Eleven Things You Might Not Understand About Your Minister

My dad was a minister in a church. My uncles were ministers. My cousin’s a minister. About thirty of my best friends are, or were, ministers.

I was a minister, until I quit seven years ago. Probably forever.

It’s difficult being a minister. In the hard times, I always felt like many of the people in the church didn’t really understand us. Where our hearts were, how we were feeling, what our intentions were, how best to help us help the church. Which often felt dysfunctional. And I spent a lot of my down time thinking about a list of things I wish the church understood.

But while I was in the position, saying them would have sounded only like whining. Or it would have been uncomfortably vulnerable.

Now that I’m seven years removed from ministry, with no chance of returning, I want to offer some of these things to you who attend church regularly, hoping that they might be received in a different, more constructive spirit. I’ve really got nothing invested here any more, except love and respect for my brothers and sisters who do this for a living. And a hope that I can make someone’s life just a little better.

A disclaimer is in order. I ran these by a large handful of ministers this week, and most of them said something akin to ‘Yes, exactly!’ But there were one or two who responded saying that they’ve had a different, better experience with ministry, and that most of these don’t apply to them. But I think it’s fair to say that about nine out of ten ministers relate strongly to most of what’s here.

It might also be weird that I’ve written them in the first person, as though I’m currently a minister. I’m not. But since I was born and bred and trained for it, and since I did it for so many years, I’m placing myself back into the fold for this post. Most of it comes from my own personal experience anyway.

So here’s what your minister wishes you understood. Give it a read, give it some thought, and give him or her a bigger hug than usual tomorrow morning.

1. Our greatest fear is irrelevance. It’s not losing our jobs, hurting your feelings, or accidentally saying the F word during a sermon. Those fears are there. But they are nothing compared to the nagging fear that what we say and do is making zero difference in your life. That you are only showing up to church because of habit, or obligation, or mental illness. That we are laying ourselves bare to write and deliver a sermon every week that nobody is hearing.  If your pastor has made an actual difference in your life ever, by word or deed or example or friendship, take some time this week to let him or her know, in as much detail as you can. You cannot imagine how far that will go.

2. We are mama’s boys. Apologies to the female pastors, this one’s just about the guys. I’ve read studies that higher than 80 percent of male pastors say they are much closer to their mothers than their fathers. This has a lot of implications, and it explains why we’re more likely to play an instrument than fire a gun, have coffee with a friend than watch a game, read a book than restore an old Mustang. It also means that nobody in the church gets our attention as much as the old ladies, who can make or break our day with a kind word or a disapproving scowl. When you’re dealing with your male pastor, keep in mind that he’s more likely to speak the language of nurture over discipline, collaboration over competition, forgiveness over punishment. These aren’t things he learned in seminary, these are things he learned in diapers.

3. S/he sees you when you’re sleeping. Some people in the pews think there’s a two way mirror between them and the pulpit, that they can see the pastor but the pastor can’t see them. Wrong. We see you yawn, look at your phone, whisper something into your wife’s ear. Sleep. Which is fine. If we’re boring, it’s not your fault, it’s ours. But just be aware that we see you, and that if you can manage to at least look like you’re a little more interested, it might actually feed some energy back to us and give us more zing. Energy goes two ways.

4. We think about quitting a lot. Behind closed doors, most ministers talk about moving on with regularity. The job is hard in a way that people who’ve never done it cannot understand. Not physically, or even mentally. But emotionally it can wreck you. I don’t fully understand why, although I have theories. But just know, when you’re choosing how to interact with her or him, that your pastor is probably hurting and tired and wishing s/he could quit. And that, in most cases, the only thing keeping him or her there is a sense of love and obligation to you. Be gentle, sensitive, and grateful for that.

5. We envy people who can be themselves. We wish we could cuss without it making headlines. We wish we could get drunk at a party, just once, without it resulting in an elders meeting. We wish we could be enthusiastic about a hobby without people raising their eyebrows about how much time and money we’re spending on it. We wish we could make angry political remarks on Facebook. You know, all the things that you feel free to do all the time. You want us to be human, but not too human. Believe me, we know. And it’s probably for the best that we are charged with setting a good example, it makes sense. But just know, we sometimes envy your freedom to just be yourself.

[UPDATE: It’s August 12th. This blog has now received over 104 thousand views. And the wording of my point above has stirred up more controversy than the Zapruder film. See about half of the comments below to see what I’m talking about. Several readers misunderstood my intentions with the phrases ‘We wish we could cuss…’ and ‘We wish we could get drunk…’, apparently without reading much further to understand the point I was actually trying to make.

I’m very frustrated by this, but I’m willing to take responsibility for the poor wording. I suppose if I were to rewrite the article in light of this confusion, I’d say it differently. My emphasis was not on the wishing to sin, but on the headlines and elders’ meetings that always seem to result whenever a pastor slips once and does something a little too human. And the ensuing fear that the pastor and his/her family have to live in 24/7. And the envy we feel for those of you who do not live with that fear. Perhaps it would have been better to say, ‘We wish that whenever we failed, just once, to live up to the standards that have been set for us, it wouldn’t always result in major disciplinary action or public embarrassment.’

And by the way, if you ever wonder why your pastor isn’t more vulnerable about his personal weaknesses, just read some of the comments below. That should make it crystal clear.]

6. We are often spiritually starving. Probably the most closely guarded secret among pastors is how spiritually empty many of us are. Like a worker at the chocolate factory who no longer likes the taste of chocolate, or the prostitute who gets no pleasure from sex, we deal with spiritual matters so much that they often no longer have much meaning for us. Worship, for us, is a program that must be organized and executed. It’s work. It’s not for us. It’s for you. And then, when we’re not ‘on,’ often the last thing we want to do is something spiritual. Because it reminds us of work. We can’t read the Bible without thinking of sermon ideas. We can’t pray without thinking of leading prayers. We can’t meet with other church people without talking shop. So we’d rather play golf, or watch TV, or anything else. Which ultimately leaves us empty. Not everyone, not always. But often.

7. We are sinful, no different than you. We don’t just think about sinning. We aren’t just tempted to sin. We commit sins. The same kind you do. Believe it. But also understand that this doesn’t make us less qualified to talk to you about sins, but more. If you’ve ever sat in the pew and heard a pastor rambling on about temptations and sin and thought, “Whatever, there’s no way she understands what I’m dealing with,” think again. It’s very likely that she does, first hand. And that what she’s saying comes from her own life, not just from a book.

8. We are lonely, because it’s hard to trust. Pastors often have trust issues. As well they should. All pastors have heard stories about Reverend So-and-so who confided in someone in his church about his addiction to whatever, only to have that person tell the elders about it, which ultimately got him fired. It happens. We know it does. So every time we interact with you, even if it’s in a prayer group or some very intimate setting, we’re not 100% open. We can’t afford to be. It’s not your fault, it’s not our fault, it’s just a bad system that doesn’t allow pastors to be as human as it should. You can’t fix that, but you can have understanding and compassion for the man or woman who loves and serves you week after week, who counsels you and hears your confessions, and yet often has nowhere to go to get the same healing and relief.

9. Ministry is a hard job. Sometimes it’s said as a joke, sometimes it’s said in anger, that ministers don’t work very hard. That it’s a cushy gig. If that were true I doubt I’d know so many ministers who have quit swearing never to return, including myself. The best way I can think to explain why ministry is hard is to compare it to being the parent of a young child. From the outside it might not look like a lot of ‘work,’ but from the inside it’s the most exhausting thing you’ll ever do. Because it’s not just about the amount of things you do, it’s the total emotional drain of it. It’s worrying all day every day about the people and programs you’re in charge of, being on call and not ever feeling really free to be away, feeling like you live in a fishbowl with hundreds of eyes watching you all the time and never really knowing what they are all thinking of you (unless they complain, which some of them do with regularity). It’s caring for people to the point that you have nothing left for your own family when you get home, yet expecting that they show a certain spiritually-put-together face to the church (because the church expects that). It’s often feeling empty, yet pretending to feel full. It’s presenting yourself and your work to hundreds of people, several times a week, for evaluation, and often getting no feedback except ‘constructive’ criticism. And after all of this, after years of this, it’s looking out at the people in your church and seeing little or no change. Ministry is very hard, albeit perhaps in a different way than your job is hard.

10. We are more sensitive than you probably think. Most ministers I know have one or two people in their congregations who send them stinky emails weekly, and another ten or fifteen who can be counted on to complain about things about once a month. Then of course there are handful of the angels, who hug and love and say encouraging things every week. But guess what. The people who complain are far more thorough and specific and persistent than those who encourage, and they are the voices that keep us up at night feeling bad about ourselves, wondering if we suck at this. Most ministers have skin that is way thinner than their congregants think it is. We have to be open and sensitive to you, because it’s you we are charged with caring for. This means that the things you say to us can reach far deeper inside than they could otherwise. If you need to criticize your minister for something, please just be aware of this. Tread carefully, and with a lot of love and appreciation for her vulnerability. We are not above correction. Nobody is. But please make the extra effort to wrap it in as much care as you can.

11. We care about you more than you can imagine. The best moments of being a pastor for me, by far, were the times the ministers would gather for staff meetings and talk about the week ahead. Did we discuss worship and youth outings and air conditioning and budgets? Sure, for maybe twenty minutes. And then for three hours we’d talk about the people we were serving, what’s going on in their lives, and how we might help them. I always wished the whole church could be in those meetings and just see how much these people care, how much their hearts break for them, how much time and emotional energy they spend wanting to help them. Those meetings are my most sacred memories of church, because those were the moments when I saw men and women who had every reason not to care, to phone it in, to even be resentful. And yet, in spite of all of it, at the end of every day, they still cared, sometimes to the point of tears. You might have no idea how much.


680 thoughts on “Eleven Things You Might Not Understand About Your Minister

    • WOW! As a Pastor, I hve to say Bless you…..most of. These points are bang on! Than you for. Articulating my scattered thoughts so clearly!

      • This was such a great post! I have always been grateful not to have the experience of feeling like I am living in a fish bowl. Pastors have so many obligations and I sense many people (not only pastors) are not comfortable seeking support from others because they may be judged for being mere mortals.

      • It’s not WANTING to get drunk at a party; it’s simply having the opportunity to indulge a bit more at a social gathering if you want, without having to worry about what others will say the next day. I would love to be able to have an extra drink or 2 like I did with all my buds back before I got into ministry; now, I no longer can because of what people MIGHT say about me if I did. It’s not that I WANT to get drunk, far from it – it’s that the opportunity has been taken away. I never drank all that much anyway; alcohol always hits me too hard. But now at any sort of social function, I relegate myself to having a Coke and going home early because others are enjoying having a few extra drinks.

        • I know almost ALL the points in your article are true…but this one evades me. I understand the “temptation” to drink, but the desire of “having the opportunity to indulge” is contrary to the type of salvation written of in the New Testament. Sorry, you lost me on this one.

          • It’s been said that it takes 7 compliments to override one criticism. As a preacher’s daughter and the wife of a FORMER minister, I completely understand where the writer is coming from . . . even if he didn’t express it just perfectly . . . which illustrates his point quite well. It’s impossible to be perfect enough for those few in every church incapable of extending grace — the very grace they want extended to them if they ever fail. I’m pretty sure this writer doesn’t have an addictive personality or is wanting to lead someone astray by a questionable example.
            The writer is expressing what many of us have felt . . . that one can’t really be transparent or be themselves without fear of incrimination or at least some gossip hullabaloo.
            Praying for your pastor(s) is the best support church members can provide and tell them so – without an agenda. Others may be able to provide a safe haven for ministers and their families (which my husband and I have been blessed to do on occasion). Churches can also budget for pastors and spouses to attend pastor retreats.

          • I think you are missing the point. I agree that it is a poor example, but he is just saying that because ministers have to be so careful to avoid even the appearance of evil, it’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself without worrying about how you will be perceived.

          • So what about Jesus at the wedding? Why does everyone seem to run right passed this and miss that God allows for celebration. It is just not supposed to be an everyday affair.

        • I’m not a pastor and I don’t drink either. Is it that traumatic for some people to not be able to drink? I’m asking honestly, I have never had any desire to drink. Must not have an addictive personality.

          • It’s not about an addictive personality. It’s not about a desire to indulge. It’s knowing in your gut that acting like a regular person, like any other Christian in the pew, will have negative consequences for you and for your family, socially and possibly financially. That was never true when I worked at a restaurant, or a theater, or a factory. It’s absolutely true now that I’m a pastor.

          • It is poorly worded, which many have pointed out I see. I do understand the sentiment surrounding it but that choice of words righty draws criticism. I like the way you put it better Rob, but I would add that those expectations and difficulties in my opinion draw directly from the marriage of ministry with a paycheck. Imagine the freedom a pastor would have if they didn’t have to fear for their livelihood by speaking truth or by being real.. The whole system would be different, for congregants as well.

          • While I think there is good to mine from that idea, having done the job, I don’t think it would fix the problem. As has been suggested in other threads, give it a try sometime. When someone asks you what you do, tell them you’re a pastor and watch what happens. I actually have a good relationship with my congregation. They hold me accountable and expect good things from me. They honestly try to support and encourage me. Strangers? I got a lecture yesterday from a complete stranger because he saw me writing, asked if it was a story or a poem and I told the truth. From that moment on, we were in bizarro world. No financial relationship there, just a couple millennia of cultural baggage, and I don’t see that changing just because a few pastors decide to work for free.

        • But is it what the people would think or what would God think. We are believers are to take the high road and now lower ourselves to the world’s way of thinking. Jesus holds us to that and it is not legalism. Just thinking???

        • I cannot believe all the whining around about how difficult it is being a preacher. My goodness !!!!! Did you take the job because your thought it was a good living or what. I guess I should first ask…..were you “Called” into the ministry or just decided it was what you wanted to do. IF one is not “called by God” into the ministry, then of course it is hard because you are doing something you should not be doing. If you are preaching for God…..then He will carry you through and you will be able to handle it. Too many people nowadays do not and will not handle stress. It’s easier to just quit. just my opinion.

          • Pastor Wise,

            I did not see anything on your website that led me to believe that you have been pastor of a church. Rather, your ministry appears to be one of preaching in various churches and writing online. This would lead me to believe that you know very little about the actual day to day life and pressures of a pastor. The various things listed in this article are real as are all of the findings about the various issues concerning clergy health in America which you can read about on the following page.

          • Pastor Wise, your comment echos the cliche “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Just because something is hard for someone doesn’t mean God didn’t call you to it. It was MLK day this Monday. Are we to believe that it was easy for MLK to be who he was called to be in the civil rights movement? I read somewhere that he actually didn’t want to be the face of the movement and struggled to accept it. Pastors are called to stand in the space between that great joy of knowing the glory of God and the devastation and evil of sin in the world. Obviously not alone but pastors are human. Even Jesus prayed for the cup to be taken from him…but Your will be done. The yolk is heavy yet light at the same time…

        • As Christians, any substance that can alter your better judgement and conscience is not good for you because when you consume alcohol you may say things that you would never say while sober. So, as a Christian or pastor you may still have a desire but through the power of prayer over temptation hopefully, you remain strong and keep away from mind altering substances. Also, when you are Christian, you are a changed person from what you used to be, so those memories of the “good times drinking with your buds” should be different…. James 1:15 “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” And Romans 12:2
          “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

        • That’s exactly what I thought – if you even have to explain yourself on this one, it’s because somebody missed the mark completely, and probably has their Bible shoved so far up their self-righteous butt that they can’t see straight. I think lots of pastors struggle with this – not the desire to go out and get sloppy wasted, but to just be able to let loose every once in a while and not feel like every little thing they say or do could have the potential to derail their career. I think most pastors (of which my husband is one) get that the “glass bowl” just kinda comes with the territory, so you accept it, even embrace it at times (it’s a lot like being a politician)…but it doesn’t change that little devil inside you that would like to just be somebody else for a day.

          • Lana, if you really are a pastor’s wife, maybe it’s time to get into another profession. With an attitude like yours, i.e. others having their “Bible shoved so far up their self-righteous butt that they can’t see straight” … I would be looking for a different church. It’s obvious that you are burned out with serving others with the heart of Christ.

          • I think Bob just proved the point. You make a harsh statement and people say you need to get out of ministry. Pastors are under a microscope and held to a high standard – no being human allowed.

          • Pastor Marc, # 6 may be owing to the heavily rational/analytical work involved, leaving little time for feelings. At the risk of condescension or misunderstanding, try shortening the sermons, and increasing the singing, communion, reflection, and
            children’s time.

          • As a married clergywoman who just took early retirement for many of the issues in the blog: Point #2: I think that a lot – not all, but a lot – of married clergymen survive longer in ministry because they receive support and nurture from their wives, as Lana speaks so well about the role of pastor’s wife.
            In my experience, married clergywomen do not receive that same quality of nurture. My husband is a good guy but when he gets home from his long hours at work he wants to kick back, maybe work on some household repairs, maybe watch a game, not listen to me vent about what happened in the latest council meeting or, even worse, be expected to attend a church evening activity. Also, as a married clergywoman with an employed husband, the perception of the congregation was that we were so well off that I didn’t have to work and that my salary was an unnecessary expense in the church budget. [To be clear: even with both of us working that perception was not the reality.]

          • Laura, you’ve got it right on. It’s interesting that even here some think they are entitled to be that judgmental. I think you showed admirable restraint.

        • I wonder if the author would like to rewrite and/or clarify point number 5. It’s a shame that his comments on this one point take away from all the other 10 points…which I completely agree with. But, “We wish we could cuss without it making headlines. We wish we could get drunk at a party, just once” is just too hard to swallow for a pastor or a non-pastor. What brand of Christianity does this represent? Where is the biblical justification for feeling like this? I couldn’t say or write this even as a non-pastor.

          • Bob, pastor’s wife is neither a profession nor a calling. It might be a curse, few people see the harsh, judgmental, cliquish behavior of church people more than a pastor’s spouse.

          • Again, the point is being missed. He’s trying to say that many pastors simply wish they could be a regular person, just another person at the social gathering, just another friend or relative or whatever. But a pastor can’t be a real, normal, every day person because we demand absolute perfection and excoriate them if they aren’t.

            Don’t focus on the “cuss” or the “drink”. Focus on the demand for perfection that gets in the way of just being a human being.

          • Doug, you ask me not to focus on the “cuss” or “drink.” Well, I’m not focused on either… I’m focused on the “wish” to cuss and “get drunk.” You’ve tried to soften what was written by changing “get drunk” to “drink.” That’s disingenuous. I can’t honestly believe that any Christian would say, “I love this new life in Christ…I just wish I could get drunk once!” LOL … that’s just not an accurate depiction of the “new creation” we have become in Christ at conversion or new birth. So, as Mark Love has commented, perhaps a rewrite would leave out that “wish” to cuss and get drunk.

          • being a pastor’s wife myself, it is very difficult. I always have to be careful with my words and the expectations people have for me sometimes is unfair. However, I am blessed at the Church my husband works at and am blessed by the love and care by everyone in our congregation.

          • I agree totally. Hello, it was used as an example that many people can relate to. Stop making it the point of the whole blog.

          • “We (pastors) wish we could get drunk at a party…”

            Em, you wrote: “Hello, it was used as an example that many people can relate to.”

            PLEASE, help me understand who these “many people” are who can relate to a Christian pastor (or non-clergy for that matter) who “wishes” they could get drunk at a party.” I do not know ONE born again, new creation in Christ who “wishes” to get drunk at a party. The author of these words has come out and said he would not use those words in a re-write of point #5… Yes, I “get it” that pastors sometimes “wish” they could be like “normal” people in their congregation…free to “be themselves.” But this was a poorly worded example used to express that idea.

            I would like to think that ALL Christians, pastors and non-pastors, would agree with the sentiment of Point #5 without agreeing with the mis-worded example. Yes? No?

          • People like you: the reason I quit church, Bob. There’s no reason in telling you, don’t talk to me Bob. More, it’s for all the other readers, asses like you have inspired the realization that church can be a toxic way to approach our love for our savior. Go ahead and judge me Bob. You’re not my judge, but since when did that stop you?

            As for the writer, may God continue to bless you. You’re not responsible for what others write. You’ve done a good thing. Good can only come from God.

            Lana, refuse to be discouraged because of your honest reply by a person who is so insecure about himself that he would take aim at you. He’s a stone thrower. I trust that you are growing in your faith just fine without input from Bob! Lol

          • Wow, KJ, I wasn’t aware that whenever a “Pastor” spoke or wrote ANYTHING that we “lay people” are REQUIRED to shut up and agree with EVERYTHING that the Pastor says or writes. We’re not allowed to ask questions or have a different opinion. OK, I get it now. Where is you church? I want to come and be one of the robots in your congregation. How foolish of me to forget that all Pastors are infallible.

          • Jesus came eating and drinking (Luke 7) and where in the Bible does it say no cussing? Thou shalt not say shit? No–society has made it bad to curse. Cussing–not a sin. I think taking God’s name in vain however is a sin. And I believe that taking God’s name in vain is more than uttering “oh god”–one can also take God’s name in vain when he or she uses God’s name to put up barriers of understanding. Bob, I wonder if you might think of others as well. Several times you seem to not understand people’s comments because YOU don’t feel a certain way. The NT teaches us that we’re all in it together. Even you are with us crazy, cussing, liberal Christians and we all need to work on understanding one another. I’m trying to understand you, maybe you could try to understand those of us speaking against your sentiment. There is no one way to interpret scripture, if there was I think we’d all be dead.

          • Hi Kathleen. I appreciate your attempt to explain yourself. My remarks and questions here were not focused on “cussing.” They weren’t even focused on “drinking” or “getting drunk.” Just for the record, I have a friend who is an Episcopalian minister who swears occasionally and drinks occasionally. So I’m trying to make it clear that swearing and drinking are NOT issues with me.

            My ONLY questioning was concerning whether a Pastor or non-pastor…any born again, new creature in Christ, would “wish” they could get drunk at a party. And the author of these (otherwise) excellent 10 points has admitted that he would not use that wording or that example if he were to re-write Point #5.

            So I don’t know how to make this any clearer…I’m not “judging” or trying to “throw stones” (as some have accused me of doing) at anyone. I agree with all 10 points but take issue with the concept of Christians “wishing” they could get drunk. I “get” the fact that Pastors “wish” they could be like “normal” people in the pews…I just agree with the author that expressing that idea by saying “I wish I could get drunk at a party” is NOT the best way to explain that sentiment.

            I’m sorry that some think that it’s evil to question this one point. As Christians (of ALL stripes and denominations) we ALL sin … but the whole point of conversion and new birth and “Christ Who is our life” is that as unsaved people we didn’t care when we sinned…but as Christians we no longer have the desire to sin (although we are ALL tempted to sin and sometimes we DO sin).

            I don’t know why this has been so difficult for some to understand. Even the author of this article understood my point and agreed…while so many others are outraged that I even questioned the use of “I WISH I could get drunk” as an accurate description of anyone who professes to be a Christian.

            Hope that clears up any misunderstanding.

          • Hello Bob. I know it sounds very “unChristian” to want to be able to get drunk or to cuss and not be punished for it… and I agree. We are told in scripture that teachers are held to a higher standard, and that’s a reality that all those in full-time ministry will have to accept.

            Nevertheless, like so many people have already tried to tell you: that was not the point. It is NOT the point that the writer, even the way it was originally stated, wished that ministers be allowed to use rude language or get drunk. The point is that even ministers wish that they can be treated the same way a layperson/churchgoer is treated when they sin: they are understood, they are accepted, they are not judged and they are not driven away from church. Sometimes, even ministers wish that when they “stumble and fall” they don’t have to worry about whether people will trust them again (for some reason, if a best buddy who is a layperson gets drunk once, it doesn’t mean that anything he says from that point on is suspect… in fact, unlike ministers, they are even considered the best person to talk about alcoholism in some church setting—because he’s “been there”… but not so with ministers, however; after that, he’s treated as damaged goods, like “how dare he talk about alcoholism when HE gets drunk!”). Sometimes, even ministers wish that, when in some gathering where people are drinking and cussing, people who happen to be old friends of his, they wish that they don’t have to feel so alienated: if he doesn’t join in, he’s a kill-joy but if he does join in he’s not to be trusted).

            As the only layperson in my family (all my brothers are ministers and we were pastor’s kids), I ask: Why the double standard?

            It’s no use saying “but I treat people the same way—lay or clergy—and I won’t associate with THOSE sort of people”. Isn’t THAT what the Pharisees thought of Jesus? He, though he himself did not sin, still was with sinners? He, who was the resurrection and the life, cried at his friend’s death? He, who knew that he would rise again, still wished and hoped that He didn’t have to go through what He did… and only did because it was God’s will?

            And, to point out the obvious, the obligation to try and be holy is usually expected from one who is a believer… not one who, as his other blog posts attest, has left the faith. In fact, I have the sinking feeling that such judgement and lack of grace and forgiveness that caused it (yes, I know there may be a certain lack of perseverance here, but even a brave soldier shell-shocked too often will eventually turn coward).

          • Bob, you’re an idiot. And in the process of being an idiot, you prove the point the author was trying to make. But, you’re too self-righteous to even notice.

          • Here’s the point…I don’t want to cuss, I don’t want to get drunk…I just wish I could and it wouldn’t sink my ministry. I don’t want the freedom to sin, I want the freedom from the judgment if I sin.

          • “Where is the Biblical justification for feeling like this?” He does not need a biblical justification. He is being human and honest about his feelings – which are not controlled by his intellect or his values. How Christian is it to reject him in his reality and to demand something else from him, i.e., to be fake in public?

        • You guys are missing the point completely. It is not about drinking – it’s about having to live a transparent life for the mighty saints who judge the ministers with non constructive criticism. A minister bleeds the same way that you do.

          • I don’t think Bob or anyone else disagrees with you, only pointing out that the wording is strange and misleading and as Bob says draws attention from the rest of the list.

          • We are no longer in full time ministry because of age, but the memories never die. We loved what we were called to and did it willingly because of our love for the Lord and His people and those who were yet to become part of the family of god, BUT we remember well the loneliness and tears in the night! Yes we would do it all over again knowing the cost, the joy and the pain. You are right on!

          • Classic case of the silent majority and vocal minority. It’s why America is so ridiculously politically correct these days.

            It’s so sad how one person’s refusal to let something clearly not intended to be taken so literally can be so LOUD and dominating. Thousands of other readers read this post and may have paused an extra second when they read “cuss” or “get drunk,” but otherwise just kept on reading without being compelled to throw up their arms and shout BLASPHEMY!

        • Love how the misunderstood comments about drinking made your point. So anxious to judge is the outstanding feature of believers. My Dad was a Baptist minister a teetotaler and was judged all the time for being too loving, too forgiving, imagine. I brought a bottle of whisky as a gift to a Catholic priest I was interviewing once and he opened the it and through the cap in the waste basket, not needing that any more. Gotta love the Catholic brothers and sisters, they get a lot right.

          • Yeah. Those Catholics. They have it all figured out. They are masters at moving priests from parish to parish in order to hide THEIR dirty little secrets. What point were you trying to make exactly??

      • The kind of minister that has to deal with comments like this after being totally vulnerable and transparent. This smugness is what causes good people to quit.

        • Best answer ever!

          “The kind of minister that has to deal with comments like this after being totally vulnerable and transparent. This smugness is what causes good people to quit.”

        • Exactly! He’s trying to say, “hey, we are far more human than you want to believe or allow us to be, consequently, we are completely boxed in from all sides; and should we bump up against any side, any time, for any reason, we completely fail the “test” in the eyes of the church and are demonized in a way that causes us tremendous pain, sending us, for our own self-protection, into lonely, private places, with the shades pulled down, and our fingers on the “trigger” to protect ourselves from almost EVERYONE.”

          • Uh this bothered me a bit too. Other examples might have worked better than yearning for an opportunity to cuss or drink. I don’t consider either of them something to aspire to as a non-minister, why would a professional Christian want them?

          • Rob, if you are paid to perform Christian duties you are a professional. I was being a bit cheeky with the phrase “professional Christian” but the idea still stands.

        • Help me find the “smugness” you see in those who disagree with “We wish we could cuss without it making headlines. We wish we could get drunk at a party, just once.” I just can’t swallow that this is something a pastor or non-pastor wishes to do. What brand of Christianity or what version of the New Testament supports this sentiment? Seriously…not speaking from “smugness.”

          • Bob,you are still missing the point.It’s not the actual cussing or drinking that’s just a metaphor.If you don’t understand that i think you should reread it.

          • “We wish we could cuss without it making headlines. We wish we could get drunk at a party, just once…” Where is the “metaphor” in this? That is simply your (mis)interpretation of what is written. I’d like the author to clarify what is expressed in clear words.

          • The point that you should all see is that the author feels he can never let his guard down, he always has to be a “nearly” perfect example. Man/woman is not constructed that way, we all have many faults, and I think he feels that to be able to let his hair down and have a little fun as his parishiners do on a daily basis, would be frowned upon.
            Ministers are human too!

          • Dave I agree with you completely…only wish that Mark had written it the same way you did. If he truly wishes he could cuss and get drunk…well, we have a problem!!

          • Bob, are you ever tempted to sin? I assume you will say yes, because you know the scripture about Jesus having been tempted in all ways like us, and you don’t want to say you are better than Jesus. So let’s do this. Give us a couple off your list of temptations, as I have done, and then answer the question you appear to be putting to me: How on earth can someone who calls himself a minister even have these thoughts? Walk us through it. After you do, I’ll be happy to answer your question with regards to my own temptations. You first, since this is your issue, not mine.

          • Mark, there is a WORLD of difference between being tempted (which we ALL experience) and a pastor or non-pastor “wishing” he or she could cuss and get drunk. I have only been drunk once in my life (eons ago before I experienced the new birth) and I have never once had the “wish” to get drunk again. Have I been “tempted” to drink alcohol (even though I don’t think the Bible teaches total abstinence…only the absolute of “be not drunk”) YES! of course. And I have had a pina colada a time or two while eating out at a Mexican restaurant. I really wish that Mark could re-write point 5 … I understand the underlying feeling and sentiment…but the wording of “wishing” to cuss and get drunk goes against the kernel of truth presented in the New Testament concerning the “new creation” in Christ. The “life of Christ” in the believer may be TEMPTED to cuss and get drunk, but that new life does not WISH it could cuss and get drunk. Yes? No?

