Things I Dislike About Ministry Pt. 2

- - Life With God

Are you interested in the full time ministry? You might want to enroll in some acting classes. There’s quite a bit of acting that goes into being a pastor or ministry leader in the church.

We act like we didn’t see that movie.

We act like we don’t know that Miley Cyrus / Kanye West / Lady Gaga song.

We act like we’ve already learned every one of life’s most important lessons.

We act like there’s a solid Bible answer for every question.

We act like we believe everything we preach.

We act like all our struggles are in the past.

We act like we are crying when we pray.

We act like our kids are little angels.

We act like we don’t get depressed.

We act like we’re better than you.

We act like we’re confident.

We act holy.

In BBC’s comedy “Rev,” the Archdeacon Robert wants very badly to be promoted to Bishop. So what does he do? He acts like he isn’t the least bit interested…

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Personally, I’m tired of acting. The truth is, I’ve never been very good at it. I lack that dramatic flair.

I’d rather admit that my favorite movie is Léon The Professional, not The Princess Bride, and risk being judged for it.

leon the professional


This is one of the (few) things I dislike about ministry: the inability to be completely honest.

In ministry, there is a built-in pressure to be disingenuous, fake, dishonest.

We know there are standards, biblical standards, for those who are church leadership. We worry that we’ll come up a few points short and get exposed or let go. So we keep up a good front. And we act.

It seems all rather unhealthy.

Like, is there a place you can show or share your true self—the one with flaws and works-in-progress and wounds that still need to be healed?

Back in the late ‘90’s I was introduced to a retired minister, Herman Rohde. He had done it all – been a pastor, denominational bigwig, served on the board of a university, etc. Not only had he done it all, but he had seen it all too…

Herman had seen scandals and conflict, crises and implosions in the ministry. Now he was in his early ‘80’s and he was done climbing the ladder or building anything for himself. He had a tender heart for pastors—genuinely caring for their wholeness and well-being.

I remember Herman offering his ear and his time. He said, “Brian, I’m safe. You can ask me anything, tell me anything—I won’t be shocked and it won’t go anywhere. Just between you and me. I’m your advocate. Sometimes, you just need someone you can complain or confess to. When you do, I’m here.”

Herman died 11 years ago.

I hate saying this next thing…

Herman still hasn’t been replaced. I don’t have someone like him in my life. I know, I know—that’s not healthy. I need another Herman.

There is another older guy I appreciate. I don’t know him personally, but I’ve read a number of his books and have listened to him. His name is Paul Tripp, and he has a great mustache.

Most recently, I read his book “Dangerous Calling.” He identifies the unique challenges of pastoral ministry and talks about the unhealthy pastoral culture in the church today.

I love how he says “Pastors are not above or somehow outside of the body.” Jesus is the head of the church, and everyone else is part of the body – this includes pastors. We are like everyone else. Sure, we have unique responsibilities, but we are not separate from the body.

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We have people in the church who are working through issues and we have pastors in the church who are working through issues.

This last year, one of our staff members went into a recovery program. This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve never been on a church staff where this could happen. From what I’ve seen, the only option is dismissal. But there is nothing redemptive about that.

Having a staff member go into recovery, then come back and continue to serve on our team is my favorite thing that happened in the life of our church this past year. I loved our Great Big Backpack Give, and I so enjoyed having Pastor Tommy Barnett come preach here…

But my highlight of the year was this uncomfortable, awkward, uncharted territory of standing with a leader who is not acting, but being honest about their true self.

Quite honestly, this experience fueled our interest in starting Celebrate Recovery at the church. We realized being honest and getting help is more Gospely than acting and keeping things hidden.

I believe Celebrate Recovery is going to help us give up our acting careers. Even the leaders of the program have to self-identify as “in recovery” for something (specific). I love it! No more separation. We’re in this together—growing, healing, recovering, full of flaws and hurts and hang-ups, finally ready to be honest and move forward as members of the same body.

I love the ministry. I dislike the inability to be completely honest.

Is it possible for this pressure to be disingenuous, fake, and dishonest to be lifted?

Could ministry actually happen without Oscar-worthy performances?

What do you think?

This is part 2 of 3 posts this week. Check out yesterday’s Part 1 and come back tomorrow for Part 3.

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

11 Comments to Things I Dislike About Ministry Pt. 2

  1. Being enthusiastic and acting are not the same.setting the tone of your sermon is not acting its protraying it to help the message be more clear.because reguardless people interperet everything in their own way. I appreciate this movement of breaking these phony barriers by putti.g out there REAL thoughts and letting others know whats up. I dislike the phony stuff the fake hugs and all that so this type of revieling makes me sure that my family and I have found the right place to be …Thank You

  2. Rob Bennett

    Oh what a wonderful life ministry would be if pastors could be fearlessly honest, with themselves, their church as well as their peers. But, it reminds of the scene in “a few good men” when Tom Cruise is demanding the truth, but Jack Nicholson responds adamantly, “you can’t handle the truth.” Sadlly, very few church goers are ready to accept a pastor’s true self, partly because they aren’t completely honest with who they are either. They (parishoners) pretend to be the person they want to be, rather than be honest with who they really are. This is perpetuated by pastors who continue to preach to the congregation and concerns that the people are pretending to be and have.
    If you have truly found a church where Honesty abounds, then I am truly encouraged. There is hope for the church, her mission as well as her testimony.
    Now, if only pastors would be willing to be honest with eachother?

