Pastors Need Comfort, To Avoid Disaster

(Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about several reasons why the book “Fallen Pastor” is for anyone concerned about the future of the church. We are in the midst of a crisis and need to understand how to approach it).

I conducted an interview recently with Joy Wilson, author of “Uncensored Prayer.” I asked her a question that has been haunting me. When I wrote, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I never looked back and thought it was incomplete. But I asked Joy the following question: “In hindsight, is there a message you wish you could have added to the book?”

Since I asked that question, I have been consumed by it. I wish I had added something to my own book. Pastors are very needy people. They need comfort, just like everyone else. If their comforts are not being met, it can become a dangerous place for the enemy to step in.

When I say comfort, I don’t mean that pastors need to be pampered 24/7. I’m not talking about the idea that trouble will come and pastors need to face them. Let me explain.

Tonight, my lovely wife Allison and I went to a local diner after a funeral visitation. Usually, when I go to a small mom and pop diner, I won’t even crack the menu. I will simply ask the server, “What is the best thing you’ve got?“At this restaurant in Crofton, Kentucky, they had three pages of meals that all looked really good to me at the moment. But I knew that there was something there that they did really, really well.

Our waitress paused and said, “The open faced roast beef sandwich. It’s served with a side of mashed potatoes and covered with gravy.”

I said, “l’ll have that.” Know why? Because her recommendation was more than just what they did best. It was something she had eaten. It was comfort food. It was food for the soul. And my goodness, when it came, it fed my soul.

I was suddenly reminded that pastors need comfort. A lot of people who read this won’t like what I have to say in the next few paragraphs, but it is important if we are going to change this culture. A culture in which I fell. A culture in which 1,500 pastors a month are leaving the ministry, many due to moral failure.

Pastors work in high pressure situations, regardless of the size of their churches. Much is asked of them. Many of these men see the ministry as an extremely high calling, and they should. Unfortunately, many of these men sacrifice time with their families and wives to do the work of ministry because of overly high expectations placed on them by their churches or by themselves.

They have no comfort. Some, over time, seek out comfort through a quick fix of pornography. Some, whose marriages are deteriorating because of ministry, look elsewhere. That may come as a shock to some. The pastor shows up on Sunday with his lovely wife, his beautiful children – some people think, “I wish my family was like that.

But what many people do not realize is that the pastor’s home life is in shambles. His home life and marriage is in awful shape. Why? Because he has laid out everything in pursuit of the ministry.

In his mind, he has justified it all. He thinks he is doing the work of God. He visits the sick, attends deacons meetings, preaches the word, evangelizes the lost. But over in the corner, the relationship with his wife and family is fading and he doesn’t realize it.

He comes home from a bad day and tries to talk to his wife, only to see that she has become alienated from him. It is his fault. It is their fault. There is no comfort. So he seeks comfort elsewhere,wrongfully, sinfully. Through porn. Through lust. And maybe though an inappropriate relationship nearby.

Friends, what I am telling you is that pastors need comfort from home. From their churches. Just like those fried chicken home cooked meals mom used to fix. Pastors cannot be expected to extend themselves out on the church field and forget about the most important mission field – their family.

Comfort, the greatest and best comfort comes from home. Don’t extend your pastor so much that he can’t have the touchstone of relief from his wife and children.

When I was writing my book and interviewing fallen pastors, the most common traits of a fall were so obvious. The expectations were too high, they were isolated from having real relationships, there was too much conflict over silly things and they had lack of intimacy with their spouses.

Each of these things beg for comfort! The pastor needs friends, real friends who will comfort him! He needs a church body and leadership who will be able to discern what is really important – the preaching of the Word, not what color the carpet will be. He needs people in the congregation who understand him as a fallen sinner, like them, who has weaknesses. He needs them to be comfortable with his strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

Finally, he needs time at home to be comfortable with his wife and family. Most pastors get a day off during the week. But when I talk to my current pastor friends, they still get calls from the church on their days off. Pastors need time one on one with their wives. To bond, to heal. The ministry is, unfortunately, a battlefield. It doesn’t just involve the pastor, it involves his whole family. Give him time to nurture his family. To date her. To spend sweet emotional time with her, to forget the travails of the church for a few hours.

It’s funny as I write this, my power is out. I’m writing this on my iPhone as storms are wreaking havoc across the county where I live. Understand this: pastors who do not have adequate support and comfort are absolutely powerless. Yes, they are to look to Christ for all power, but He has given us the church to support one another through all things. None of us is in this alone.

