years and a great staff setting. I thought, bad thought that many in the church plant wanted to reach people. Not true... they wanted a feeding frenzy every weekend. Now, after leaving that position--I have nada, diddly, zero. I can't get a shot at jack. Why? Because the church failed? What a joke. Why can't I go back to Student min.? Because I left it. Nobody wants to hire me back.

But after 18 months of searching-- I quit! That’s right, if God doesn’t want me...+ I have interviewed with so many dysfunctional places... they don't have the cash, they don't have the job worked into budget, they want Bill Hybels, or Rich Warren, they want a program... on and on and on. I have finished after almost 20 years of ministry. I will leave the "paid" ministry deal and find a job in the market place. I tried... it has been very hard to leave this old friend... but it seems that this old friend isn't interested anymore. I finally got it. Greener pastures? I doubt it.

As the great singer/writer Bob Seger puts it "I could head east, I could head west, but it's all up for me to decide." I'm rolling away... the ministry door as a profession is closed.

I have never been one to coast, I have tried to bring newness to every ministry I have worked with, and in truth, and it’s the people of God that are like dry friggen bones. But, hey, if people still place this false sense of leadership towards it leader, you know, lead us with truth-- our way, who wouldn’t dry up? Ministry is becoming more like "give people what they want keep them fat and happy" and collect the pay. No thanks!!!!!

See ya on the other side.

Don


Posted by: Don Solin | Jul 25, 2005 1:24:22 PM

Great beginning point for this book discussion. How many times do we, as ministry leaders, point to everyone else as the reason ministry goals aren't coming to fruition? The beginning point is to look at myself.

I think the mentor probably saved the "young buck" a trip to the wood shed with his truthful words on the phone. I've got people like that in my life and encourage everyone in leadership to have at least one other person who is unimpressed with your ability/gifts.

If Rick and Bill had people like that, they probably wouldn't be the success-driven ego-maniacle, humanists that they are today...sorry, I just couldn't resist it...

Posted by: matt | Jul 25, 2005 2:06:11 PM

I can't say that I've ever had spiritual atrophy as a pastor, although I've had it as a layperson. I think all Christians have a tendency where they tend to coast for a "season" or two, although some manage to overcome through the power of the Holy Spirit.

But I have seen coasting pastors -- confused in a life struggle, marking time until retirement, putting more effort into getting into a bigger church -- and so I know it's a problem.

But at the same time, it's a problem with chruches as a whole. I could take a short drive to any number of churches who are coasting; living off their legacies. I think this can be more dangerous because it takes more than just a pastor or a couple of laypeople to get a church off it's collective duff and back into spiritual action.

Posted by: rev-ed | Jul 25, 2005 3:20:17 PM

While it might be true for guy looking, that he was "stuck" or just "going" through the motions, and in deed maybe a "new" perspective on ministry. There are those of us that have re- re educated, have learned new approaches, have re thought ministry and have decided that many on the "inside" just don't want an out of the box thinker, doer. Thats right! What people like myself are coming to grips with is that the "church" wants someone that "does it thier way"-- or "our way" but the desert brings fresh ideas, fresh motives and fresh points of view-- the problem-- who is willing to give the desert dwellers the shot? Who wants to take the person that has come to terms with ministry for what it is? The paid watchman. The one paid to lead people to the real Shepherd. Who wants the Biblically sound guy, that has paid his dues, enterened into the desert, found the desert to be a great teacher? Who want him? I'll tell you this: The desert person will not go back to the same old same old again. No way! The desert dweller will not go back to doing church the same old-- worship + sermon = o.k., nominal church. No, the desert dweller will come out of the desert either ready to lead-- renewed, and trusting God or find the place that is ready and has spent time in the desert also. I don't believe that the man is the only person that needs to be taken to the shed or desert if you will... some churches need to face the truth.... the desert they are in is due to thier own, old dried up view of what leadership is or isn't.

Posted by: Don Solin | Jul 25, 2005 3:36:28 PM

I can not say I have every experienced this, but I do know fustration in ministry. I have never pastored a church, yet it is my desire. I don't believe that I am so idealist as to think that I can will every soul to christ, however I do know this one thing, I got to tell somebody about the GOODNESS OF THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! in reference to Don's comment, I am praying for you brother. When I think about all that God has done for me, I can't shut up and dry up. If you are in it for the money, you are in the wrong business. Personally with thoughts like that I would have to search myself to see if God really did call me. You see some were called and some were sent.....but some just got up and went. Be blessed today.

