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7 Raw Truths from a Recovering Pastor

From 1997-2011, I served three different churches in some pastoral or ministry role—including three-plus years as Senior Pastor of Courageous Church in Atlanta. It chewed me up and spit me out. I’ve written about most of the highs and lows on my blog.  

All things considered, I still love and believe in the church.

I admit, though, I now only attend church occasionally, speak at churches rarely and am still recovering and struggling to find my way in the contemporary church. I’m wide open to the possibility that the problem is me.  

This is not a post on how the church is ugly and I’m not.  

I have a few rather random thoughts on the church that I want to share. While they do come from my own personal experiences, they each could transfer to your context.

1. Too few people care about the mental and emotional health of pastors.  

If you attend a church, I am almost 100 percent sure you have a pastor dealing with more stress than you can imagine.  

People dump all of their secrets and troubles on pastors and daily come to them with gut-wrenching requests for money, support, advice and much more. I bailed people out of jail, saw couples through physical abuse, listened to secrets of molestation, served as a surrogate dad to fatherless children, wrote checks for bills that folk couldn’t pay AND still had to oversee the daily grind of running and managing the church.  

When I got very stressed myself, I got the feeling that very few people cared—particularly the members of the church. Even my “coaches” had little to say other than “hang in there.”

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2. Very few pastors get paid too much money.  

I worked 60-plus hours per week. The job rarely had an off switch for me.  

For most of the time I was pastoring Courageous Church, I made between $40,000-$60,000, including health insurance and travel costs, etc. However, somebody was always around to make me feel like I made too much money. Nobody hates the idea of a pastor driving a Bentley and living in excess more than me, but very few pastors are living this life. Most of them are struggling just to make it from month to month.  

You should read the book Uncharitable, on how people who do good get paid too little and are often made to feel like crap for the little they make.

3. Pastors who advocate innovation and new models of ministry are very lonely.  

I could say more here, but I just really want the point to be known.