“Why am I angry?”

By Dan Bouchelle at Confessions of a Former Preacher:

While I don’t fully understand my anger, here is my current best shot at explaining it. I am angry because I couldn’t force the church to live up to my image of what it should be even when they implemented most of the changes I wanted. I am angry because I thought I had a contract with God: if I did ministry the right way, he would make me feel successful and fulfilled. I am angry because I could not shake the feeling of failure when I was doing everything I knew to do and I could not get the church to post the measurables I needed to validate my ministry. I am angry because the church I was building was too much a figment of my imagination detached from sustainable reality. I loved the people in my church and I enjoyed ministry with them. But, as a congregation—which is an abstraction in many ways—I could not reconcile what was with what should be. I am angry because other preachers who used what I thought were inferior approaches to serve inferior visions saw their churches grow while mine was plateaued or declining. I am angry because I could not solve the problem of church, as if churches are problems to be solved instead of people to be loved and developed. I am angry because I looked to my ministry for self-validation instead of modeling self-denial. I am angry because I wasn’t willing to obey what I heard God calling me to do and trust the outcomes to him instead of expecting something specific in return.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I suspect there are a lot of angry and disillusioned Pastors out there. Another new reality Pastors are finding is between many churches closing, larger churches laying off staff because of the recession, there are now two Pastors for every church. Most churches I have seen open up in the Midwest (even very small congregations) will recieve over a hundred resumes from searching Pastors. Many Pastors are starting to find out or will find out that as long as they keep looking for established churches to pay them a salary, there are not enough jobs to go around.

  • T

    That is a fantastic and honest post. I hope every pastor and and most congregants read it.

  • Erik

    @CGC

    I used to be a full time youth pastor and after a year and a half looking for a good fitting youth ministry position, I called it quits. I’ve since changed careers and am currently looking to volunteer with a church youth ministry. The job market is slammed. My advice to future full-time paid minister is to really consider whether you want a degree that can only be used for ministry jobs. I don’t regret my BS in Youth Ministry, but after 6 years of paid ministry, I’m not sure it was worth the cost.

  • http://www.internetmonk.com Chaplain mike

    As true as true can be. Simply, thanks for posting this.

  • http://www.fether.net Paula

    The whole problem is, IMHO, that word “career” and its attendant “salary”. I know the usual objections: Paul said “the worker is worthy of his wages”. Yet Paul also said that he’d rather die than be robbed of the boast of not accepting such wages for his service. What he did, and what Jesus did, was to lay rights and privileges down, justified though they might have been. When I read about careers and salaries, I see a misplaced focus and a failure to grasp the very essence of what it means to be a Christian leader.

    Those who are truly gifted by the Holy Spirit to “pastor” will do so no matter where they go, what credentials they lack, or whether they ever get a nickel for “serving”— which, when you think about it, is an oxymoron. No other gifts of the Spirit expect or demand payment for serving, and must not only support themselves with secular jobs but also support one particular gifting. Yet this is backwards from Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom of heaven, where “the first shall be last”, and what Paul said about children not having to save up for their parents. Should the sheep support the shepherd?

    I hope that the crisis of conscience being experienced by the former pastor will lead him to that place of humility and true, unheralded service. If anyone is carrying a heavy burden, it cannot be from Jesus who promised a light one. No matter what stresses these pastors experience, they all come from a misguided church model and a refusal to be truly humble. Many object to this by citing anecdotes of very humble yet credentialed and salaried pastors, but the fact remains that they are being paid as employees (who nonetheless consider themselves bosses). I will believe these pastors are humble and serving when they step down from the raised platform, give up the reserved parking space, and stop taking the honored place at the table for themselves (per James).

  • MatthewS

    wow… I really appreciate the honest words and feelings.

    I get angry internally when people take more, more, more, more but refuse to lift a finger to help others or to be involved. These are the ones who will bite you in return and imagine themselves victims because you failed to do yet more for them.

  • Kevin

    This might be just the failure needed for this pastor to finally understand what he’s been called to…it took such a failure for me. It can be a beautiful letdown…

  • Brian P.

    The calling is to *serve*. If you have issue with that, don’t take your anger out on us sinners. Take it up with God.

