Scared Straight: Pastor’s Edition / Unappreciated Pastor

February 4, 2014

by Unappreciated Pastor
(Unappreciated Pastor blogs HERE.)

So, you wanna be a pastor? Big man on campus; that’s you, huh? Standing up there in front of everybody, holding your Bible, preaching to the people. I can see you now, scooting around the stage, dancing to the “Amens” and applause. Mr. Pastor, Bishop, Reverend, Elder, Preacher Man. Yeah. I used to be like you.

Let’s take a walk.

“Where are we going?” you ask.

It’s a little place I like to call reality. I’ve been living there for the last 15 years.

Look at this. What is this? I know what you’re thinking. It’s a blank piece of paper, right? Wrong. It’s a list of all the friends you have at the church you serve. Not hard to remember their names is it? Ministry is a lonely place, buddy. If you are looking to make lots of friends, you are headed down the wrong road.

Here’s the deal. The people you like leave and the ones you don’t like will stay. You’ll think you have friends. When you start at a new church, they’ll invite you over for a BBQ and board games. But the truth is the first ones to ask you over are also the first ones to ask you to leave.

Look at those guys over there. You know who they are? They’re deacons. I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking, “They are here to serve the pastor.” Yeah that’s right — serve you like a tennis ball. Truth is, they’re the cold-water committee, the dream busters. They are going to make sure you don’t get too excited about growing this church. They’re the head of the puppet ministry and they think you’re the puppet.

And by the way. Your mother goes to this church. And you have eight of them. Word to the wise: “I feel like you’re one of my children” isn’t a compliment. It means she is going to tell you what you should do and it would be in your best interest to listen to her. This church believes in church discipline, but only for the pastor.

Listen. You hear that? Sounds like a bunch of fifth graders upset over a game of sandlot baseball, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s the Wednesday night business meeting, and it happens every month, and you get to be the referee. Oh, the stuff is real important, too. You get to earnestly contend for the carpet color. You’ll be able to sleep so well on Wednesday nights after Betty and Bertha duke it out over what to serve at VBS.

What’s that? Where’s your wife? Oh, she’s busy trying to figure out where she fits in to all this. Yeah, she’s standing by her man, but she’s also standing by that phone hoping someone will rescue you all from this. She’s in a town she doesn’t know; keeping nursery kids she doesn’t know. She is biting her tongue. She is cleaning a house that she will never own. She is concerned about what the church thinks about her kids, her yard, and her involvement with the church. She’s pretty busy. Don’t be surprised if she goes to bed early. 

Oh, wanna hear a joke? Too bad. Because you’re going to, and it’s going to be the same jokes over and over. Jokes about fried chicken, being the first in the line at the potluck, only working two days a week, getting your sermons off the Internet. My advice would be learn how to laugh like Fran Drescher, and do it every time you hear one of those jokes. They won’t stop, but they will slow down a little.

I wanna show you something else. Look in there. It’s dark, isn’t it? You can feel the heaviness, can’t you? Loneliness exudes from that place. No, that’s not rain. That’s tears. You know what this is. It’s Monday, the day you get the most negative phone calls. It’s the day you remember how much you butchered yesterday’s sermon. It’s the day you remember a church full of dry eyes and an empty altar. It comes every week. Fifty-two times a year Monday shows up just to say “Ha-ha-ha-Hi.” You will leave the ministry countless times in your heart on this day. Statistics show that if you ever do quit, it will most likely be on this day.

Listen up. It’s tough in here. You ask why am I here, then? Because God called me, and I couldn’t be happy anywhere else. And that’s the only reason you should come.

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Johnathan Pritchett

This doesn’t sound like the life of good pastors I know. This sounds like the life of a pathetic pastor who puts up with nonsense at a horrible Southern Baptist Church that is drunk on an unBiblical form of the congregationalist model. The pastor sounds less like he is there because he is called, and more like he’s there because he isn’t qualified to do anything else and needs to pay the bills.

    Norm Miller

    Though I have not met Unappreciated Pastor, he and I have shared numerous DMs and emails. So, I think I have gotten to know him, and I have found him to be as sincere, warm, considerate and godly as he is funny, if not moreso. Therefore, I take exception to your unknowing and unfair characterization of him.

    Also, your first sentence intimates that he is not a “good” pastor. Whereas I am not privy to how “good” UP is as a pastor, I must say that, if he treats others as he has me, then he is an exceptional pastor. So, I cannot, nor will I, question his calling or pastoral abilities. After all, he may have an assignment from God akin to the one Jonah had. And to my knowledge, UP didn’t run away; he is in the thick of it, apparently holding forth for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel. If you believe as Graham, Havner, et al do/did, then would you not agree that most SBC churches on any given Sunday represent fields white unto harvest? If so, then UP is in the exact right place.

