Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Secret That Pastors Don't Want You To Know

Dear Friends,

The young woman had left her megachurch to become a regular attender at ours. One Sunday, she told me that she didn’t like the way I sang our worship songs. She said that our songs didn’t sound like the way the worship team did them at her last church. I said, “You mean to tell me that this one old guy with a guitar doesn’t sound exactly like a professional mega-church praise and worship band?” She also informed me that I was doing Holy Communion all wrong.

Many years ago, a member approached me to tell me that she and another woman didn’t approve of the “fact” that one of our church members was my “concubine.” I told her that, in the Bible, a concubine was a woman who had voluntarily become a man’s sexual slave and I asked her if that was the word she intended to use. She believed that she was a prophet sent by God and firmly stated that God had spoken to her and told her that the church member was my concubine. I said that the woman she was referring to was someone I dearly loved and told her that the “spirit voice” she was listening to was not God. Both the two “concubine” accusers and the young “mega-church” woman were constantly critical of me. I felt a huge sense of relief when these women left our church!

Back when I worked full time, and was also a “full-time” but unpaid pastor, I had only two days off a month – alternating Fridays – when I was not working at my secular job or for the church. I told the church how much I liked going to the beach on those two days off and how those days would relax and rejuvenate me. The wife of a church councilperson told me during a yearly congregation meeting that I should be devoting those two days off to church business! Did I mention that I was their unpaid pastor?

Few people are truly aware of the constant requests, complaints and criticisms that pastors receive, but a church consultant recently asked pastors to share what some of those were:

“We need a small group for cat lovers.”

“You need to change your voice.”

“Our expensive coffee is attracting too many young people.”

“You should know that the Bible says that preachers who don’t wear suits and ties aren’t saved.”

“Your socks are distracting.”

“You shouldn’t make people leave the youth group just because they’ve graduated from high school.”

(To a pastor’s wife) “Would you ask Pastor Jeff to buy me some panties and bring them by on his way to church?”

“I don’t like the color of the paper towels in the women’s restroom.”

“We need to start attracting more normal people at church.”

“I developed cancer because you don’t preach from the King James Version.”

“Your wife never compliments me about my hair or dress.”

“Not enough people signed up for the church golf tournament because you have poor leadership skills.”

“If Jesus sang from the green hymnals, why can’t we?”

(To a pastor who married interracially). “You are living in sin. You shouldn’t be married to a colored woman.” 

“I don’t like the brand of donuts in the foyer.”

“You didn’t wrap the hot dogs in bacon for the church picnic.”

“You shouldn’t drink water when you preach.” 

“The toilet paper is on the wrong way in the ladies restroom. It’s supposed to be rolled under.”

“You don’t have ashtrays in the fellowship hall.”

“Didn’t you see me waving in the back of the church? You preached too long. It was time to eat!” 

“The eggs were not scrambled enough at the senior’s  breakfast.”

“We’re leaving the church because of the red cross on the building. That’s the color of the devil.”

“Sorry I was late to church. My dog Rambo and I have been witnessing to people.”

“Are you the one who took the beer off my daddy’s grave?”

“We never had hurricanes until you moved into our town.”

“You need to turn all the lights up during worship. You can’t worship God when it’s dark because He is light.”

“Can you perform a ceremony for just living together since we don’t want to get married?”

“I really appreciate the content of your sermons, but I can’t stand to watch you as you deliver it.”

“You don’t have the anointing of God. My cat agrees with me.”

“You blink too much when you preach and your skin is too pale.”

“The donuts and cakes you bring every Sunday are not enough. You need to make sandwiches and bring salads for after each service.” oh wait a moment.. that last comment was made to me..

We can easily laugh at some of these until we think about how they were received by the pastors. Were these all laughed off or was there discouragement? Were these no big deal or the final straw that ended a ministry career? Here's the secret that pastors don't want you to know. A 2016 survey showed that 80% of church pastors have experienced burnout. 77% regularly deal with unrealistic expectations from their congregation. 85% have seriously considered leaving the ministry and 75% consider doing that on a regular basis. 60% believe their church is a toxic environment because of some of the church members. 61% fight depression and an astounding 83% say they take prescription drugs for anxiety or mood disorders. Because of the demands of ministry and toxic people in the church, 71% have considered suicide. Sadly, we’ve been reading lately about a number of pastors who have ended their life.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month and I’ve always appreciated the thoughtful things people would write in the cards given to me on that one special Sunday. But I’ve also often wondered what it would be like if this were reversed. We could have Pastor Unappreciation Month and on that one special Sunday people could submit a list of their complaints and criticisms. Then on the other 51 Sundays, people could be encouraging to their pastors. Next week, I’ll give you some suggestions for how you can do that...

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