  3. I am enjoying this series. Honestly it’s liberating for me.

    I feel like your blog is a safe place so I’m going to put some things down that congregation members dislike about ministers: (when I say “you” it means pastors in general)

    It’s seems like a show, we see you acting.

    You joke with us but when we joke back with you we get told we should have more respect.

    You act like you’re crying when you pray.

    You don’t say what you really want to so you don’t offend people.

    You put your ministry before your family, if you can’t take care of your kids while your wife is on women’s retreat, there’s no way you can take care of your congregation. (I’m sure I’ll take heat for this one)

    You can sermons, meaning re-preach one that you’ve done before.

    You travel for money instead of putting your congregation first.

    You “fake it until you make it”

    I guess through all of these the main point is BE REAL. We don’t want fakes in ministry.

    • Brian Dolleman

      I love this Robb. Glad you turned it around on me (us ministry/pastor peeps). Of your 8 things, I do at least 6 of ‘em – and dislike that I do.

      One of the dislikes – re-preaching material – is actually something I rather enjoy.

      People come and go in my church; the audience is always morphing and changing. I don’t assume people know my background or story, and I feel like re-telling some stuff is important. Since the Bible has a limited number of pages, if we’re preaching it, there’s no way we will always have new material.

      I do feel somewhat jealous of the traveling guys who have their 1 sermon of the year – they perfect it and preach it at every conference… I feel like my preaching could be a lot more riveting if I only had to develop one sermon per year.

      Truth is, I like the creative process. I enjoy writing and preparing. Love the challenge of it. I’m happy with my 35 or so sermons a year.

      Thanks for sharing, for being honest, and poking back. I appreciate it!

  4. Danielle Pridgen

    From where I am as someone who thirsts for interpretation and explanation of the Bible when I attend church, there is a lot to be said about re-preaching material. To me, if I can hear a sermon on a bible passage for the seventh time and leave church thinking, “Yeah, that was a great re-preach. I saw something in a different light, that I didn’t quite see the other 6 times.” Then for me, it was a great experience.

    The thing that gets me perturbed is when I leave thinking that I’ve heard the message 6 times before and it still meant nothing to me, not even in a metaphorical way. I feel kind of fulfilled, but my itch wasnt quite scratched…The tough work week is coming quick, Sunday is half over…. and I wonder if maybe the hour and a half would have been better spent (spiritually speaking) by sitting alongside the river, taking in the grandeiur of nature, pondering the wonder of God… Getting my sabbath on, ya know?

    So, since we have all established this to be a safe place to air our thoughts on God, church, and whatever else, I’d just like to say a couple things that I wish pastors could realized from a congregant’s opinion. You guys and gals tend to do this thing that some comedians do.
    Comedians will make a joke that is funny on a generalized level which will appeal to the majority of the audience. Then they proceed to make a series of statements which take the joke closer and closer to the line of unacceptable, until they’ve only got a crowd of 3 people who are laughing on such a hysterical level, that they have tears coming down their cheeks…. Now in comparison to sermons that commonly get preached in church… It starts with a great love story between God and the Church, then the pastor explains the sacred covenant that is also expected within a marriage,

  5. Danielle Pridgen

    and then we go on the slippery slope to all sorts of topics…. *Not reading your Bible daily will lead to wandering eyes, which inevitably leads to intense addiction to pornography, infidelity, your marriage will fall to ruin, you will live a miserable life…. (exaggeration, but you know youve all heard it preached before)…. All I’m saying is this:

    There might be a handful of people in any audience who will be impacted by a sermon rebuking a particular Sin. But I think people in general, within Church and Within all other subgroups, are thirsty to find a way to get connected to God. The church has a duty to provide a realistic, adaptable, means of obtaining that “wonderful Personal Relationship with our Heavenly Father, Jesus” or whatever. K, thats my thoughts..I just think Pastors need to forget about all the spin, and just go for real. The word has the power anyways, not ourselves. Amen!

    • Danielle Pridgen

      The feeling I get from those sin-specific sermons is this,
      “Well, church was pretty good today. I hope that message was really helpful for those members who are struggling with infidelity in their marriage. It’s not really an issue for me, but Maybe one day they will teach me more about how to rely on God when life gets dark, and how to be biblically compassionate to people who disagree with me on important topics. Or it would be cool to learn about the ways that our scriptural portrait of God as a Father can inform me as to the ways in which I can be a great mother…. so I guess I will try again next week, and hopefully then I will hear something more suited for my life…. Maybe next week the message will offer something a majority of us could use… But for today… I really am happy for Joe Schmoe, who was potentially redirected from pornography today by the insightful readings from Leviticus. I only wish that hearing that rebuke could have brought more of our spiritual “Cups” closer to overflowing… But, there’s always next week.”

      I’m sure those thoughts aren’t the ones that a speaker intends for her audience to think, and maybe I’m the only one who thinks that type of thing. Just mentioning it in case I’m not.

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