Posted by: Rev. B. D. Lewis | Jul 25, 2005 4:41:05 PM

Ah my friend-- wait till you have a fanily...wait till you have the gray hairs telling you what to do. Will you do it thier way? Will you sacrafice integrity and your household income for the majority. It is not as simple as you think. Beleive me-- I have never been in ministry for the money-- what money? Really? Money. Please! Serving? Yes. For a salary? Yes. That what the watchman is paid to do. That why there are budgets. Now, who are you going to work for? The church? That is not right. The people? That is not right either. The Lord? Now that is right. Let me remind you that His work on the cross was very expensive. While I am not advocating working for tons of money... dog gone it, if you are going to hire someone-- check out what the scriptures say about that. Lots, and its no freebie.

I'm say this my friend. I have almost 20 years of experience, a degree in ministry, a great family, wife and 2 great kids...I'm not in this for nothing. I'm not in it either to apease the gods, nor am I in this for the applause of men. Nope. This is God's deal. If there is a next place-- so be it. I am called, I am all about lost people, I am not about doing ministry for any other reason than that. You might want to be the one that is called and went-- that is awesome! It is the same for the one that is called and counts the cost and goes also-- you can try and spirtualize that all you want... I just don't buy that any more...There are now 4 mouths to feed. Better to ask why churches pay pastors in the first place?

Don

Posted by: Don Solin | Jul 25, 2005 5:10:43 PM

One last little diddy.......

On the flip side of all this-- the pastor that has dried up, is in the desert and lands a new place even though he is still dried up... now who's in it for the money? I have heard so much mumbo jumbo about "being called" when in truth, to the guy mentioned above-- its just another job that he can get stoked about again, then in 2 years-- that dried up feeling is back. Oh, I am glad I'm letting go... I am glad that I have quit the search. I am glad that I have settled this... I won't play the "spiritual" verbage game-- I never have, and I will not now-- ministry ultimately is God's deal... right now, I'm going to ride the bench, and see what else there is. Yepper, I might be a little bruised by all this, I might be a little let down, but I have had some great years doing it-- It really is hard letting go of something that has been awesome, but, not going back ultimately still is God's deal. I know plenty of guys out right now-- they weren't in it for the money, they weren't in it for any other reason than they beleived God had called them... for some bigger reason-- we are out for now.

Posted by: Don Solin | Jul 25, 2005 5:29:11 PM

In my heart, I know, what Don is saying is what my mind is thinking. I am afraid to admit that I am so bruised from my last church that I can barely feel my soul. When I read the article this morning it hit me like a ton of brick. Having just left a ministry after two years, I felt the “two year” thing was more then just a “coincidence.” So, I took some inventory today, looked inside, and tried to see if what this man was saying was me. Came to this conclusion: “I have failed in ministry because I just won’t settle.” I won’t settle for sitting back and not reach out, not be innovative, not be excited about Christ. The very things this man said I should be in the article, I am, and you know what – it has been the cause of my downfall in ministry.

I won’t settle for sit-in-the-pew Christianity! I left a church who said big words about wanting to “reach the lost” yet all they wanted to do was coast, the problem was after I got there I realized that they didn’t even have any past “victories” to coast on! But again, I wasn’t forced to Go there. I went under my own free will, I/we thought we could help out, we thought we could make a difference, we thought we would be at least given a fighting chance.

So, I left, and now I am back teaching school. The only real ministry fruit I have ever seen is when I work with young people, so I have hung up my “collar.” If an opportunity does come up in the future, - I will not leave my current position because they “seem nice” or they “seem friendly” I will ask so many %$#*& questions that I know for sure they are the place I would be willing to pastor. Get this – next time I am doing the interviewing to see if they are worthy of my gifts and talents!

Posted by: Al | Jul 25, 2005 7:19:29 PM

To Al and Don,
Just so you know, I've paid my dues. I left business at age 36 and went to seminary. I've seen my salary go from 6 digits to 0 and from the 50's to low 20's as I have moved in ministry to respond to the Lord's call. I've been on staff of a mega-church and pastored a very small church where i got eaten alive.
I could have easily quit ministry a number of times. But I wasn't given a choice as far as I could see. I do believe in being called and staying the coursed even in the hardest of times--and I would compare my "hard" times with anyone"s!!
I found an out and it has been awesome. i started a church. Flat out just planted it in our last location because my wife didn't want to move again and I didn't know what else to do.
We have been going for 14 years this week. I waited on tables for 3 years while the church grew enough to support my family. I am 58 now and have never been more alive in ministry. We run a homeless shelter, a thrift store, give tens of thousands of dollars to the needy in our community each year, and we are starting a new hispanic church this month. There isn't enough room to tell you all we do. I am never at a loss for what to preach as there is a freshness to my spiritual life that matches the church's.
Instead of quitting or blaming "them", why not start something that can mirror your vision of what a church should be. I get to lead about 100 people to the Lord each year and our congregation is over 50% previously unchurched.
(PS, we do this in a small town of only 8,000)
There is life after the desert, my brothers.

