Don’t Feel Like Going to Church, Don’t Worry…Neither Does Your Pastor

18 Mar

A few years ago, I’m talking politics, ministry, and theology with the Senior Pastor of my church.  We lived right near each other and I was on staff as the worship leader, so we spent a lot of time together discussing church, books we like, etc…

On this particular day, I had an insight into my pastor’s soul.  You see, he had a conundrum.  His politics had changed from Conservative to Liberal, pro-life to pro-choice, and his theology had gone from a simple  Evangelical faith to a more nuanced approach to the scriptures.  As we talked, he referred to the Old Testament as myth (something I did not believe at the time), he had adopted a post-modern view of Hell (allegory at best in his view), and he referred to his mostly conservative, Bible believing church members as unable to handle his position on these matters.  He was scared to tell the truth to the very people who turned to him weekly to preach the truth. You see, he was dependent on these folks for his living and he was scared of the consequences of telling the truth, so he didn’t.

Sure, sometimes he would hint at this, or refer to that, giving an indicator that there was more beneath the surface.  But I could tell by the tone of his voice, that he feared for his living.

I felt sorry for him in that moment, because I realized that he was held hostage to a job, and to a certain appearance of theological correctness, in order to keep his congregation at bay from his true thoughts.  I also felt sorry for him, because he also sounded condescending or even loathsome towards our little church. Every day he had to put on his good little Evangelical game face, and try to make his way through a day without outing himself.  I could tell, that this is why he seemed tired and cranky around the neighborhood.  If you’ve ever had to act in a play, then you know how hard it can be to keep the script on track, and how hard it is to recover from a slip of the tongue.  All the world was a stage for him, in a play that he wished he had never tried out for.  The script was exacting it’s price and drinking whiskey was his new way to fall asleep.  This is not a healthy way for anyone to live, let alone someone claiming to be called to live and teach the scriptures.  I did not envy him…I pitied him.

I tried to encourage him to be honest, but he resisted.  Not long after this conversation, I resigned from the Worship team and soon left the church.  It was the right thing to do….

Not  long after, I ran across a survey ( I think from Barna) that found that almost 50% of all clergy /pastors surveyed, said they would leave ministry tomorrow if they had another job lined up.  Did you get that…it’s a 50/50 chance that your pastor does not even want to be in ministry anymore!  Another survey I ran across said that over 70% of  Christians no longer attending any church, had been in full-time ministry or been a full-time volunteer.  Again, that’s a huge number of people who have been running the “guts” of the local church, who eventually leave to never return.

What is it about being a leader or pastor in a church, that makes most folks want to leave and never come back?

For me, I just don’t trust the Bible anymore.  So I just don’t go to church anymore, why would I?  But for someone whose job is to go to church-now that’s not a situation I would wish on anyone.

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9 Responses to “Don’t Feel Like Going to Church, Don’t Worry…Neither Does Your Pastor”

  1. dolomite March 23, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

    You don’t trust the Bible, you don’t trust the Church, you don’t trust people, these are all thoughts Christians have at one time or another, but to not seek God in the same way you have chosen to seek a reason to stop believing is the sad fact I see in your story. To go a step further and tell your children all of your doubts, this is the really sad part. And yes, its bad that all of your Christian friends have behaved horribly, but all these things illustrate why God is real, is the only answer, because people will fail you. I’m sure you have given this all alot of consideration, but is it worth it to lose your soul, the soul of your children, because of all that you have learned?

  2. christianagnostic March 23, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Dolomite-

    I understand your point of view…to be clear. I did not just dump all my doubts on my children. My youngest child still watches Veggie Tales and sometimes asks to pray at dinner. It’s what we used to do and we don’t shame him because he still holds to some of the rote practices of our former Christian lives.

    Another child of mine just went to a friends youth group for the night. Well, you get the idea….we made it clear that they were free to choose what they believe about God, life, and the after-life.

    What I have done is try to be clear and honest with my children. My older children were very curious and asked many questions. We have talked openly and honestly…some of them have said they do not believe either. Which is a relief to me, but it is not something I forced on them.

    As for your final question, yes it’s worth it…because I believe the Bible to be unclear and as doing more harm than good, if taken at it’s face value.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and post…

  3. Charis March 24, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    I enjoyed your testimony at WW. Personally I dumped mountains of bad theology (but still love the Lord).

    You might enjoy http://www.nakedpastor.com/ (It’s a little edgy to mention on Dee and Deb’s blog so I thought I’d drop in over here.)

  4. christianagnostic March 24, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    I dunno Charis…I’m feeling like my computer might lock up and I’ll have some explaining to do! Just kidding….I’ll check it out when I get the chance. Thanks for the thoughts and for the link.

  5. Eagle March 26, 2012 at 5:06 am #

    I’m with you in some ways. I’m trying to figure things out….I don’t like not having faith, but I also have issues with faith. I feel stuck….

  6. christianagnostic March 26, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Eagle-

    Do you mind me asking how you feel stuck?

  7. christianagnostic March 28, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    Just came across this site:

    http://clergyproject.org/

    It’s for current pastors/ clergy who are now atheists/agnostics. I wonder what percentage of pastors that don’t want to be in ministry anymore, are also unbelievers…I do not envy any pastor who has lost their faith and is still employed by a church.

    • graceone April 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      I think that speaks very well of you, CA, that your pastor was able to open up, and to be honest. It is hard to give advice in this kind of situation. I’m not a pastor, but I could not be a leader in a church where I felt unable to share honestly concerning my belief system. I think I would try to switch to a less fundamentalist denomination.

      There are plenty of committed Christian folks who think that to take Scripture seriously means that it cannot always be interpreted literally, or who are not going to throw another brother or sister under the bus because of some doctrinal or political differences.

      Also, it’s good to be humble. We all “see through a glass darkly.”

      I’ve struggled with this in my own life.

      I have Christian friends that think evolution is the of the devil, and really do believe that everyone apart from conscious faith is heading for Hell. They honestly suppose that we will all be walking on streets of gold, that kind of thing. The story of Jonah is historically and literally true.

      .It’s so tempting for me to want to drag them to where I’m at, but I think for all of us it’s a process of growing that takes time. You know, these folks love the Lord. They care for the poor and needy. They’re good people. And, I can see areas in my own life where I fall short, CA.

      We all need grace toward each other, and to remember that “He who began a good work in you will complete it to the day of Jesus Christ.”

      • christianagnostic April 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

        Thanks for your comments….yes, I agree, it would be very tough to feel like you couldn’t be honest with the very people who are supporting you financially and relationally.

        Last I checked, my old pastor was still grinding it out. I just can’t imagine it.

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