7 Truths about Pastors Who Disappoint You

preacher

I wrote recently about another fallen pastor. I shared how devastated I was at the news.

I’ve been amazed at some of the rude comments I’ve received. And, I love that this is my blog and I can delete them if I want to. It’s like they never read my post about Christians being less mean online. :)

Seriously, though, some people seem to think pastors are supposed to be super humans. Sure, pastors are held more responsible in the eyes of God for how we lead in the church, but we aren’t any better –or more equipped — at living a victorious Christian life than any other Christian. It’s all grace. It’s all a work of His Spirit. Apart from Him I can do nothing. And, whenever I stop submitting my will to His will — I fail. Every time. (One guy commented that since I said something like that in my previous post that I must be hiding an affair also. What? I deleted that comment.)

I think the undue pressure on pastors is one of the leading causes of pastor burnout. And, ultimately complete failure. And, granted, much of this is self-induced pressure. I admit that. And, no that is not an excuse. Sin is sin. Sin is a horrible offense to a Holy God. All sin. And all have sinned. And fall short of His glory. (That was my last sermon series by the way.)

I received lots of positive feedback also, but, like us pastors often do, I couldn’t get past the few negatives to celebrate all the positives. (I wrote a blog post about this problem some pastors — and others — seem to have.)

So, it led to this post. Just some random thoughts about pastors. Especially those who disappoint you. And me. Because I’ve been disappointed by pastors too. Shoot, I’ve been disappointed in myself.

Let me share a few things you may not know about pastors. Seven things to be exact.

Because I like the number seven.

And, let me be clear. I’m not taking this lightly. Sometimes I write more light-hearted to balance the extremes of those who seem to have forgotten how to even smile. And, yes, I think we are to rejoice — find joy — even in the midst of suffering. Because I read that somewhere.

To the contrary. Times like this, when another pastor falls, always reminds me of the horribleness of sin. It always causes me to look inward again at my own life. (And, that’s never a bad thing to do — “Search me God” — as David prayed.)

But, there are some things you need to know about pastors.

7 truths about pastors who disappoint you

One person, working on behalf of self, can’t destroy the work of the Holy Spirit, working on behalf of God. Your pastor may disappoint you, but that ultimately can’t destroy the work God began in you — even through the pastor’s teaching. You may be stunned for now, but you’ll grow back stronger if you continue to surrender to His will.

Pastors — and even a local body — come and go. But the church — Christ’s body — is here to stay. God WILL protect His church.

People will deceive you — even some pastors. But God’s Word will never fail you. Ask yourself — who are you extending ultimate trust to anyway?

Pastors lead. I write about it consistently on this blog. I believe God uses people to lead his church. But ultimately they aren’t in control. God is. He WILL have the final word.

Just because we preach truth, doesn’t meant we’ve always mastered it. We are still being sanctified too. Isn’t that why we need a Savior? And, why the pastor isn’t your Savior?

Pastors are often skilled at acting like everything is okay — even when it isn’t. You’ve fooled others before — right? So has your pastor. Some pastors have this false idea that we are supposed to keep you from seeing that we are human. Almost like it was seminary trained into us. (BTW, if I was supposed to get that in seminary — I didn’t.)

A pastor is less likely to be transparent with unpredictable outcomes. If they doubt the grace you’ll extend, they’ll be less likely to share their deepest struggles. We’ve almost created a system that makes it difficult for the pastor to have failings. And, yes, again, much of this is self-induced pressure.

We need help. All pastors do. All people do. We need people who truly care. Who can accept us flaws and all. Who will love us on days we are doing everything right and days we seem to do everything wrong. People who will call a sin a sin before it reaches the magnitude that destroys other people’s lives, damages our greater witness, and hurts the Kingdom work we felt called to do. And, isn’t that a primary purpose of the church — making disciples? We need the church too.

That’s my seven. Okay eight. But, sometimes we miscount too. Even on Sundays :) We aren’t perfect. And, there. Told you. Random. But, you need to know.

So I’ll stop there for now.

How’s that for honesty?

Now, again, none of this is aimed as an excuse. It’s just for transparency.

What are other random facts about pastors others may not know?

My Thoughts on Bob Coy’s Resignation — And the Epidemic of Moral Failure in the Church

I was devastated — heart sick — this morning to open my Facebook and the top story shared by a couple ministry friends was the resignation of pastor Bob Coy due to moral failure. Coy founded and led Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the United States, attracting some 20,000 people every week. In addition, Coy shared on a radio teaching program heard worldwide.

