Before you read, please understand that the two churches to which I am referring were filled with good people who, collectively, “did” church the way they knew how without a good understanding of the theology or psychology of pastoral leadership, so I make these statements for the benefit of the whole body.
Lessons from my time as a discouraged pastor
1. I was too young.
I started pastoring at 19 years old. The church was gracious to call me and I was dumb to say yes, but pastoring was all I could think of doing and I wanted a pulpit badly, so I jumped in way too green to handle the deep relational dysfunction I encountered.
2. The churches were deeply dysfunctional.
In one, some leaders were angry that I brought a weekly bulletin in that pictured children from the African mission field on the front. The reply was, “They have their churches and we have ours.”
I’m not saying for sure that a tornado destroyed the church building two years later because of racism … I’m just saying it might have been a factor.
In the other, I was once called late at night to sort out a yelling match. It seemed a 17-year-old guy in the church was mad about a church issue, so he was standing in the street calling our 82-year-old deacon out to a fist fight while the deacon pointed a shotgun out the window at him.
I was 20 by this time, though, so plenty of experience under my belt for such dilemmas.
3. I was legalistic and prideful.
I was trapped in behavioralism at the time and immature in my understanding of the gospel of grace, so I picked arguments over external issues rather than allowing room for people to mature over time.
4. The churches were unbiblically governed.
I always get some arguments when I make this point, but I don’t believe churches should vote on anything except the absolute essential legal matters necessary—land ownership, major indebtedness and the calling of a senior pastor.
In one of those churches, I was once scolded because someone moved an old military-style metal desk out of the auditorium and into a side room without the decision being voted on first. Laugh, but there are still churches that vote on almost everything in the name of a democratic, congregational form of government.
What it really amounts to is a church body that is either unwilling or has never been taught to trust its leaders and release control of the details to the undershepherds and overseers—the elders/pastors.