  • RF

    Actually, the last paragraph of his post (you’ll need to read the whole site) shows him coming to terms with those emotions and actually using himself to make a great point. We shouldn’t be too quick to judge. This (former) pastor is revealing his inner weaknesses, warning new pastors to be on guard against them, and giving us a sneak peek at what probably many in the ministry are facing especially in this day when so many are instantly compared to the “superstar” pastors who have books on the bestsellers list.

  • CR

    It is no wonder that so many of us have felt/still feel this way. We, as part of American 21st Century Christianity, have largely been trapped by “church” as a spiritual “machine” that is burdened with the freight of “corporation-styled” expectations of success. Thus, mystery, ambivalence, uncertainty, and the like have been systematically edited out of the equation of what it means to “live” and “experience” pastoral ministry. Those of us working in the “machine” of church actually do experience “real” dynamics of spiritual ministry, but from the perspective of the “machine” those “real dynamics” can look like failures…and that sense of failure (when we have tried so hard) produces anger. Antidote: if we choose public ministry in the modern construction of “church” as a “life-work” then we need regular conversation with like-minded, spiritually aware partners, who can help us actively resist the suction and the seduction of “corporate” and “American” styled measures of success.

  • John W Frye

    @Paula,
    First, a caveat: using your reasoning, should every Bible college and Seminary “teacher” not be paid? Should he/she not view ministry as a ‘career’? Should not every believer gifted with mercy serving in hospitals and missionary compounds do it for free? Why should anyone ‘get paid’ as a Christian for using his/her gifts? It is an historical, Early Church reality that some leaders were called out, examined and paid “to oversee” the church. That is why one of the qualifications was “to not be greedy for gain.”

    Second, an affirmation: most troubles in the hearts of USAmerican pastors (as expressed in the post) come from a warped perception of “church,” or as you note: “…they all come from a misguided church model.” I wrote a book titled “Jesus the Pastor” (Zondervan). Jesus called himself “the Good Pastor” and he is also called “the Great Pastor” and ” the Chief Pastor.” The Apostle Paul is never called a “pastor” nor does he view himself as a “pastor.” In my opinion, Bible schools and seminaries do not make pastors; superstar pastors do not make (nor are they necessarily models for) pastors. Only Jesus, the Good, Great and Chief Pastor produces (under) pastors. I hold the title “pastor” with both a sense of humility and honor and I find no biblical reason not to be supported financially by the local church I serve to fulfill the calling on my life.

  • Cliff

    @Paula,
    I think you make some good points, but it’s not entirely accurate to say that Jesus and Paul were never “paid a nickel” for serving and ministering. Luke 8:3 tells us that a group of women were financially supporting Jesus and his disciples “out of their own means.” Additionally, Paul’s mention of not taking any support was directed at the Corinthian church, but he very explicitly states that he received payment from the Philippian church: “Even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:16-18)

    Paul’s mention of “not desiring their gifts” is the attitude that you say is often missing when pastors view their calling primarily as a way to make money. I couldn’t agree with you more. But “not desiring the gift” and saying it’s wrong to receive the gift are two different things.

  • http://www.fether.net Paula

    @ John W Frye,

    I see no careers in the NT for gifts of the Spirit. To make a career out of preaching the gospel or teaching the saved to bring them to spiritual maturity is to sell rather than serve. If anyone wants a formal university education to pursue a career, fine; but to treat spiritual gifts whose purpose is to build others up as a career is to demote spiritual gifting and growing to a purchased product. So no, I do not think that spiritual ministry is a career.

    Doctors healing patients is a legitimate career. But here is the key difference regarding missionaries, and I will use CAPS for emphasis rather than shouting: MISSIONARIES DO NOT GET THEIR SUPPORT FROM THE PEOPLE THEY MINISTER TO; they get their support from those who send them out. So to support local, resident preachers it would have to come not from the congregation but from others, or else the sheep are supporting the shepherd.

    I care nothing for what tradition or history establishes; they have no scriptural authority. I also think it goes without saying that PAYMENT for the use of one’s spiritual GIFT is an oxymoron. And you seem to have completely missed my point about only certain gifts being worthy of support, and about Paul laying down his rights.

    While I agree with your affirmation, it’s curious that you substituted “pastor” for “shepherd” in the descriptions of Jesus. Technically they do mean the same thing, but in this context “pastor” means a paid position, or what Jesus Himself called “hirelings”. Yet what other spiritual gift is used as a title? Should someone with the gift of encouragement say, “I am an Encourager”, or if they have the gift of tongues, “I am a Tongues Speaker”? Why call it a title rather than just a description of a gift like all the others?