          • LOL… ooops, wasn’t paying close attention to who wrote the note to me… Mark Love! Are you really doubling down on your “wish” to cuss and get drunk? I guess I would never have thought to explain temptation in the life of the believer as a “wish” to sin. That’s totally foreign to me and everything I’ve read and experienced as a Christian. I’ve done plenty of sinning since becoming a Christian…just never had a “wish” to sin. Quite the opposite.

          • Would you care to comment on Paul’s explanation of sin in the believer’s life from Romans 7:15-25? I can’t imagine Paul explaining the struggle between the new and old man as “wishing” to sin or get drunk. Those are the very things he says he “hates” to do…but finds himself doing nonetheless. Nowhere does he say he “wishes” to do the things he hates. I’m confused by your wording of a Christian “wishing” to sin.

          • Bob. OK. I suppose if I were to rewrite the article in light of the confusion my wording has caused you and a couple of others, I’d say it differently. My emphasis was not on the wishing to sin, but on the headlines and elders’ meetings that always seem to result whenever a pastor slips once and does something a little too human. And the ensuing fear that the pastor and his/her family have to live in 24/7.

            Perhaps it would have been better to say, ‘We wish that whenever we failed, just once, to live up to the standards that have been set for us, it wouldn’t always result in major disciplinary action or public embarrassment.’

            On a different note, I don’t see such a broad gap as you between ‘temptation’ and ‘wishing to sin,’ by the way. Explain that one to me.

          • Hooray for your rewrite! I’d understand that 100% for some in ministry. I don’t think that’s the experience of my pastor, and I don’t think he lives in fear 24/7 … but I’ll ask him this next week…you see, we’ve been meeting over coffee at the local coffee shop for about 2 hours one day each week…for years and years! We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well in that time, and he knows that I love him UNCONDITIONALLY and anything he shares with me goes no further than my ears only. In all the years of sharing, I’ve never heard him share that he “wishes” he could get drunk… LOL … but I’m going to have him read your excellent article and tell me how much he identifies with and what, if anything, he disagrees with. Best regards to you and your family!

          • It’s not the word “drink” or “cuss” that is the focal point. It’s the word “could”.

            “I wish I wasn’t on public display all the time. I wish I wasn’t under constant judgment. I wish that if I did slip up, no one would notice because I was just another person.”

            The very judgment that you’re using when you say “What kind of pastor would even say such a thing”? Well, that’s EXACTLY the 24×7 scrutiny that wears a person down to the point that they quit and walk away.

          • And it seems only fair to point out that I did say this in point #5: “And it’s probably for the best that we are charged with setting a good example, it makes sense.” I’m not proposing, at all, at ALL, that a church should be OK with a blatantly, unapologetically sinful pastor. Of course that wouldn’t work. All I’m asking of the reader in this point, and indeed in the entire article, is to understand that these things often take an emotional toll on a person and on a family. It’s not easy. And maybe knowing this will help some parishioners know how better to love and care for their pastor. That was my only reason for writing this.

          • One is not smug for disagreeing, one is smug when they make a statement and jump to conclusions about a persons pastor-hood all the while ignoring the irony staring them between the eyes.

            There is a broken system in western church life where the transparent and vulnerable are removed and punished and the prideful and self righteous are promoted and secured. This system breeds within it’s pastors an inner desire to sin. Please stop being a part of that system.

          • “One is not smug for disagreeing, one is smug when they make a statement and jump to conclusions about a persons pastor-hood all the while ignoring the irony staring them between the eyes.” Wow! John… LOL … I have NO idea what this is supposed to mean…really! Can you be a bit more specific…please!

            “There is a broken system in western church life where the transparent and vulnerable are removed and punished and the prideful and self righteous are promoted and secured.” Again, could you be specific…site some examples…I’ve seen plenty of prideful and self righteous eventually brought low rather than “secured”… examples: Jim Bakker, Robert Tilton, Jimmy Swaggert, etc.

            “This system breeds within it’s pastors an inner desire to sin.” What? Now we blame the “inner desire to sin” on “the system”?? Are you kidding?

            “Please stop being a part of that system.” Whoa!! Who is “jumping to conclusions” now? How do you know that I am “a part of that system”?? Who is being self-righteously judgmental now?

          • Bob…U are a Pharisee. High words and lofty phrases cannot hide what you are. A stone throwing religious dude who doesn’t really know the heart of God at all. Please understand me when I say this…I doubt that you have met Jesus’ grace and truth. “let He who has never committed a sin that separates them from God chuck the first deadly stone” well…you’ve done that over and over…and I wish I could say that I’ll pray for you, but I’m not there…as I pastor, yes, It would be nice not to have to worry about the amount of ANYTHING that I indulge in. Getting drunk would be sweeeet with my friends. Is it outside of God’s boundaries of what is true, right and best for us…YES. It is. Christ followers should be sober minded at all times… we should pray WITHOUT CEASING…we should give ALL we have to widows and orphans…etc etc etc… that’s the truth. The GRACE is this: Im made from dust. I have desires that are contrary to God’s will for my life. That which I shouldn’t do, I do…. but for you to be on THAT side just heaving stones at us for verbiage!?!??! You’re acting like the WORST of us. So, please, come take my job over, I will hand it with no contest. Shepherd my congregation and deal with all that comes with it, cause you are a BETTER CHRISTIAN THAN ME. I’ll give you my address!!!! So, Saint butthead, sleep well in your smug, self-righteous bed. Author; thank you for this article. Much like the church, we do life better together, and knowing that other people feel like this has helped me.

          • Tony, Tony, Tony (can I call you “Tony”? “Anthony” seems so formal…and you seem like an informal type of guy.) LOL

            Well, geez, where to start? First off, let’s start by stating that the author has agreed with my constructive critique of Point # 5 (by the way, I clearly stated that I agreed 100% with the other points). The author said he would change the “verbiage” (your term) as it was poorly worded. So I guess that would mean that he caved to all the “stone throwing” that this pharisee heaped upon him.

            I’d be interested if Mark Love would personally agree with your sentiment of “Getting drunk would be sweeeet with my friends.” I’ll play the part of WORST sinner by asking, “What New Testament version are you reading that would agree that the new birth, the new life in Christ, the salvation purchased by Christ via the cross, produces a mindset, a thought structure, a heart’s desire that openly declares, “Yes! We should continue in sin that grace may abound! Getting drunk would be sweeeet with my friends…even though it’s not what God would want for me…but, hey, I’m just a worm of the dust…but I know God’s grace!!!!!” Really? I know of no such Christianity found anywhere within the pages of the New Testament.

            Yes, we all are tempted to commit acts of sin. But anyone who has experienced the new birth does not “wish” to sin or desire to sin. A true Christian is grieved whenever he sins…not proclaiming how sweeeeet sin can be. Like Paul, the Christian “hates” the things he does that are contrary to Christ’s life within him.

            OK…time to stop my pharisaical, heathenistic stone throwing.

          • Hi Bob, It means that you can count yourself out of being “smug” if all you were doing was disagreeing. If all you needed to do was inquire and get some more clarity with what the author meant than go for it. My comment was never intended for you.
            As for the punishing the transparent, it is happening right now and undoubtedly if Deacon Kevin were on Pastor Mark’s church board there would be serious consequences for saying something like that. You are right that the prideful eventually fall but look at the hidden lives they were harboring all along. And every time it’s because these hot shots knew that they could never tell any one about the inner struggles they were having. Ted Haggard comes to mind. If these preachers knew they could talk to someone without consequence, most of them would reach out for help.
            Porn in the church is thriving for this reason. Pastors think they would get fired and loose everything if they ever told anyone about their struggle. Hope this helps.

          • For goodness sake, Bob, he didn’t say “I wish I could get drunk.” There’s more to the sentence. He said he wished he could slip up without it ending his career. The wish isn’t to be able to sin it’s to be human without idiots like you blowing things out of proportion. Reading comprehension. Try it.

      • I remember my dh at a party once. I think it might have been an informal wedding reception, but it was at a home. There was beer and every time dh walked into a room, if there was someone drinking a beer they left to another room. No one wanted to be in the same room with him. If he had felt free to have a beer it would have relaxed everyone around him. Finally he left because he figured no one was going to be comfortable around him. It made him very very sad.

      • I think we’re missing the point. Idon’t believe that he’s saying that he wishes he could get drunk at a party or cuss. It’s wishing that when he does stumble (as we all do), he won’t be condemned for it. It’s wishing that a slip of the tongue wouldn’t get you vilified. It’s wishing that a lapse in judgment and committing a sin wouldn’t run the risk of getting you fired. It’s wishing that you could express your personal and political views without it endangering your career. It’s wishing that when you write something or say something that could be interpreted in a variety of ways that you won’t be disparaged because people choose to interpret it in the most negative way.

        • … wishing, if we have to go to the grocery store when we’re not feeling well, and as a result we’re grumpy and maybe don’t go out of our way to greet a parishioner in the aisles, that we don’t get dinged for being “unfriendly.” A regular person would be cut some slack in a situation like that. But I’ve heard of pastors called on the carpet for such trivialities.

          And if you’re a female pastor, there’s the “Can you BELIEVE she wore THAT?” nonsense.

      • Deacon Kevin,
        YOU my dear friend have totally missed the mark or the emphasis of what the author is attempting to say. You just jumped right in and started in on your judgment of him. Do some homework, 90% of pastors are closet alcoholics, and guess what??? They’re probably like that because of pious Christians like you who feel that pastors are supposed to be above sin. Romans 3:23 says that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of GOD!!! Including YOU Mr. Deacon! Do not, I repeat do not, sit in judgment of anyone until you first take the beam out of your own eye, re-read what this author is trying to say and get a life.

        • 90 percent sounds high. But often sayn pointing to my Dr. Pepper they should (thankful that was they only bottle they drove me too.

        • I tried several web searches for the “90% of pastors are closet alcoholics” … nothing came up in the search results to support that. Could you help me out and give me some sources for that statistic? Thanks!

      • These comments about wanting to get drunk or NEVER wanting to get drunk are so funny. Wanting to get drunk is so tame compared to some of my most wicked temptations. Like slitting the tires of the elder who is trying to run me out or slitting his _____ (fill in the blank, I’ve thought it). Or banging the young lady on the front row who keeps crossing her barely covered legs while I’m supposed to be leading the congregation in prayer. Or showing up at that gossip queen’s workplace and embarrassing her like she has embarrassed me. I could go on.
        Mind you, these are temptations I have resisted. So far. That’s not to say I have not said and done some horrible things. I’m just not confessing those here.
        So, thanks Mark for writing and thank you all for the comments, especially those “I would never…since I’m born again and spirit-filled” comments that make Mark’s point even better than he did.

      • deacon, it’s comments like the one you posted is what he is referring to…. pastors/peachers have even gotten called into “elders

    • Very good article. Having grown up as a ministers son I can understand this article and can share in the pains it has bought upon us as a family. I know certain issues have left scars upon myself and my family! If anybody feels they cannot get on with their minister I would strongly advise they just remove themselves away from the fellowship peacefully and worship elsewhere.

    • Love this article and is spot on! I’m a pastor and have been for 10 years. Thanks for doing this and telling it like it is!

    • I just graduated from the DLM Program and will be under supervision for another one and a half years. The forms, interviews and supervision meetings are what give me headaches. I can relate to what you have written, I was really hurt by the congregation last year and it has taken a long time to heal. I learned about boundaries very quickly. I am so glad you wrote this, thanks. It is isolating and lonely being in ministry with no one to talk to.

    • I almost didn’t make a comment on this blog. I am a Pastor of 15 years now. I identify deeply with this article. People are so hypocritical. They are not honest about the depths of their sins. So they surely don’t want a leader who is fully honest about his or her sins and struggles. Because that would make them choose between facing the depths of theirs sins and short-comings or just go on pretending. So instead of being honest with their sin whether it be self righteous arrogance or porn – it is easier to point fingers and be disgruntled to make themselves cope. Luke 18:4-9
      How many times I just want to make a flippant comment on blog like this or a rant on Facebook about something. How many times I wish someone would send a note in the mail saying thanks. How many times I wish I had friends that I can just hang out with and not feel like their all on guard because I am a Pastor. How many times my family has gotten the worst of me because I gave others my best. Thanks for taking time to write this out with raw honesty.

      • Congrats Pastor Roy: It is a lonely place, but God did the calling and you will get your reward. The fact is, “my words will not come back void, but shall accomplish what I please” (Isaiah 55:11). I hardly get “thanks, Pastor” either I just have to grin and bear it, to the Glory of God. Pastor Rick

    • Being a pastor is a calling, not a profession. If you turn what we do into a profession, you also remove the divine and basically function as someone who is employed by a congregation to carry out certain tasks and expectations. Having said that, let me say that I was sent to a small country church that was down to just a few families who had their own theology/rituals. They did not want to have sin or wickedness exposed, and they certainly weren’t interested in being born-again or spirit-filled Christians. They also didn’t want to be led by someone in spiritual authority over them. These things were why I was sent, however. For eight years I prayed, cried, hurt, taught and tried to be an example – with only just a few who really responded to the call for holy living. I took leave, went south for the winter to help my mother, only to discover how angry they were at me for being a woman pastor and not being readily available to them. The denomination I served was more preoccupied with money and position than holy living. It has pushed out good, decent pastors because they also exposed sin and destructive behavior and the congregations they served didn’t like what they were hearing.

      God’s Spirit has showed me so much over the years, mostly teaching me why those who desire to truly live for Him should not be in traditional churches or involved in religion. They are destructive, protective, mostly small and secret little clubs who need to maintain power and control. Too many pastors are more interested in self-preservation than really teaching Biblical truth. After all, if you tell the truth, how will you continue to fund your IRA or stock fund or make your mortgage payment? As a result, they allow compromise to keep the peace and keep people off of their backs.

      I doubt that I will ever step a foot in another church. I can’t stomach anymore bazaars, dinners, rummage sales, etc. all in the name of furthering the gospel. I refuse to participate in women’s groups or so called ministries that produce nothing more than a place to plot and plan against other folk, gossip, or just or just hold the line against being “too churchy and holy-roller.” Most organized churches need to lose their tax-exempt status and have to start paying taxes. Too many now are businesses/casinos and not spiritual hospitals.

      I completely understand why the author finds his solace and peace with woodworking. I am available to mentor and help those who need a safe place, but I want nothing to do with modern-day religion or its expectations of clergy.

    • I don’t think the author meant he wanted to get drunk– he simply meant he wished people realized he’s a real person with feelings. people burn out when they (and others) have super-human expectations of themselves . Thus the saying “It’s lonely at the top”

    • I use to feel offended, when my pastor passed by me and didn’t say “hello But i began praying earnestly for My Pastor.. He has a great responsibilty unto the Lord. i can only imagine the things he goes through.. Spirtually, I love My pastor, he sacrafices so much to do The will Of God. Through obedience the backbitters the murmur and complainers. He can only please God. As long as he Teaches the word without heriesis and Seeks Our father. He”s a very busy man. Especially with a family. His heart is of the people. people will hurt you, he’s human I know he covets our prayers for support. Ultimately, God has placed him there, and I reverance that!I thank God for My Pastor!!

    • I’m a young man going into the ministry so this post really touched home with me,but my dad(who’s a pastor) as well has always told me,if a man’s words aren’t backed by scripture then you can’t feed all the way into it..I didn’t see scripture ANY where in this post..Not really criticizing but the Bible says in Matt:22:14(for many are called but few are CHOSEN)..Notice at the beginning of this post he says he QUIT being a pastor so that was a red flag for me right then and there..I see my dad toss and turn and cry and moan because he is a pastor but he’s never mentioned quitting..If God really called you then you toss on that full armor and keep moving..Ephesians 6:10-18 basically is telling us that we have to put on that full armor because some of the most evil and strongest forces of temptations are in the church (against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavily realms)..Satan DOES NOT want to see people doing the works of God.As a young man going into the ministry,it’s breaking my heart to see MY generation,especially the young men,going out into the world.The few that want work are are manipulated by Satan through the world to break them down.There are a lot who turn away but they’re not suited in that armor..James says we should find joy in the test of being of tempted,Jesus was tempted on the mountain and in the wilderness,Jesus questioned God in the Garden of Gethsemane because he wanted to make sure that giving up his life for us is what God wanted him to do,meaning he was afraid and unsure..So at times we’re going to be UNSURE that’s why we HAVE to stay in that book and wrapped in armor and out the t.v.and the internet..Great points were made,and if it was supported by scripture maybe I wouldn’t feel so skeptical about this post..Once again when I see scripture no where in the mix backing articles,I’m turned off..

      • Hi Brandon,

        I appreciate the passion and the thought behind what you’ve written here. I think you’re particularly spot on about hardship in ministry not being something that leads to “self-selection” out of ministry. If God calls, God calls.

        The two things I’d say in response are these: First, I tend to be a little cautious about determining the value of a statement or idea in terms of whether there’s a chapter and verse from Scripture to specifically validate it. I’m not sure that’s what you’re saying, but my hunch is that most posters to this blog have a real love of Scripture, and don’t necessarily feel compelled to cite references for each idea or experienced listed. Second, many of the “former pastors” I know are just as passionate as ever about serving the Word, but find the current “forms” of that to be so frustrating, culturally-enmeshed, inwardly-focused, old-fashioned (which is not the same thing as “traditional”), or just plain ineffective that they want to get creative about equipping saints for ministry in different ways.

        Whatever the wineskins of the church look like in the future, it ain’t gonna be what it looks like right now.

      • Yes it is clear that you are young and haven’t been in ministry yet. After 35 years of ministry I understand the thoughts of quitting very well and I suspect your Pastor Dad does too…

        As far as the article not being saturated with scripture, if it was a sermon I might agree. Instead it is a blog post about his feelings about ministry and how the people of God often criticize unfairly (like indicating his feelings should be backed up by scripture).

        I pray if you go into ministry you don’t put yourself under the pressure of feeling you can only express your feelings when you come up with a chapter and verse that validates them as valid. This will either lead to misusing scripture and becoming a heretic or stuffing your true feelings and becoming inauthentic.

        I pray God will use you in mighty ways in his kingdom.

    • This is a very informative message. I stopped going to church years ago for reasons that are not important to this post. I have been thinking of going back and reading this gave me a push to do that as having a pastor that would admit that he is human like everyone else is refreshing. As I said I was beginning to feel some desire to return ….. until I started reading the comments. The condemnation of a pastor wishing to be able to indulge at a party…. lay off folk. Of course he wishes he could indulge or belt out a few good cuss words. Its you self righteous, know it all, pew fillers that keep me away. What honest Chrisitan gets all huffy when your pastor fires off a few curses when he/she is under stress or even to express a point that is felt strongly. I love it when people get all holier-than-thou. Makes me want to find them involved in some dubious activity. You really dont seem to know the bible well enough so dont spout it. Jesus didnt die for us so we wouldnt swear or drink or do other dastardly deeds. He diedfor us because , as humans we do. Show a little love and understanding and take a look at what this pastor is saying. No wonder he left the ministry. If that is all he confesses to wanting to do then you would be lucky to have him in the pulpit as i would consider him a very righteous man and a very honest man.

    • As an ordained minister I hate to say this but some of the meanest and biggest asses that you will ever deal with profess the name of Jesus Christ. I know because I have dealt with more than a few during my ministry, and some of these comments are proof…

    • I agree that the ministry is hard work, a 24/7 job, and that we love our congregants But I find it hard to agree with the other points. We don’t have to be lonely when we make friends with other ministers. We can actually be more effective when we show our humanness and admit our mistakes to our congregants. If a minister is spiritually starving, something is missing. We need to recharge through prayer, meditation, spiritual conferences, classes and workshops. We are never alone because God is always present within us. I love my ministry in spite of the challenges.

    • The points are all true and real. This situations are also true of any person whether he be a Christian or not, we call it life’s chalenges and realities of life.

      As Ministers we have to realize that this is a calling. We are called to do what pleases God, not self, not people but GOD who called us. When we take away our sight from God and his purpose then we loose track of where we are heading. God expects not us much as the result of our ministry but our faithfulness in accomplishing the task whereby we are called to do.

      Remember Noah, 120 years of ministering and only 7 souls got saved. If Noah lived today we would likely see his ministry as a work in futility. Noah was faithful, and because of this we owe it to him in fact human kind owe it to his faithfulness. The Ministry is a ministry not for the appreciation of man. Christ ministered and they crucified him, yet he was faithful and the result is our salvation. Be faithful for God’s grace will always be sufficient.

      If you are called, be faithful to the end and you will receive a crown of life. Serving Christ will always be worth it all. “Thou good and faithful servant enter thou into the joy of the Lord…”

    • This was the Truth. It’s 2015 and here I am at night sad, disinterested, & not wanting to deal with the emotional roller coaster of being a Minister & Pastor’s wife at church. I really love people but this is extremely overwhelming. I have to trust God for this process. Thank You for writing this article. People always want to respond negatively being “Extra Deep.” They can take that up with Christ…He is the Only Judge. Again, God Bless.

    • This is great! I really appreciated this as a person who struggles with faith all of the time. And, after a year of thinking about it I finally asked my favorite pastor if he meets with people to discuss struggles have really resonated with me and seems to try to be inclusive of everyone. Thank you for writing this- it really brings pastors down to earth! Which is where I need them to be if I am to relate.

      P.s. I knew what you meant by the “drinking” piece. I don’t think you’re wishing you could drink. Your mistakes are highlighted above beyond anyone else. Point taken. Thanks again for sharing!

    • This is great! I really appreciated this as a person who struggles with faith all of the time. And, after a year of thinking about it I finally asked my favorite pastor if he meets with people to discuss struggles have really resonated with me and seems to try to be inclusive of everyone. Thank you for writing this- it really brings pastors down to earth! Which is where I need them to be if I am to relate.

      P.s. I knew what you meant by the “drinking” piece. I don’t think you’re wishing you could drink. Your mistakes are highlighted above beyond anyone else. Point taken. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Lana

      Bob just doesn’t get it. Sadly he maybe a part of the problem. I know there are days if one more person says but pastor the bible says I might actually scream. I know what it says I have studied it and I want to reply but do you know what it means because usually they are taking it totally out of context.

      • “Bob just doesn’t get it. Sadly he maybe a part of the problem.” I guess you are referring to me…don’t know of many other “Bobs” who have posted. Let me see if I read you correctly…I agree 100% with 10 out of the author’s 11 points but somehow I “just don’t get it.” And because of taking issue with ONE phrase to which the author himself admits that he would word differently if he were to re-write the article, I’m “maybe a part of the problem.” You, sir, have shown colossal ignorance and self-righteousness. Maybe, just maybe it’s people like YOU who are part of the problem for judging others before knowing all the facts. Sheeeeeeech. Sure glad I’m not in ministry. :-)

        • Bob, you wrote . . .
          “Sheeeeeeech. Sure glad I’m not in ministry.”
          After being called a self-righteous Pharisee etc. for being misunderstood for honestly trying to make a point with Christian love in your heart, you have really shown that you understand the point Mark Love was making. You are saying that others misunderstood your comment to be self-righteous judgement and in the same manner you and others took Mark’s example literally and misunderstood that he was saying that he had times he wanted to get drunk. You and Mark have something in common . . . both of you were misunderstood and both of you suffered slings and arrows because of it. I am sure Mark is right that ministers and their families suffer this problem much more that those of us who are not a minister or part of a minister’s family.

  1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. You wrote about a lot if things that have never crossed my mind when thinking about my pastors. Very eye-opening!

  2. Lots of old corny jokes are about the religious leaders in a small town meeting at the Dairy Queen, and/or one of their buildings on a regular basis. Usually the Priest, the Pastor, and the Rabbi. From this I would guess they do meet to support, and minister to one another.

  3. As a former church secretary I saw many of these things in our pastor of a one minister church. I hurt for him and the next one who came later. Neither man realized how much I cared for them and how badly I wanted to help. The one that was my boss would share his feelings with me –we had an amazing relationship. I always asked him “who pastors the pastor?” The one who took his place, that I had known for years, never would let his guard down and was always “on”. I knew him well enough to know he wasn’t as happy as he tried to be. I hope both men know that they touched my life in so ways that I can never thank them for. I have tried many times to express that to them.
    Your article is absolutely right about each point!

  4. You didn’t quit ministering 7 years ago, you quit the brueacracy of ministry. If you think your tho’ts and words don’t minister to others, you’re a bigger nut than I tho’t, Brene Brown says courage is telling your whole story with your whole heart. You have a remarkable way of doing just that. You see weakness, others see courage. That’s kinda how your ministry works these days, isn’t it?

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  6. If we are gut level honest, with the exception of point two, perhaps, as that is a result of “nurture”, all of these items can be applied to the life of any believer who diligently seeks to follow Christ’s example of humble servanthood. As “ministers of the Gospel”, which Christ calls us all to be, we will most certainly run face first into all these disappointments, irrespective of our vocation. We will all sense irrelevance, we’ll be ignored, we’ll all want to pack it in or bite out tongues when we want to let ‘em have it, we will walk through vast spiritual deserts, we’ll fail Christ through sin, we’ll hide our innermost selves and then wonder why we can’t feel fulfilled in our human interactions, we’ll question this thing called faith because it is just so outrageously hard, we’ll get our feelings hurt and ask ourselves why we should be so sensitive to the needs of others when they could give a rip. The question really boils down to our willingness to embrace Christ’s humility, His vulnerability and His honesty. If we choose to surrender our perceived “power” to guide our own lives, as He chose to make Himself powerless in His life, while these 11 disappointments will continue to exist, I am convinced we’ll give them a lot less credence and control.

    • While I agree with your point that all Christians have challenges similar to those described above, it is multiplied when one is also called to lead other Christians and is basically responsible to guide others through things they themselves are struggling with.  Pastors are expected to have it all together and there is less room for them to make mistakes because it’s not just between them and their journey with God, but also about all the eyes and ears that are expecting them to be perfect and ready to complain if they see any signs of faltering. This is a very difficult situation for even the strongest in spirit to sustain.

      • If you don’t believe there is a difference between the pressures a pastor feels versus non-clergy, do an experiment. When you meet people in a grocery store, at a picnic, or at a bar, and they ask you what you do for a living, instead of telling them the truth, tell them that you are a pastor. See what response you get.

        • YES> I think that is why two Roman Catholic Sisters
          did not tell us that they were part of an Order while travelling with 40 others on an Elderhostel trip this Spring. They said they did not want to be treated differently or make us feel uncomfortable!!

          • My wife and I are both pastors. When we travel, we do not disclose our profession until is time to say goodbye. When people know, they treat us differently

        • I never considered lying and saying I was a pastor. but what a great thought, Kay! I can only imagine some of the responses……

        • I loved this comment – next time someone asks you what do you do for living – tell them you’re a pastor! LOL funny… I’ve tried to explain what it’s like to be “out” but this nailed it. Great article! I agree you ministered to me with honesty and sincerity and a great belly laugh. What could be better? Bless you!

        • My husband says it often kills a conversation. You’re trying to get to know somebody new or just make some new contacts because, hey, you’re new in town and you don’t know anybody…they find out you’re a pastor and they often just shut down. I get a similar response sometimes as a pastor’s wife, as though I must do nothing but waltz through my day spouting off Bible verses and humming Amy Grant tunes. That I must have no clue as to what goes on in the real world. Geez.

      • Kat, your thoughts are TERRIFIC, and totally true, now that I think about it. thanks for a great post. everybody should consider this.

      • Well I think the difference is a pastor is paid. If you are getting paid to do a job you will have different expectations, to me it is not a spiritual issue but a professional one. If you are going to accept cash for your religious activity it is going to be harder. If I really wanted to stir up trouble I would say it is the non-biblical business based set up of the modern church that is either hurting pastors and/or corrupting them. Sounds like the author wanted to escape the business and not the calling, which as Greg said, should be there for everyone.

    • Yes…the ministers life is tougher than most people realize (the hardest part is holding your tongue when you would really like to say what is on your mind or rumbling deep inside you — but you know you can’t…) but Greg, you make a good point that all Christians have to deal with all the issues Mark raises at some point in time in their lives; I guess, for ministers, the real problem is having to deal with them 24/7; that’s what’s hard and what most people don’t understand.

      • My next door neighbor goes to my church. I work about 12 hours a day, six days a week. She got mad that my yard isn’t weeded to her satisfaction. Then, she got mad that I was weeding on my day off. Apparently, on my minimal salary and four child household I’m supposed to hire someone to do this? You can never win sometimes. It’s hard remembering that you cannot make some people happy no matter what you do… especially when people’s fulfillment in the Lord is foremost on your mind. I think sometimes the congregation forgets how much we love them and truly care for them. There are people in my church that despise me, but the moment they needed me I would be there in a heart-beat…

        • If your neighbor was a “true Christian” you’d come home and your yard would be weeded, and you’d never quite know who had done it for you. /snark. (note: I’m as liberal as they come…and don’t personally make the distinction I made above. All of us fall short of God’s expectations for us somehow.) I am a Pastor who has taken an extended sabbatical from ministry because I couldn’t deal with the “true Christians” anymore. You know, the ones who hold their Pastor and everyone up to an exceptionally, impossibly high standard and fail to see the lumber in their own eye. As for the extensive amount of conversation above about drinking and cussing…I spend a lot of my time ministering to people in some pretty rough bars. I don’t see a lot of my fellow clergy there…and they’re missing out.

          • Forget about the drinking and cursing bit. That’s not the point. Life in a fishbowl is not fun. It’s especially difficult for the children, who seldom feel free to make typical kid-type mistakes because of how it might reflect upon their minister-parent. My children managed that mine-field remarkably well, although I doubt I’ll ever know what it cost them. Also, it’s not just the minister who has nobody to talk to – the spouse has a similar problem. Having nobody with whom to “let down one’s hair,” coupled with not seeming too friendly with any parishioner for fear of talk, jealousy, or simple misunderstanding – the spouse has a difficult job. Then there’s being expected to pray publicly at a moment’s notice, having ” model” children, etc., etc. And usually the spouse’s only fault is having fallen in love. And after the minister retires, it’s “proper” that the couple relocate so as not to hinder the ministry of the minister’s successor. Would I do it again? Probably, although I wish I’d known the psychological and emotional cost at the outset.