Posted by: mike | Jul 25, 2005 8:00:55 PM

Al-- way to say it! I commend your honesty and desire to do what is right in spite of the verbage. I think, while many, many, many ministry want to do right, many can't because it is tooooo friggen hard to tell the truth to the people that either run the church or pay the bills. People love the comfortable. The people of God love the #'s, the prestige... all the stuff--- but, the gap between the church and the real world, or real people is getting wider and wider. You know, some "spiritual" people like it that way. Speak our language, talk our talk, be clones like us and you can belong. Be conservative, right wing politically and you can belong... Preach our "expository stuff we love to hear and do nothing with. Help us get fat with the Word-- but do not challenges us to love people, reach people, care for people. No! Just make us happy. Keep us codependent on the wrong stuff. Like knowledge and external appearances and all the junk. Do not give us praxis....no! They don’t want practical theologians that want to press them and help them into new wine skins, they would rather strain at the gnats they have been staining at for years. That is spiritual for most. That is Christianity in America. Watch the world implode and be arrogant enough to never even weep about what we could have done or should have done. Please! Oh then, as the leaders, we are supposed to look at ourselves, find what is wrong with us….they’ll just hire another guy to preach, and over and over and over the sick cycle goes. By the way, how much more preaching to christians about the great commission? Really. How much more wwjd do we need? How much more?

The church needs to wake up.

Way to go Al. Be of cheer man-- out there has its benefits.

Don

Posted by: Don Solin | Jul 25, 2005 8:43:37 PM

Mike....

Reading your comments was great for sure...
I had a big gun tell me once that only 4% of churches are healthy... so live with it. Well, no thanks! I am glad that you had the zingers to hang in there and do the thing right. I am really glad that God has used you and your vision to do a great thing! Really! Very good and very exciting indeed. For now, I will continue to let go-- and see if He restores the dream. If not, I am at peace with that also. I will stay in my town here and do ministry, but not from the usual...

Don

Posted by: Don Solin | Jul 25, 2005 9:00:15 PM

Mike,

You said: "There is life after the desert, my brothers."

Your not getting my point, I am not in the desert any longer! I left it about a month ago... For the first time in 2 years I am finally beginning to exhale, I am finally beginning to see a “real” future ahead of me, beyond the pain. But the first step is honesty looking at where I have been! Don’t rebuke my honesty, I could have written something flowery and religious, but I choose to open my heart to share with my fellow brothers and sisters my heart.

And while my life isn’t lived blaming others - whether you want to believe it or not, sometimes it is about “them.” :(

Now, the interesting thing about your ministry that I can learn from, is this, you are ministering to people who really need help! They know their need and when people recognize their need, helping them is a very great joy! Continue on brother! God is going to use Don and I, it just won’t be in front of pew sitters, our lives are to short to waist any more time on the “satisfied.”

Peace,
Al

Posted by: Al | Jul 25, 2005 11:08:03 PM

This comment is for Don and myself. Don I know a little of how you feel. Discouraged, rejected and even a bit used up and thrown away. I was in a vibrant, alive ministry for ten years and the Sr. Pastor left and a new one came on. Our church was around 1,200 to 1,300. The new pastor came from a church of a 100 stayed and frozen seniors. Good people, don't get me wrong. But you wouldn't find a youth group in the samll church. My point is the new Sr. Pastor was too small for our church. He was in over his head and "I" dried up because I couldn't jump start him to get into the 21st century. In order to keep my sanity and remain "healthy" I resigned. I went through six months of working in the market place. I was a public school teacher so I went back to that....I hated it. Education had changed so much. My heart began to yearn for what I was called to really be and do...minister. I'm back in the ministry fulltime, but I'm on a different track. Much smaller church, but wonderful people who want to serve God. Are there folks who wnat to play religious games? There always will be. Am I completely healed and restored yet? NO! But with my loving family and those new found friends I'm coming back. The fire is low and just an amber, but I'm trusting His Spirit to ignite my heart again and bring this new body the spirit and creativity they deserve. Don, please don't give up the gloves. I said the same thing in anger and frustration to God and my closest supporters and friends. But what I really wanted was just one person to say, "..don't give up, you're worth it. Every dime, every prayer, every encouraging word." And you know, when I stopped feeling sorry for myself I began to hear alot of encouragement to hang in there. Mostly from my Lord, and my family. Use your hurt, frustration and disappointment to fuel a new passion against medocrity and complacency. Read more cutting edge books, get with successful Christians who will mentor you (They are not always Pastors of huge congregations) and most importantly LOVE you and accept where you're at in your journey. Be encouraged Don, I've been there and I'm moving on to a new place of ministry.