I heard of another pastor within the last couple weeks closer to home. I have personally dealt with nearly a dozen churches in the past couple years who lost a pastor due to a moral issue. One of the leaders in our denomination used the word “epidemic” recently to describe the number of pastors who are leaving the ministry because of moral failures.

I debated actually posting anything about this, however, having dealt with this issue so many times, and knowing there would be a flurry of news reports about this resignation, I decided to add a perspective to hopefully help steer some of the thoughts and discussions. Most of my readers are from the church — the body of Christ. This is intended as family talk. I believe there are things we can learn from times like this — as tragic as they appear to us.

My thoughts:

It does not negate Bob Coy’s teaching. No doubt now there was sin in Bob’s life. And, obviously, this sin was occurring while he was teaching. But, that doesn’t mean his teaching wasn’t true. Frankly, I love his teaching. My first church was an hour from where I lived. I was there for a one year commitment and I listened to Bob Coy every Sunday driving to that church. His teaching helped me be a better teacher. I’m certain his influence still impacts me today in a positive way. Many times I hear people wondering what it means from all the things they learned under a pastor who falls. There are thousands who have been positively shaped by the teaching of Bob Coy. If the person was teaching truth, God’s Spirit is the ultimate teacher and that doesn’t change with yesterday’s resignation.

The enemy gets a new “attaboy” for his efforts. Satan loves to attack the good ones. Others will now say, “See, pastors are no different from us.” And, we are not, but the enemy will attempt to use this to draw people away from their faith in Christ.

Bob Coy can be restored. Fully. It will depend on his repentance, humility, willingness to be completely transparent to those who need to know, and his acceptance of the grace of God. But, he can be restored. God used Moses, David, Noah, Jacob and so many others as Biblical examples of how He can use what is sinful for eventual good.

Every pastor is susceptible. Stand guard. If we ever believe we are above temptation we have opened the door for the enemies prowl to be effective. Most of the time it begins subtly. No one wakes up in a single day and thinks about destroying their personal life. It happens gradually over time. The time to build our systems of accountability, support and protection is always now.

Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale is still a great church. From what I read they are handling this as well as could be expected. My prayer is that few would leave and the church would see a renewal during this time. Many times, as in our personal life, with proper leadership, a church can grow stronger during a trial.

We don’t need to know any more. We now know enough. It’s bad. We need to avoid our natural tendencies to want to know more about the situation than what the church and the Coy family chooses to release. And, hopefully that will be minimal. More information only stirs more false information and broadens the damage. People often criticize a church for “not extending grace” to the fallen pastor, but many times the grace is extended — to the person, family, and everyone involved — in not sharing all the details.

Christ and His church will survive. The gates of Hell shall not prevail. Jesus promised this.

I’m so burdened by this news. I have a heart for the hurting pastor. For several years I’ve owned the domain name hurtingpastors.org. I recently acquired ministrytransition.com Right now they point to my blog, but my hope has been to launch a ministry aimed at helping fallen, burdened, or misplaced ministers. We are losing too many men and women who once sensed a call of God on their life, but have, for whatever reason, left their current position. The Kingdom is left void of the ideas, passion and work of someone God intended to use for His glory. As my friend said, it’s epidemic.

This is a good time to pause, pray for Bob Coy and his family, for Calvary Chapel, and for your pastor and church.

Why the Church isn’t Reaching my Unchurched Friends

young people

This is a guest post by my friend Jordan, who lives in Louisville, KY where she works as Account Coordinator for Heartland Communications Consultants, Inc. She enjoys blogging on a variety of topics including career, family, God, or most often, the awkward moments of the twenty-something life. To read more of her blog, go to www.jordansblahblahblahg.com.

I am 23 years old and I go to church.

I am rare.

In fact, many of my closest friends are not involved in church at all.

Some of my friends simply don’t believe in the Christian faith. Others call themselves Christians, but church is just not a necessary part of their lives.

Why?

By now, it is no secret that my generation, or “Millenials” as we are called, is largely unchurched. There has been an extensive amount of research on the issue, and churches have made extensive changes to combat the problem.

Changes often include ridding of choir robes and organs in exchange for skinny jeans, drums, and fog machines.

But still, why are so many of my friends anti-church?

I grew up in the church my entire life, so when I went away to college, finding a church was at the top of my priorities. Unfortunately, finding one didn’t come easy. For a while, I found myself in the same category many of my friends are in. I loved Jesus, but I simply did not have a desire to be a part of the churches I was visiting.

And I visited every type of church. From traditional to “hip”, from small to big. I didn’t want to join any.

My reasoning was simple and it came down to one word.