    • While it’s true that some of these things can apply to the average believer in various ways, it in no way is the same thing. The author hit the nail on the head concerning the stress, the constant push/pull, the life in a fishbowl, etc. The most frustrating thing to me is that the people you pour the most time and effort into are often the most likely to turn right around and misjudge, criticize and lash out at you.

      • This has merit. I’m a pastor, and when people ask me what I do, my answer depends on my mood. If I do not feel like talking, I’ll say that I am a pastor. If I do feel like talking, I’ll say that ‘I work with people.’

        There is a HUGE difference in the reactions I get!

        • I usually change the subject or if I am far enough away from home I flat lie. If I am flying and some asks I tell them I am in fire insurance. I don’t want to hear their story of how the church has hurt them, I didn’t do it, I can’t change it, I don’t want to be blamed for it.

    • I’ve actually had people walk off the golf course when I told them I am a priest. Just to be clear, it was my day off. Don’t want anyone to think all priests do is golf six days a week and leader services on Sundays. It wasn’t a great experience, but it did not hurt much. What is difficult when the people of the church do similar things. I wish I had a dime for every time someone said, “We’ll have to clean up our conversation now, the priest is here.” I grew up around construction workers. There is nothing you can say that will shock me. This kind of statement sends three messages. First, it sends the message that no one will be honest with me. It’s hard to fulfill my vocation if you’re not honest with me. It’s kind of like lying to the doctor about exercising. Second, it sends the message that I will never be entirely welcome. I don’t expect the world to welcome me, but it would be nice if the church welcomed me. Finally, it sends the message that you expect me to be perfect. If you didn’t, you would not mind your own imperfections.

      Whenever a young person asks me about full time ministry, I tell them if they can do anything else they should. Then I explain that what I mean is that pastoral ministry must be such a passion that you cannot imagine doing anything else with your life.

      I do not complain much about my vocation. The truth is that I love it. It is also the most frustrating, exhausting, and lonely life that I can imagine. If you do happen to let an inappropriate word slip out, everyone acts like you’ve brandished a gun in the air. If you are seen with a child while wearing a clerical collar, everyone thinks you must be a pedophile. Ever thought maybe the priest has a nephew? Or, maybe he’s Anglican or Eastern Orthodox and has children of his own. The same goes for seeing a priest at a restaurant with a woman. Could she be his sister and not a forbidden lover? And, the furniture maker has this right as well. When he is finished, he has a product that he can look at and say, it’s finished. I think the reason parish ministry is so exhausting is that there is never that point where you can say it’s complete, which does not stop everyone from asking why it’s not complete. Why don’t we have more young people? Why is the budget in the red? Why don’t you do something about those children in the back who are making so much noise?

      So, Greg, I don’t think that everyone does experience the same thing. If you are a lay person who is part of a good church that fosters strong relationships, you will have a community with whom you can be honest. You won’t have to worry about losing your position if you make a mistake in your personal life. I am not whining. The lay people in my parish face challenges that I do not. They are challenged by the lack of ethics in the business world. They receive invitations to parties that would probably be best turned down. The point here is that the challenges are different, and if you accept those differences, you can allow your priest or pastor to have a much greater impact on your life.

      • Fr. Ronald,
        You’ve really nailed it. I chose to be a priest, first because I felt truly called to this ministry, and second because I just couldn’t imagine wanting to do anything else with my life. I took eight years off in the middle and taught middle-school band and chorus at a public school, had great success and received much acclaim, (many of my former students have gone to great things, and continue to “friend” me on Facebook) yet found myself eventually being drawn back to the ministry of the priesthood. As you said, the demands are endless and nothing is ever finished, and the quizical looks my wife and I get when out together does make us feel a bit “on stage” and under the microscope a lot, and, I might add, not taking everyone else’s personal problems personally can be a challenge. Yet, the sense of fulfillment is deep. I’m probably in the best parish I’ve ever been in now, and loving it. I’d say I couldn’t complain, but then again, there’s always something to mention. Assessing everything, I’m glad that this is what I am, and this is what I’ve been called to be. Thanks again for your thoughtful insights.

  7. Thanks for this Mark. You nailed it here. Been doing this going on 25 years now and you are so right. This shit is hard a lot of the time. Probably just made some church people mad by even saying that. lol

      • true…my mindfulness teacher told a story about a minister who preached this to his congregation:
        ” 53 million of people die daily from malnourishment in Africa and no one really gives a shit.”. He waited about 5 minutes or so and then asked his congregation:
        “How many of you remember the number of people dying daily in Africa and/or how many of you are upset I just said the word ‘shit’ on the pulpit ? ”
        I will always Love & Remember this story… what a teaching tool it was for me..

      • Wow, these modern hipster pastors are so protective of their right to cuss. I could care less if pastors want to be 4th grade cool and cuss at each other, but why are they automatically in the right and others who believe it to be immoral automatically in the wrong?

        • Ken, I think you’re distracted. It’s not wrong toothink cussing is uncreative, wrong or immature. But, when those who disapprove criticize or complain about a person’s or pastors unrighteousness, that complaint is an act of judgement. Whether it’s intended to be judgemental or condoning, it’s impact is to demean and alienate the “hipster pastor”.

          Do you really want to side with those who create an atmosphere of criticism? Or would you rather stand with those who desperately wish three congregation would grow outraged about hunger, disease, greed, and other strategic options which kill thousands daily?

          • Can’t we do both? Can’t we be concerned for seeing the fruits of the Spirit displayed by those nearest us AND be concerned for the hungry and needy around the world? And, there is nothing wrong with “judging” others: “By their fruits shall ye know them.” Perhaps if more were willing to speak up and speak out against unrighteousness, we wouldn’t see self proclaimed pastors proclaiming that “It would be sweeeeet to get drunk with my friends.” What? Are you kidding me? (That was an actual post on this discussion!)

            Yes, I understand the hurts and wrongs expressed in these 11 points. But can’t we be sensitive and concerned about everything related to Christ’s Church?

        • You missed the point of this story. What matters is the very reason why the Christian Church is disappearing in the US. – the fact that church-goers care more about someone cussing than they do about milliuons dying in Africa. The Church is missing the central point, the purpose, the mission of Jesus Christ: “to preach the good news TO THE POOR …” . Jesus did NOT say: “In as much as you have done it unto the middle class, you have done it unto me”!.

  8. I agree with Wes above — you never stopped being a minister just because you’re not being paid by a church to assume a vocational role. The freedom you have now to be vulnerable and raw and courageous with your words is something many ministers feel is not afforded to them in their vocational roles.

  9. First, thank you…thank you….thank you. It is hard to read this and hear yourself saying, “Those are my own thoughts and words.” You have articulated the soul of the pastor. You have made my thoughts become a reality. I shared with my friend who shared your article that this is the back story to a blog post I wrote titled, “In the Pulpit on the Corner” http://vewfromthepew.blogspot.com/2013/04/in-pulpit-on-corner.html

    Again – thank you for listening and being willing to write what most of us can’t.
    Grace and peace, Bob+

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  11. A pastor I know posted your link on Facebook, that’s how I came to read this. I am in my 50s. I have waited tables, played as a professional musician all over this country, dug ditches, built and ran a small company of 40 employees, bi-vocationally pastored a church, been the music director at a 15,000 member church, held a corporate job. I lived for years as “the chief of sinners” outside the church, since have walked as close as I can to God and raised 3 girls with my wife of 23 years. And from my perspective, everybody has it tough and is misunderstood.
    From having been in the ministry myself I think you’re observations are pretty accurate, and I realize this is to help people understand what they don’t know about their pastor and not a list of complaints, but I’m sorry it seems a bit self indulgent. Not for you of course because you are no longer in that vocation, but self indulgent for the pastor that might read this and say, “yes, finally somebody gets it.” …and maybe no pastor will.
    It does however remind me of something a preacher from many years ago said.
    I Cor.16:13 “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” And this from a guy who was beheaded for his preaching.

    So now you can add to your list, that a pastor can’t even be honest about what’s going on with him without some jerk saying, “aw you ain’t got it so bad.” I do love pastors though and the work they do, and especially who they do it for.

    • Lance, thank you for a dose of realism; I have been a church pianist for 50 yrs & have seen it all. I am seeing that the new generation of pastors are too myopic and full of self-pity, due to Biblical ignorance; they are not SERVANTS. It’s a paid job for most of them. (BTW: You think pastors have it hard??? Try interviewing musicians! we are expected to be faithful at all svcs, funerals, weddings, always prepared with ministering music and our lives are watched also . . .and we’re UNPAID!) (well, I have always been unpaid, at my request, and I think most other musicians donate their talents also) Christ warned us about “hirelings” . . . Peter said he was only 1 of the elders, nothing special. . . I fear true pastors/elders are becoming a thing of the past.

      • Lolly,
        First, I love church musicians and go to bat for them all I can as a pastor. At the same time, I hope that you remember there is a difference between a servant and a slave. The thoughts that you expressed and the attitudes behind them–which I respect–are also part of what of what add to the difficulties of ministry. Pastors are to train the people to be the ministers. We are to train ourselves out of a job, as it were. Pastors are not the professional Christians. Peace!

        • Not just musicians, but ALL of the behind-the-scenes folks. I have run the video projection in two churches now, have had to work with (or in spite of) a half-dozen different music directors in both traditional and contemporary service styles, trying to blend technology with old-fashioned hymns and do the best I can despite men who knew nothing about the technology nor cared to learn anything about it, often times placing unrealistic demands (oh, we changed the worship service that’s about to start in 5 minutes, can you fix this and this and this and this and this and …..). I had one music director who told me that he was sorry when my dad was diagnosed with cancer, yet pulled EVERYONE up on stage during a rehearsal to do a group prayer for a musician who’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer. Talk about the power of prayer…she went into remission. My Dad died 3 months later…music director never bothered to follow up or ask how he was doing. Eventually it became a job, I was there to make sure the screen changed at the appropriate time, never got to sing along or really listen to the sermons, because I had to concentrate on when to advance the slides. I told the music director and the pastor when my last day would be, months in advance, and kept asking about their progress finding a replacement (the standard “volunteer” problem), which they kept dismissing with a “oh, we’re working on it” and a wave of the hand. I almost laughed when my last Sunday came and went, and the panic-emails started flying when I didn’t show up on Wednesday for practice. Burnout sucks. Being forgotten, ignored, and taken for granted (or taken advantage of) while burnt out sucks even worse.

    • Agreed, I wonder what the current generation of paid religious staff would do under the burdens that were placed on the unpaid disciples (or the congregants for that matter, we all enjoy the perks and comfort or modern Christianity). This is the system we created, and most of us, pastors or not, are working very hard to ignore the reality around us.

      • Ken you have totally missed the point.
        The article is not saying that he *wants* to sin. He sins because “all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” He is saying that we expect preachers to be Jesus – not *like* Jesus. There is no such thing as a professional Christian – being a minister isn’t a profession. I could go on pointing out all of the scriptures that you have spoken against in your few sentences, but I’m likely speaking to thin air, you seem to have made up your mind.
        He who has not sinned, cast the first stone. That is the point

        • A.W. Crawford… “We wish we could cuss without it making headlines. We wish we could get drunk at a party, just once” certainly sounds like he WANTS to sin. Maybe this point was simply poorly worded or poorly expressed. Maybe it should be rewritten. But as it stands, it can’t find any support in the New Testament.

        • No I didn’t miss the point, I understand what he meant to say and in another post I pointed out that it is poorly worded and *sounds* like he does want to sin. You are replying in this thread to something that isn’t in my comments. I do happen to disagree with you it seems. If being a minister is not a profession, then how do you explain the number of non-believing preachers in various Christian denominations? They exist, and they get paid to “minister”. You assume an awful lot about me just because I happen to disagree with you, and that doesn’t echo well with the verse you are using against me. I am always happy to read scripture and re-think my positions, by the way, even if someone condescends to talk to a stranger on the internet who is nothing more than thin air to them.

          • If you are referring to me Rob an explanation would be helpful. I included myself as a congregant along with pastors in the list of people who would struggle with the world the disciples lived in, if that helps. Our modern Christian life is very different, and in my opinion not in a good way.

          • You’re judgmental. No you’re judgmental. No you’re judgmental!

            Feedback loop.

            The irony has already been ably explained by others.

          • My apologies, to both you and AW, I should not have responded with judgement. It did irk me to be called out by name when my only comment was very general and I included myself along with the pastors in that judgement, but you were right. I hope the main thrust of my discussion still stands though, aside from my snarkiness.

          • I will add that I tried to explain my thinking more fully in a new post at the bottom of the page earlier, so if you care to read and respond I did attempt to be as gracious as I could. Feedback loops are grating.. Trying to avoid them.

  12. Mark, you’re so right about ministry. I often wonder if the role of paid full-time pastor is sustainable these days, because it’s just so emotionally and spiritually exhausting — especially with people’s insane workaholic expectations these days. Having worked in the “secular” world for a while, I’m amazed at (and often ashamed of) how little tangible work I get done, because it seems like two-hours of conversation often use up about four hours of energy. And the constant worry about relevance — and whether I’ll have a job in a few years, because of the decline of the church. Ministry just comes at you in so many different ways, from so many different angles, all the time. It really is like no other job. On the good days, it’s the best ever. On the bad days, it tears you apart like no other job can, because it’s so personal, requires so much vulnerability, and is so intertwined with your soul. So many of my minister friends have been ripped limb from limb by abusive parishes. No wonder people don’t want to be part of those churches, and want nothing to do with Christianity. I’m still doing it and am working on figuring out how to do it sustainably. By the grace of God, I’m getting there.

    Thanks, Mark, for your willingness to speak these words publicly. I don’t think most people have any idea just how different church is from the other side of the pulpit. Blessings on your journey, brother!

  13. Thanks Mark.
    I’m a pastor. My dad is a pastor. I hear what you’re saying.
    Can I come and work some wood with you?

  14. So sad that most ministers, elders, and members need to avoid the “uncomfortably vulnerable” emotional states. The job is emotionally draining and someone needs to take the lead in every church to set an example of negotiating trust to the point that vulnerability is not a problem. When you get there, you are emotionally charged to go to work. I’ve seen it.

  15. I agree with most of this. Good thoughts. I personally don’t long to curse or get drunk though. I can honestly say those things don’t cross my mind. In my opinion that would be a clear marker that ministry isn’t your calling.

      • Unkind? No, what is unkind are those who pretend there’s nothing unseemly or unchristian for a pastor to wish he could curse, get drunk (or commit any other sin),even if only “just once,” – and the only thing holding him back are his fears regarding the aftermath headlines or meeting with the elders.

        • I think it was C.S. Lewis who once said that he didn’t judge people whose temptations were different from his own. He wasn’t drawn to gambling, for example, so he had no idea what it felt like to struggle against it. But he had other things. Maybe we each have our issues — I suspect the “getting drunk” one is more metaphor than not, and possibly more true for younger pastors. I’m some years past these fantasies, but sure, a few pitchers of beer with friends and a nice buzz — I get it. You really can’t?

          • A few beers and a buzz…no I can’t “get it.” And I don’t see anything in the New Testament that would support it. What version of Christianity and “salvation” are we talking about here? This is mind boggling.

    • “Curse” and “get drunk” words used for effect, to illustrate a point and not necessarily literal. Look for the forest don’t get lost looking at the trees.

        • ::sigh:: Only a top.

          Did you not “hear” the pain in those words?

          Had God not intervened, hindsight not insight, I would have continued as pastor to local, rural churches until it drove my kids away, damaged my marriage, sent me to bankruptcy and killed me. I have no temptation to “hoist a few” alcohol has no appeal to me but I would have liked to have friends. I would have liked the congregation to at least “try” outreach and being a light in the darkness. I would have liked to pay medical expenses without racking up huge charges. I will be lucky to dig out of the damage pastoral ministry left in my life before I die.

        • WOB, I believe “cursing” and “getting drunk” were used to teach the main point of being able to be treated like other members of the church. As a non minister, I can go down and confess sins, and I will be greeted with unconditional love and forgiveness. Let a minister do the same thing, and his or her job is on the line even in the best situations. This is not “spin”, merely the fact of the church. My father was a minister in the Southern Baptist church, but he still liked beer and pizza. He had to face the fact that his deacons would not be understanding, even though some of them liked THEIR beer. It’s a double standard, in other words.

    • Matthew SPOT ON!

      I give no amen to this article.

      While many of these are valid points many are WAAAAYYY off.

      Most of these issues (like thinking of quitting a lot, desiring to “get away” with sin, starving spiritually) are a result of not being spiritually mature, not getting discipled, not having accountability and not personally developing.

      PLUS: ALL CHRISITIANS ARE MINISTERS & PREACHERS according to the BIble – he mixes the words minister, pastor and preacher as synonyms, they are 3 different things.

      This article says many things, except the most important thing, and it is the reason why any would agree with this.

      YOU MUST BE CALLED to be in ministry as a Pastor. (not just bred and trained for it) – if you are NOT CALLED expect these 11 and 11 more to haunt you the entire time — until you quit

      …my 2¢

      • Pastor Moe, are you suggesting that a pastor is called to ministry? That God intended his ministers to stay true to His calling despite the buffeting, heartache, doubts, headaches and tired, worn out bodies and minds? Are you saying that pastors ought to be more like Paul, who not only bore these same attacks on him, but actually suffered physical beatings and maltreatment?

        Are you saying that pastors should put away the old man and live in the new one? The one who doesn’t pursue sin … who doesn’t turn from the truth when the going gets rough? Why, pastor Moe, you need to get with the times, brother!! You can tell by this crowd that that’s not the way things are done anymore … no siree! Today, it’s all about feelings and how one “feels” about the ministry. How one “feels” about the time requirements … the drain, emotionally, mentally, and physically of the ministry. If they don’t “feel” good about it, it’s time to hit the showers. Forget about God’s calling … forget about God’s leading. It’s all about how you feel.

        Welcome to the new age of “throw away” ministry. Get with it, pastor Moe.

        • As I recall, Jesus Christ also contemplated the journey he was called to, asking the Father to take away his cup if He saw fit to do so. It didn’t make him any less the Messiah. Yes, pastors are not called to go through the crucifixion, but when Christ came across some of the same things ministers now encounter with people, Jesus called people out.

      • Whew! Talk about not getting the point. The post by Pastor Moe illustrates the frustrations so many ministers feel. “All that is needed is a deeper spirituality…” Moses, Jeremiah, Paul and others prove by their own experiences that spirituality does not ward off the weight and even pain associated with our calling.
        And for goodness sakes, the drinking and cursing analogy was simply aimed at making a much larger point. The fact that it would draw the criticism it did only proves the point that the scrutiny clergy are placed under is a challenge in itself.

        • I agree. The pastors I’m most worried about are the ones whose identity is so fused with their collars that their shadow sides (as Jung would say) are quite likely to bite them. The ones who can’t stop talking about how called they are, the ones who sound oh, so, spiritual — the ones who never admit deep struggles — those are the ones that scare me. .

          • Incidentally, to all who are worried about the pastors that this or the other. In II Timothy 2:15, the Bible says, “study to show thy self approved unto God, a workman needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. With or without a pastor, we are to study the word of God for ourselves. I believe what I am hearing is that some have the tendency to put pastors on some lofty pedestal and expect them to be perfect, miracles workers. NOTHING can be further from the truth. God calls into ministry whom HE will. Do you not know that God knows none of us a perfect. The Bible says, there is none perfect, no not one. The only perfect was Jesus. This phenomenon of being fixated on the man or woman of God as somehow “holier than thou” is not a contemporary one. However, the more we read the word of God, the more God will reveal his self to us. We must take our eyes off the pastor and put them on Jesus. The concept of church was ordained by God and we go to worship him and praise him in the sanctuary. “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord”. In closing, remember that is God that seats pastors. If you are not in a Bible teaching, Bible believing environment, then you should be. Is there a perfect church, no way. I personally have always wanted to be a blessing to the body of Christ. Is everyone in church always examples of a Christian. Nope. Is that going to stop me from loving them with the love of Christ, no way. Do some, sometime get on my last nerve? Betta believe it. The bigger picture for me is, am I going to continue to exhibit the Christ in me. Without question. Final add. We must be aware of the perception that we have not only of pastors, but politicians, CEO’s, military officers, college presidents, etc. My 88 year-old mom is still amazed when one of the aforementioned falls in disgrace. I still try to remind her, mom, their just people. May God Bless and keep you. Hope and pray this helps. With LOVE.

      • Sigh is right…. I am “called” and I have been doing this for the best part of 2 decades and I am here to tell you that no matter how strong your “calling” may be; it get tough doing what we do..
        You are in a fish bowl, I can take it but what it has done to my family is what is upsetting to me. I have a 22 year old son who literally despises church because of the way “church-people” have treated our family. You are ripped limb from limb…

        I’m not saying it should be easy, ministry is tough, we deal with extremely weighty issues but to say that if you are “called” then it should be no problem to do this is just not an accurate statement….

        But at the end of the day, I really can’t imagine myself doing anything else except for pouring my life into the people God has called me to serve…

        • I have to agree with you Phil. As a pastor for just over 30 years, I can say that at on many occasions at the end of a rough and rugged day or week of ministry (or 30 years) you keep on keeping on because of the calling. Sometimes you are “spent” and all you have left over the calling. But you remain loving God and loving people and staying with God’s call upon your life. It is called being faithful and perservering for the Lord. And just remember that our Savior had more trouble from the religious but not redeemed crowd than any other. He said we would face the same. Why are we surprised when we do?

      • When my son asked, “Dad, what do you have to study to become a minister?” I said, “First you have to be called of God to be His minister. He will be with you always. Then you will have the strength to carry the burdens of hurting people, and give them to God. Otherwise you won’t be able to survive as a pastor. The training will come later; and the seeking education will be continuous.” He is now a pastor.

      • Moe………my sentiments exactly. What so many of these comments shows me is that unfortunately many are in the”ministy” as a career move and not a “Calling from God”. In my opinion, no-one should be a “Minister” of a Church if they were not called by God to be there. so many take the job simply because it is a job. dad was a preacher, grandpa was a preacher, etc. That is the crux of the problem in the organized church world today. Many preaching and so few called. As one pastors wife said in her comment…..”without jeopardizing his ‘career”. Personally breaks my heart and makes me sick to see so many USING God as a way to make a living instead of a true Ministry for Him.

      • When I was in seminary, I was always weary of the people who said things like, “I just know I’m called.” Or who talked about how excited they were to enter ministry and how much fun they thought it would be to serve the church.

        Rather, I was always drawn to the folks who said things like, “I tried everything else. I resisted the call. I said no and I still ended up here.” They were the people who knew how hard ministry is, who wrestled with their call every day, but chose to answer it anyway.

        A calling does NOT mean it’s easy. It means God has asked you to serve, despite how hard it will be.

    • Perhaps you have different ideas of what constitutes “ministry.” In *my* opinion, you’re not qualified to say whether ministry is or isn’t someone’s calling, particularly based on such a tiny data-set.

    • Matthew is not being unkind – he’s being straightforward and HONEST. We need more of that from our pastors, instead of their walking on eggshells and “tickling our ears”. Eph 4:29 and scriptures about guidelines for elders would apply here. Be careful NOT to be “lukewarm”.

      • Right. And when we are forthright and honest and red hot with our parishioners about something going on in their individual or corporate lives, we are excoriated for it. And, if we do rely on them for the financial well being of our family, then is it no wonder that we measure our words carefully? You’ve obviously never sat in a Deacon’s meeting listening to the deadly silence after one of the Deacons tells you that you can no longer preach on a particular subject; the parishioners are tired of hearing it from you.

    • You would have gotten a kick out of Jesus, who called some in his audience names like “sons of hell” and “den of vipers.”
      Kind of wish I had the guts to say that to a few religious leaders.

    • Think about what you are saying… If having the desire to sin rules people out from being called to pastor, then pretty sure we are all ruled out.

  16. Thank you so much for speaking, and ministering, from the heart!!! I try to often, but we all need to remind our leaders often of how they are impacting our lives, and that we love and appreciate them and everything they do!

  17. I always recommend to my fellow pastors Andrew Purves’ wonderful book, Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition. It’s a study of the lives and ministries of five pastors who lived and worked from the 400′s to the 1600′s. It is a deep well of wisdom from pastors over the centuries. Some major themes come to the surface such as a pastor’s call to ministry, the pastor’s personal integrity and spiritual life, the need to practice evangelism, the need to preach the Word, and the pastoral responsibility of being patient with people–especially the difficult ones–as we lead them deeper into the Christian life. Highly recommended for any pastor. Link: http://www.amazon.com/Pastoral-Theology-Classical-Tradition-Andrew/dp/0664222412

  18. Excellent blog post. As someone who is just over 3 years step away from full time paid ministry (wow – didnt realize its been that long), I can echo many of these points. And I have had the honour of sharing them, with the freedom found outside of paid vocation. Thanks for being a voice of truth for those who cant (or feel like they shouldn’t) speak up. My hope is pastors find safe support, great leadership teams, gracious churches, and informed parishioners, so they dont keep burning out. I am so thankful for the pastors who endure, and I keep praying for churches to become more about grace, forgiveness, and freedom – even for their pastors. With that said, I also want to encourage pastors – you can be very influential & subversive for the Kingdom, outside of being a paid pastor. Maybe you are being called to a different way to pastor people outside of the job title?

    • Thank you Daryl – your post was encouraging to me. I’ve been pastoring for 2 years now at a church that was born of a split 15 years ago, split again 5 years ago, then 3 years ago. I arrived and one couple decided they didn’t like me – so they left and 10 others followed them. These last 2 years have been hellish for me and my family. I firmly believe that I have been called to ministry – but through much prayer and counsel with whose I trust I believe that my calling is to some form of parachurch ministry.


  19. and number 12, that we who are currently pastors don’t dare to post this on our facebook page or mention it, even though it would strengthen the entire Church Universal if ALL Christians had better understanding of their ministers’ callings, for fear of being called whiny or needy or complainy.

  20. You are so right! My dad is a pastor and I was a pastor for over sixteen years. I have been out of church ministry now for almost ten years. What you said is exactly how I felt. And yes, I have been so angry that I wanted to swear and had such a rough week that I wanted to go out and get drunk. That had nothing to do with nor being called by God. It has to do with being human. Pastor’s and church members who would criticize that attitude is one of the biggest reasons I got out of the ministry.

  21. You just ministered to a lot of ministers with this. Thanks. I’ve been there. I do chaplaincy now at a drug and alcohol treatment center, because I get to make a difference in at least some of my patients’ lives, and to help them make a difference in their own lives. And sometimes God shows up and surprises us both. The hardest patients I deal with are fellow clergy caught in addictions. Can I use your words, and share this with them?

  22. Your article is spot on! I have coached about 70 pastors of a particular denomination. Many of them have high blood pressure, are obese or overweight, and some are taking medication to stave off the effects of depression.

    I left full-time church ministry to become a chaplain–hospice, mostly, but also did hospital chaplaincy too. I found that I was able to leave the political games at the hospice office, could party with my friends (be myself), and offer unadulterated care and compassion to my hospice patients.

    I’ve often wished that I could have been as honest with my former church members as I’ve been able to be with patients and their families–speaking hard truths compassionately.

    Keep doing what you’re doing here. It’s really great.

  23. Pingback: Pain Amidst Joy: The Paradox of Ministry | lingering in love

  24. Many of my former Seminary friends would not agree with about half of these. It seems that it’s good (for you) that you left ministry. Who would stay if this is how it really was for her/him?

  25. I find that this list has probably 1 – 2 things that apply to all pastors. I have spoken to many pastors and they all love their jobs. What alot of the men going into the pastorate don’t do is pray and read the Bible prior to becoming a pastor. Being a pastor is a huge responsibility of which they will be held accountable by God one day. All pastors I’ve met have spent countless hours on their knees and pouring over the Word of God before even becoming a pastor. God is calling them into the ministry and to not listen or leave the ministry is being disobedient to God.

    • Jay, I would have to disagree with you. I have just recently left the pulpit ministry to spend time in God’s grace and to heal! My congregations, while seem wonderful on the outside, they are not healthy on the inside. They were not listening to God and thus I could not stay with them. I took a lot of hard hits from them, especially after I told them that I was taking time off to discern where God is calling me. I believe that we are all given gifts, by the grace of God. However, God can at ANY time say, that gift needs a rest, let me show you another one that I want you to work with right now. I live my life in a Christian lifestyle, not all Christians do! I do believe many Christians are Sunday morning Christians, which I was once one of. I gave God my hour on Sunday, maybe a little more some Sunday’s. I MIGHT give him a meeting during the week, and I MIGHT give him a choir practice mid-week. Once I really started FOLLOWING Christ, I realized that I had to live the lifestyle. Beating up fellow Christians, so to speak, is not very Christ like. I wish ALL Christians lived the lifestyle, but they don’t. Couple in all the issues in today’s society and Christians not seeing eye to eye and going at each other, again, not what I think Christ calls us to. I do not in any way feel that I am sinning by not being in the pulpit. I truly feel I am; “Being still and letting God show me who He is!”

  26. Well said, Mark. About 60% hits my experience…and I have seen all of it in colleagues. However, I left a particular tradition that seems to have criticism systemically embedded and have found a different spirit…albeit still a bunch of sinners. I let a complaint slip to God the other day about how my leaders are a bunch of sinners, and God sort of whispered back…”now you know how I feel.”

    I swerved out of ministry for about 14 years and did professional counseling. However, the mission called me back. I love the privilege of focusing full time on efforts to course correct to the Glory of God, and offer people a taste of His grace. It is a different world when your expected outcomes change. I lead a messed up bunch of people. Cannot seem to keep everyone sober and in the right bed. Opportunity abounds.

  27. People go to their jobs daily hating them & the same applies to ministers & pastors of the Lord I guess~I wonder how much Jesus Christ is paying these days? I hear he’s a great boss, so maybe gratefulness should be replacing the burdens~ I’m praying for Gods’ people to understand they must be themselves without hiding or facade~Just Be real…Jesus is~love on

  28. As a pastor’s wife, I see these issues from an intimate vantage point. It is interesting to me that some of the comments in disagreement are so illustrative of the argument made — and without any sense of the irony therein.