Posted by: James | Jul 26, 2005 1:50:26 AM

I can identify with almost everyone here...left business at 39, went back to school, and started ministering. After starting 4 churches in 21 years, left and went back into business for 5 years. Now...here's the BIG question, and one I still am not sure of the answer to. Maybe you do. Do you believe that God ever "fires" someone? I know the scriptures about "the gifts and callings are without repentance, etc..., but didn't God fire Eli, Moses, and several others, in the bible? How about some in the New testament, like some of the Pharisee's, Judas Iscariot, and some of the Pastors in the first few chapters of Revelations?
I actually came to the conclusion that while I hadn't done anything I could think of overtly wrong, I had somehow missed God and His directions for me, and thats why things I did in the ministry just weren't blessed the way I thought they should have been. I spent 5 years in the "back side of the desert" before I got my answers, and a year ago, went back into the ministry, started my fifth church and will be here til either He comes for me or I go to Him. I feel extremely blessed to be back where I belong, but would still like some discussion with my peers on this intriguing question.

Posted by: Revpapa | Jul 26, 2005 2:40:23 AM

This article convicted Me. I have been a coaster. I'm guilty. God, please forgive me for pursuing my own selfishness above your call on my life. I have removed myself from ministry where you called me to stay. I have put money ahead of ministry. I have put myself above others. Break me, God. Mold me into a vessel to be poured out for YOUR glory.

I appreciate all the comments made, even the ones I don't agree with. May God have mercy on us, the called, who have wandered away from what God has for us. I am thankful today for the wonderful grace of God and the shed blood of Jesus Christ that covers a multitude of sins, even the sins of the called. Amen.

Posted by: PDodge | Jul 26, 2005 9:09:05 AM

Have I ever had spiritual atrophy? yes. How did I come out of it? The same way people of God have done for years. time with God in prayer, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God planted in my heart.
From the others this sounds to 'spiritual' but it is true. I am interested in the fact that the discussion turned from the pastor's spiritual atrophy to the problems in the church. I have seen and experienced the destruction that can be inflicted by Christians. Even outside of the church in 'para church' ministry. I have also expereinced the destruction that my own sin and lack of spiritual power can bring to a situation.
The answer is not pointing the finger at that group or that leader, but keeping hooked up the power source.
Even the great St. Paul ran into difficult people and those who sought to destroy him and his ministry.
There is a theme in the responses to the question and that is the personal hurt and frustration that has come to us in full time ministry.
Don, I don't know your whole story, I don't know what 'good Christian' people have done to you and to your family. I do know from your words that you have been deeply hurt. Your hurt at the hands of church people causes me hurt. As you know there is more to ministry than pastoring a church, we can still bring the word of the Lord to the lost, maybe even more effective outside of the church.
But we as pastors need to continually monitor our physical, emotional and spiritual health so that we can continue to be vibrant strong Christians who love the Lord and in whatever way seek to serve Him.
AS pastors our first responsibility is our relationship with God for our sake not the sake of the ministry.
IHG
Charley

Posted by: Charley | Jul 26, 2005 11:10:23 AM

Don,

Then let go and stop gathering discontents like Korah. Your attitude is what kept you from getting hired is my guess. I have been in ministry for 20 years, and tell me who has'nt had tough times? How many secular jobs will you go through before you see that tough times happen in every walk of life. Do you really want truth? And all this desert talk, what is that about? Jesus went to the desert to receive instruction to move into His ministry. It was'nt a punishment. Wake UP: The Bible is Truth, the Holy Spirit is active, Jesus is Lord, and the local Church is God's idea

Posted by: Don Weemes | Jul 26, 2005 11:42:18 AM

Don,

Then let go and stop gathering discontents like Korah. Your attitude is what kept you from getting hired is my guess. I have been in ministry for 20 years, and tell me who has'nt had tough times? How many secular jobs will you go through before you see that tough times happen in every walk of life. Do you really want truth? And all this desert talk, what is that about? Jesus went to the desert to receive instruction to move into His ministry. It was'nt a punishment. Wake UP: The Bible is Truth, the Holy Spirit is active, Jesus is Lord, and the local Church is God's idea