    Of course you can demand payment for your services, from people who get nothing for theirs; you have that technical right. But I think you’re missing out on something much better, since you “have received your reward”. Just something to consider.

    @ Cliff,

    Please see what I wrote to John about who it is that supports missionaries, which Paul and Jesus can be described as. They were sponsored by people of means so that the people they ministered to did not have to. In contrast, pastors today demand payment from those they minister to. Paul instructed the churches to not send out missionaries empty-handed for this very reason.

    And to clarify, I did not say it was “wrong” to be paid, but that the teaching and examples in the NT are to lay rights and privileges down. As I said to John, I think those who demand payment for exercising one particular spiritual gift (emphasis on GIFT) are missing out on a great blessing.

  • John W Frye

    @Paula,
    A little lexical note: the English term pastor comes through the Latin translation of the Greek *poimen* (shepherd). The term “pastor” means “shepherd” and Paul charges leaders “to shepherd” the people of God, i.e., to pastor them.

    No “pastor” I know “demands payment for exercising one particular gift.” All Christians are called to be non-demanding. As you know, most churches operate financially on free-will, non-compulsory giving. Any sense of “demand” violates the Spirit of Jesus and the directives of Scripture. Surely, you know the New Testament texts that undergird the paying of those who serve the sake of the Gospel and church as a, get this, not career, but vocation, a calling by God which is affirmed by the church.

    It is sheer head-in-the-sand thinking to ignore history and tradition, not because history and tradition have the same authority as the Bible, but because they reflect the ways and practices of those who, for the most part, took the Bible very seriously.

    I am aware of the movement that is anti-organized church and particularly anti-pastor and/or anti-any recognized leader, especially paid ones. If you’re in that camp, so be it. But I rest easy knowing that I can appeal to the Bible, to history and to tradition for the ways I “do” church. We agree to disagree. God bless!

  • http://www.fether.net Paula

    @ John W Frye,

    I’m not sure how you missed where I said that “technically” the words pastor and shepherd mean the same thing. Please check it again.

    As for demanding payment, are you saying that some preach for free? Also, should other gifts be paid too? Are other people “called” to serve in their gifts, or are only pastors “called”?

    Calling it “head in the sand” to not IGNORE history (I said no such thing) is certainly not endearing me to your viewpoint. What I actually said is that it carries no scriptural authority. You might want to consider the fact that the apostles battled false teachers while they lived, and promised that wolves would arise from among the churches and scatter the flock after they died. Proximity to the first century is thus no guarantee of orthodoxy, nor is the habit of people afterwards. It is one thing to consider the opinions of historical writings, but quite another to elevate them to the point where they override what scripture teaches.

    Painting those you disagree with as “anti” whatever is a common tactic. But what I’m “anti” is the misuse of scripture to turn Jesus’ “where two or three are gathered” and “not so among you” into “benevolent lording over” and “there must be a ‘pastor’ present”. My appeal is to scripture alone for authoritative teachings, to the examples of the apostles, and to the Holy Spirit; you can add more if you like.

    Curious, this reaction to the notion that a pastor should serve for free. o.O

  • Steve

    I understand why the pastor who wrote the post is angry.

    But why is Paula angry?

    :)

  • John W Frye

    @Paula,
    Why is it “curious” that I substituted “shepherd” with “pastor” when lexically and technically the words are the same? Jesus as the Good Pastor (John 10) was supported in his public ministry by others (he was not continuing to be a paid carpenter, or stone mason). To me, it is very conceivable that a Spirit-gifted ‘teacher’ also served as an overseer of the early churches and he/she was financially supported for that ministry. Surely those with the gift of leadership also were called to and affirmed as overseers and were financially supported. That the term “pastor” arose as the name for those in vocational leadership positions is frankly an accident (in the technical sense) of history. You assume that someone who assumes the title “pastor” somehow violates all that is Christ-like and is fleecing the sheep. This simply is not true. :-)

  • http://www.fether.net Paula

    @ Steve: Paula is not angry. Paula is expressing her opinion and convictions.

    @ John: I already explained about pastor/shepherd in my first comment. And you might want to re-read all the rest of my explanations about how I come to the conclusions I draw. I read over this most recent comment of yours several times and still don’t see what I left out.


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