    • Ruby, I was a minister’s kid and swore I would never be a minister myself. God had other plans :-) I went into ministry late, so had some idea what I was going into – but with my current congregation there are not only the usual raft of complainers which are always in the background, but a couple of really abusive people. I’ve been here three years, living apart from my husband to follow this call (he agreed), and am going home at the end of September. Those angels in the congregation know how I feel without me ever saying a word, but the abusive ones don’t let up. I haven’t given up, and am I ever glad that I learned as a child how draining this can be sometimes, so it wasn’t a total surprise. Nevertheless, I still can’t get over how downright mean some people can be – just because they think they can.

  29. Thank you for your bravery. As the wife/mother/MIL and Aunt of pastors, I have too much experience not to see the truth in your statements. What hurt and made me the saddest is the hurt and sadness in your words. Right under the surface are the wounds inflicted that drove you from the pulpit. So I say prayers for you , unknown Pastor-in-Hiding. And pray the Lord finds the pulpit for you to grace ( perhaps these blogs will be that pulpit). I pray the Lord heals what is still there,hurting you. Although these words are true, the congregants will not believe them. Those who are encouraging will continue to encourage, the whiners will whine, the plotters will plot.But the clergy reading these words will be blessed for having someone, somewhere acknowledge that they are still “killing the prophets”. Blessings to you and yours.

  30. I’m not a pastor, but I’ve been in a visible position in the church pretty much all my life. 5 and 7 are related. In response to #5, I think I speak for a great many in the congregation when I say I wish that pastors didn’t have to put on that act you describe. It makes me and others feel uncomfortable about being our own selves when we’re around you. On the other hand, there is the other side of the congregation which agrees with Pastor Moe, that somehow we’re supposed to expect our pastors to have been blinded on the road to Damascus, live legalistically perfect like Jesus, rather than being able to enjoy the life of freedom that Christ gave us (Gal 1:1). In response to #7, again, same thing. When we’re around you, we can’t let you know we’re actually sinners either and that we live the same schizophrenic walk with Christ that Paul described in Romans 7:14-25. Unfortunately, too often our misguided doctrine doesn’t allow us to understand this, or acknowledge the truth of it. In many ways I think what you’ve written is a 2 way street. Much of the doctrine we have adopted keeps us in chains. We should be able to be comfortable worshiping with others who are no different than we are, but something doesn’t let us do that, and rather we find ourselves putting on an act in church that makes everybody uncomfortable. I would love to worship with a pastor who could be himself!

  31. Loved, loved, loved your piece Mark. As a pastor’s wife who is not naturally given to whining, complaining, and being a wimp, I have witnessed modern day crucifixions of many men and women in the pulpit. And they troop on, carrying the cross that their congregants force them to carry and then some people have the nerve to say that perhaps they weren’t called to pastor. What RUBBISH! The Body has to grow up and take some adult responsibility in how to lovingly, humorously(please God give us some creative humor) honestly, and joyfully interact with their pastor. My husband has a PASSION for his calling and when the good times are good he has an unstoppable energy. But when he becomes the whipping post, I weep, shake my head and try to hang on and in.

  32. It is definitely good you got this off your chest. I think a lot of what you have said pertains to many jobs, careers, and even being a parent. As a society we all complain to much and do not compliment people near enough. If we all gave out 20 compliments a day, this world would be a better place. May we pray to God that he help each and every human to be that better person by giving out positive compliments and showing more love around the world. Thank you for your years of service to God as a minister but God is still working thru you. Our work for God is never done no matter what our job title is. Wishing you a marvelous day.

  33. My job here at Sustaining Pastoral Excellence at St. Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt, MI is to “minister to the minister”. Every point in your post are things that I see on a regular basis. Pastors from all denominations meet here in peer groups, retreats and programming to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their congregations. I just wish you had known about us 7 years ago….
    Thank you for this wonderful sharing.

  34. I’m grateful to be having a whole lot more fun in my 18 years of ministry than this article conveys, and I agree that we all have our moments of weariness, discouragement, and frustration. But what did we think would happen? If we answer Jesus’ invitation to follow and to bring others along, why should we expect different from what he received and felt? It is like parenting–we are better for our vulnerability, even while our egos tempt us to maintain a false persona that undermines what we teach. It is a pouring out of one’s life for others that brings a profound joy and freedom that many also do not understand we enjoy.

  35. as a Catholic priest’s wife (yes- Catholic- Byzantine rite, Pope Francis is our authority), many of these points ring true. We try to live life knowing that his ordination ‘invited’ satan to attack us and pray for Jesus’ protection. It is important to attempt a balance- but my husband has not had a day off in 11 years (he gets 2 weeks off from his hospital job and we leave town- but week to week, there is no day off)- this balance for him in swimming with the kids for an hour between hospital and church or golfing for two hours after three church services on Sunday

  36. Many of the responses here illustrate point #8 to a T. “You’ve been tempted by alcohol before? Maybe you should reexamine your calling.” “How about you stop complaining and realize how good you’ve got it? Those of us in the real world (eyeroll) have it so much worse.” etc

    And down the road we go toward you losing your job, all because you made yourself vulnerable.

    Thank you for your honesty. I don’t identify with all of it, but the issues regarding trust and putting on a public face really hit close to home. I hope lay people that read this post truly come away with a desire to see their ministers as human beings who have the same wants and needs that they do.

  37. Mark, you are so on point. I’m reading your article as I sit at a crossroads of decision….having been burned beyond explanation while ministering as a hospice chaplain (that position has inherent in it even more pain and unawareness from those around you. The isolation is incredible.) One thing I do recognize is the need for Pastors/Chaplains/Clergy (no matter the denomination or religion) to be pastored themselves. I don’t have the answer to this because that need we have has to fight against egos and pride–both of which exhaust the Pastor even more. Perhaps in writing this article you are doing just that. You may no longer be a Pastor, but you are still ministering…to me. Thank you.

  38. These don’t just apply to Christians, either. As a Wiccan Priest of many years, several of these resonate very strongly. Number 6 hits me very hard periodically, for example), and while we don’t have a concept of “sin” the way you express it in #7, I often find myself feeling as though I don’t achieve the standards I should be in my personal and spiritual life.

    On the other hand, #5 and #8 aren’t such problems, partly because we’re not expected to be 99 and 44/100ths % “pure;” we’re people with personal problems, just like everyone else, and our community recognizes this. The occasional outburst or “one too many” drinks of an evening won’t get us censured or fired, although serious or repeated problems will get us a “talking to.” I had one outburst born of frustration that got me chewed out by peers later on, and it’s still remembered to this day. Fortunately, I learned from it, and don’t let myself get into that situation any more. But someone who’s always irascible or drunk (or late, or rude, or whatever) is likely to be just as irrelevant as a Christian pastor who’s literally fired: no one wants to Circle with you any more. So the standards are different, but the consequences can have a similar impact.

    Generally not being full-time, the expectations others put on us tend to be lower, but the expectations we put on ourselves … well … maybe not so much. Yeah, this stuff isn’t easy.

  39. I’m a full time worship pastor who (GASP) didn’t go through seminary. This is true, not just for the head pastor of a church, but also every full time staffer at a church. I can relate to almost every one of these points. Thanks for the message.

  40. The thread is intriguing. In ministry more than 30 years. 1-11 true, very true. (I love my mom, but I do carry a gun and would love to restore a mustang.) We are in the in-between time as I watched the sin of 3 men in my congregation escalate to the point where I could no longer minister to them. There are times when “the Call” is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. When I resigned, many minister friends shared their stories of hurt and disappointment. When I am tempted to think no one understands, I hear the Voice of Jesus asking, “so, they mistreat you and falsely accuse you? Anything else you think I can’t relate to?” Thank You, Jesus.

  41. There is enough truth here that I identify with as a priest and have seen in other clergy. What keeps me going is the certainty that God has called me to it and continuously re-arms me for the battle. I have a pretty high pain tolerance. I love what I do, but it can be hard. I find comfort in Moses and the prophets and Jesus himself. It was normative for Moses to be at odds and frustrated with the Israelites. How frequently does he go to God to complain about them. You see it’s the chain of command. The complain to you and you complain to God. And somehow he’ll work it all out. I’m especially comforted by Jesus. He did everything right, and his friends turned their backs on him; his enemies crucified him. In just reading these comments of the folks who question these sentiments they don’t even seem to know that they are the archetypes for the cause of the misery. That’s irony.

  42. Pingback: Repost: Things to Know about Your Pastor, by Mark Love | Theology & the City

  43. I thought that this was awesome. To peel back the skin, to be human. Maybe its not how you feel every day, but when going though the valleys that we all go through sometimes you do feel like giving up. So we do need to let our Pastor’s know how much we do care and appreciate them!!

  44. Great post. I’m late to the game, but I have to say, all but number #2 apply (not that I don’t love my mom- I do). I love a brew and the ballgame, and while I don’t own a gun right now, I would rather shoot a gun or throw an elbow while playing basketball than sit and talk about my feelings. And while I drink 3 to 5 (or more) coffee’s a day, it’s sort of like jet fuel rather than something to chat over. But everything else… spot on. Chillingly spot on…

  45. Exactly! Very good article…the only thing I would add….
    Ditto to Minister’s wives (or spouses)…They are seen as a direct reflection of their spouse and (most of) those feelings are shared!

  46. #6 – My daughter’s confirmation class went to a Jewish Temple one Saturday – one of the folks who spoke with us, we learned, was the chaplain at a local United Methodist college. We learned she attended regularly as she could worship there and no one expected her to be anything but a member of the congregation.

  47. Thank you so much for this! I recently left the pulpit, I have been out for just over a month. I left because a lot of things were happening. I was realizing that I was caring more for my congregation than I was for the family that God has gifted me with. I have said, more than once, that my dad was more compassionate with his congregation than he is with his own family, and I realized that I too, was doing the same thing! I don’t know if I will ever return to the pulpit as well. It isn’t that I don’t want to follow God’s orders, but I also realized that I am a lifestyle Christian and those I serve are Sunday Morning Christians. It wasn’t until I was questioned about my Hymn choice and needing to lead worship their way, that I realized that they are Sunday morning Christians! It was then that I said that anyone who felt they could do it better could enter the pulpit at any time, I would welcome a chance to sit in the pew and listen! Then I realized that God was calling me to rest in His Grace and heal. I don’t know what God has in store for me. What I do know is that I hope that this post, that you have written, will start to reach those Sunday Morning Christians and they start to realize that being a Christian is about a lifestyle change and not a favorite Sunday Hymn! Blessings on all the clergy and the writer!

  48. Wow, I’m not in full time ministry, I’m just a college kid interning at a church and am Chaplain of my fraternity, but this is exactly how I feel.

  49. Thanks for posting this, Mark. I am amazed that those who go to the Pastor to share their feelings and concerns are simply people in need, but when Pastors open up they are considered self-indulgent and/or “not spiritual enough”. I think this is often why Pastors don’t share their doubts, frustrations and concerns, especially with members of their congregations. As I read these posts, I found myself dividing them into two groups: those written by persons I’d like to have in my church and those I wouldn’t. And I’d bet I’m not the only person who did this.

    The truth is EVERY Christian experiences times of trial and tribulation where we have need of encouragement and comfort from our brothers and sisters. This includes Pastors, for “when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer” (1 Corinthians 12:26). During these times we need to pray for and with each other, not have defined for us where our shortcomings lay and then have our faces rubbed in them. This is like telling someone who feels like killing themselves they need to buck up and stop feeling sorry for themselves.

    I also think placing the experiences of lay persons and Pastors on the same level is like saying weekend warriors have it as tough as the soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. Pastors and teachers are held more accountable by God because of their calling and position (James 3:1). This makes it harder, period.

    With such a small percentage of Ministers starting and finishing in the same career path there’s obviously SOMETHING going on. I think your post, Mark, helps identify areas where people can help their Pastors make it through the hard times. Jesus said in John 13:35 that the world will know we are His disciples by the love we show one another. This applies to our Pastors, does it not?

  50. I’ve got 30 years of ministry on my resume, most of it, and currently, youth ministry. You made several insightful and truthful comments here. It’s nice to know that someone occasionally hears the voices in their head besides just me.


  52. this article is a crying shame!!!!!!!! well do not lead folks to hell with you! can you do that for crying out loud???????? dont ‘pastor’

        • Cheryl, do you not find it a little bit odd that I (who happen to be a non-believer) can find more compassion for the strain that must come with being in as challenging a situation as many pastors/ministers/priests are, than you do? Remember, your pastor/minister/priest is still a human being with emotions and troubles, how do you think that your lack of compassion is helping?
          Why not aim to be kind instead? Trust me, you’ll be a happier person for it and the world in general will be just a little bit nicer.

    • Cheryl,
      You may have noticed that many people agree that there is some truth in what the write put forth for many pastors. Your hasty judgement, especially the implication a pastor who struggles in this way will only lead people to hell, suggests to me that you have very little capacity for empathy or genuine concern for others. I could be wrong, of course. You may be able to genuinely care about others. It simply does not find expression in your condemnation.
      Harsh? Most definitely.
      Truth? Doubtful.

  53. I have served in the ministry now for 37 years. Mots of these remarks I agree with. But a couple of things I want to say. (1) I am not tempted to curse in the pulpit and am not tempted to drink. Doesn’t mean it has never crossed my mind. All of us do have our weaknesses for sure and the temptations are not always the same. (2) A pastor does have a unique calling and a unique position in the church. I would suggest however that many of our church members would say that the occupation they have chosen has its downside as well. I love what I do but it has not been without heartache.

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  55. I am sitting here wishing I could get this into the hands of the members of my Staff Parish Relations Committee and of the larger congregation. Thank you sir for sharing this, most of these I have been through or am going through or resonate with. After 20 years in ministry I am still blown away by those who expect me to tell them that God forgives them so they can go do the same sins all over again; yet never forgive me for the slightest mistake I make, such as forgetting a name. I grow so tired, perhaps it is time for me too to leave. I love God, but I have a lot of trouble loving “the church.” Lord, forgive me…

  56. Having been a pastor for almost 37 years (I was in that first wave of women entering ministry), I agree that ministry can be exhausting and emotionally draining, as is medicine, teaching, social work, etc. The difference, of course, is that doctors, teachers, and social workers can go to worship to be renewed and revitalized, and they can go to their pastor if they have a problems. Pastors, on the other hand, are the ones who need to plan and lead those worship services and lend those listening ears. Put simply, pastors need someone to pastor them. BUT it really can’t be the congregation. Like it or not, when we accept the call to ministry, we accept a certain role and the boundaries that go with that role.

    And so we need to seek out people who can pastor us and we need to build an accountability and support system for ourselves. I rely upon monthly meetings with a spiritual director (who prays with me and for me and helps me discern what God is saying to me). In the past, it was a weekly clergy group that served this function. We also need good friendships outside the congregation – people who just know us as Joe and Sue, rather than Pastor Joe and Pastor Sue. Finally, we need to bracket out time for our spouses and kids that is non-negotiable (unless there is a bonafide emergency) and protect this time. We shouldn’t feel guilty about scheduling our families in the same way we would schedule a church meeting and we’ll be happier pastors if we do. While I thought it was challenging combining ministry and motherhood, I now realize that having children and later teenagers in the house was what kept me from letting the church consume all of my life.
    And in a society that seems to see workaholism as a virtue, we need to model another way of being in the world. Yes, we need to be conscientious but we don’t need to be over-responsible and then burn ourselves out. We need to work with our governing boards to be clear about just what we are expected to do, and what our church may not be staffed to do and then make sure the board communicates those decisions to the congregation so that we don’t have to be the ones defending ourselves from unrealistic expectations.
    So, I hear the pain expressed in the original posting, and in many of the replies – and I do not want to dismiss or disparage the ideas in these posts. But what I’ve finally realized is that I am the only one (besides God, of course) who knows all of the burdens I am carrying as the solo pastor of my congregation, so if the load has gotten too heavy, I need to be the one to ask for help BEFORE I fall down. It’s not that our congregations don’t care ABOUT us – but they cannot be the ones to care FOR us. (Although nice notes and comments are always greatly appreciated!!)

    • thanks, cynthia. you point out the need for all of us to live a balanced life and that it is our individual responsibility to seek out time with friends, days off, spiritual direction, family time and growth opportunities. I was lucky enough to attend a seminary where we were encouraged to do those things. It is not a matter of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps or having an authentic call or reading the Bible enough….it is about humility and humanity “loving your neighbor as YOURSELF”. The gospel stories are full of Jesus’ teaching and living life by example… spending time alone, spending time with friends, celebrating weddings and meals (drinking and dancing is part of it) . We really do need to care for ourselves as spiritual and human people.
      Blessings and peace.

    • I agree. Healthy boundaries allow us the freedom to have time in our lives for revitalizing our spiritual lives, and to rest. It made me think that it might be nice to have a “pastors only” worship service (on a day other than Sunday). No one promised this would be an easy life, in fact John 15:20 guarantees it won’t be easy. So take care of yourselves fellow pastors, run to your Father as YOUR Shepherd, and lie down in green pastures. I am so glad our Conference’s Bishop told us to set the example for our congregations and pray an hour a day. Make prayer a regular habit like Jesus did, then re-read the original post and see how it sounds. I suspect that more of these things will not bother you so much. Peace.

    • I agree. One of the hardest things for my husband is that he has a part time, small town Church and some weeks the amount of work he does he has a full time job. Hard balancing act for him.

  57. I found your post via a link on a friend’s FB page. As a fellow builder and the wife of a former pastor, YES. And thank you. New follower here. :)

      • “Don’t forget the profound loneliness that comes from having the hide your real self from others.” Oh, come on! Good grief! It doesn’t have to be that way! I should know…my best friend is my Pastor. We have met for coffee weekly for about 2 hours each time FOR YEARS… we know each other pretty well. He know I have UNCONDITIONAL love for him. Everything he shares with me goes no further than my ears…and I don’t “judge” him in any way for anything he shares. I know he isn’t perfect…and I don’t expect him to be perfect. We don’t have to exaggerate the difficulties of being a pastor…they are already hard enough. But if there is “profound loneliness” you need to find a different group of people to minister to!!!

        • ““Don’t forget the profound loneliness that comes from having the hide your real self from others.” Oh, come on! Good grief! It doesn’t have to be that way! I should know…my best friend is my Pastor. ”

          If he can say that you are an true friend, I hope it is true, then your pastor.is extremely lucky/blessed. Safe, honest, real friends within the church are nearly impossible for a pastor.

          • Follow up to my reply to Bob’s comment.
            When I was in seminary we were told we should/must look outside the congregation for friendships because having friendships within the congregation was always dangerous and led to conflicts within the church.

        • We were taught not to have close personal friends from within the congregation…for precisely the reasons above. We cannot ever trust that someday, that person we have befriended will not turn on us and use information that they know about us to attack us from within the congregation. Scoff if you will, but it happens all the time.

          A wise pastor once taught me that the first person in the door of your office the day you arrive in your new ministry who wants to be your closest buddy is likely the very last person you want to be that close to you. I have found this to be exceptionally true.

          Good for you if you’re able to be a friend to your Pastor. But be warned; you have an even greater position of trust than the Pastor does and if you break it even just once, it will destroy him irrevocably.

  58. This is great. Too bad I can’t repost it cause of all the flack I might get cause I’m a pastor. We lost a baby son over a year ago now. It was devastating to us. We are growing through the experience. Grieving still. People expected us to get over it and be “on” all over again. We could no longer be at the church we were at for several reasons but partially because some wanted us over it instantly while others would not allow us to stop grieving. Like we were in freeze frame. Most of the time even other pastors don’t understand. But the truth is we don’t understand our pastors. This morning after what some are calling the most successful VBS we have ever had at our new church, I opened up FB and found an angry message from a parent who completely misunderstood my intentions and attacked me on several levels. This is not the first time this parent has done this, and I thought to myself. My gosh, after me being here a year and investing in this person and explaining who I am and what I have done, and where I have come from she still views me as someone who is out to get her and her family. How hurt must this person be? I guess I would add one more to your list. After working so hard, it’s funny how all the compliments in the world as a pastor don’t matter as much as one moment of attack. Realize your pastor is attacked a lot. Many people simply don’t understand how their issues change their view points f their pastors and their pastors often suffer at their hands not because of the burden they carry for them alone but because the burdens they carry are being multiplied by the attacks from the people they are trying to help sometimes. I am glad that when I stood up for myself and corrected the multiple misunderstandings this person apologized. But I also know she will do it again, and I am praying about how to help her before she pulls out the whip again.

    • I just wanted to say I’m sorry for your loss, and for the criticism you have faced. Just so you know that someone cares. And remember, God has you and your family in His arms. Blessings.

      • I am so sorry for your loss! My husband (who is also a Pastor) have lost two children, stillborns and even though it has been over 20 years a go, people say we dont have faith in God because we still grieve! Are you serious!!?? Just like the blog said, until they have been in it they have no clue! People want all your attention on them and not on our problems. I will be praying for you and your wife!!

    • “Touch not my anointed”, is a warning from the mouth of God. This person who buffets you emotionally might want to consider this advice from scripture. I don’t think it’s just pastors who are attacked, but you are more in the forefront and more accessible, true. Perhaps this person should be put out of the church, for a time, if they are causing confusion and strife. This too, is scriptural, but difficult. It can be done in a caring manner, and your world would be more at peace, perhaps. Something to consider anyway. But if you minister to the children, then, wow. What a dilemma. Innocent bystanders. Also, very sorry for the loss of your child. There are no words. Grieve as long as you must, and grieve well. Our Lord knows. You might want to read some material on the subject from Norm Wright. He has been granted great wisdom on the subject and is one of the most loving people, too, so his writings are full of grace. Take heart. Blessings and healing for your soul is my prayer for you.

  59. Great perspective!
    Right on for me with a few exceptions – I rather fire a gun than play an instrument, restore an old Mustang than read a book.

    Thanks for your service in the Kingdom of God

  60. This is a great post. Very well thought out and I appreciate that you would also include the opinion of other ministers while writing this. I grew up around ministers. I was a minister. I was a PK. I am now married to a minister. I completed seminary a year ago and was dead set on not going into ministry full-time but my love of the gospel and its live -saving truths and my love for people are quickly winning my heart over. It is everything you said and so worth it. Thanks for putting some words to our moans and groans…and smiles.

  61. Sincerely, to Matt and the others that resonate with this article, there is a word that describes relating to this. Bondage. You are in bondage to modern Christianity and its obsession with facts and knowledge that takes our total reliance on God away.
    To the bashers in the crowd, you are in the same bondage, just in a different way. You have “gotten with the program” enough that you can look at your brother with the broken leg and chastise him for not finishing the marathon. Your day is coming, I can promise you. You can’t take a realistic look at the state modern day christianity is in and not come away with these same feelings.
    If you can fix just one thing in this list, the bondage, you would would go a long way to easing the pain of what is happening here.
    That one thing is our crazy desire to find validation in anything or anyone rather than God. I know, this is not taught many places, to point that most of you have no idea what i am talking about.
    Basically it is knowing the truth about you. That can only come from God. Think about this verse:
    You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
    Modern Christianity’s interpretation: the more scripture you know, the better christian you become.
    Alternate interpretation: know Jesus, know what He thinks about you, and be set free from others expectations and comments.
    At that point, another scripture becomes clear: My yoke is easy and my burden in light.
    Freedom is like that friends. I urge you to use these feelings of despair to send you to Jesus and His healing He wants to do in your hearts.

    • I’m not sure it’s quite that simple , Alex.
      ‘Know Jesus, know what He thinks about you, and be set free from others expectations and comments’ sounds great. But as pastors, Jesus calls us to love his flock: what kind of love doesn’t care what the beloved says or thinks, is invulnerable to being wounded?

  62. As a PK (also a grand-PK, and a great-grand PK), I really appreciate this. I always thought until recently that these things could not be said aloud – or in writing. I have never desired to carry on tradition and become a pastor. I have never even had an inkling of a desire. Writing (and I love writing, generally, otherwise) a statement of faith for Confirmation as a young teen was terrifying. Some of the main reasons learned while growing up are stated in (in order relevance to me) #10, 9, 5, 4, and 3. #10 is the most the important one . . . and is quite related to #4.

  63. I am “ONLY” a pastor’s wife… but your blog brought tears to my eyes. Finally someone who understands and says it loud. By the way.. a lot of points you made also count for the pastor’s wife. Again thanks for posting and enjoy this day… it was made for you.

  64. Thank you, Mark, for putting into remarkable words the insight you gained from a painful experience. I was put out of the ministry 20 years ago. I was only in the ministry for three and a half years…shorter than my seminary training that started when I was 33. I didn’t know that the senior pastor was trying to get rid of me from practically the first day I was there. When he said, “Jump!”, I didn’t ask, “How high?” That came from knowing what I was supposed to do and having been successful in the secular world before I went to seminary. And of course he thought he was in charge of everything and everybody. I did experience some of what you wrote about in your 11 things, but mostly they didn’t bother me much. I made one or two trusted friends that I could mostly be honest with and several families became friends with my wife and I and our three teenagers.

    My ministry was successful. Mostly, I think the head pastor was jealous. Problems were kept with the leadership board of the church. Some of it even from me. Eventually he got another position…and holy hell broke loose. His announcement came while I was out of the country, on vacation. Folks thought the church was folding (we were in a building we’d just bought and completely renovated). He left a couple and a single to rabble rouse for my removal. He had been talking outside the leadership. It was a mess. I asked if the leadership wanted me to go…they said I’d done nothing wrong, no. Months went by and then they called for a vote for my removal. A few years later…heart attack, etc along the way, the larger church leadership voted to remove my ordination though there had been no charges nor accusations founded, literally an unconstitutional move on their part. But I was sick and too tired to fight.

    Maybe thing 12 should have something to do with the effects of politics and power. It happens in independent churches and it certainly happens in connected churches. What you do and say in the pulpit and the church office and the board room reaches out. And then there are church levels one or two or three or more levels deep above the individual church sometimes that can definitely influence how you act, what you say, and even how you’re supposed to feel. Most folks in the pew have no idea how their pastor is affected day to day and far into the future by the politics he or she must deal with.

    I thought my dream of ministry was over. Speed forward almost 20 years. God has renewed His dream in me for ministry. He may be turning my vision toward a new target audience…a very different target audience. He has to make it happen, but I am willing. I hope and pray that God, as the Big Dreamgiver, will renew His Dream for your ministry as well. It is apparent that you are gifted. Ask Him how you might fulfill the Dream He gave you, now.


  65. There were some good points to this, but I will say that as a former music director myself, I have not been to church in over two years and I don’t miss it one bit. Does it mean I don’t love the Lord no longer? Absolutely not. In fact, I feel that these past two years has just been one on one where I feel I have the Lord’s undivided attention and He has mine. It’s a season of course and I have no idea how long it will last, but I will tell you that the last two churches I attended, where I served tirelessly and faithfully, I was hurt in a devastated way and both were from Pastors. They will be the ones that I will have the least bit of trust for the rest of my life, no matter how kind they are to me.

  66. As a Methodist Divinity student and a graduate student in American Religion for six years, I resonate with what you are saying. My experience was just a bit different.

  67. As a retired Pastor after 60+ years of ministry, I think you have hit the nail on the head. I try diligently to encourage my 44 year old pastor who does a marvelous job.

  68. Hey Mark, great post! The one thing I would add is how ministry messes with the family dynamic! The stress, long hours, availability, etc.

    Do you think the culture that creates this is caused by the demands of the congregation? Or the expectations we put on ourselves? Or both maybe equally…

    I often think not laying some ground rules allows us to fall into the trap you’ve so rightfully explained, but if the congregation isn’t spiritually disciplined, they can drive us to this extream?

    I’d love for you to do a follow up and to hear from these other good folks.

  69. You’re right on on most of these points I just resigned 6 months ago after 22 yrs of service. You really end up knowing more about our church when you resign then when you were in it.

  70. The idea that we can best serve God as seminary-trained clergy has drawn many off course. When God tugs at our hearts about devoting our lives to His service, much frustration and disappointment might be avoided if the norm were “blooming where planted” and the seminary/clergy route were exceptional. If I’m a banker or plumber discerning God’s call, shouldn’t my first assumption be that He wants me to serve HIM (rather than self or money) as a banker or plumber? A “pastor” is a shepherd and a job only for those God has specifically prepared to deal 24/7 with the challenges of “sheep.” That’s quite exceptional. Moses found himself herding sheep in the wilderness for 40 years before being tapped for the exodus.

  71. While I’ve never been a minister myself, it is one of the family businesses (like you, apparently!). I didn’t want to deal with the same kind of scrutiny a politician deals with (only worse) as you’ve outlined in this post, thus I never sought ordination.

    Then I realized that by having two parents who were ministers, I had learned to behave the same way they did, without realizing it. I came to understand this only in the last few months. I act like a minister with friends and colleagues because it is what I had to do while growing up and it is what was modelled. The result? I end up feeling most comfortable with people who are ordained ministers, despite not being one myself. Those are the people who can understand me best. I am never completely myself with friends. I’m always in counselor-teacher-minister mode. It only took me 30 years to realize this. :-/

    So I’m in sort of a strange situation – I’m having to learn to be, well, “normal.” It’s a process, but posts like this one help me to realize the things that I need to address and consider – those differences that have kept me in my strange informal role.

    That said, thank you for giving voice to these differences. I’m sure it will help quite a few people. :-)

  72. All the things are Iam sure are true this is because ministers/pastors are humans just like the folk in the church
    Being humans life is hard my job was stressful I looked after very small very sick babies every one has a stressful life and as Christians we are to hold up
    Each other regardless which side of the pulpit you are on
    I know your job is hard so was my mothers she had 6 of us please just let. Us
    be all CHristians not pastors and flock we are in this life together so let’s work together and then those not in the church might want to join us

  73. Thank you, Mark. You have written statements I could not even begin to identify. I am in great spiritual, emotional, physical and psychic pain, and I am thankful for this blog.

  74. As I read your post, I kept saying yes; however, you did not mention the fact that so many of us are on anti-depressants. I am and many of my clergy friends are. It is hard to be the bearer of so many stories without being depressed. A gift of listening is hard on the listener and as a pastor I do a lot of listening.

  75. Mark, I have been without a permanent church assignment for over a year. The major problem I noticed beyond the 11 you so graciously stated is that usually the congregants see the pastor as am employee. Then if their own employment situation was poor, so was their outlook at church. I could not have articulated these as well. I appreciated your efforts.