Fake.

Nothing seemed authentic.

Don’t get me wrong; I was full of teenage/twenty-something know-it-all cynicism and arrogance, I am sure. Churches are definitely not the sole problem. People are the problem. Because people are sinners-the church going ones and the non-church going Millennials.

But despite the associated arrogance, I truly think my generation is on to something in our desire for authenticity.

You see, the hardest years of my life came in college. For a while, it seemed like every week brought a new disaster that I had never faced before. As one event piled on top of another, I became a mess. My usual happiness turned to sadness, my usual good decisions turned to bad decisions, and my usual faith turned to nothing but questions.

I desired to be a part of a church that got it.

That got my struggles. My sin. My doubts.

All I wanted when I entered the doors of church was to find people who would bear my burden and remind me of whom God was, because quite frankly, I wasn’t sure anymore. Unfortunately, so many times, it seemed like the God people were pointing to was one that would want nothing to do with me and, if I was being honest, I didn’t know if I wanted anything to do with him.

Either everyone was really happy all the time with no problems, or they were being fake…and I was in no position to play the Fake Game.

In fact, I don’t think my generation in general wants to play the Fake Game when it comes their desire to find and know God.

We’ve played the Fake Game enough. The Fake Game surrounds us in advertisements, tweets, and Facebook profiles. When it comes to seeking God, we don’t want to play anymore. We want to find Him.

We want to ask questions.
Voice our doubts.
Explain our struggles.
Confess our sins.
Confide our fears.

And we want the church to do it with us.

We want Pastors to admit their weaknesses.
Leaders to confess their sins.
Sunday School classmates to confide their struggles.
A church to recognize its shortcomings and rely joyously on God’s grace.

We don’t just want church-goers and pastors to hang up their suits and ties for t-shirts and jeans because its “cool”. We simply want people to be who they are Monday through Saturday on Sunday, too.

We want to come to God as we are.

And we want to be a part of churches full of people who do the same.

Because that is the Gospel we are interested in. And the cool thing is…that really IS the Gospel.

If you want to reach my unchurched friends, it’s simple.

You be you. Really.

And let God be God.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

3 Examples of a Leader For a Season

tree at four seasons

I am frequently contacted when someone is debating the right time to leave a leadership position. I once wrote 10 Scenarios to Determine If It’s Time to Quit.  It’s still one of my most requested blog topics. Deciding when it is time to leave a leadership position is one of the hardest decisions a leader makes.

Thankfully, there are still leaders with a sense of loyalty, who want to do the right thing, and they simply do not know how or when they should leave. If you want to see long term success in the place where you lead, you need long-term tenure.

We all love hearing how a church planter carried the church from infancy of a few core people in a room to the maturity of a healthy, established church. I am always impressed to hear of a long term pastorates. Some of the most successful churches have the longest serving pastors. The healthiest way, organizationally speaking, is to have one long-term leader, who goes through seasons with the organizations, who carries the vision forward over a long span of time.

But, that’s not the calling of every leader. And, there’s no shame in that.

Please understand, this is not a post encouraging anyone to leave their position. It’s not a post that indicates I’m leaving mine. (Please read that last line again if you’re in my church.) But, this is a post intended to help a leader who may be struggling, feeling it’s time to move on, but can’t bring themselves to make the hard decision. I’ve spoken with pastors who feel they’ve done all they can do. They’ve prayed and prayed about it and don’t even sense God telling them they have to stay, may even feel a sense of release, but their sense of loyalty keeps them from even entertaining the idea. In the meantime, the longer they do stay the more frustrated they become and the church starts to feel it.

And, that’s why I write this reminder.

Some leaders are only there for a season. A unique season. A special season, reserved for a designed purpose. It’s helpful when a leader can recognize or discern a seasonal assignment.

Here are a few examples:

Some leaders get things started – They are great starters, but horrible maintainers. They do best when they are allowed to begin something for someone else to carry forward. I have a friend who is a serial entrepreneur. He’s great at getting healthy organizations started, but lock him into somewhere for very long and he will frustrate a lot of people. Including himself.

Some leaders guide the organization through transition – These leaders can handle the tough times. They help once successful organizations start again. They love changing things. When things “settle” they are ready for a new challenge. I have another friend who in his career has helped several businesses recover from near disaster. He moves in, takes over, rebuilds confidence in leadership, provides a sense of direction and momentum, then gradually yields control to others.