    Further, whereas there are some pastors who, no doubt, are hirelings, I suspect that, given the obvious intellect of UP, he could go elsewhere and earn more money and pay his bills more efficiently, and that with much fewer heart- and head-aches.

    Additionally, it is instructive to note that UP is “staying by the stuff.” If he truly faces all he writes about, then lesser, uncalled men would have turned tail and run long ago.

    His only problem as I see it is that he prevaricates, b/c I appreciate *and* respect @Rev_Norespect.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Okay, brother Norm. Since you decided to respond in that fashion, please allow a retort.

      I wonder if my “unfair” characterization of him matches the disdain he shows for the deacons and other people he has been pastor of.

      Are their “churches” filled with folk like this? Sure. Some places are filled with people like this. I described them exactly like that myself, described what they are in my first post even, and have been a pastor of a church like that myself. But, unless you compromise on Biblical principles, doctrine, and evangelism, you either leave to go to an actual Church that fits the description found in the Bible (though no Church is perfect), get fired, or do something else.

      That this read as a summary description of his 15 years in ministry, I would have to conclude that he has terrible luck with finding churches, he isn’t a good pastor to lead the congregations to act like a Church, or he is just sticking with the gig and compromises often to keep it.

      As for being white unto harvest, perhaps, but if so, then those aren’t Churches, and the word is wrongly used. “Unregenerate Social Club” fits better, and a congregation needs to be called out regularly for being that if that is what they are. He doesn’t need to anonymously tell SBC Today what these people are, he needs to preach and rebuke every Sunday until he is fired or by God’s grace they change. Otherwise, Romans 2:24. “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

      I can relate to some of what he is saying, but there is nothing noble in “sticking it out” when it is all in vain. So, I can’t relate to all of what he is saying, and making this seem normative for all pastors and churches doesn’t fit my overall experience in the SBC with pastors and congregations. If his experience, and not mine, is normative, then I am way more right than even I give myself credit for. This just means the SBC and American Evangelical churches in general are a disaster and not worth salvaging because they are under judgment. That goes for both the pastors and the people in the pews.

      I don’t think that is the case though, and for all the horror stories common among pastors, that this is a 15 year summary of the job position, it is by far the most disdain for everyone in the pews I have read. Other pastors with horror stories end their tales with “and God moved us to a better place” or “God has called me to something different and better in my life”. The “but I hang around anyway” kind of pastors also fit a mold, and I don’t think it was an unfair one.

      Also, there is nothing wrong with concluding that being a pastor isn’t one’s calling. If this is his experience, then maybe he should rethink his calling. Per your Jonah example, the New Testament has a pattern for the Church, and falling back on Old Testament Remnant stories to justify inaction on the part of the pastor and/or his congregation, and no movement on God’s part within them, as is often the habit of ineffective pastors themselves, simply won’t cut it.

      Remember, these kinds of stories are always offset by the pastors who are effectively leading churches that are boldly and effectively serving Christ. Moreover, those stories should be the upcoming pastors’ expectation, not this kind of stuff. Pastors need to tell their congregations that they need to become that as well, or the “church” needs to die. It is God’s reputation that is at stake.

      Wallowing in the muck going on decades is not Biblical for the New Testament Church. While all churches have their problems, and their seasons (this too is in the Bible, as are the harsh rebukes to CORRECT them), putting up with it for 15 years and this is what the UP says to aspiring pastors is as sad as it is pathetic. It may be a reflection of an unregenerate reality of some churches, but it is not reflective of a Biblical reality in actual churches. Actual pastors lead actual churches to the greater goal, others settle for a paycheck through compromise, and dress it up in Evangelical blather and “woe is me, I’m just Moses in the wilderness with the stiff-necked Israelites” kind of talk to excuse themselves and the congregations they get paid from, but actually disdain.

        Norm Miller

        I will refer you to the responses of Dr. Copeland and Fundie Baptist.

        Darren Palmer

        When you deal with a congregation, you have to decide if you are going to lead sheep or drive cattle. If you choose the latter, you will, no doubt, get your points across, and maybe fear some people into following, but you will never create an atmosphere of love and unity in which the Holy Spirit brings about transformation. Prophetic-type people, usually mixed with a little anger, often like to rant and rave in the name of “preaching the truth.” But we need more prophets like Jeremiah, who, more than words, used tears.

    Fundie Baptist

    Sounds like someone who cares for his family, people and calling enough to warn the vocational ministers of the pitfalls of a seemly glamorous profession. It is, indeed, a calling. I have a gut feeling that this pastor can see past the negatives and is fulfilled in sheepherding his flock.

    I also see an armchair Pharisee who should probably do a better job leading his flock or encouraging his own pastor instead of “preaching” at another.