  76. Thanks for sharing that. It was eye opening. Hope I, as well as others , keep this in our minds and hearts! We needed to hear this.

    May God bless you, and all other pastors, both retired from service, and presentl serving.

  77. As a PK and a grand PK and as someone who worked as a pastor I have seen the whole picture – inner sanctum and all. My comments that follow are not in regards to my own father or grandfather (who did it differently ) but do pertain to my colleagues and myself while in the ‘ministry’ – while i understand what this post is about I also think that pastors can sometimes coast through in a world of unreality as far as ‘work’ is concerned. They feel like the church ‘owes’ them constantly, they play power games that include making people ‘proove’ themselves before being allowed to take up a position in the church, they make a mockery of the term ‘flexi time’, they do not uphold the standards they preach of mercy, integrity, justice, etc. They see themselves as ‘above’ the rest of the church as they have a ‘calling’ but refuse to be held accountable for output…there is no sense of regular demonstrating the bottom line and key performance indicators ie. showing that you are actually being productive which you see in other professions. They seek out influential people as friends and refuse to allow others in, they do not make themselves vulnerable or ever own when they are at fault – which i think is a far more powerful teaching method. There is a LOT of talk but very little output. And if you have been on the inside and ever leave the job – don’t expect for anyone to follow up how you are doing – you now are out of the club.

  78. What a wonderful post; though I’m not a minister myself I have always been very close to the church and can very much appreciate what you have said.

  79. When you have been chosen by God to minister his Word, there is no escaping. It comes through loud and clear that you were let down badly by ‘Man’. Paul’s letters were full of discussions about the same topics. God, will not let go of you.
    Your experiences will be used to spread his Word in a way you couldn’t imagine. I have a theology degree and never used it. I had the calling and chose to ignore it. My life has been chaotic and a struggle ever since. He still uses me today the best way he can with the vessel he has. We are weak and give way to spiritual darkness.
    My advice to you is to start a small bible study group and grow from that. A church is where more than two or three gather and you can create your own structure. Show them God’s vision through you how it should be. In this 21st century ‘Church’ has to change to be relevant. God bless you for the wisdom he has given you. I see you as a counsellor to Ministers.

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  82. As a Lutheran pastor of 36 years (can’t wait to get to 40 so I can retire) I must say that what you’ve posted is deeply ingrained in my heart. Been there, done that, felt that, wept over that. Every month of my career I’ve looked for other work. However, this is all I do and God will not let me do anything else…yet. Thanks for sharing your heart to hearts that understand.

  83. Most of those are the same reasons why I left pastoral ministry… Fortunately I have found a passion in media ministry now.

  84. I get the feeling sometimes that some ministers live in a different world. I am a “minister,” but not in a church. I’m “on the road” like Paul. I can be free to be honest and not worry about who’s paying my salary. I asked my minister once about Jesus calling remarried divorcees adulterers (Mark 10:11,12). He retorted rather angrily, “Son, that’s one subject the church sweeps under the rug!” I later told him I dared him to read all the red-letter sections in the New Testament, Christ’s words only some Sunday. “Watch half the congregation get up and walk out!” I said. I can freely witness the whole truth now on facebook, and people think I’m a minister! “Nope! You wouldn’t hear this in church! I couldn’t be an honest minister.”

  85. All that is articulated a bove is nothing but the truth!
    I was elected to serve in the Church committee as a member. My membership did not last very long, it probably lasted only a few months and I was on exit. I discovered different people and different Pastor than what I see on Pulpit every Sunday. All these guys were planing how to execute a plane to make a congregations vomit more offering and 10%. As a Christian, I’m reminded that people should give willingly without being cajoled or tricked into giving with promises of tenfold rewards from God. I believe all Christians who have confessed and accepted Jesus Christ as their Personal savior do not need to be reminded about giving. And again, the way the Pastors in the Church present the sermons on giving every sunday and every fellowship I fing it difficulty ti stomach. Church cannot be about gospel of prosperity a lone. Its about knowing Christ and making Him known to the end of the earth. If we are true believers, we need to spend more time in being faithful to the call and trusting God to change others. If you preach to someone and doesn’t show any signs of change, leave it to God! you have done you best and duty and it will not be counted against you. I’m a greatest supporter of Priest finding a different job outside the ministry. If they entirely depend on the church offering, they will be disappointed a lot

  86. Thanks for writing this. It seems like to many church members don’t think about what pastors and other church staff have to deal with. It is a very demanding job that can become 24/7. I’ve often thought about forming a group of people who are committed to praying for the church staff and being there if they need anything.

  87. Yes I agree- as the leader of ANYTHING you have more pressure to do it all right! As a pastor people tend to think that you have it all together with this religion thing but we know we are all sinners- everyone of us! And the good news we are all forgiven if we ask at the cross. Of course that does not give a pastor the freedom to curse or get drunk because the Bible clearly says not to so hopefully most pastor say this is not my home so I don’t care to conform to this world. That’s where leadership comes in. Yes you feel like getting drunk or cursing but know you don’t have to in order to fit in with the crowd. The church needs leaders who lead!


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  90. Still worse for those of us who quit before they really started,,,,the problems you can have from other pastors,,,,the ministerial training programs that are often VERY unspiritual,,,,glad I got out when I did, but I still look back sometimes and think, “What if?”
    Looking back, I STILL wish I’d done it-yet those of us who refuse the call have our reasons for doing so! But you can’t ever really forget it,,,,you always hear it and you know deep in your heart you should have done it!

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  92. while this list is probably very personal and painful to recount, i have to ask, why did you go into ministry, why did you pursue a call to ministry ?
    as to the list itself:
    1. you’re right
    2.how do you know i’m a mama’s boy? what exactly does that mean to you?
    3. you’re right
    4.why did it take you so long to quit?
    5. what is it about yourself that you ‘couldn’t be’ as a pastor?
    6.if you were spiritually starving , why didn’t you feed yourself?
    7-11. you’re right
    i have to ask though if you were truly called to ministry how could you leave? did you have a bad call? did you seek help within your judicatory, did you develop colleagues? where were you educated? what did you expect ministry to be, with your vast family experience?
    did anyone you pastored see this list before you quit? if you cared so much , how could you quit? do you consider what you’re doing now ministry? maybe pastoring congregations is not your call?

  93. Our culture considers anyone for whom the pursuit of wealth or power is not 1st priority strange. Keep in mind we invented the term “monetize”. Personally, I believe that is the reason for the popularity of “mega churches”. We are more comfortable around folks who appear to share our life values and goals. I share some of the same experiences: My wife and I dropped out of lucrative career tracks to become counselors, she w/ at risk youth, I w/ adult offenders. Although friends and family were respectful, they clearly did not see our work as particularly valuable or relevant. Nor did our clients for the most part. In the end, one has to follow Thoreau’s advice and march to the drum that speaks to you. Fare you well, friend.

  94. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. I am a Lutheran pastor in a very healthy congregation and I thank God every day for this great group. (BTW-the congregation was very healthy before I came on board.) I particularly important and healing for me was your last point about the staff who gather to pray about and think about how we are serving the good folks of our congregation. You are absolutely right as far as I am concerned; I think it is in the staff meetings that our hearts are so turned, with love and care, toward those whom we serve. Well said.

  95. This was shared with me and I clicked on it warily, wondering if it was one of those “whiny” pastor posts. Instead, it was insightful and loving and truly deeply things that people should know. As someone in ministry, but not congregational ministry, I have a foot in both the pew and the pulpit and I have grown increasingly aware of how much pastors give. Your analogy of being the parent of a young child was perfect. Absolutely perfect. It perfectly describes the love, the emotion and the exhaustion that comes from caring so much. So thank you, I will remember to thank the pastors that touch my life more often and with more care.

      • Because it should have been written or expressed better. I sincerely hope that Mark does not “wish we could cuss without it making headlines. We wish we could get drunk at a party, just once.” That is an odd thing to say…as a pastor or a non-pastor.

        • You do realize prohibitions against alcohol are cultural not scriptural? I also think “cuss” and “taking Lord’s name in vain” are two vastly different things.

          • Norman, you’ve missed the point and gone far afield. The Scriptural prohibition, “Be not drunk…” is NOT “cultural.” And that is what Mark says he wishes he could do…get drunk! And splitting hairs about cussing and using the Lord’s name is vain misses the point also. So it’s OK for Christian leaders to go around saying the “F-word” because they are not “taking the Lord’s name in vain”??? What type of Christianity are we talking about here?

      • Maybe those of us who “get” Mark’s blog, should thank Deacon Kevin and Bob for illustrating Mark’s points so well. Hmmm…ly

        • “Maybe those of us who “get” Mark’s blog, should thank Deacon Kevin and Bob for illustrating Mark’s points so well. Hmmm” Gee, Lynn, your smugness and condescension would certainly go a long ways in driving me from any thought of “pastoral ministry”! Ha ha… two can play your cute game. Just to set the record straight, I clearly stated at the outset that I AGREED with 10 out of 11 of Mark’s points…so your statement about thanking Bob for illustrating Mark’s points (plural) so well is a lie. And since Mark has conceded that he would re-word point #5 in any re-write, I don’t think you have any room for judging me with your snarky comment. Take the beam out of your own eye before you go poking around for the splinter in my eye.

  96. Some of the items you listed also hold true for pastor’s spouses. We are sometimes viewed as ministerial extensions of our spouse, and it’s exhausting, too. And, no, I’m not my husband’s secretary. If you have a message for him, give it to him. But, please, don’t try to convey something you expect him to remember while you’re shaking his hand after service. Put it in writing and hand it to him, or call him during business hours. As much as I have loved some of the churches my husband has served, it’s challenging for me as well. It’s a fine line to walk between being the pastor’s wife and being another member of the congregation. Sometimes, it feels like neither fish nor fowl.

  97. I am not surprised by what you say as for the most part this is what I have seen to be true for most churches in America. Our organizational design is messed up. We are so hung up on church structure as opposed to have the church operate biblically. Pastors you are my brother or sister in Jesus. I do not know how many organizations in the U.S. would permit this but you need to speak honestly to you congregation. We are collectively the Body of Jesus on earth. We each are called to serve. Pastors your job is to equip you people with the knowledge and press them to walk (Work) in faith. We the church are called to walk with Jesus every day not just Sundays and Wednesdays. Pastor I do not nor does scripture require you to be anything other that what and who you are. You are supposed to walk with us and we walk with you. In fact we are supposed to walk so close to you as to lift you up when you are down, cry with you when you cry and laugh when you laugh. We are a family and we need revival in our churches. Please speak to your family, be honest with them speak to them the word and show them what God is calling for them to do. Leave the politics and the things of the world outside the door and speak to them of the churches call to minister. Not You, Alone! If they think that you are being “Paid” to do their work this is an abomination before the Lord. We each must do what Jesus tells us to do individually. You will have freedom, Your Congregation Will have Freedom and Gods Spirit will be released in your community.

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  101. The Lord’s design for the New Testament church had pastors working along with apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers (Eph 4:8-15) and plurality of elders and bishops (overseers) presumably each contributing their gifts and sharing the load in mutual support. The modern “pastor” is expected to be all those things rolled into a single “one-man-band.” No wonder it seems like such an impossible task! No wonder it’s so stressful! I don’t know when or why we gave up on it or drifted away from it. I wonder if the New Testament design might still work?

  102. Hey Mark. Some very interesting reading! I can identify with much of of what you have written. Started in ministry…left and became a finish carpenter for a number of years and then went back into ministry in a foreign country with a much more positive outlook, thankfully. Your thoughts echo in the minds and lives of many and you have said things that need to be said. Wood doesn’t talk back and is predictable…I loved that. I am compelled by the calling. I know many wounded and have been there as well. Thank you for your time and thoughts and may they be a catalyst to bring more joy and ease in the lives of many a minister. May you always enjoy the scent of sawdust!

  103. I think this is an excellent article. It is not only excellent in content but also skillfully, graciously and carefully written. Just the number or comments indicate that it struck home in so many constructive ways. I almost regret saying that I am thankful that the author is not still in the vocational ministry but I believe it gives him a perspective and authenticity to speak so truthfully. I have been in vocational ministry most of my adult life and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to touch lives for Christ in a way that would not be possible for me in any other vocation. I seldom tell people I meet that I am a minister because they immediately have a view of you that keeps them from hearing or relating to you in a genuine way. Because of circumstances in my personal life I have not been in vocational ministry for the last three for four years. My perspective about the church has a whole new view. Until one steps back to take a look from another place it it impossible to see what might be going wrong. I heartily recommend that ministers take sabbatical for this very reason. If we(the church) knew what we looked like to the world or even to the un-churched Christian it would force us to change the way we do church. Thank you Mark for an excellent article. May your ministry continue to expand!

  104. Completely overwhelmed. I read much of this through tears because it’s so true. As the wife of an ex-pastor, every single point was so powerfully true. #7 & #8 really jumped off the screen at me, but wow…..all of it was dead on. THANK YOU.

  105. As a parishioner, this has been a real eye opener for me. Every church should be handing this out to everyone. We tend to put our pastors up on pedestals and forget that they are just as human as us. It’s time we got real with the world.

  106. Mark Love. I think Your calling took a. Turn to become a writer. Will You Please keep writing to encourage Pastors, their wives & kids, & lay people. I cried while reading this. II didnt know that Pastors & their families. Go thru so much ridicule. If you start a blog & get stories fro
    m Pastors nationwide You can use them anonimously & write a book that can be a Teaching Tool. The book/website/blog should be called The Soul Of A Pastor.
    Maybe? Email me at Power2getwealth@live.com if you need more ideas. Your insight changed my perspectiva.

  107. One thing that this author leaves out is that pastors and people in professional ministry are also economically tied to what everyone else takes as a spiritual choice. If your faith walk differs from that of powerful congregation members (i.e. you have “bad” theology in their opinion), then it isn’t just a point of debate in a sunday school class — it is a point of your paycheck in peril. Everyone thinks that you believe the same thing they do — until you open your mouth, or they realize just how many people believe very different things, and all in the same church. Having your paycheck tied to peoples’ deeply ingrained metaphysical ideas of faith and God is risky business and a constant weight on the emotional minds of pastors and their families.

  108. Fifteen years into the ministry, things blew up so bad in my third pastorate that I was glad to be out of the ministry and swore I’d never go back. Five years later, God pulled me back in. I’ve been back eight years now. But this time, the churches are healthier, I understand myself – my strengths and my limitations – better, and I am more confident in the role God has placed me. I am blessed to be in a great pastorate with a congregation that lets me be myself, accepts my brokenness – as I accept theirs, and has a good pastoral relations committee that understands their success as a congregation of faith is directly proportional to my health as their pastor. I can even sit down with them and drink a little and swear a little, just as we know that Jesus kicked back and sipped a little wine with some sinners. This is a rare church indeed. But I know that pain. The memory of it still freezes me up from time to time, and I worry it might return. Meanwhile, I thank God for the present blessings, and the healing that God provided for me to get here. Thank you for your message.

    • FatToaster makes a great point. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I should state that my return to ministry was not to churches where I was dependent on them for my primary income. It has made a world of difference.

    • Can I just say there are those called, and those that think they are called, and those that wish they were called, but many ARE called but like anything you have to prepare and I see so many trying to get into their calling BEFORE they have gotten the tools for the calling in place. You can want to build a house, know the plans, have the permits, the land, etc. But if you have never spent time in preparation for the building of the house, then your house will NOT be a good project. I see so many have the willingness and the heart, BUT haven’t spent any time in a mentoring situation so they aren’t equipped. Were they not called, I am not sure, I think it is more that they didn’t know the tools, didn’t have any experiences to really draw from and they experience burn out, overload, even bitterness, because they didn’t really DO any preparation for the task of being a pastor. Or someone saw they had good Bible Study success /Sunday school teaching success and they plugged them in TOO fast. Crash and burn. I grew up in the church, I married into global ministry and what I have seen, some Pastors never really got the hands on deal of seeing WHAT the job description is. What secular jobs lets a untrained, unseasoned person be the CEO immediately? A business that wants to fail, and fail fast. I have seen it over and over, and that is why I think some Pastor’s tank. They didn’t prepare like they were headed to an Olympic event they just were good at running in the mornings to keep in shape. Hello, you gotta train for the event before you enter the race and expect to win. Just like college you have to have a WELL rounded education for you to succeed in most professions and I just don’t SEE the preparation in many instances. If you can just deliver a sermon, be an evangelist NOT a Pastor…Pastoring is a broader job description than Sunday morning sermon giving! That is where I see huge disconnect.

      • Savannah, Adding your judgment to a blog where people have bared themselves emotionally is not particularly pastoral. You are right that good training makes a difference. I had a lot of it, and I still confronted much that I was unprepared for. But even after I got seasoned in the work, the path was still treacherous. However, since you posted this in response to my comments, I want to address your challenge to my sense of call. What unflinchingly convinced me it was genuine was my inability to avoid it. I ran away from it! But still, God insisted I return to the work, which I have. I’m not sure how you define success in this vocation. But I have learned it is often messy, and the stories of the prophets and apostles affirm this.

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  110. Perhaps a good chunk who leave pastoring feel these things. I disagree with most of the post. One should read “Working the Angles” by Eugene Peterson for a beginning taste of what it means to pastor well.

    • A “beginning taste” either I am missing your point or you need to re-read the book. Every church board I dealt with rejected his insight. I considered it valuable they wanted to run the church as (their) business.

  111. I find your comments are spot on. My husband was a paid minister for almost a decade and although he/we loved it, we both experienced much of what you mentioned. Maybe a few things were somewhat different but the results were the same in the end. We do a different type of ministry work now, no longer working “at a church” but still in a christian organization where churches are still very much so involved. After reading this I realized we still have many of those same issues in this business, with my husband being the “one in charge”. He still answers to a board, like elders, and the donors, like church members, who are just as involved much like when he was a minister. I can’t wait for my husband to read this because it really helped open my eyes to what all we were feeling. . Being a minister was extremely lonely at times, just like his job now. Mainly because we felt/feel we “couldn’t/can’t trust others” to know our true feelings due to the fears you mentioned. i hate to say this but many times we almost dread going to church because we, mainly my husband, is always having to “talk shop”. We are hardly able to “get fed” because of this. It’s much more difficult than folks realize. No one means to put these kind of pressure on their pastors, I know. It just comes with the territory sadly. Thankfully there are many great things that come out if ministry but on the other hand it can weigh you down a little more than the good can keep you up and this is where burnout occurs. We are both far more invested emotionally to people and their concerns. Wish we knew how not to be, but then again, if we weren’t, then we wouldn’t be drawn to the jobs that we are nor be as successful as God has allowed us to be, only threw Him. Tks for your words.

  112. How true! This article can apply to church staff as well, depending on how involved the staff member’s job becomes. Especially when a church is without a minister and the staff member is relied on more heavily to do his/her own job and fill the vacant spot of the minister as well.

  113. Some have commented saying that today’s ministers are self-pitying and wouldn’t have been able to stand up to the pressures that the ‘unpaid disciples’ faced. I think a big difference between today’s ministers and Jesus’ disciples is that culturally, they’re working in a materialistic culture where people expect to be fed and ‘get what they need’ from their pastors, when the early Church was “The Way” – Christians expected to be transformed by the Gospel and join the mission of the disciples to build Christ’s Church. It is exhausting for pastors to always be trying to move their church from being consumers to being on mission.

    We’re all on a spiritual journey and we need to respect each other where each one is on their journey. The ability to be vulnerable and real with others is where ministers will truly find the bolstering they need to press on. Wearing a mask of perfection all the time is stifling. Christ didn’t call us to be perfect. He called us to make disciples. He loves us unconditionally and as we mature more and more into His image, those things will be less and less of ‘a thing.’ Jesus had a reputation among the religious as being a drunk, because He kept company with sinners. Those sinners didn’t feel unaccepted or judged around Him….so what are today’s Christians doing wrong? Everyone fears judgment around us.

  114. You left out a key point here, proved by the comment thread. Few people are more critical of ministers…than other ministers. God’s peace to you my friend.

  115. Thank you to all who shares the word of GOD. and remember this, that I can assure you Christ is the son of GOD. and your good works do not go unnoticed.

  116. Oh to be able to go to a wedding reception… a church supper… an afternoon tea… a concert… my daughter’s baseball games… etc. without people feeling they cannot be authentic or real around you… they cannot tell a joke or have a drink for fear they’ll offend you… they don’t dare swear (it’s as if they think you’ve never heard the words before) and apologize if they do.

    It sure would be wonderful if folks in church and outside the church believed wholeheartedly that it truly is not about them, rather about the One who created and still is creating… the One whose image we are created in… and treated each other with grace, compassion, care and abundant (an unconditional) love! If we loved our God… our enemies and our neighbours with the same fervor as we love ourselves, the world would be transformed… and ministry would be an even greater blessing than it is!

    Trust me, nothing is more amazing and humbling than the privilege of baptizing a baby… sitting at the bedside of someone who is dying… praying with someone who is dispondent… feeding the homeless… listening to the stories of folks on the margins… then advocating for the voiceless… bringing a youth to faith… leading Spirit-filled worship… moments when we glimpse the Holy in our midst… God being revealed through us!

    Ministry is exhausting work, yet it is blessed work… heaven on earth, until one of the Pharisees comes along and crushes you with petty complaints of unmet expectations (you didn’t visit, the service is too long, I didn’t like a certain musical selection… ) or unwanted change (we liked the way we were 50 years ago, why do we need multi-media, why do we have to have the guitars, why do the kids have to be present at certain times… ). Then I sigh, dust myself (as did the disciples) and lean anew on God to be my shield, refuge and strength. It’s at these moments I remember who called me into ministry, and in whose name I am called to serve and then I go forward exhausted (often), discouraged (sometimes), disillusioned (on occasion), yet always confident that if I remain true to the One who commanded me to love… if I model Jesus’ counter-cultural way of abundant love, grace and welcome… my life WILL be blessed beyond measure and my living WILL make a difference to this world we share.

  117. As a non-professional minister, I can see so clearly where this is coming from. In His Word, it is clear that He asks so much of His Shepherds – as He asked of the Israelites as well. However, as HIS children, we are to love and uphold each other. Those of us who are without sin can throw the first stone…!
    I am thankful for the admonishment to let my pastor KNOW how much I appreciate their effort. Each of us needs that re-enforcement.
    Thanks for the reminder!

  118. I am not a Minister, and I guess the closest I come to being one is playing music during worship. I truly have thought about these things in the past concerning our Ministers. It seems to me though that this alcohol thing really struck a nerve. Earlier today I posted this next saying as a joke but it seems to fit some here. “A clear conscience is a sure sign of a bad memory.”

  119. Thanks for your honesty, and for starting this conversation. Couple of comments:
    1. I think those who are called to the pastoral ministry would benefit from working outside of the church for several years before they go to seminary or to work as a pastor for two reasons: a. gaining an understanding of lay person’s perspective of being “in the church” and balancing work/family/church, and b. allowing time to grow and mature in their own identity outside of the spotlight of ministry. And if the person is married, it would also benefit their marriage to have some time to form outside of that spotlight. I put some of this burden on seminaries to change their recruiting techniques that target students straight out of undergraduate school. I also recall some of my fellow seminarians who were straight out of undergrad confessing that they were already burnt out but were afraid of repaying student loans, so decided to go on to grad school immediately to delay that reality. Not the case for everyone, but if that is a concern — go ahead and get a non-ministry job, repay your loans — and use that time for confirmation of whether or not to go to seminary. If you are called to ministry (and I believe that all believers are called, not just those who are paid ministers) — you won’t care if you are being paid for it or not, and the oppty for seminary will still be avail.
    2. Read “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Pete and Geri Scazzero — a pastor/spouse who tell their own story of personal/ministry burnout, and how they realized they had created a culture in their church that was dangerous and unhealthy for themselves as well as their parishoners, and how their church culture has been rebuilt in a healthy way. I’ve met them — they are the real deal.
    3. Read “Gracias” by Henri Nouwen. Such a rich book on his season of discernment about where/why was he called to serve — hard to just pick a few things to share here. But here are two that have helped me get perspective on why I serve, which helps me refocus in seasons of burnout:
    a. (page 20) “What then is it that we do receive in ministry?…The mystery of ministry is that the Lord is to be found where we minister. Our care for people thus becomes the way to meet the Lord… Living this truth in our daily life makes it possible to care for people without conditions, without hesitation, without suspicion, or without need for immediate rewards. With this sacred knowledge , we can avoid becoming burned out.”
    b. (pgs 161-162) “Why do people become missioners [or pastors, church leaders, etc]?…The issue is not to have perfectly motivated missioners, but missioners who are willing to be purified again and again as they struggle to find their true vocation in life. The two most damaging motives in the makeup of missioners seems to be guilt and the desire to save…The problem with guilt is that it is not taken away by work… On the other hand, the desire to save people from sin, from poverty, or from exploitation can be just as harmful, because the harder one tries the more one is confronted with one’s own limitations… The great challenge is to live out of gratitude. The Lord took on our guilt and saved us… The human missionary [pastoral, lay leader] task is to give visibility to the Divine work in the midst of our daily existence… Clinging to guilt is resisting God’s grace, wanting to be a savior, competing with God’s own being. Both are forms of idolatry and make missionary work very hard and eventually impossible. Humility is the real Christian virtue. It means staying close to the ground (humus), to people, to everyday life, to what is happening with all its down-to-earthiness. It is the virtue that opens our eyes for the presence of God on the earth and allows us to live grateful lives. The poor themselves are the first to help us realize true humility and gratitude. They can make a receptive missioner a truly happy person.”

  120. Many thanks and much respect for this honest post and your graciousness in handling abusive responses. May your honesty free you to find the right path to your calling, whatever shape or form it takes. These words spoke to me, a daughter of a superintendent of schools growing up in a very small, very judgemental town. They also spoke to me as an ex-teacher. The harsh judgement of family and others finally led me to the tao of Buddhist thought. I respect my spiritual leaders because we all begin every day acknowledging our imperfections and then focus on being kind and loving in a very, very mean world. Blessings!

  121. This post was like balm to my soul. Thank you for being open and having enough courage to put into words (and on your public blog!) what the experience of being a pastor is actually like for most. Regardless of whether the pastoring experience is wonderful and uplifting or painful and deeply wounding, this piece can resonate with either type. All the things you listed are just the nature of it, good or bad. Please don’t be discouraged by all the comments from naysayers and individuals on here who seek to unfairly critique your every word; their responses have fantastically assisted you in proving your points.

    Blessings and peace to you and your family. Your honesty has inspired me to do the same.

  122. There will always be blog-readers who willfully miss the point, but I am honestly surprised at HOW the point is being missed on this one. I didn’t expect anyone to get hung up on the “wish to get drunk at a party” and hold that up as reprehensible — the wish or the behavior. Has anyone mentioned Jesus’ first miracle — making MORE wine for a party? Why do you need *more* wine … unless you’re gonna get a bit lit? I think Jesus would.

  123. I think that times are changing. As a person in seminary seeking a second career, I think ministry for me is not about trying not to cuss….or to do the right thing. but it is to live a life openly. I have had the honor to preach and yes i make political statements on line and i don’t think that either is changing. I know what i say on line is what i will say to people in person. the one thing is to ensuring that you do have people you can trust and share and not feel lonely. Heck Jesus had the Apostles and still felt lonely at times. Over all I do like your post and agree with many points and i hope that i don’t have to live in that closet you felt like you were….in many ways i live an open life.. i guess if ministry was not only means to a salary it would be different .

  124. I’m finishing up my dissertation on pastors who leave the ministry and from my research your pretty much right on target.

  125. Funny, the fact that you are all bent out of shape that he even wrote about wanting to drink, actually proves his point even more.. that they cant do anything with out being ridiculed. Just sayin…

  126. Mark, your writing has obviously touched far more people than it has offended. I pity (and I don’t want to say pity, but I do) those who focus on drink and cuss more than the pain of having to uphold an image and forced to stay on that pedestal.

    I know Baptist preachers in Georgia who talk with one another about where they “stop,” meaning a stop to buy alcohol away from watching eyes.

    I remember the delight of being invited to my pastor’s cocktail party about thirty years ago in Georgia.

    I know many pastors who cuss, and perhaps because I’m a chaplain and not a parish pastor, I have had the chance to be real. No, I don’t “want” to cuss, but I do on occasion. Yes, I do want to have a drink and do on occasion and have gotten tipsy from time to time.

    When I preach in congregations people often thank me for being real. Perhaps they don’t want a steady dose of reality, but what I get from them is that someone who is real is someone who gets them!

    I know a priest who tells people he is a Fed Ex driver when he is on vacation. I’ll have to tell folks I’m a nurse or something. People are often not themselves if they think you are pure and holy and never stray.

    I find that the people I end up relating to in my work as chaplain, especially staff, relate to me far better once they know I’m real. They talk of former chaplains who as one lady said, never let down their guard, and thus never got to know the nurse, the EMT or the security guard.

    Mark, you’re still pastoring. Keep at it!
    Peace brother,

    • Would have been horrible if Jesus had hidden who and what He was and stood for with all the strangers he came across. Shame on any of you who are ashamed to opening admit who you are and what you do. If you cannot be honest….then believe me when I say, God will ask you about this come judgement.

      • Some of these posts remind why one United Methodist bishop told the conference: “There are times when I’d like to leave the minister (in a particular town) and move the congregation (so the minister could start a new church for the community). A high school friend, now an atheist commented in a letter about the response of the community to his son’s suicide: “Christians are the primary cause of atheism.” Reflecting on congregations, also on pastor’s, and on a few comments here it is difficult to argue with him.

    • We can agree with his other points while disagreeing with the wording.. Why is it an either or?

      Not speaking for the abusive posts but I agree with the points made while also pointing out that the wording was poor, and in written communication the wording is important, as is the discussion that clarifies it. Yes I and others initially missed the surrounding point, but I don’t think I require pity for that. Maybe grace should go both ways?

  127. I read the points…and I thought, THESE apply to me and my job….that of Mom. There are many, many days I want to escape, but I am the example. I am to be an example. I am to be responsible. (sometimes I am tempted toward the perceived freedom of being irresponsible) I am to not be selfish, but self-sacrificing. I feel isolated and alone. Perhaps it would be different if I had a support system of helpful sisters or grandparents, etc…but truly…the list about lines up with how I feel as a mom. exhausted. unappreciated. lonely. wishing I could escape.