Some leaders close things out graciously – This has to be one of the toughest assignments in leadership, but there are leaders who are especially gifted in helping things come to an end. When I was in retail, there were some store closing experts. Many times a new store was opening across town and one store, perhaps in an older, more established part of town, was closing to make room for the new. That’s never popular, but these leaders knew how to come in, evaluate, assess what could be salvaged, help the employees transition, and leave the area as painlessly as possible, so the excitement for the new would not be lost in mourning what would be gone. They were seasonal experts in leadership. (Frankly, for this last example, although this is the subject for another post — and this sentence only opens the can of worms — the church needs some of these leaders.)

Granted, each of these scenarios can often find new leadership positions within the same organization, but the key understanding is that they are leaders for a season. An assignment. A specific need. When the need is met the season often has to change.

If a leader does what he or she has been called to do, there is no shame in doing ONLY what the leader was called to do. Recognizing that and discerning it helps leaders and the organizations they lead to be healthier.

Have you ever been the leader for a season?

How a Man After God’s Own Heart Leads: Lessons from King David

Bible Book of psalms title page

Leadership these days is tougher than ever it seems. Times are hard and organizations are stressed. Employees are stretched and budgets are tight. Loyalty is rare and everything is changing a rocket pace.

One job of a successful leader is to encourage those who look to him or her for leadership. Leaders are to “rally the troops” so to speak and keep people moving forward. This becomes especially more difficult during stressful times in an organization, but even more important.

I’ve studied and written a great deal about King David — before and after he was appointed king — because he appears to have been a great leader in his time. Perfect? Well, of course not, but he was a “man after God’s own heart.” God used him to lead His people during some difficult times.

One great example of motivating a team during crisis comes from the writings of David in Psalm 3. At the time of this writing, it is believed that David was hiding out from his own son Absalom. His encouragement kept his troops focused and gave them strength they needed in desperate times.

If you don’t know the story, you can read the full context in 2 Samuel Chapters 11-19. In short, David’s sin (I told you he wasn’t perfect) led to a family turmoil, which led to David’s son attempting to take over the kingdom. David fled for his safety, but an army went with him. In spite of being outnumbered, David kept his troops encouraged and they eventually returned to power.

If you are a leader struggling to gain victory or you feel overwhelmed in your current situation, this story may motivate you. (It does me.)

Let’s walk through Psalm 3 in The Message Version:

Verse 1-2 God! Look! Enemies past counting! Enemies sprouting like mushrooms, Mobs of them all around me, roaring their mockery: “Hah! No help for him from God!”

There will be times in any leadership position where the odds seem to be against you. In those times a leader may feel there are more negative voices than positive voices — both outside and even inside the organization. (Remember, what you feel is not always reality, but it’s you’re perceived reality at the time.)

Verse 3-4 But you, God, shield me on all sides; You ground my feet, you lift my head high; With all my might I shout up to God, His answers thunder from the holy mountain.

The leader, regardless of the naysayers, must remember the vision and the resolve of his role within the organization. In this case, of course, David wasn’t unrealistic. He knew the situation was gruesome, but he also knew he had a testimony with God and that God had placed a special calling on his life. Great leaders know their calling.

Verse 5-6 I stretch myself out. I sleep. Then I’m up again—rested, tall and steady, Fearless before the enemy mobs Coming at me from all sides.

David took action. An important action under the circumstance. He went to sleep, placing everything in God’s hands. It was as if he said, “God, when I get up — it’s all you again!” Leaders must know their limits, their strengths and be willing to rely on help from others. Christian leaders ultimately rely on the power of God.

Verse 7 Up, God! My God, help me! Slap their faces, First this cheek, then the other, Your fist hard in their teeth!

David woke up with a passion that exploded inside of him. He had a new resolve. He had experienced a revival in his heart. He was ready to move forward with God’s plan. I can almost imagine those around David thinking, “What got into him last night?” Great leaders, in spite of their challenges, have a contagious enthusiasm about moving the vision of the organization forward. A team will rally around a leader with conviction. You may need to take a break, get re-energized, and come at the plan again with renewed fervor. That’s what good leaders do.

Verse 8 Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people!

David assumed his rightful place as a leader and began to invest in others. As David looked to God for his strength, his people could look to him to lead them. Now, ultimately, in the days of grace, each of us respond and are accountable to God directly, but God uses leaders to instill vision and values, and encourage others to move forward, even during dark days.

Fellow leader, are you in a tough situation right now?

Maybe you lead a church, a business, a non-profit or even a family, but if what or who you lead has fallen on hard times, follow the example of David.

Lead your team to victory!

With God on your side, who can be against you?