    A Fundamental Baptist Missionary’s Kid (Now grown up)

priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

wow….(I’ll cling to your last sentence….and the cross of Jesus Christ- He was unappreciated, too!)

Darren Palmer

This was funny, and hopefully going overboard to make a point! But I’m so thankful this has not been my experience. I have served in ministry for over 20 years, 16 as Assistant Pastor and 4 as Lead Pastor. I have had tough assignments, and “perfect fits.” Don’t be scared! I have and have had deep friendships, (yes, within my church), “mothers” and “grandmothers” that love me, a great spirit of love and unity, and God is doing great things! I have known deep valleys and high mountains, but walking through them together as a family is beautiful. I love my calling and treasure it deeply. My people are a gift from heaven, even the stubborn ones! And the “togetherness” between the Deacons and me is strong. I can totally relate with the heightened spiritual battle on Mondays! But friends, we are in a war! So make your calling and election sure, but ENJOY the ministry. It is a journey I would never trade. “Father, refresh weary pastors today. Bring breakthrough and encouragement. Call young people to full time ministry, with hearts and eyes wide open. We need You, and we cannot do it without You!”

    Norm Miller

    Thank you, Darren, for serving the Lord, and also for your comment.

    Before posting UP’s essay, I wondered if some would consider it too cynical. Maybe it is. However, it also is not unusual. Anyone who has been in the pastorate, or at least a church member listening about half the time, can attest to what UP is noting. Situations like these exist, sadly.

    As a former pastor, as the son of a pastor, and as one who knows many pastors, I can attest to all UP mentions. My father was criticized for having “too-long” fingernails. He was accused of trying to “run” the church. One congregation even tried to vote him out. They lost — and five of them lost their lives shortly thereafter, too.

    I have heard it all and seen it all. And as a conglomerate experience, UP has cited it all accurately, or in a truthful, representative manner.

    Those 400 pastors who met recently in Atlanta to pray for revival surely prayed for churches like the one UP describes. And, were I a betting man, I would wager that they all had experienced things like UP cited. Surely, our churches need revival. And some in them need to be “vived” for the first time.

    May God continue to bless you, Darren, in your ministry. — Norm

Luke

I agree it was funny, but it was also sad, all at the same time. I have been in those churches for sure, but I don’t think that is a way to live. With no friends, constantly looking over your shoulder, etc. I lived that way for many years, and those habits are hard to break. But as you said there are people who feel God’s calling to those places.

The good thing about these siturations is it is easier to trust God when God is all you have. The danger of success, so to speak, is that it can pull us away from God if we don’t pay attention to our mind and hearts.

On a different question, is UP writing satirically? I had always assumed he was, judging from his tweets. But this essay reads much sadder than his tweets. Is he completely anonymous?

    Norm Miller

    Here is the tag line from his blog:
    “The lighter side of the heavy side of ministry. Poking fun & provoking thought.”

Dr. David W. Copeland

I would assert that anyone with sense knows that the note is satirical, but how many of us haven’t had those thoughts. I’ve pastored 6 churches and filled in at several more, and I have had those days! I would just say, like W. A. Criswell “Look Up Brother, Your Redemption Draweth Nigh!” Regardless of what comes day by day, when the end of days comes, it will be worth it!

The Unappreciated Pastor

This article is definitely satire. I got the idea for it one day while watching a show called “Scared Straight”. Kids who were making wrong decisions were taken to a jail for a day and an attempt was made to scare the kids straight. The officers and inmates obviously exaggerated the reality of jail in order to make their point to the kids. I was doing the same thing here, only about ministry instead of jail. I appreciate SBC Today for posting my blogs. Many reading them here for the first time may not understand the context in which I write. The Unappreciated Pastor is a character I invented to poke fun and provoke thought. It may help to read my blog “The Psychology of a Parody Account”. God is good to me. I have a great life. I serve a great God. He has me in a great church. I understand that my style is not for everyone. But it obviously communicates and ministers to many people. I never submit my articles to anyone. They are picked up by others who want to publish them from my blog or other websites that have taken my material. I hope people will take the article for what it was: a little fun, a lot of exaggeration, but a great point at the end. I love Jesus, I love the church and I love my calling. I’ll be meeting, as I do every Wednesday, at 6:30 AM with young men from my church to encourage them to be great leaders in the church. I love ministry. But I also love to laugh and have found laughter is a great avenue to communicate serious truth.

    volfan007

    Unappreciated Pastor,

    I really, really like your tweets. They’re great! And, they show the insight of a man, who has been in the trenches for a while. Thanks for all the times you’ve made me smile, and even belly laugh. I post your tweets on my FB page all the time. Keep up the good work, Brother.

    David

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