  128. What so many of these comments shows me is that unfortunately many are in the”ministry” as a career move and not a “Calling from God”. In my opinion, no-one should be a “Minister” of a Church if they were not called by God to be there. so many take the job simply because it is a job. dad was a preacher, grandpa was a preacher, etc. That is the crux of the problem in the organized church world today. Many preaching and so few called. As one pastors wife said in her comment…..”without jeopardizing his ‘career”. Personally breaks my heart and makes me sick to see so many USING God as a way to make a living instead of a true Ministry for Him.

  129. My comments have been caught up in other threads, so I thought I would share them here. I am a Christ follower who is most comfortable outside of the confines of traditional church services led by paid ministry staff, meaning that my own community is not building centered and we share teaching/preaching duties between ourselves without a non-profit religious corporation. Forgive my vocabulary, I am not sure what the correct terms are for the tax statuses church institutions are given or the proper way to describe the financial system they use.

    It seems to me the majority of the points made above do not stem from the calling to pastor or minister but to the demands of the professional church system. When a man or woman’s family livelihood is tied to his/her actions then the stress level of course will be magnified. It seems to me the modern church system produces these unreasonable expectations and that humans were never meant to suffer them alone. Fake pastors and fake congregants are reinforcing each other, and when money is exchanged their are expectations on both ends. From my view the solution is not just to sympathize with pastors as seems to me the thrust of the list. If 9 out of 10 pastors are experiencing this, then maybe it is the system that is wrong, and the solution would be to radically change the system.

    Before I am again accused of judgement or self-righteousness, I will say that the way others choose to worship is fine with me and I am only against the system, not the people. And besides sharing this here, my only reaction to the system has been to leave it altogether and just read and preach and share and sing in my friend’s living rooms. No one has any unreasonable expectations, no one who “preaches” on a given week has to be fake about it, and no one listening that week has any reason to judge them the rest of the week. It’s a beautiful sort of freedom that I have never found in a traditional church(though I am sure it does exist in some places). Maybe it is not for everyone, but it is a relief to be real in a true community, and I hope that pastors feeling those stressors would consider taking a step back and relaxing a bit. I sympathize with people facing that list, but it was my own similar experiences to most of those as a congregant that led me out of that church system.

    And just to prove I’m not a hater.. I’ll post “poopedpastors.com” founded by Steve Brown as a resource to other pastors feeling those burdens. God bless all, see you in the living room..

  130. The first time you start to present a sermon that you have prepared and the Holy Spirit takes over and you watch from the side all the unfortunate instances you mention disappear and you catch that fever that you can never live without.

    A Pastor is human and everyone needs to keep that in mind but when you become a Pastor, you set yourself up for everything you get. You know that!

    God Bless You All! From this fellow human, I thank you for your service!

  131. It probably is best that you did not continue in the ministry. This isn’t my experience and thought process, and if it is the ongoing thought process of a pastor continually, I would say he wasn’t called to the job. As pastors, we don’t wish we could say the F word, get drunk at parties and other things without raising eyebrows. Because we are in Christ, we have found peace with God and within ourselves in Him, and we are pastors to help others from every walk of life find the same. I hope you will spiritually grow. It is good that you aren’t seeking to pastor a congregation anymore.

    • You on the other hand, your gift of seeing the best in people and helping encourage them to be even better… wow! And that marvelous way that you blend grace and truth. I can really see how you’d make a GREAT pastor! /snark

      • well, I regret posting that. If the moderator would be pleased to delete it, I would be grateful. Otherwise, I guess it’s a lesson to me to be more careful.

        I do find that comment by Mr. Bunnell to be grating and discouraging, communicating a sense of spiritual superiority. But that’s not an excuse for me to respond in kind. My apologies.

        • Anon, as much as you regret posting your comment, isn’t that what we often wish we could say, etc.? I will come across as “smug” to many, but I truly believe that if we cannot be real with our congregants, parishioners, etc., than everyone may be doing the “be happy in Christ Jesus” dance. (Boy am I going to get flak for that!) There are some who can ONLY talk about the blessings of Christ, how good life is and all the positives (thus the happy dance) and never get to the deep mucky stuff of life. If I tell you that I’m depressed and you say, there’s nothing to be depressed about, God loves you, or pray this way or that, then you (whoever I’m talking with) and I cease to have a productive and helpful conversation.

          I have found the prophets of the Hebrew bible to be extremely helpful, in that many if not all of them, hesitated, were afraid, made mistakes and more. Did they want to do what God was asking? Not always. But they did it.

          What I’m hearing from some of the respondents is almost a “hushing” — don’t let the dark side out. If you prayed harder or had more faith everything would be fine.

          I in no way can judge Mark Love’s faith, pastoral skills or his spirituality, but I have a sense that he is someone I would trust, someone I could share my worries and fears with. Someone who is not comfortable with me sharing my dark side, someone who tells me only what the bible says and how to be, well, that would send me running.

          Anon, in my world, you can be snarky. Your snarkiness means to me that you’re real, and we could have a real conversation and who knows, maybe even pray together!


          • Thanks, Lynn!

            I agree about the “happy dance” thing. That is not “truth in love”, that is closer to whitewashed tombs. I’m not saying I can see someone else’s heart, I’m pointing the finger at myself and saying been-there-done-that and I’d rather be real than keep up appearances.

            Totally agree about the prophets. I’ll see your prophets and raise you a good handful of Psalms :-)

  132. 13 years of never being good enough for so many…
    longer that “I” am not died in the wool…
    I understand this article, fully relate to it and struggle with the issues as well.

    Sorry that number five became a hangup, hiccup or perhaps the focal point, so we move on.

    We continue to minister because we care, we continue because we are called, whether or not we are recognized with an ordination.

    Thanks for sharing.

  133. Wow!!! Being a PK kid, I have considered not doing things because of the opening of your blog. Most of my family on my father’s side is in ministry and I wonder about all those things because of some of the things we have experienced already in the church lifestyle. There are several times I have wanted to write my pastor about where I am right now in my life and that everything I learned in my 3 years of being consistent in church keeps me grounded each and everyday. Nobody tends to believe that if you are not in church every week that you can stay grounded. The ONLY thing I say to that is, it is about your discipline in Christ.

  134. I read maybe 10% of the comments, there is a lot of them

    Coming from a bi-vocational pastor, this post is relevant. I don’t 100% fit all points, but all points resonate. Thank you for verbalizing this. I don’t remember the last time I admitted to myself how deep that fear goes of being irrelevant to people’s lives but I feel it every Saturday night as I ask God to be with us Sunday morning. Or that that little bit of envy for those who can completely let their hair down at any given event and not worry it would be a ministry-career-reputation-ender that is held against them forever and ever amen. You can never truly take your minister hat off. Not that I’d want to, because I want to be genuine and authentic 7 days per week, but I get what you are talking about on that point and I feel it.

    Great reminder to me of the spiritual starvation that can happen. It’s encouraging to hear that others entertain the thought of quitting.

  135. Thanks for writing this blog. I am the wife of a minister and I could write a blog from my perspective, and maybe one day I will.

  136. I work as a chaplain. To my closest associates I say, “the hardest part of being a chaplain is that you’re the CHAPLAIN. Perfect behavior at all times, all personal history prior to being called erased, true self concealed at all times. Before I entered ministry I realized that I would probably not tolerate moving around the country all my life to different assignments. I knew my behavior would be different from that of my misspent youth. I just didn’t understand the projected behavior imposed without mercy. Oh, to just be me again!

  137. Great blog Mark. I’ve been in ministry for over 30 years, 28 of those were as lead pastor. Your comments are dead on. The criticisms are quite typical from people who spend most of their time either complaining about their pastors or looking for the next church they move on to “bless.”

  138. Thanks so much for sharing from your heart. My dad was a youth minister/worship minister for several years, preacher for several years, taught music at bible college, and managed a christian camp for some time. My uncle taught in a bible college and my grandfather was a preacher/chancellor at a bible college. I understand being in the spotlight feeling like everyone is watching everything you do and say. I remember not being allowed to wear jeans on sunday nights even though all the other kids were wearing them in youth group. I remember critical remarks that were made about different family members. Even today being a mother of three boys feeling like at times I need to “perform”, something I have to fight daily. I pray DAILY that God would help me to RECEIVE His love and grace. I struggle with feeling like I have to have it all together because growing up I felt that way; that I always had to be an example for everyone. As christians, we are to be an example, but it is also important for us to have the room to fail at times without feeling judgement and criticism. We are called to love each other deeply, to encourage, to help each other back on our feet after we fall. We are called to encourage and love our ministers because they are shepherding us. We owe them so much because of the tremendous sacrifice they make for us. We owe their families just as much love and respect for their sacrifice as well.
    Thanks again for sharing this. I will definitely pass this on along.

  139. I am a pastor and I will say that I have a need to cut loose on occaision… To be wild. To go beyond what others think is appropriate. In fact I will say that part of the reason that clergy have such high rates of alhoholism and suicide is because of strong constraints on behavior that means we go home an polish off our booze in private instead of hanging out listening to music or watching the game in a bar somewhere.

  140. The fact that point #5 received such negative criticism is kind of funny because it further validates his point. He couldn’t even MENTION wanting to do some of the things that a lot of people who consider themselves Christian do without thinking twice. People (including those leading worship) are always susceptible to sin and temptation, whether we like it or not. We all answer to God in some way, but the congregational community isn’t omniscient enough to judge fairly or truly – the author understands that won’t stop certain types of people from trying. In this way, people can be more intimidating than our God who knows us completely. Great article!

  141. I, too, at first stumbled at the fifth point. Then I remembered what it was like as a pastor’s kid and, while having no real desire or intention to cuss or get drunk, wishing with all my heart that I was the sort of person that CAN cuss and get drunk and, wait for it, not be considered a failure as a Christian.

    Normal laymen and church people can cuss and get drunk or do a multitude of different sins and never get the sort of scrutiny or judgement that pastors get with much less. My brother (who is also a pastor) gets more flak for suggesting that Communion be a weekly event than the church elder who DOES get drunk and tells sexist stories. My girlfriend (now my wife) went from being allowed to wear jeans in church to being called a “loose woman” who won’t wear skirts in just one day… the day after it became public that her boyfriend was the pastor’s eldest son. But that girl church goer who sleeps around is “just in need of help”.

    So after re-reading that point (and the update that followed), I sadly see that so many here DO miss the point. No, we don’t want to do it… but we wish that we can be treated the same way as those people who actually do those things.

  142. One of my best friends is a pastor. She is such a lovely, strong, wonderful person. She cares deeply about her parishioners. I feel so frustrated when she confides in me regarding some of the unkind things they say (or do) to her. I wonder at how people who claim to be such staunch Christians can be so unkind to their pastor.

    Mark, thank you so much for your post. It was inspiring, and my next act today will be to say thank you to some pastors in my life.

    To those who wrote nasty comments above: You pastors are not God. It is not appropriate to expect them to be perfect, as God is. They will fail. Despite their very best intentions, they will sin. .

  143. Thank you for the article but I have to disagree on some things with the author. As I read the article I felt strongly that he was doing a lot of people pleasing and there was a swig of worrying about a paid position. Before I became a Pastor I was a Social Worker. I learned early that speaking the truth or pointing out ones faults to help their life improve is not an easy task. What you hit again is the person’s feel will. I can talk till I’m blue in the face and until they want help their will be no change and certainly it is not my job to force the issue unless they are doing grave harm to themselves or somebody else. As I began to practice as a Pastor, and mind you nobody knew I was for many many years, as people found out, the comments cut deep or I’ve lost many friends. People I thought that would stand behind me thru thick and thin disappeared. I was tagged a “holy roller” even tho I confessed I was a Christian and followed Jesus Christ since I was very young. Suddenly, I find people putting me on a pedestal or a microscope. My whole profession is viewed as we are to be perfect at all times and say the right things at all times. Well how can I when I’m a sinner just like everybody else. Why would I need Jesus Christ then??? In order for me to write or bring a message, I need His strength to help me carry on. I need His word and His wisdom because without Him it would make no sense to somebody else. Now furthermore this author talks about being spiritually starved. While I am preparing and giving a word, I too hear His word from my lips. The word is not just spoken for everybody else but for me too. Finally, as a pastor I am pushed, shoved, spit at, etc. constantly for Christ’s sake, but this man did have seminary and he is warned in the Bible that this will happen. It happened to His 12 disciples. Why would he think time changed that this???? I guess what I’m saying is I’m not looking for words of encouragement, or a pat on the back. I was promised by God that my reward will be in heaven. See Galatians 1:10 (AMP), “Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ (the Messiah).”1 Thessalonians 2:4 (AMP) “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the glad tidings (the Gospel), so we speak not to please men but to please God, Who tests our hearts [expecting them to be approved].”

    • Galatians 1:10 (AMP), “Now am I trying to win the favor of men, or of God? Do I seek to please men? If I were still seeking popularity with men, I should not be a bond servant of Christ (the Messiah).”1 Thessalonians 2:4 (AMP) “But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the glad tidings (the Gospel), so we speak not to please men but to please God, Who tests our hearts [expecting them to be approved].”

  144. You’ve hit the big thing wrong with Protestant, especially what I call pop-evangelical, worship.

    Worship should NOT be about the people, but about God.

    This is a big advantage the pre-Reformation churches, especially the Eastern ones, have.

  145. I understand what you meant by the “…want to get drunk…” comment. I myself do not drink at all; however, the spirit with which you intended that comment was heard loud and clear. “Wanting to live life without the fear of personal attacks…” is what I think you meant to say, and the same is true for me. It’s too bad when because one enjoys taking photos and posts them during his free time that congregants decide “he’s on Facebook too much” and criticizes the hobby, among other things, of course. The other comments you made were really spot-on, too. I myself would/could never post something such as this at this stage in my life (hence the reason I left off my last name); however, to read this sends affirming reassurance to my soul that I’m not alone in loving people, yet really wishing they’d give me a break sometimes. Reading Jeremiah in the Bible has been helping me lately– and reading this article has really helped, too. Thanks for your honesty, and I pray God’s best for you as you serve Him OUTSIDE of the church walls now that you’re no longer in vocational ministry. Blessings to you and yours.

  146. Thank you for posting a very sincere and well-written blog. May God continue to bless your work and ministry to others in word and deed and grant you peace. John 14:27, Psalm 121.

  147. I love this!!!!!!!! My husband is a Pastor, and we have recently closed the doors on our church. Everything you have written here is right on!!! Thank you so much for posting :)

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  149. Knowing some priests, I’ll endorse any point the author wrote, esp. on clergy essentially feeling lonely.

    I also skimmed through the comments. Chapeau: Some people made it their business to illustrate, in full colour and “loving” detail, all the reasons for clerical burnout. Query: What would have some of the commenters said, had they met some of the Church’s great saints? E.g. Padre Pio – if I remember rightly, he could be quite harsh when he met self-important time-wasters …

  150. Wow, you really struck a nerve! I’m in a very supportive congregation, but can still relate to your list. And I’ve certainly seen what many of my colleagues have endured. As a female pastor, I wonder about #2: it’s often said that much of the resistance to women pastors comes from the women of the congregation. Not sure how it relates, but it’s another interesting dynamic.
    Another thing that has often bugged me is listening to folks talk about their cruises, vacation homes, and other luxuries I can’t afford.
    Thanks for getting the discussion going.

  151. Thank you Mark, for these words.

    What I posted on Facebook after reading your post: I re-analyze my role as pastor all the time (and I enjoy reflecting), so I’m immensely grateful to hear from this kindred spirit. I also ponder how to reflect on pastoring: Should I do it publicly or privately? In the sermon or not? Only in my journal and prayers? How much shall I process with my spouse, friends, peers, etc.?

    So much of this article rang true: I’d qualify as what he calls a “mama’s boy,” though I feel very close to my father (who doesn’t hunt and who reads as many books as he works on the car). Even at Court Street, which I consider the best church in Mississippi (perhaps the world), I sometimes think about quitting and running away to live in a tent in the forest, where I can hike and read all day. Cultivating spiritual disciplines apart from my hands-on churchwork has been crucial to maintaining spiritual health: prayer, scripture, spiritual direction, clergy peer groups. However, I rarely hear complaints, though that doesn’t keep me from worrying myself silly (mostly about effectiveness and relevance, and also about those ego-driven desires of approval, adoration, power). I also ponder what it means to “be ourselves.” Yes, it’s funny that few congregants know of my hobbies (collecting music, reading comics) and few know my most personal theological journeys. But how well does any student know her/his teacher?

  152. Thanks, it’s definitely the hardest job I’ve taken on – you really do need Jeremiah’s flint-ness. So my experience is different and I’d say I see things differently but I can certainly relate. The word that for me captures the bulk of this article is “aloneness”. I like what I heard John Piper say recently; “Yes your a shepherd but you’re also a sheep…” I think there’s a real need for pastor’s of pastor’s

  153. While I agree with most of the blog, I can easily move beyond that which I do not. The fact that so many of these comments are critical indicates something. I am certain there will come some critical comments on this post. I do not believe the creator of the church is happy when we criticize one another. Some of the critical comments need to seek forgiveness. I understand completely what the blogger included in this forum. I don’t agree with it all, but I do understand it. Think about our profession for a minute. Over half of those graduating in my Seminary class in 1998 are out of ministry. The real telling thing about this is that the administrators predicted this. Let’s stop fighting about where we disagree and start helping each other. There is probably a pastor near each one of us that needs some help. If the help is given perhaps that would be enough to encourage them enough to keep them on the path. Whose fault is it when a pastor leaves the ministry? At some point I have to take some of the blame if I knew she or he were facing difficulty and I did nothing to help. Sometimes we ministers thing we are above that which we teach our congregations. We were called to bear with one another. Instead of wasting so much time criticizing one persons blog why not come alongside a brother or sister. Thanks for the article.

  154. Great article. I’m a minister. Correct on all points, and on the heart and hurt you’re describing. I shared this on my facebook page and most of my minister friends shared it and/or liked it. If you have not served in a local church then you probably don’t understand the simple truths communicated here. Disagree with the words, underlying principles, or whatever, but this hits very close to home. Thanks!

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  156. As a pastor, I cannot relate to the ‘spiritually starving’ or ‘thinking about quitting a lot’ but beyond this, I certainly understand the feelings. One thing pastors have to get used to is that unlike them, not everyone is in church to glean new ideas/thoughts/feelings or to change the world. People come to church for community, to exercise a gift for music, and for friendships among other things. Some not only do not come now to hear new ideas but that was never the reason why they came. It isn’t your Bible study or sermon they aren’t interested in – they never really came for anyone’s Bible study or sermon. But that doesn’t make them bad folks. Nevertheless, clergy need to be at peace that there will always be some there who are there for the ideas / thoughts / feelings. There will be some who do go out of their way to come to Bible studies and listen to sermons. Focus on sharing with them. And love them all.

  157. As a retired hospital Chaplain, I know being a Pastor is extremely hard and at times,every day heart rendering, Pastoring and Spiritual Direction means putting yourself out there every day. And its not always rewarding. However,as a member of a church, I have often found clergy put up walls to attempts to give some of that care to them, and maybe especially if they know you have the same education they do. My Dad gave me good advice, if what you do ever becomes not fun , change professions. And so you have. Congratulations.

  158. Thank you for that. It’s very interesting that the comments just prove your points. Thank you for saying this out loud. Bless you

  159. Thank you Mark. While not all things are identical, you’ve hit a lot of spots right on. In the interview for this last pastorate which I am now leaving, one of the questions I asked was “are you expecting the minister to be your ‘messiah’, to come in and pull a rabbit out of the hat and magically transform and grow your congregation.” I was assured that no, they knew that was the congregation’s job, not mine. Reality: Most of the congregation realises that the shift is more than just this congregation, but far larger. But there is the larger vocal few who would rather blame everything on the minister than get organised and really take responsibility, find a sense of mission and then act on it. I find myself wondering why we take the negative criticism so much more deeply than the positive – and tend to focus in on those few, instead of the ones who hug us and make positive comments on a Sunday morning.

  160. Wow – well done. We were in the pastorate for 30 years in the states in two diferent churches. We got fired from both – this is a very real posibility. We loved what we did – as you said. I never felt like I had a friend I could be real with. I think I was afraid of what could happen – and it did. :) It broke my heart both times. I can say God walked with us through the pain and never left. But…trusting that God did not abandon us we are now missionaries and seeing God work through us. Thank you for the brave and real article. I hope many many people read it.

  161. Thank you for your blog. I have often thought of how hard my pastor works, and how tough it would be to deal with all the different people, and personalities in our congregation. I don’t know how he and his wife deal with it all. There is always something more to do, some place to be, another meeting, another gripe. I appreciate my pastor more now after reading and understanding your thoughts than ever before. I will do more to show my awesome pastor and his awesome wife my appreciation!


  162. I can appreciate the many spirited comments that have been put forward in this eloquent debate. The author has raised many relevant points that have come to the dangerous place of being drowned out by the “noise”. While I certainly agree with a previous poster that men and women are not under any obligation to swallow every word or idea presented to them in the form of a sermon, Bible lesson, or blog, the post reminded me of a more important obligation that we have to each other…to get UNDERSTANDING before we move forward (by implication with any response or debate or other dialogue). There are many passages of scripture that come up for debate on the basis of a word here, grammatical inconsistency there, etc. For this reason we apply a proper hermeneutic and engage in serious exegesis to get at the meaning of what we are reading. Because until we have MEANING, we cannot approach UNDERSTANDING. Having said that, I am reminded that the MEANING will ALWAYS lie with the WRITER, not with the reader, and not with the WORDS themselves. The author (and many other posters) have attempted to call the attention of some, who seemed to have missed it, to the authors MEANING. Armed with what he MEANT, should we not be able get past the words themselves and be thankful for such a thoughtful and well intentioned post??? Thank you Mark! I UNDERSTAND what it is that you MEAN!!!

  163. Very interesting discussion. I guess I’m the only person who didn’t assume Mr. Love was referring only to Christian clergy?

    Loved this article. Sending it to the clergy in my life as well as the spiritual communities. It ignited some dynamic conversation. (So much better than being boring, no?)

    • Hi Nicole,
      I don’t think Mark Love meant this only for Christian Clergy. Only he can say, but I agree, we Christians must not be the only ones dealing with this issue. I am so thankful Mark had courage to write and by the responses, Mark, I hope you know you are pastoring to us! Thank you!

  164. I have served in church all my life. My mother a minister, her mother and father evangelist and minister; respectively. My great uncle a Jurisdictional Bishop and a host of other family members being heads of churches. I served most of the time in the background as an armour bearer/ adjutant/ assistant to the pastor. I can honestly say that this article speaks many levels of a volume that cannot be imagined by every day church-goers. I absolutely agree with this article especially from seeing how my best friend deals with the same questions and aspects in having his own church. GREAT JOB!!!!!! Ministers are human as well, and the only one who has a Heaven or Hell to put you in, the only one that can judge us, the only one that we have to serve and reverent is GOD.

    • Karen — just look at the bottom of one of the emails you’re getting from the site. There’s a line that says:

      Want less email? Modify your Subscription Options.

      Click on the “modify your subscription options” link and follow the directions :)

  165. Mark, What a great article… and I found it especially helpful that people proved your point by taking a few words from your article, ignoring your point and making it an issue. Some even felt they could question the sincerity of your conversion (whether you have experienced new birth, etc.) because they think you should have worded it differently.

    I don’t think most have a clue that we Pastor’s deal with this EVERY TIME we preach or teach. Our words are often lifted from context and twisted to become a huge problem in the church and increasing the stress on our family.

    I have served as a Pastor for 35 years and though it has been the most hurtful thing I have ever chosen to do, being faithful to God’s call has also brought the most fulfillment to my life. It is just sad that the biggest hurts ever inflicted on my have been inflicted by Christian people who would consider themselves “strong in their faith”, “faithful to the Word”, “spiritually mature” and “leaders”. They may need to consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:29 and Paul’s warning about quarreling about words (2 Timothy 2:14).

    In the mean time we in ministry should always focus on 2 Timothy 2:15 and we should stay open to the correction of Godly people who understand how to speak the truth in love. I am thankful for those Godly people in my life and ministries. I do my best to ignore those who are constantly (and sinfully) negative and critical.

    Thanks for your ministry. I am truly sorry that the people of God caused you to give up full time ministry for Jesus. I understand it… and some of the post here demonstrate why so many good and godly people are quitting the ministry. It will be a sad day when judgment comes on those who have sinned by harming the Shepherd’s God called to lead his sheep.

  166. Goodness gracious! You didn’t say you want to go out and get drunk all the time, or to constantly use foul language. You didn’t, infact, say you want to do those things at all, just that you wish that if you did them once it could be without recriminations. I, for one (and as a pastor’s kid and a practicing Christian), do not think you worded it poorly at all. And I think the reactions to it illustrate your point pretty clearly. I do not think that occasional cussing, or getting drunk once at a party constitute particularly sinful behavior, and I think they are behaviors that most parishioners (not all of course!) indulge in from time to time. I’m not going to come back and read lots of follow up comments, but I wanted to let you know I support you, and I think everyone getting up in arms about it is being silly.

  167. As a pastor myself, I read Mark’s list of 11 things with tears of relief–that someone “gets it”!! But I have found the ensuing comments from some to be absolutely exhausting and to highlight what I like least about my vocation. Bob, once you become a pastor, feel free to share how easy your life and ministry are. In the meantime, it’s not okay to make judgments about things of which you know nothing.

    • Deborah, just as I’m sure that you would not want your words to be taken out of context and exaggerated….how about granting me the same fairness. If you’ve read any of the MANY posts I’ve made, I have REPEATEDLY said I support and “get” 10 out of the 11 points. And I also said that I “get” the sentiment behind Point #5, but that I thought the example of “wishing” to get drunk at a party was worded incorrectly…to which the author of this article AGREED. So please spare me your condescending judgment.

      • Deborah, yes, please spare your “condescending judgment”. (Note my sarcasm.)

        Now Bob, would you please kindly do the same? All of your responses are incredibly condescending and judgmental. Glad you feel free to share your opinion; sad you can’t do so in a loving or Christ-like way. Also very sad that you seem to be blinded to your own legalism and pride.

  168. Virtually every hope/challenge/attitude/joy/regret/exhaustion/exhilaration…etc. mentioned in those 11 situations applies to schoolteachers, too. I taught for 31 years, and I kept repeating ‘yes’ as I read the blog entry.

    • Marcy: I work as a college instructor, and have also experienced some of the same feelings that Mark talks about, especially #1 and #3.

  169. Wow…..many of the posts are from people who missed his point entirely. This is exactly why today’s pastor really has it difficult, because people focus on petty stuff instead of the REAL issue. This post was SPOT ON! Even though you say you are no longer a minister (at which I pray that you would pray and really reconsider) this article really ministered to me. Bless you sir….

  170. Although I haven’t read all the comments here, I’ve read enough that makes your points more valid. Any time you want to throw down a couple of beers count me in. My point is simple live freely, love deeply, and let the chips fall where they may. And, let God’s grace sort it out. Perhaps why Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors is because he didn’t want to eat alone.

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  172. Regarding #8: “you can have understanding and compassion for the man or woman who loves and serves you week after week, who counsels you and hears your confessions, and yet often has nowhere to go to get the same healing and relief”–My husband is a pastor, and he regularly sees a counselor so that he has someone safe to talk to about the frustrations, hurts, and self-doubts he collects as he ministers to his congregation. We are fortunate in having a benefits plan that covers much of the cost of counseling. I am fortunate that my husband takes advantage of it and see the benefits of doing so. We see the counselor together as well, and many of the things my husband has learned in the course of going through marriage counseling with me he’s been able to transfer to his relationship with his congregation as a whole and as individuals. Everyone has benefitted from the counseling he’s gotten. I strongly encourage all pastors to be make regular counseling a part of their self-care.

  173. Mark,
    I am in my 19th year in ministry (six years in youth ministry, ten years as the (solo) pastor and in 3rd as lead pastor (multi-staff). Early in ministry your article would have resonated as true for me… now it and the many comments by so many others who have left ministry above as well strike me as sad.
    On a bad day some of them still hit home, but now those times are few and far between. It took a 4 year life and death struggle for my son’s life as a small child and a bout with lung tumors of my own to put life in perspective. Do I hope to be relevant–yes. Do I worry about it, no. Cussing or drinking are not optional for clergy in my tradition so no temptation there–but early on that desire to be real was true. Over time, the person I “had” to be became the person by God’s grace I am so I get to be real but my sins are boring enough they elicit no controversy :) .
    As a pastor there are 2 things I do that really matter to me–criticism be darned– “Offer Them Christ” and “Love the people” (both quotes from John Wesley). I have wept with the dying and broken, rejoiced at new life both babies and spiritual life, been loved on when I’m not very loveable by fellow broken people who try to love Jesus and each other. I am honored to serve Jesus and lead my small rural congregation in doing the same. I’m so sorry about your hurt and the hurt of so many others echoed here. I’ve had people say and do horrible things over the years, but they are just hurting people themselves. What I ask myself regularly 1) Am I offering Christ and bringing men and women boys and girls to the feet of Jesus and 2) Am I loving the world Christ so loved that he gave His all.

  174. Why the Church has Left.

    The organization or institution of Religion is borne of both the social and religious experience of those who make up the organization.

    “No matter what the relations between the two terms: whether religion interpreted in the one way or another, whether it be social in essence or by accident, on thing is certain, that it has always played a social role,” writes Henri Bergson. (The Two Sources of Morality and Religion)

    “Who am I?” The answer reveals a complex landscape including what N.T. Wright summarizes as a Worldview; our narratives, the meaning of our symbols, the kinds of questions we ask, and how we describe our praxis.

    So let’s begin with my story as it relates to religious experience and social understandings. The short version is that I am a child of the catholic charismatic movement of the late 60’s and 70’s. The two experiences which shape my identity are community and liturgy. The central act of worship was and always will be Eucharist. Perhaps this is true for many however; the distinctive has more to do with pneumatic expressions grounded in an understanding of the Holy Spirit.

    Religious experience is a personal epiphany which gives rise to a sense of place in the presence of God. On the other hand religious expressions are cast within the drama of one’s public space, a social phenomenon. Generally people are drawn to a common experience or a social setting which feels comfortable. In my view people put more weight on social settings which tolerates personal place.