A Potential Problem With a Servant’s Heart

Teenagers Serving A Meal To A Man

I was talking to the Executive Director of a homeless ministry recently. Everyday they feed hundreds of meals. Every night the ministry boards dozens of men and women. They clothe people. They help prepare people for job interviews. It’s an amazing ministry, doing great work.

But everything isn’t great.

The leader is tired, the budget is stretched, and the volunteer base is thin. Everyone is worn out emotionally and physically.

What’s the real problem? The real challenge? 

It was easy to diagnose as an outsider.

The leader is too busy serving to ever lead.

She never has time to recruit volunteers, let alone train them. She never has time to do board development. She never has time to fundraise. She never has time to cast the vision. She never has time to plan and dream. She never has time to invest in anything that lasts bigger than today.

And, she never has time to take care of herself. Ever.

All things she verbally recognizes she needs to do.

It’s the real problem. It’s the real challenge to the ministry.

And, if she’s not careful…and I hate to be the one to say this to such a wonderful ministry — eventually, it has the potential to tremendously cripple the ministry. In fact, the future of the ministry, in my professional organizational leadership opinion, is in jeopardy now. And, she is personally a time bomb waiting to explode in burnout.

And, she is one example. But, she is not unique. I’ve seen it many times. I see it among my pastor friends.

Show me a constantly over-worked leader. Show me continually stressed volunteers. Show me a thin budget. Show me a ministry with more demands than the resources or people to meet them…

And, I’ll show you a ministry that is headed for certain trouble unless something is addressed.

It reminds me of the hardest thing I’ve seen for ministers to do who love doing ministry — people with a servant’s heart.

If he or she has a heart to serve others. If he or she loves helping people — connecting with people — ministering to people…

The hardest thing to do…

Is to step back and see the bigger picture.

They have a hard time stopping ministry long enough to explore longer-term issues. They have a hard time doing, what seems to be at the time, unproductive work. People need to be fed. People are hurting. That’s why the ministry exists, right?

And, I get that. I’ve lived that. I even applaud the heart. It’s that heart that possibly prompted them into the ministry. It’s a great heart.

The problem is that it isn’t sustainable long-term. Even Jesus “slipped away” from the crowds. Even Elijah needed to be strengthened.

My advice:

Be willing to stop feeding one so you can feed dozens more in months to come.

Spend time developing the board. Spend time recruiting more volunteers. Spend time raising more funds. Spend time casting the vision to the community. Spend time caring for yourself. Spend time relaxing at the feet of Jesus.

It will seem you’re neglecting the ministry for a time, but in the big picture, you’ll be building a better and stronger ministry. And, you’ll be a healthier leader.

What do you need to stop doing now so you can see even more done later? 

How a Man After God’s Own Heart Responds to Naysayers

charge

Those who seek my life lay their snares;

those who seek my hurt speak of ruin

and meditate treachery all day long.

But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear,

like a mute man who does not open his mouth.

I have become like a man who does not hear,

and in whose mouth are no rebukes.

But for you, O Lord, do I wait;

it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

Psalm 38:12-15

Contrary to some leader’s advice, I listen to critics. I understand we have to lead with those who believe in the vision, but I always feel I can learn from everyone — even those who disagree with me. I allow those I’m supposed to lead to cast objections to my plans and open myself up for correction — and yes, sometimes it hurts.

King David seemed to lead this way. We see several instances in his life where he was open to correction and criticism. He allowed those he was leading to speak into the situation and challenge his plan in 1 Samuel 23. Totally rare in those days. In 2 Samuel 16, David appears to take being cursed by another man, a man named Shimei, like a man — like a man after God’s own heart. Kings in those days — especially with the power of David — didn’t have to allow others to correct them — especially not with such violent accusations.

As a leader, David did not shelter himself from criticism or correction.

But, there’s a reality in leadership we can’t ignore. David, a “man after God’s own heart”, must have understood it.

Leader, you will never make everyone happy.

Some of us will try. Some of us take it personal when everyone isn’t happy with us. Some of us dislike conflict more than others.

But, the truth is, some people will always disagree with the decisions you make, because they disagree with you. They can’t buy into your vision, because they haven’t bought into you as the leader. That’s natural. It’s normal. It was even true for Christ in His leadership.

We should be open to input of others — even negative input. We should build collaboration as much as possible. We should do all we can to bring people along. We should make sure what we are doing is honorable.

But, at some point we move forward. And turn a deaf ear to the naysayers.

Because — in the end, David was leading for an audience of one. That’s how a man (or woman) after God’s own heart leads.

Thank you David for that gentle reminder.

We need it. Often.