Pastors across America need comfort time. And they need their churches to be proactive in giving it to them. It’s one positive step in ensuring we don’t have more fallen pastors.

Leaving Our Mark On Eternity

I’ve got a new post up over at Provoketive Magazine entitled, “Leaving Our Mark On Eternity.” It’s about making sure we express our love for people in this life while we still have time.

Here’s an excerpt:

One of the most regrettable things we can do is let time pass without telling someone how we feel. One of the best things we can do is take a pen to paper (not email, not Facebook, but real ink) and write down our feelings for someone. 

Check it out if you get a moment.

What I Don’t Miss About Pastoring: Pastoral Pettiness

I’ve shared three things I really miss about pastoring. That means I can be petty now and share things I don’t miss.

Speaking of being petty, I don’t miss pastoral pettiness.

Most church members are oblivious to pastoral pettiness. It’s something pastors only toss around amongst themselves. It’s prideful, disgusting, but we do it anyway. And it can lead to a fall.

Don’t get me wrong, I engaged in plenty of it myself. Lots of it. And I hated it when I did it and others did it. It takes oh so many forms.

One of the biggest forms is the inflation of numbers. When one pastor asks another pastor how many members they have at their church, get ready – because lighting may strike. The conversation goes something like this:

“Brother Bob, how many do you have in worship at Pleasant View?” (every community has a Pleasant View, by the way)

“Well, Brother Tim, we run about 200. How many do you have at Oak Grove?” (every community also has an Oak Grove)

“Well, Brother Bob, we run about 150.”

Yeah. If you heard that conversation, you could guess that Brother Bob was running about 160 and Brother Tim was running about 100.  It’s a good rule of thumb that you can subtract anywhere from 20-40% of whatever number the pastor is pitching you. 

I’m not saying the pastor is attempting dishonesty. I believe he wants his church that big. And his church may have run that number last Easter or high attendance Sunday. He may actually look out and see that many people in his church. But his pride (my pride at one time) makes us inflate those numbers.

To be fair, not all pastors do it. But when we do . . . it’s petty.

Another petty thing we do is fall back on our education as some sort of badge of pride. I was horribly guilty of this. I was so proud of my seminary education.

On the one hand, you should be proud of your education. But it’s not everything. If anything, it should humble you. A lot of pastors use it to end arguments or shut people up. For instance (and this is just and example, not a theological point, so don’t make any comments):

Church member A says, “Bro. Anderson, in your sermon last Sunday, I know you were going on about the Olivet Discourse. I liked what you preached. I’m just curious, though, and I really don’t know, but Jesus said ‘this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.’ But you acted like those things still have yet to happen. I’m not disagreeing, I’m just confused.”

Bro. Anderson, “Well, I understand your confusion. Did you listen to the sermon? Go listen again. Jesus was talking about the generation who saw those things.”

Church member A, “Well, I got that, but when ‘this generation’ is used elsewhere, he means the generation he’s talking to . . .”

Bro. Anderson, “Well, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to or what you’ve been reading, but I have a seminary degree . . .”

And so on. Yeah, I’ve done that. Ashamed of it. Because it’s petty.

There’s another level of pettiness that exists. And this one is two-fold. Pastors who start at small churches then get a little bit of the big head around other pastors who still serve at small churches. They act like they’re a “little better” than other pastors because they’ve gone “big time.” Yeah, it happens.

Guess what though? It goes both ways. Those of us who were bi-vocational, working the rural scene got a little angry (dare we say, jealous? heavens no!) about those guys and scorned them behind their backs when we should have been praying for them. Yeah, that happens too. We’re sitting there wondering, “Why didn’t God promote me?” (Maybe it was our attitudes . . .)

I’m trying to say a few of things but I’m not sure it’s coming out too clear. First, pastors are people. We have petty issues, petty jealousy of each other, petty problems, and think petty thoughts. We sin petty sins. And it’s sinful. Ridiculous. We ought to be above it, but sometimes, we’re just not.

Secondly, we’re weak. Just like the rest of the world. And without guarding ourselves and coming together as men of God, we’re liable to fall.

Thirdly, there aren’t many people pastors can confide in. We can’t talk to church members because they don’t understand. We usually don’t talk to counselors. We find it hard sometimes to talk to spouses. And as you can tell, we rarely talk to one another.

So usually, the job of pastor is very lonely. Please pray for your pastor. Say something nice to him.

It might make his day, and it might make a difference.

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