    The Pentecostal experience which transcends social norms broke open the church to be more inclusive, whereas the social pressures seem to be in conflict with one’s values seem to box and define boundaries in a more narrow way, which became exclusive. And, furthermore tried to define the Pentecostal experience as a doctrine normative for all and in so doing excluded many who experienced the Pentecostal reality.

    In the 70’s J. Rodman Williams (1918-2008) a Presbyterian Theologian and scholar wrote extensively about the reality of Pentecost. (You can find his books on amazon.com) I met him at Melodyland School of Theology during the height of the movement in fact it was Dr. Williams who recommended me to the Pastor for an opening as youth pastor.

    As time went on I felt conflicted not with experience of the Holy Spirit, but rather, the stage up on which the public space seem to crash with my personal place cast within a different social setting of Eucharist as the central act of worship.

    And something else became clear to me, how I theologize about the experience of the Holy Spirit seem different. The culture of tolerance, openness, and liberation shaped by hope seem to be at odds with those in the space where I found myself.

    I remember once visiting my community in Ohio after living in California for six years, in which a dear friend said to me, “Ken you need to return to your first love.”

    At first I thought she meant I need to move back to Ohio and be a part of our prayer community. Later on as I reflected over this, I came to the realization that what she meant was to be true to myself in relationship to my experience of the Holy Spirit. Over the many years since then, I have return to this haunting statement my friend said to me, “Return to your first love.”

    I want to try to answer the question what is my first love? For this I turn to Kenneth Leech book, “Experiencing God,” in his chapter God of Water and Fire page 199.

    In 1968 the Metropolitan Ignatios of Latakia addressed the World Council of Churches Assembly in Uppsala. He pointed out to the terrible consequences of the neglect of the doctrine and experience of the Holy Spirit:

    “Without the Holy Spirit, God is far away,Christ stays in the past,The Gospel is a dead letter,The Church is simply an organization,Authority is a matter of domination,mission a matter of propaganda,the liturgy is no more than an evocation,Christian living a slave morality.But in the Holy Spirit:the cosmos is resurrected and groans with birth pangs ofthe Kingdom,the risen Christ is here,the Gospel is the power of life,the Church shows forth the life of the Trinity,authority is a liberating service,mission is Pentecost,the liturgy is both a memorial and anticipation, andhuman action is deified.”

    Cardinal Suenens links hope with the experience of the Holy Spirit, after he was asked why hope, he wrote in a letter, “Because I believe that God is born anew each morning, because I believe that he is creating the world at this very moment. He did not create it at the distant and long-forgotten moment in time.”

    He goes on to write:

    It is happening now: we must therefore be ready to expect the unexpected from God. The ways of Providence are by nature surprising.

    We are not prisoners of determinism, or of the somber prognostications of sociologist. God is here, near us, unforeseeable and loving.

    I am a man of hope, not for human reasons, nor from any natural optimism. But, because I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the church and I am an optimist because I believe the Holy Spirit is the spirit of creation. Those who welcome him, he gives each day a fresh liberty and renewed joy and trust.

    The long history of the Church is filled with wonders of the Holy Spirit. Think only of the prophets and saints who, in times of darkness, have discovered a spring of grace and shed beams of light on our path.

    I believe in the surprises of the Holy Spirit. John XXIII came as a surprise and the Council too. They were the last things we expected. Who would dare to say that the love and imagination of God were exhausted?To hope is a duty, not a luxury. To hope is not a dream, but to turn dream into reality.

    Happy are those who dream dreams, and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”

    When I think about my friends comment, return to your first love, I’m only beginning to realize the profound transcendent meaning of these words to me, from a friend who lives in Ohio where I first experienced the reality of the Holy Spirit.

  175. gotta tell you, after what I’ve read, I’m a little scared to share…even here. I’m a pastor…have been for a long time. I have struggled for a long time with clinical depression…when that depression would come on I would wish to drink, to smoke…but especially to kill myself with a bullet to the brain. Each time I reached out for help and told someone how badly off I was emotionally, I was quoted scriptures, preached at, corrected for feeling those feelings, for letting Satan win….eventually, I quit reaching and the depression just got worse. I was trapped. I felt I couldn’t leave the ministry without abandoning my calling and my God, but I couldn’t seem to even pray to Him anymore. I withdrew into myself and began to wish more and more that I could just end it. I remember the day I put my sons on the bus and told them goodbye; I thought it would be for the last time. I was going to go get my husband’s gun and kill myself…they were better off without me. Then, one of those saints, a friend who had suffered with clinical depression herself and attended my church, just felt she should call and ask if I was ok…I ended up allowing her to meet with me and in the end, she became the empathic, understanding friend I needed who got me to the doctors who saved my life and my family. We are still friends, and I am still in the ministry…and I am a happy, on fire Jesus-loving preacher, wife and mama…with one more on the way. She called today…just to check on me. I pray blessings on her every single day.

  176. Hi! From one pastor to another, your blog has struck a nerve and it has hit a vain. I concur wholeheartedly with you and am able to add a few things. However that, that stands out for me from your blog is the fact that those whom we serve don’t realize the depth in which we care. Perhaps Father has not allowed them that understanding or perhaps Father has and it’s just a continuing examination perfecting the nature of Jesus in and through our character. In order that we are the best example of Kingdom living before those whom we serve. Whiling standing in agreement with you, a couple of rhetorical questions become. If our sheep know our voice and another they will not follow. Why then is the voice(s) that causes them to misunderstand these eleven (11) things (and sooo many others about us) sooo much more persuasive than that of our own voice(s)? In addition if love and kindness has drawn them to us as sheep as Father’s word proclaims; why then doesn’t love and kindness require our followers to be loving and kind to us? After all Father has not drawn us away from them after giving them to us. Be encouraged my brother, you will stand as a pastor again with the Holy Ghost completing that good work that Father has started in you before the foundation of the world.
    There is nothing more beautiful than the feet of those who preach the gospel of Jesus the Christ our Lord and Savior. You won’t worry about their faces the next time because yours will be set as a flint.
    From one pastor to another…
    Pastors, pastors do have feelings. When there is joy we laugh, when they is relief we sigh, much more important, when our when our members are hurting we cry. Oh yes pastors, pastors do have great feelings and they cause us to continue in prayer asking Father to do the strangest things for those who don’t have a clue about how much they have hurt us. Oh yes pastors, we do have feelings.

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  178. I truly enjoyed the article. As a preacher’s kid and a pastor of 23 years I too have experienced all of the eleven things the author talks about. Having served in three different congregations my experiences with each of the things mentioned have manifested themselves differently. In toxic churches these things can manifest themselves with great regularity. Healthier churches provide the grace one needs to keep keeping on in ministry. I can’t see myself doing anything other than serving as a pastor, however, there are times when I have thought of working at Home Depot. After all Jesus was a carpenter. Having said that, if this option ever happened because I needed supplemental income, (most pastors are underpaid) members of the church I served need not ask for a discount. They won’t get one! I’ve found humor to be an antidote to some of the woes that come along with serving the church.

  179. My question is, if God called you to pastor, why would you quit? Accepting that all you describe is true, isn’t it also true that somebody has to do it, otherwise why would God choose you. As you intimated it is a job and you are working for a living, that’s an entirely another story. As my pastor wife and I are fond of saying, “you’ve gotta love the people”. There is no question that the calling of God on your life is no picnic, but again, if God called you to Sheperd His flock, all that comes with the responsibility comes with the gig. The Bible says, “my words will not come back void, but will prosper in the thing that I sent.” Our job is to deliver the Word, God will do the rest. And so while all the pressures and concerns you articulated are accurate, I say again, if God called you to pastoring, why would you quit? If you got into it because relatives and friends found it an honorable profession and you thought you could do it too, that’s another issue. You must be called by God to lead His people. Peace and Love, Pastor Rick

    • Oh, so you’re saying pastors who want to quit just don’t have enough faith? Or, they quit because they were not supposed to have been pastors in the first place?

      I am glad you are comfortable with your call and your faith. They are both obviously genuine and strong. It is indeed fine to never be in a place of doubt. Even Jesus could not do that.

  180. Hey Bob: Be encouraged. People who curse a lot, whether in church or not, have questionable personalities. Then to quit church because all these “asses”, come on. People who do not read the Bible or who want to interpret it for their own purposes, DO NOT want to come under the authority of God. The little “g” of the world has blinded the eyes of many. In John 10:10 the Bible declares, ” The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy,”. Here’s the bottom line, and there is one, you can believe the word of God or not. God is not going to force any of use to believe. He is going to send, “some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and some teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry”. The question is, “are we willing to risk our BELIEF or God’s on your eternity. Living this life is preparation for our salvation. To learn more we all, must read and search the scriptures. God loves us and God is a spirit and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Spelling and grammar gaffs notwithstanding, my prayer to God is that you receive what He is saying. Be Blessed, Bob.
    LOL Pastor Rick

  181. I appreciate your point & insights, but I have big problems with your phrase “like a prostitute who no longer enjoys sex.” Your wording implies that prostitutes choose their profession the way others choose to be teachers or businessmen. Most prostitutes begin “working” as minors, & are forced into the trade in a number of violent, manipulative, and disgusting ways. Men paying for sex with prostitutes aren’t interested in the enjoyment of the prostitutes. And when the prostitute is a girl or woman, there is nearly zero chance that she’ll enjoy an orgasm, due to obvious differences in male and female anatomy. Your wording is pretty dang misogynistic and gross, since most prostitutes have never enjoyed sex & most prostitution is little more that rape, especially since pimps are the ones receiving the money in most cases. I’d like to ask you to consider rephrasing that thought, or better yet just taking in out.

    • Spoken like an “expert” in the dark world of prostitution. Listen, analogies aside, the bottom line is the word of God. Opinions are like, well, noses, everybody has one. But the Word of God is the final opinion. In all due respect, this back and forward about this and that is rather immature with no basis in fact or than opinions. Pointing out errors in grammar or spelling has nothing to do with what the Bible says about pastoring or any other area of our lives. The Bible was written in the past for our learning, see Romans 15:4. We can either reject it or accept what God is saying. Reject and the Bible explains clearly the results, accept and Bible explains succinctly the benefits. I made the choice over 25 years ago that the risk was to great and accepted the Lord as my personal savior. Thank God for His Grace and His Mercy. God loves you and desires that none perish, but it is our choice. Be Blessed.

    • Think the overall post is excellent but also concur with Baile Divino that that particular phrase is problematic. It would strengthen the essay to find another way to make the same point. (But to the author – when it gets down to parsing phrases in a blog post – it shows that you have written something that speaks). :)

  182. Better to not put words in someone’s mouth, rather ask them to clarify what they mean. Having said that, all pastor have not been called to pastoring. Some do so because of variety of reasons, not the least of which is to get paid. Remember, the source of all this discussion resides within the Bible. For further revelation it is advisable for all to consult, “the inspired word of God”. After reading, one either believes and accepts the word of God, or they do not. God is not a respecter of person, what He has done for others, He’ll do the same for you. Peace and Blessings.

    • I did ask.

      Your answer sounds like only pastors called by God should be pastors, and that others who do so without God’s call should therefore expect to fail. The next logical conclusion is that those who then fail were either not called by God, or…what?…they did not trust in God enough?…they did not have enough faith? Help me understand what you are saying.

      • Pastor Craig: Thanks for responding. The only authority for clarity for me is the Bible. Ephesians 4:11 says, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers, For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. Pastors who do have that “call” on their lives endure the same emotional highs and lows as any other leader. Church leaders whether worship leaders, prayer counselors, intercessors, evangelist, or pastors are not God. God works thru everyone that answers His call to ministry. None can MAKE people do the will of the Father but everyone must be persuaded in his own mind., Read Romans 14:5 thru 8. Try this example, a pastor may shepherd a congregation of 50 people, does that make him/her a failure because his congregation is not 500? Is it possible that he/her is not doing aggressive evangelistic outreach to increase the rolls of the church. And is it possible that he/she is working and growing in the things of God. Remember, we as disciples of Christ are charged with spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world. Let me close with this thought. God had been calling me to preach for years. I suffered much personal agony because of His persistence. I did not aspire to the calling, but it was on my life. Others always saw it. So I ran and I ran until I couldn’t run from it anymore. I finally fell on my face before God and said yes, your will be done not my will. All this was happening in the miniature Sodom of Los Angeles where the Devil had a trap for my life. I was in my mid 40′s by this time when I accepted the call of Jesus on my life. Now into my sixties I thank God everyday for His grace and mercy. This is serious business, doing the work of the Lord. Will there be heartbreak, disappointment, distress, sadness? We’re dealing with people, remember. Will there be joy, happiness, completeness, fulfillment, yes. There is no greater reward for me than knowing that someone has accepted Jesus as their personal savior. I know that if he did it for a poor sinner like me, he’ll do it for whoever calls upon His name. I hope this helps. Be Blessed, LOL

          • Job is a book in the Hebrew scriptures right before Psalms. It can be a cumbersome read because of the density of its prose at times. But, in it, God lets Job be severely afflicted for no fault of Job. Though even Job’s own wife tells him to give up, Job perseveres in his faith despite the heavy pressure to do otherwise. The bulk of the book is dedicated to the long discourses by Job’s friends who go to great lengths to explain to him how he must have done something bad to bring this hardship on himself. They are so convinced of the theological view that misfortune comes only in response to sin, that they are blind to any other option. In their ignorance of the truth, they plow forward convinced that their words are all from God, and continually cite God as their source.

  183. Pastors are not perfect and should not try to display a perfect life for his congregation. Christ is our example! Keep your eyes fix on Him….David was a man after God’s own heart yet he sinned! Pastors need to just strive for closer walk and when they fall repent. Speak to this in their sermons and everyday life about the struggle. We have so many examples of this with characters in the bible. Too many members have their pastors on these high pedestals and forget that they are sinners like the rest of us. “He who is without sin cast the first stone”. When you share your testimony you show God’s goodness and how he forgives. When one strives they show their weaknesses yet at the same time people will see how God is moving in your life.

  184. Thanks for sharing. I’m sure you knew when you started writing this post that you’d end up reading quite a few negative/judgemental replies. Thank you for your willingness to share openly and honestly from the experiences of yourself and many others.

    As I read this, I felt that many of these issues could be dealt with by changing the structure of fellowship. Do we need to meet once a week and sit quietly while one person talks for a while? Or, could we meet many days (not just Sunday, maybe even not on Sunday at all) in smaller groups where everyone gets a chance to interact?

    My husband and I are involved in house church instead of structured church because we like how in a smaller setting everyone is able to get to know each other’s struggles and encourage each other much more intimately. If no one person leads, then no one is made to carry the burdens you describe. Is God really calling anyone to carry those burdens?

    I’m interested to know your own thoughts on this. Please continue blogging openly and honestly, you are appreciated and we all have something to learn from the dialogue you are encouraging!

  185. Mr. Hall: The standard that exists is found in the Bible. When a layperson gives their opinion, it is just that, an opinion. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, just factually. All of your hypotheses and answers are found in God’s word, the Bible. One of the main tenets of God’s word is that we take Him at His Word. Typically, when we question His word, we refuse to be obedient to His word. By reading the Bible (not intellectually, but spiritually) the Holy spirit will show you all things. Here is an astounding revelation: Whether believer’s or lay people, all believe in God. Now I think we all know that God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. (Revelations Chapter One). He is the Great I AM (Exodus 3:14). When the Lord instructs us to read His word that we may hear from Him, we will read every other piece of literature in the world and believe it but the Bible. Yes, I know, the Bible is the most read book in the world. So the question is, are we applying what we read as we do the Wall Street Journal, Oh!, Magazine, etc? And as you know, we come up with a myriad of reasons as to why we don’t need to and begin to theorize what we think or don’t think about what God thinks. But we must read the Bible for ourselves and God will speak to us. It’s up to us. Blessings

    • Regina: when I first read your post, I thought you might be referring to a video artist. Then I remembered that the artist in question is Bill Viola (born 1951), who has been creating video installations for about 30 years, often incorporating an eclectic interest in mystical religion. Frank Viola (presumably no relation) is a new name to me. What in particular strikes you about Frank Viola’s work?

      • Frank Viola is that author of “The Untold Story of the New Testament Church, “Pagan Christianity” with George Barna, and “Reimagining Church”( currently reading the third one).
        I haven’t been a part of the traditional church in three to four years. I left due to being fed up with my former churches’ politics among other reasons. I was never diagnosed for ADHD but have had attention problems my whole life. I got fed up with wondering how sitting in a pew for a hour and a half was making me a better believer. Let’s face the real problem! Our pastors are tired. Half or most of the congregation is disengaged. This isn’t working. We have made the church into a corporation with the pastor as CEO rather than recognizing the Spirit within all believers, like Paul did. Frank Viola addresses all these issues.

        • You are right about pastors being like CEOs in a sense. I have long experience serving on congregational governing boards, and I know how much of a pastor’s time can be eaten up by things like preparing a budget. And it’s good to be reminded that Christian worship did not begin with people gathered in large buildings before an altar, but with people gathering for a sacramental meal. I don’t share Frank Viola’s evangelical theology, but he looks like a writer who has some valuable things to say.

  186. To those who have hijacked this comment section to post repeated comments trying to explain how 1. you are more spiritual than the author, or 2. know the Bible better than the author, or 3. would never “wish” to sin (get real!), or 4. would never quit ministry because you have an “authentic” call, or 5. understand the role of Pastor (though you have never held the position… Might I suggest if you have posted repeatedly that you get your own blog and post the link to this and then tear it to pieces among your “own followers”. This comment section should be to thank this wonderful man for his insight or to ask him questions or express your disagreement ONE time. In my opinion for you to think we all want to see your repeated comments on the comments of others is kind of arrogant on your part… You have served your purpose and underscored the excellent points of the author… now I hope you will stop trying to impress his thousands of followers and go back to your own followers.

    Thank you for making it perfectly clear that Pastors aren’t free to express themselves honestly.

    • Thank you for this. The amount of negativity and criticism expressed on this blog just makes me want to get drunk and cuss.

    • Your response is brilliant. I consider it a poetic art form. I agree completely. A majority of these responses about never even being prone to want to sin, explore, or do wrong…well, these people are either blatantly lying or completely deceiving themselves or non emotive robots. Remember the words of the hymn….”prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above”. Come on, people. We are people! Truly I adore my Savior, and love Him with emotion and with dedication. But there are times…I am human, lazy, tired, bored. Let’s be honest and allow others to be genuine (yes, even pastors), as well. Authentic and real trumps fake and self righteous every time. No wonder I crave true “community”. Real people without pretense, loving and serving God to the best of their ability, and loving me in my weakness, and my strength. Loving me enough to tell me that I may be on the verge of wandering…and conveying that in a loving and caring manner, as we are instructed to do in scripture. Some of the words via comments here, really are “sounding brass and clanging cymbal”-just a bunch of ugly noise. Love makes the melody and the sweet sound that draws others to join the dance of heaven and the family of God. All of you true pilgrims and lovers of God, shake off the dust and let your peace return to you. There are wheat and tares, and right now, we are all in the same field…soon enough, the tares will be removed.

  187. I did not read through all of the 400+ comments, but here is one of the things I miss most before entering the ministry over 10 years ago. I miss being able to visit my family on weekends, travel to see my parents or brother. This is where I have to be cautious of envy when I hear members are not present on Sunday because they are visiting family or on an outing. Two weekends of vacation a year does not leave much time to visit family and take time with your own family. And visits during the week do not work since I have a son still in school. For me this is one of the biggest sacrifices of being in ministry.

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  189. Thanks for writing this. Being a pastor’s daughter myself, what you had to say really resounded with me. I can’t count the number of times I saw my father exhausted, frustrated, angry, annoyed, or wounded because of something to do with church. Like you, he left the ministry a few years ago. Thanks for being honest about what pastors face.

  190. Right on

    Right on! MY friend I understand. I am retired now, but I too went through many of the same feeling as you. There is a lot of presure in not being allowed to be human. As ministers evil (sin) is always knocking at your door. No one to talk to, thinking we only work one hour a week. I kept track six years before retiring and I put in 80 hours a week, studing, hospital and home visiting. Bible Study session and on and on. You work on a sermon 20 hours or more and are not sure if anyone gets the point. You pray for people and wonder is anyone praying for you. Yes I understand. Yes, I stayed with it for over 40 years. The rewards are great. Yesterday I received a note from a young lady wanted me to conduct her wedding. Have not seen or heard from her for over 10 years. Somehow, someway I must have made an impression on her. God understands if our members don’t. God Bless You.

  191. Mark,
    You have captured in so many ways what many pastors experience. And I love how humanly you did it. The responses become a microcosm of life in the church as well as among colleagues.

    I am a pastor who only does interims when I feel strong enough to face a pastorate. It often takes me a year of deep spiritual work to be ready to do another one. And there are times when a congregation has been so Spirit filled that the time soars by and I am fed daily. My main occupation now is as a life coach who works with clergy to lower their stress levels. Your blog was recommended to me when I was talking to another clergy about this. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty. The church has lost out on an opportunity to be real and work with a hurting world – pastors included. Blessings.

  192. I just have to say that this is an incredible post and thank you so much for writing it. I personally am not a minister but was once considering becoming one. Needless to say I didn’t for many of the reasons that you highlighted on the post (and beautifully illustrated by some of the negative comments you have received). Thank you again, and I look forward to reading more posts from you :)

  193. Those who are picking the article apart have missed the whole point of the article. Its obvious no one is endorsing sin; its simply a metaphor… that’s called “good writing” friends…

    Great article. While not every point fits every situation, the themes ring true across the board. I was recently laid off from my ministry position in a round of budget cuts, and the relief and weight that lifted off of me was immeasurable. I loved, gave, and served beyond measure… to my own detriment. I pray that it was not all empty works but that I did some good in there and was pleasing to the Lord…

  194. I’ve got 2 things to say

    1. Did you finish your mission at the church you left seven years ago?

    2. Tom Hanks in the movie “A League of Their Our” made a statement that applies to us christian also ‘the hard is what make it good, if it wasn’t hard everyone would be doing it’ God never promise us a bed of roses when we give our lives over to Him, but if we endure the race to the end then and only then will we receive our reward.

    • Thank you for your poignant article. My beloved late husband was also a minister who did a career change as a result of exactly what you talked about and much more. I pray that God will continue to use you for His glory. Perhaps that will be in the form of a book in ministering to “battered preachers or pastors.” “A bruised reed is never broken. ” In His Amazing Grace and Love, Gloria

  195. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find anyone with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

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  197. I have been ordained for over 32 years. I appreciate your honesty. The comments that were hooked by your honesty and humor are more telling of the truth you are exploring. Clergy are symbolic folk – even other clergy are hooked by the symbolic power of you implying anything contrary to the projections of what clergy should be and how they should behave. Of course no one advocates for bad behavior. That should be apparent. Some clergy are more on a pedestal than others. They have it much harder. I have always thought those on a shorter pedestal serve persons who do their own emotional and psychological work. Clergy are not saviors – in Christianity we serve the Savior. Clergy that do not work on the issues you share will sink below the waves – they do often drown and often take their families with them. Not taking the experiences and attitudes you address personally is so hard but also the only way to navigate.

  198. It seems that the problem this minister (and apparently most ministers who read this blog) have is summed up nicely in the first point. I too am a minster and I have never feared being irrelevant. John the Baptist was irrelevant, he lived alone in the desert and ate locusts. Noah was irrelevant, not one single person believed his message. He didn’t make a difference in anyone’s life, except his own family; and even after the flood, things didn’t work out too well with them. In fact, Jesus himself was quite irrelevant. Many pastors have a much bigger following than he ever did.

    However, what all of these men understood is that they were not “ministers” of people but they were ministers of God who were chosen only to accomplish the ends that God had selected them for; no more, no less. For this reason, they didn’t care what people thought of them. They know that at the end of it all, Jesus will not bring them to his side and say, “well done, good, successful and relevant servant” but instead he will say, “well done good and FAITHFUL servant.” (Matthew 25:14-23) It seems that this point springs forth from the root of a heart that simply wants to make a difference in the world.

    Every other point made in this post seems to spring up out of that same root, and this is the problem. This author never saw himself as first and foremost a minister of Christ, but as a minister primarily of humanity. When one sees ministry as a profession to “make a difference” in the world, then one will primarily utilize his own strength to do so. But, when one sees ministry as a calling by Jesus Christ to serve Him, be faithful to Him, to Honor him, to call people to trust Him, to point people to Him, and to set an example by resting in Him, then never again will one fear any of these points.

    1. He won’t fear being relevant, because he knows that as long as he preaches Christ’s word, he is being obedient, and that’s all that Jesus asks.

    2. He won’t be a mama’s boy, because he’ll be a Jesus boy. He’ll look to Christ for comfort and strength and love. (although he will certainly love his mother)

    3. He won’t take it personally if someone is sleeping, but will probably talk to the one who sleeps and encourage them to keep awake during the preaching of God’s word because he knows that the word of God is, “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4) Like a Doctor handing out medicine he will simply encourage the sleeper to awake so that he/she will be able to hear the words that can save his/her very soul.

    4. This point I understand. I think about quitting. Just as Jesus thought about not going to the cross. But like Jesus, I think about the great joy set before me, for all of those who endure the hardships until the end. (Hebrews 12:2) And when I consider that Jesus Christ is my reward, I echo with the Apostle Paul, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” But it’s because I know that I serve Jesus, and He is my reward. I consider the joy set before me and I continue on, my burdens not seeming so heavy anymore, although my outer self is wasting away, my inner self is renewed every day)

    5. I don’t envy those who can sin without repercussions because I’m resting in Jesus Christ. When I do sin, I turn to Him and rest in Him and find forgiveness in Him. Should the public attempt to shame me, I simply let them know that I’m no different than anyone else and I need a Savior to save me from sin too. Although, I must mention that should I desire to be able to get drunk as a pastor, I would no longer meet the qualifications that the Bible says a pastor must have, one of which is he must not love strong drink. (1 Tim. 3) So it seems that the author of this blog didn’t meet the qualifications of a pastor and it’s good that he stepped down.

    6. Spiritually starving??? Umm… I think not. When one sets out serving Christ (and not man) he can’t starve. Jesus is the bread from heaven, the water of life, the source of all joy and peace and strength, and…. I could go on forever. Similarly, his word is like a banquet or a cold spring on a hot day. He does not get boring, and I could never get tired of talking about him. In the middle of literally starving, Jesus himself said, “my food is to do the work of my Father.” How refreshing it is to serve Him!

    I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. The author here doesn’t seem like he trusts in, rests in, feeds on, hopes in, and drinks from Jesus Christ. And since he wishes that he could sin without repercussions, including sin that disqualifies one from service to Jesus, then it gives me great concern for this man’s soul.

    I’ve seen it so often; men who want to make a difference in the world and think that becoming a minister is a good way to accomplish that dream. (from the comments here, it seems like there are many who fall into this category here).

    No, the ministry is not for you. Ministry is not about serving men, but it’s about serving Jesus Christ. You must first be found in Him, rest in Him, trust in Him and be satisfied in Him before you can teach others to do the same.

    • These are arguments I have been making for years. The very same thing that wins the people over with the congregation is the same thing that burn out the minister. This is what happens when we make the ministry about us, instead of the preacher being a servant of the Lord.

      Too many of the Church pastors these days have become a “type of Christ” in themselves, drawing the people to themselves and not the Lord. Well, lets not cry and blame the people when you can’t minister to their every need.

    • Thank God I don’t work in your church. If you knew my story, I would certainly be “disqualified from service to Jesus.” But only by you. Jesus still calls me to serve him, even though he and I sometimes wrestle in private. You’re a piece of work, sir. What a sanctimonious reply. You are really impressed with your own spiritual advancement. I would argue that you have “arrived” and no longer have anything worthwhile to say to any of us who have not arrived. Paul boasted in his weakness in order that grace may be glorified, but you have no weakness left from which to boast. Luke 18:11, indeed…

  199. Awesome post About 5 rang true for me, but i think what helped me was being transparent. it is my transparency that makes me easy to relate too and understand so i never really feel misunderstood or like i can’t be myself or do things, which is great because it kills my desire to want after worldly things.

  200. I’m a minister in a Pentecostal church, minister here meaning teacher under a Bishop and Pastor who head our local community. I’m also sober for almost 27 years. In AA, they tell sponsors “we carry the message, not the alcoholic.” Not so as a minister. What responsibility we take for those we counsel. We tread carefully knowing every word we speak to them carries significant impact in some of the most dire situations. When we speak a wrong word, we inflict unintended wounds on the already suffering. We carry them with us and beat ourselves up for harm done.

    Seldom do we hear that our counsel has had impact, unless it’s negative. When people leave the church, we ask ourselves repeatedly “it is me chasing them out? Am I doing more harm than good?”

  201. Thank you so much for posting this! As a minister’s wife, I am often amazed by how unloving Christian communities can be when it comes to caring for their leaders (or understanding that their leaders are human). It’s a weird position we are in in the 21st-century, a time when people seem to have lost all respect for the position of minister, while still holding ministers to incredibly high standards. I find it very sad that our churches are losing so many talented, energetic, passionate, and compassionate leaders, those who are brave enough to respond to the call they feel to serve God, due to the emotional exhaustion that can come from so much of the pettiness they shouldn’t have to face (and think what church leaders could achieve if allowed to focus on important issues instead of such things as “How do you define continuing education?” or “Did our minister make a decision without consulting the church’s governing board?” ). People complain about churches dying in America and how we’re becoming a Godless society. Well, they should take a long, hard look at themselves, what they’re doing, and how they’re discouraging the best people from leading churches.

    God bless you. I’m sure you were a FABULOUS minister, one who had something important to say every. single. Sunday, and I’m sorry you became so discouraged but hope you’re much happier now (although I wish I could hear you preach).