Posted by: Don Weemes | Jul 26, 2005 11:43:16 AM

I am learning so much from this book and also from the deep feelings and frustrations expressed in this forum. I am a relatively new shepherd (10 months)to a flock that has done the same things the same way for eons and eons. I get very frustrated when I try something new and it does not fly right away. This has been driving me crazy. But recently a very wise person told me this: "It is not about you. start listening to your own preaching and let God do the work you are trying to do yourself" That wise person was my wonderful wife. Our responsibilities as shepherds is to give our flocks God's inerrant, unfailing, life -changing Word. Frustratiting or not please do not give up, I am very thankful Paul, and Timothy and Titus did not give up. "God; Thank you for allowing me to be a servant, I need you now more than ever. Please heal, bless, and use my fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ. In Jesus' precious grace Amen!"

Posted by: Brian | Jul 26, 2005 12:01:57 PM

Don and Al,

My heart goes out to you guys. I have been there. My secular experience is as a banker/business adminstrator and my ministry experience has been as a pastor and church administrator. I'm now 47 years old and ever since I left college, I have flip-flopped between ministry and secular work. I've been in the six digits and I've been on the low end (which is where I am now). But I finally came to the realization that no matter where I went, ministry or secular, the world is FULL of jerks that care about no one but themselves. So, I started my own ministry - I served as a chaplain to a few secular workplaces. I thought I had the idea of the century. I oculd have the best of all worlds - I could be involved in the secular workforce, I would answer to only me, and I could still "do" ministry. Guess what! If you have been called to preach (and I do believe in the calling), nothing else will work.
So after trying it all, I finally gave up to. But this time I gave up myself rather than God. He and I had a very frank discussion about what was happening to me, my wife, and my children! And guess what He did - He took a broken pastor (who wanted desperately to be successful) and placed me in a broken church. That's right. And it's like I'm starting over - from the ground up. And I'm loving it! Yes times are still difficult. But I'm learning to understand what the Scripture means when it says that the kingdom of God is like "leaven". There is probably not going to be an explosion of growth over night, but if I commit myself to God's task for me, it will slowly rise, grow, and produce faithful and committed Christians to reach the world (one at a time).
My heart goes out to you brother and you have been prayed for. In fact, a very dear friend is going through the absolute same issues even now. Find someone you can talk to and get all of this poison out of your system. My prayers are with you!

Posted by: Al Haywood | Jul 26, 2005 1:11:26 PM

Wow! I want to thank you all for writting from your hearts. You are helping me understand more and more what ministry is all about from the negative to the positive. Thank you, Thank you. Don, I love you man, yet I can't help but sense anger and fustration in you toward God. Wait a minute...I may be wrong,and if I am please forgive me. My heart breaks for you. I believe a person does not have to be a pastor to know hardship in ministry. I may not be the pastor of a church, but I do have a pastor's heart for God's people. I am the pastor in my home. I consider my home to be a sanctuary, and my wife and six daughters are my flock. We know the struggles that comes with just trying to live, but we stay within our means (again not saying that you don't). I have college degree in ministry, but I went to school to enhance what God had already planted in my heart. I love you brother, please be encouraged.

Posted by: B.D. LEWIS | Jul 26, 2005 5:29:58 PM

Al. You make my heart sing. Not becasue of the number of people you help but becasue you stayed on the battle field. I remember the Lord said, "if you are faithful over little that he would make you rules over much." stay faithful even in the darkest day. Remember when you get down to nothing........God is up to something!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: B.D. LEWIS | Jul 26, 2005 5:32:59 PM

This is to revpapa: That was an intresting question that you posed. When I read it, the one person that jumped out of scripture to me was Samson. I am sure you know the story. The thing that stands out as a warning to me about being "fired by God," is (Judges 16:20). I don't believe God fires those that love Him even when we go astray. I do believe that He uses us inspite of our selves to accomplish His will. Then there are those who are not really on the Lord's side to beging with (the pharisee then, and the "aint" now), I believe the Lord turns them over to their own reprobate mind and His heart weeps.

Posted by: B.D. LEWIS | Jul 26, 2005 5:52:03 PM


Concerning coasting and shrinking faith....
...I read chapter two and yes this is a big problem. But not just in one area.......
....The Just shall live by Faith.

But if it works repeat it.........
...over...and over...and over again.

If a certain song brings the right response.....repeat it.

If a Church growth program works....
...repeat it....and even sell it.

All this looks harmless enough but in fact it is as if it were a "SPELL" and it works.. so repeat..repeat...repeat....
Faith eventually leaves the picture all together. Yes is started in Faith....but ends up a "Spell" that works.

Posted by: Jack Fliehmann | Jul 26, 2005 9:04:20 PM

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