    • I read your reply and thought of a friend who is a pastor’s wife who says “Christians are the one breed who may be counted on to devour their young.” I think we can see in this blog that that applies to devouring its pastoral staff as well — those who are called by God but prohibited by man…. Yes… the decline of the church…

    • I read your reply and thought of a friend who is a pastor’s wife who says “Christians are the one breed who may be counted on to devour their young.” I think we can see in this blog that that applies to devouring its pastoral staff as well — those who are called by God but prohibited by man…. Yes… the decline of the church…

  202. Really??? How about you write a blog about the pastors who care nothing whatsoever about the little people in their church? How about the poor little mommies boys who are basically “shy” “introvertive” until a singer or songwriter or pro athlete or TV show actor comes calling…then they have “time for others”. You missed a few bullet points…like the one about playing favorites. The one about being ruthless and dispatching people you have no more time for. (You being universal…not you specifically) The pastors who demand utter attention, reverence, unquestioned obedience. The ones who KNOW what their love and approval is worth to a hurting soul and choose to withhold that from some while lavishing it on others. If you were looking for a cake-walk you should have gotten a union gig at GM. Serving people is usually painful. This was a great article on how sorry everyone should feel for the poor little abused pastors. There are two sides to that coin. Pastors can be self aggrandizing, power mongers. They can abandon people who need them and then turn that need on them like they are weak. yet here is an article about the pastors need for mommy. EVERY LEADER TAKES A BEATING!!! Pastors seem to take the biggest insult with it. Then again…most “Pastors” have not PASTORED in years. They are CEO’s and public speakers, but wouldn’t recognize a sheep in distress if it fell in their lap while they were having coffee at Starbucks with the local mayor and the richest guy in town.

    • You make some valid points about a very few pastors, sadly the most visible. However those points are certainly not valid about the vast majority of clergy.

      • They’ve been my experience. You want to invalidate my experience? I live in a town where pastors live like pashas and are so deified you’d think little boys were trading cards with their pictures on the front and church attendance statistics on the back.

        • Nope, not challenging your experience. In fact I stated they were valid, about some clergy. I don’t want a public answer but I admit to being very curious about where you experienced this. My experience has been there is a disturbing tendency toward this in larger, urban, and wealthier areas. Where as the issues described in the blog cover a broader geographic and socioeconomic area.

          • not larger and certainly not urban..but wealthier for damn sure. Money is what is REALLY worshipped around here. Money and the power that goes along with it

  203. Thanks, Mark! I have been working with pastors since 1991 and certainly recognize the challenges you described. Recently I have been talking about the vocation of ministry as a diagram of three interlocking circles; the role (pastor), the person , and the congregational context. All are present. In the church and community you serve you cannot remove the Role. At the sametime there is the intrapersonal You that laughs, bleeds and needs like any other human being. It is especially difficult to maintain any kind of balance of heart, mind, and spirit.

    As a pastor’s wife for the last 33 years, we have been loved and cared for in some congregations and in others we have been tolerated and a few shunned. So I do understand the 11 things you should know — I also know we have had to learn how to be intentional about finding a balance learning to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can and seeking Gods wisdom to know the difference.

  204. As somebody who is not religious at all, for many many reasons, I find this all fascinating to read. I have a very high respect for ministers/pastors and all that they do. I am a teacher and I understand having to live up to a certain standard, but I don’t feel nearly as scrutinized every day as somebody in this position must feel. It is comments like the ones I’ve read on here that remind me why I have so many issues with religion. For somebody to devote their life to helping others and FORGIVING other people’s sins, while not having their own sins forgiven is ridiculous. We are all human and we all make mistakes…we all have desire to do the wrong thing every once in awhile. It is so unfair to expect perfection from any human being. I rarely drink and I have huge issues with the need to get drunk regularly, but i do like to have drinks with friends every once in awhile. I understand that that part could have been worded better, but I think it just shows how hard it is to be a minister. I word things differently than I intend often and it would be sad if I didn’t have to simply say, “what I meant was….” and be understood. That should be the end of it. He meant that it is hard to be so forgiving, while knowing he would not be forgiven himself if he ever committed the same or much lesser sins. There may very well be pastors who have a desire to get drunk? So what? Are they out there doing it like a good percentage of people coming to church and judging them regularly are? Not likely, but if one night he did go out and spend time with people who were and he did have one too many drinks, wouldn’t it be nice to not be judged for that? The bible was written so long ago and can be interpreted in so many ways, that too many people use it to judge other people instead of to love other people and try to live in a way they can be proud of. Nobody is free from sin – so why do so many people find it necessary to cast stones? I may not believe in God, but I certainly believe that if there is a God he would not condemn people for having a desire to get drunk….funny enough the author didn’t even say he has that desire, he was just using an example that, yes, whatever you believe, many Christians can relate to. I know many Christians who lead by example and live a life they can be very proud of. i don’t necessarily want to be that strict about a lot of things, but I sincerely respect it because they are kind, non-judgmental people. I know so many more who drink, curse (not a sin) and are mean spirited, but still feel they have the right to judge people who are not religious, but behave in a far more civilized manner every day. I have strong values, i am a kind person and I care about people from all walks of life, but i need to be saved…I don’t worry about that at all because the God I would believe in would not condemn me…I would be far more worried if I was out committing sins and asking for forgiveness on a regular basis. Do I believe God would forgive people their sins? Absolutely. Do I believe he/she would not forgive the “sin” of not believing? No. I have trouble reading so many judgmental things by people who claim to be “good Christians”. It is refreshing to read many of the comments here and I truly enjoyed reading the article. I think churches have so much to offer a community and I have seen that love first hand where I live, even if I do not attend church. I feel like if I were to go to church regularly I would want a pastor who I could relate to and who i felt understood where I was coming from, not somebody who is expected to be God him/herself. I think I would want somebody like Mark and the many people who understood what he had to say. As a teacher I will never be successful with my students if they fear me and think I know it all. They need to know that I care, but that i am human and make mistakes just like they do. They need me to stand back and guide them, not lecture and tell them how to live and ask for perfection.

  205. There are definitely numerous particulars like that to take into consideration. That may be a nice level to convey up. I supply the ideas above as common inspiration however clearly there are questions just like the one you convey up the place an important factor shall be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged round issues like that, however I’m positive that your job is clearly recognized as a good game. Each girls and boys really feel the influence of only a second�s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  206. I read your Blog, it was even featured on our church newsletter. I see where you were coming from but let me explain this one thing. Pastors, Ministers, Ministry Leaders can be very Vague about things. Sometimes the congregation even the Ministry Leaders can be left in the dark about certain decision that are being made. True some decisions and strategy plans are not privy to the congregation but when the pews members dont get your vision, they dont support your vision. To the members and congregation it may seem like the Pastor has issued a “MY WAY” plan. The solution to this is Be Ready to explain your vision plans and strategy over and over. Be Consistant with the plan (saying one thing in a meeting and doing something else in the open makes your leaders not trust you). Last Include your ministry leaders in on changes. God Bless

  207. One more attempt at clarity for those who don’t get it.

    It’s not that we want to get drunk, though so what if we did? Our parishioners get drunk now and then; why do they think we don’t want to? They even tell us about it, and not in a way that suggests they want forgiveness. Still, that is not the point.

    More relevant is that we don’t even get to determine what getting drunk is. I may know that my limit at a several hour party is three beers. If Ms. Smith or Mr. Jones thinks it is two beers, they’ll be sure to tell someone I got drunk when they see me having a third beer. It is not that we want to sin; the issue is that we cannot fail to meet other people’s perceptions of sin. And not only that, it’s perfectly acceptable for everyone else around us not to meet that same standard. And some people think it’s a sin for me to drink at all.So I have one drink, excuse myself and go home early, cause I’m not having fun trying to navigate the landmines around the room.

    Or heaven help the recovering alcoholic who is a pastor who smokes. Never mind that that cigarette is one of the things keeping him from drinking; trust me, that pastor knows cigarettes are bad for him and wants to stop, but right now is not the time. That won’t stop folks from saying nasty things behind his back.

    Then consider the pastor who wants to take her spouse out for a nice dinner on their anniversary. All she has to do is be seen in an expensive restaurant ordering lobster instead of chicken and someone starts raising questions about how much she is being paid.

    Try living under the rules when they change depending on who is in the room. We don’t want to sin any more than you do. But we also don’t want to have to look over a shoulders every second wondering who’s judging our behaviors. We’d like to relax in public too, especially at social occasions.

  208. I totally have compassion for the pastors, elders, and others of the church of the living Christ. It is a very hard, daunting, and lonely road. What you have said is very much part of the territory. The rub is there is a very fine line to hold to on the account of sin in ministry. It is the type of sin and the lack of accountability and openness that creates a place for sin to become a problem that defeats a ministry or holds it back. We cannot expect a minister to be without sin, but some sins are simply not allowed in the full light of scripture and the demands of God’s calling. Here is a prime example of how the “system” was designed by God. Christ said it is a sin to even look at a woman with lust. That sin should be first and foremost with everyone as to being accountable and confessing, but most of us don’t do it. Ministers are held accountable by scripture to “not have a hint” (as we all are). Thus, we all should admit and seek God and others to be in the know and to look for them to lift us up. However, we usually hold on to that sin until we are found out or we continue to get away with it only creating great harm to ourselves. Rather than admit our tendency to look we hold on to it until we are caught with the Internet log evidence, or solicitation or adultery, or significant things that have us in a place where we are found out rather than submitted. It is human nature to hide sin and as much nature to point the finger quickly at someone who it in the throes of the consequences of sin or someone who simply admits that they are tempted and need help and time to deal with their particular weaknesses. It ends up as a terrible feedback loop: I sin, I can’t confess, I sin, I get caught.

    When can we confess sin in our own lives as lay people and when can we as lay people listen carefully to pastor’s sins and provide forgiveness and grace? We ultimately should accept confession of giving in to temptations while at the same time administer official actions when lines have been crossed. We should deal with the wrong hearts before we deal with wrong actions, but we continually sweep this kind of accountability and openness under the rug. Very few people and churches have this process down. Most who do not deal with the heart do not thrive or otherwise face extreme adversity and controversy. Those who do deal with the heart tend to thrive and see great challenge and blessings. Satan will only try to attack those groups even more strongly, but he tends to only give consequences that are acknowledged by God only to be used to further strengthen the integrity of those who minister God’s will. I pray that more of the church works towards accountability and transparency and making the distinction between confession of the heart and dealing with aberrant behaviors.

  209. I read the first part of the reply’s where Bob was going back and forth with people. seeing that there were many more moved to bottom of the stack. I am a pastor and while not all the points apply to my expreince in minstry (11yrs) some hit home.
    I am not perfect, I do not seek to be perfect. I seek to do what God has called me to do (which was not to be perfect) that is to be the love of God to the world around me in what ever way is needed. John 8:7 Jesus says “let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” vss. 9-10 the people dropped their stones and left after which Jesus blessed her. Who are we stopping Jesus from blessing by the stones we hold onto.
    This article was written in love to help the pastors and their people live better lives together, which in turn helps grow the kingdom.
    Don’t you think God’s grace and mercy can forgive a simply mis-quote (as the writter said) I know you think it can cover your mis-steps in life.

  210. Pingback: What we wish you knew… | Blue Chip Pastor

  211. I�m impressed, I must say. Actually rarely do I encounter a weblog that�s each educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is excellent; the issue is one thing that not sufficient people are talking intelligently about. I’m very completely satisfied that I stumbled throughout this in my seek for one thing relating to this.

  212. If we are judging in any way we are wrong. There are two sides to this issue. What about eleven things pastors might not understand about their church attendee’s?

    • Great idea! Why don’t you start your own blog, write the article and let’s compare and see if as many small-minded, insensitive, self-righteous, judgmental people respond to that blog post.

      • No, only the self-righteous, self aggrandizing mega pastors who can’t stand even the remotest criticism, no matter how true and for whom only the wealthy, the beautiful or the famous have any value. They’d comment left and right. They’d develop whole 12 week sermon series on it. They’d look suspiciously at their massive crowd of ass-kissers wondering which one was the Judas who started this blog. They’d see doe-eyed pastor-worshippers who take every word as a jewel, and every opinion as their own. They’d see those who “love on the man of God” but don’t give a hairy rat’s butt about the “little folk” in the audience. They’d simultaneously overlook the ones in great pain but who have nothing to offer by way of fame, fortune, or the power to advance the agenda. They’d never notice the hundreds falling through the cracks…unless of course, one of them lashed out in pain on his or her way to never coming back to that group again. Then of course the Flock Star preachah would go into attack mode, letting little bits of “truth” about that person escape to his closest allies (this is gossip, but with a way cooler description) who then make sure it wends it’s way through the “Body of Christ”. (The body who has totally ignored the fact that one of it’s own limbs is missing and ignored the pain that limb was feeling before it finally dropped off)
        Yeah man…that blog would ROCK! Pastors could show up anonymously and post little nuggets, leaving only enough information to send a message to certain members…”Now you know that I know…don’t eff with me!”
        Pastors are JUST ANOTHER CHURCH MEMBER, but one with the gift and calling to preach on Sunday. They have NO greater value than any other member. They should be loved, and respected and well treated and prayed for. But they should not be coddled and worshipped. And when they play favorites and scheme in order to enlarge their “minis-tray” they should be called on it. And most of all…they are SHEPHERDS. And when a Shepherd stops loving and serving his sheep and starts expecting to be treated like a king and not a shepherd…he should be rebuked.

        • This response is born from a place of pain.

          I do think you have a point about mega-church pastors – or at least the ones who operate a CEO style operation where everyone has to wear matching t-shirts. :)

          I guess when I read the original article here, my mind immediately conjured up all the pastors in my small town with memberships of around 100-200 people. 80% of their work week is likely devoted to a grumbling 20% of their membership.

        • I’m so sorry you have been hurt by Churches and Pastor’s in the past. I strongly suggest you get some counseling to deal with you hurt. Allowing it to fester will allow bitterness to take root in you and will cause you much spiritual harm. I must admit reading your posts implies the root of bitterness may already have buried itself deep in your heart.

          In regards to your indictment of Pastors, I’m sure there are some Pastor’s who match the horrible description you have given, I just have never met any. In my years of ministry I have been accused of not caring about people a time or two, but usually by people who didn’t understand why I couldn’t cancel my day off and talk to them for the third time that week about their marriage problem. I work an average of 65 hours per week for the church and if I am going to obey God and be a good husband and father I do need to say no at times… when this happens some people indicate I am insensitive, uncaring or that I only care when they can give a lot of money. None of that is true about me or any of the Pastor’s I know… #11 describes the true concern I and most Pastor’s have for the people God has called us to serve. Too many times I have said no to my family for the sake of caring for people…that’s why it hurts so much when people care little about my family and get angry when I finally say no to a church member for the sake of my family. Most Pastor’s make the choice to cheat their families and neglect God’s call for them to lead and serve their families because their families won’t harshly criticize them if they cancel on them again to make sure someone in the congregation can’t say they don’t care about the little people.

          May God bless you as you seek healing for your hurt. I am truly praying you find someone who can help you deal with your anger toward Pastors and churches.

          • Don’t be patronizing. It’s an insult. The scenario I described happens all the time. Pastors stopped caring about simply pastoring and just letting God grow however big a church he wishes to grow. I watched, week after week as Super-pastor would turn his back to the audience after a sermon so as not to have to talk to anyone…except the famous singers / songwriters / athletes or politicians who wanted his time between services. Then he would shake their hand, lean in to hear every word and have a special moment of prayer and finish with a hug. A friend of mine was talking to him after a service and pouring her heart out over a family issue and he was looking over her shoulder the entire time, finally excusing himself in the middle of her desperate plea, so he wouldn’t miss the famous singer who was leaving the sanctuary. That’s how it is here and I see the trend spreading like a cancer. They can’t wait to tweet some nugget from a sermon and then watch to see who retweets. Can’t wait to grow by 200 people so they can add another service because the studies all say thats the number. Then, of course, they get to add additional service times to the church bulletin and make people think things are really hoppin’. They name drop, pointing out any famous visitor or reading an email from a celebrity, but ignoring the talents and gifts of the everyday “nobodies” who work tirelessly every day. These men know the power they hold and they wield it like a surgeon’s scalpel.
            No…it’s not all pastors. But in my life I’ve seen the REAL pastors, the men with the heart of a SHEPHERD and not a CEO, love all their flock. Not just the ribbon winners at the state fair. Your reference to a “root of bitterness” is the average misquote of Pauls charge in Hebrews. The first part is a warning to the church not to withhold grace. Churches now have no idea of grace. They can’t wait to start an alternate campus with a drop-down screen. Church franchises that carry the brand into another area…because God could not possibly raise up a man for that town…not one as good as the poor sensitive, self sacrificing pastor you describe here.

    • I liked the part where he described ministry like raising children because that’s been a large part of my experience. You can want to pull your hair out at times, no matter how much you love them.

      I do think sometimes we pastors can fly over the heads, or outpace our congregations. But trust me on this one, if you think a blog about what congregants wish their pastors knew about them would be beneficial, then you’ve never spent any time in a pastor’s inbox or ferreting through his voicemails. The lion share of church members have no problem telling a pastor exactly what they want them to know. Some do it with much impunity. Others do it incessantly and without rest. Occasionally one comes along who can do so gracefully.

      I’d probably purview a blog post like that and not see much I’ve not heard weekly from my members.

      • Maybe if pastors stopped viewing their congregants as children and stopped preaching sermons that leave them perpetually immature they’d have fewer problems.

        • Guy, not being patronizing. I really am sorry for your hurt and I really don’t know the Pastor’s you’ve described… the fact that you are lumping anyone who agrees with this post into your view of Pastor’s shows your bitterness. Please get some help and please consider whether your post show the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) regarding the Pastor’s you have judged. I know some Pastor’s don’t show the Spirit of Christ, but that is between them and God… you are responsible for your own relationship with God. I would be glad to help you if you desire help. Just message me again with the request

          • Pastors…SSSS multiple. In fact a whole town full of them. In fact…there is an entire movement within the modern church that pastors are “Flockstars” Social Media darlings who are so convinced that the rest of the world desperately needs THEIR version of the Gospel that they behave like reality show stars. Leonard Ravenhill would alternately spin in his grave and vomit from nausea at the self aggrandizement of these men. I live in the buckle of the Bible belt and I can;t think of ONE church I want to even try now. They are all pastored by these men who think that asses in the seats mean success behind the pulpit. The standard greeting amongst pastors around here is “How many you runnin” When numbers and campus acreage and powerful attendees are your goal, you cannot care the least whit about the PEOPLE.

        • Worked out pretty well for Jesus. I mean the moment He went deep on a topic John’s gospel says, “And many left Him on that day.”

          People by and large don’t want to be confronted with meaningful content. They like it when the pastor focuses on everyone else’s sins. When confronted, they crucify.

          That’s probably the moral of the story. The closer you get to Jesus as a pastor, the closer you get to a cross. We can say it was the Romans that put Him there, but we all know it was His flock (a few disciples excluded). The multitudes of people He ministered to regularly were the same ones screaming “Crucify Him” in the end.

          • If only it were as simple as preaching! The vast majority of people in the congregations I’ve served have no understanding of being a disciple. When someone begins explaining it they quickly decide they want nothing to do with discipleship. (They have especially reacted negatively when I suggest a follower of Christ places Christ first, nation second (at most).) They would rather complain about how the country has gone to hell.

        • Oi Vey!
          On to it.
          Hallelujah /
          Now we are talking.
          Everyone a disciple with the end in mind of discipling others, planting church in the home, business, anywhere in the power of the Holy Spirit led by the Holy Spirit leads not a church board.

  213. I fully understand where the author is coming from! I miss the freedom that I had BEFORE we entered ministry, I miss the freedom of expressing myself without worrying that it’ll effect my husbands job. To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit of a swearer, a well placed curse word is a wonderful stress relief. So I get the cussing remark! (I even get the drinking remark!)
    It would be so nice to have the grace that’s expected of us to also be extended to us when we do slip.

  214. So many opinions…. My heart goes out to the author. I have been a pastor’s wife for almost 20 years and I have learned many things. For many of those years I was a professional at playing church. I knew how to smile. I knew how to go through the motions and follow all the expectations, but inside I was lost. I was often angry at the people who took my husband’s attention away from me, so I hid and found other was to feel good about myself. I didn’t love people.

    But thankfully God loved me in spite of my failures. His steadfast love endured through my spiritual starvation. God began to teach me about love. Over a three year period of time, I went from only knowing about God to seeking out the deeper things of Him. Just like the woman with the lost coin, I began to grope for him. Search for Him.

    Words can not express the change He has made in me. I stopped wearing mascara because I am constantly weeping with gratitude. I went from a Christian who was sleepwalking and became alive. I use to despise reading the Bible and prayer. You would never know it, but it’s true. Now, I crave it. I know what spiritual starvation feels like. Those who scoff and shame this man for admitting thoughts make me sad. God’s grace is enough. His mercy is everlasting. He can take the weak and make them strong. Honesty sets you free. Religion strangles the life right out of you. May God bless everything you put your hand to.

  215. Oh my goodness! a tremendous article dude. Thank you Nevertheless I am experiencing situation with ur rss . Don�t know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting equivalent rss drawback? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  216. Pure irritation and anger fueled me to NOT read the comments regarding the ‘drinking’ and ‘cussing’. Are you kidding me? Is that ALL anyone got from this incredibly insightful and wonderful post? What an incredible learning experience and teaching tool for the writer. THANK YOU for writing this!!!!!!

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  219. Thank you so much for this. I’ve been out of ministry for 7 years now, and I can still barely stand to attend church. I feel bad about that, but I feel worse when I go. My spiritual life is finally coming back, but it’s not of the sort that fits in church. I’ve taken up painting, trading shapes and color for words has been healing. Bless you, and thanks again.

  220. Well Christina, it was my choice to read your response and I have to say that responses like yours show incredible lack of empathy and understanding. I find your response disturbing and mean. So I’m being mean back. Childish of me? Yes. But am I sorry? No. Just a pastor being a bit bitchy when her friend is told he’s whining.

  221. Two stories:
    One; I was at a garden party one evening with a group of folks that included a number of clergy, mostly Roman Catholic and Anglican/Episcopalian. I had a second cocktail, (an unusual thing for me as one is almost always my limit), on an empty stomach. Suddenly, as I was in discussion with the circle around me, I realized that that second drink had “caught up” with me; I realized that if I were to move from my standing position too quickly, I might stumble. There had been no “desire” on my part to get to this point of lack of control; it really was accidental. The amazing thing was that as this realization dawned on me, I just looked at the circle of folks with me and admitted it. I said, “Hey, that second drink has caught up with me. I can’t feel my feet very well.” Then I jokingly said, “If I should happen to fall over in the next few minutes, would you all be willing to pick me up?” They all laughed and said not to worry; that they’d all been there themselves, and they’d watch over me. It was such an amazing and unexpected grace. Not something I would have expected at a church gathering at that time.
    Second story:
    Having been a preacher’s kid, and having grown up in that environment, I knew what it was to rarely see my father, except at church. When I was called to ministry I vowed that I would be present every moment possible for my wife and kids. All things considered, I’ve done that pretty well despite the fact that the time demands of “church-work” can really eat up your entire life; those demands and expectations put upon you by the congregation are truly never-ending. I know that there have been times when I made it clear that I would not be available for some “just-one-more-thing” demand because my own family needed me. While our churches profess to support fathers (and mothers) who sacrifice worldly success to be with their families, they are not usually similarly so supportive of their pastors. One day, this was brought home to me when a small group of particularly needy folks complained to the “board” (and this is a direct quote; I kid you not!) “If he (meaning me) knew that having a family meant he wasn’t going to be able to be there to meet all of our needs when we wanted him, then he should never have had kids!”
    It’s the unreasonabe demands of the job, and our subsequent guilt over not being able to meet them, that are the killer. I think that’s the biggest cause of “burn-out.”

  222. I�m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that�s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you’ve got hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

  223. About half way thru all the comments I had to stop reading them…UGH.

    First of all, I’m a pastors wife, the daughter of a pastor, the sister of a pastor and God called not as a pastor but as a Christian speaker. Like it or not, we are ALL under a glass dome. I don’t like it. However, after 30 years of ministry, I agree with the writer. Some of you are majoring on minors with your remarks about sin (especially drinking). You sound more like the Pharisees than Jesus and shame on you. It’s GRACE people and all this gentleman is saying is that we should all extend GRACE to each other no matter what our calling. Sure Jesus told the woman at the well to “Go and sin no more”. However, if she could have carried out this admonition and if we could all “Go and sin no more”, the cross would not have been necessary. And the cross was costly, it cost God his very Son. If God extends this kind of grace, why in the world don’t we? It might be because our particular bent to sin isn’t the same sin as the ones we castigate.

    • Well let me say, Jane, that the differences between “people of the book” and other Christians comes out in blogs like this.

      The fact is:

      Christianity != moralism!!
      Christianity != legalism!!

      Christianity == Salvation by Grace through Faith!

      There is no “contingent salvation” or “only partially saved” One is either saved by God’s grace through faith or one is not. That’s that.

      Water Baptism == Holy Spirit baptism == being buried and raised with Christ. Christ’s work on the cross is 100% sufficient for salvation; nothing else is needed of us; it’s all a gift of God. This is what separates orthodox historic Christianity (biblical Christianity) from modern-day, contemporary, rational-based Christianity where it’s all about morals and “getting it right in private”, as the old Carman song goes, and “decision theology” which has NEVER been an accepted teaching of the Church (until the frontier era of America came).

  224. One additional point should be that Pastors are VERY heavily concerned about getting theology right. I mean we’re preaching and teaching the very Word of our Lord – the Holy Scripture which is God-breathed. We don’t want to be false-prophets! I’ve been through years and years of training, read dozens of books, wrote hundreds of papers and have been tested over and over by my peers and by my mentors. Yet every time I put the proverbial pen to paper to write a sermon or teach a Bible Study, or teach Sunday School to the kids or Confirmation classes to the teens, what is ALWAYS echoing in the back of my mind is: “Am I speaking and proclaiming God’s Word, or am I offering my own opinions and feelings?”

    Pastors are entrusted with this sacred responsibility, and they should not take it lightly. They should not let culture influence their theology. They should shut off their opinions and feelings and let Scripture speak. This can be the most difficult part of being a pastor, and so it should be! But it can also be the most rewarding when we see the Word of God go out and change lives and draw people into the Faith.

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  226. Congratulations on resigning from Churchianity.
    Now the real job can begin.
    You are a Spy/SAS/Stealth Warrior now.
    Guess what? you are one step closer to what the church was always meant to be.
    Not a standing army based in a geographic where it could be contained and corralled.
    No it was always meant to be a guerrilla army or virus if you like with only ONE vertical hierarchy.
    Upwards to Jesus via His Holy Spirit.
    Horizontally via brothers and sisters in Love and recognitian of anointing, gifts and servanthood. OOPs no fancy clothes to differentiate us, no special rings or mitres.
    No everything is based in/on relationship to each other and to Christ.
    Having a building doesn’t help necessarily as that is a fixed geographic.
    So welcome to the rest of your life.
    Best thing is there is NO retirement for those truley who are Christs, just death and Glory.
    So suck it up big guy, Praise God that you are free of the shackles of Churchianity and all the witchcraft that entails.
    Do a 360 on all you have and are and can be for the Kingdom including those you have true relationship with even if they are very very few.
    if it’s not your wife, sort that out first :-)
    That they will KNOW we are His disciples because of our love for one another!
    Yes that does mean that church is where we are all the time 2-3 gathered and sometimes more, even at a BarBQ, on the golf course, mending fences and cleaning spit and vomit off the floor. :-)
    If you want 5 first steps for a new Christian send me an email and I’ll oblige, but either way you are called to a wonderful race.
    Remember “Things are not what they seem, this is a world at war! and the prize is your heart…….. Love you MichaelNZ

  227. Reading the postings I’ve become concerned about the ability of contemporary American Christians to understand Jesus. The author was writing of his experience however so many missed the author’s point I now doubt they understand the parables of Jesus.

  228. This website online is known as a stroll-via for all the information you needed about this and didn�t know who to ask. Glimpse right here, and also you�ll undoubtedly uncover it.

  229. The following time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I really thought youd have something attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you possibly can fix for those who werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

  230. This is the right blog for anyone who desires to search out out about this topic. You notice so much its nearly arduous to argue with you (not that I really would wantHaHa). You positively put a new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just great!

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  232. I understand. Its not the desire to sin, per se, its the desire to feel the normal freedom that the average person has. The average person is free to express themselves clearly and easily because they could care less if a swear slips out, its not so with people of cloth and conscience. Beyond the fact that a person in that position has a conscience sensitive to what is perceived and accepted as morally right, wrong and appropriate for the position, they are also consciously aware that they have an audience…. and this audience is one you better not slip up or be too human around lest it become a focal point used to ruin your reputation and discredit your message. You also need to set a good example for those that are watching and learning right and wrong from you. People learning often forget that Pastors are simply people, just like them, with the same temptations, but who pose as servants and examples for their fellow man. Its challenging for a human, with natural human nature to have to restrain themselves at all times while watching others enjoy their humanity with ease of effort. I get it.

    Thanks for sharing .

  233. May the God of peace comfort you and strengthen those whom you served to let you know how you helped nurtured etc… them. Your points are beautifully and eloquently written. Don’t change a word. There are thousands of preachers/pastors who when all the hell congregants give them has reached a breaking point would love to drink themselves into oblivion. There also are some who would desire to just “let their hair down” and party, go to strip club etc… The AMAZING thing in all of that is the view that we pretend to have of the pastor/preacher. We “act” as if we think they are up on a pedestal but talk about them with venom and disrespect weekly. If “our” kid messes up then they are just children but if “their” kid messes up i KNEW the preachers kid would be wild etc… If they curse fuss cause havoc and basically try OVERTLY to bring the ministry shame and possibly even destroy it then God knows my heart, but if the preacher slips ESPECIALLY in a sexual sin then GOD MUST STOP ALL ACTIVITY AS WE SMITE THEM verbally and if they had their way physically. GOD BE PRAISED I prayed with all my being Lord use me like you want just PLEASE DON’T call me to pastor, so far so good. Ephesians 3:14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

  234. Thank you for this. Most of this hits close to home and are reasons that I and many others are struggling in ministry. We are always on egg shells because we are afraid of the response, judgment, of others and it is hard to make true friends in the church or community because it is hard to be “real”. There have been many times where the thought of quiting has come to mind, usually after a board meeting or committee meeting, but when it comes down to it, your last point about loving the people and loving what the church is supposed to be, has kept me going. I hope God continues to use you to touch people’s lives, especially outside the church walls.