Friday, April 20, 2012

I'm Back

I’ve been silent for a long, long time.  In fact, I’ve had trouble blogging, even posting anything to FaceBook or Twitter for the last six months.  Why?  Because I lost my nerve.  Around twelve families left our church during these six months and the one thing that all of them had in common was that they blamed me for their departure in some form or fashion.  I did something wrong to them or didn’t do what they needed.  Simply put, they didn’t see Jesus in me.  It sort of took the wind out of my sails, as you can well imagine.  Every pastor’s nightmare is that people will leave the church and maybe even lose their faith and stop believing in Jesus because of him.  None of us want to give our Master a black eye.   So when a group decides to leave it’s a big deal.  The onus is on the pastor.  How can I interpret these events in any other way than “I failed?”
And because I failed, I stopped speaking.  My thinking went like this:  “If I’m so offensive, maybe nothing I say is worth hearing.”  It caused me to question everything.  It caused me to stop and over-think everything I said and did so that I could hardly utter a word in confidence.   “How will this be interpreted by people?”  I’m emerging, like a ground hog, from six months of self examination and reflection.  
Pastors deal with the dying every day, no matter how big your church is.  Because we’re all dying.  Some of us just haven’t realized it yet.  Most pastors know that they are dying, too.  They  know that one day, sooner than we think, we’re going to stand before our Master and he’s going to pass sentence on us.  Either our Master will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or, “Depart from me, I know you not.”  When a pastor says, “Because God says,” on a Sunday morning, we realize that we will have to answer if we’re wrong.  It’s why we pray so much.   I’m not sure most people realize that pastors take eternity and judgement and salvation very, very seriously.  Because we know what’s coming, most pastors would never lead a church down a path they didn’t think the Lord of the Church was calling us to go down.   
My Dad, a retired pastor of over 50 years, wonders what the Lord will say to him for some of the weddings he wasn’t sure about but did anyway and which later failed.  There is so much pressure to give people what they want.  And there is such a high price to be paid when you don’t.  
People have become so quick to turn their backs on churches and pastors these days and walk away.  Every pastor I’ve talked to in our city has seen a surge of solid, long time members get angry about seemingly small things and then leave.  There is a real restlessness out there. Things that a decade or two ago would have been quickly forgiven and forgotten are now causes for separation.  It’s almost as if people are looking for reasons to be offended.  They also report an increase in hostility toward pastors and a general loss of respect for the office.  
I wonder if we’ve been trying to please people too much and not our Master?
It is an awesome task to stand in front of people week after week and speak the word of God.  Our Savior told us that the world would hate us because of him.  I think most of us pastor types just assumed the attitude of the church would be different.  
I commend to you the following blog from a pastor’s kid who gave up on the church.  I think a lot of people do give up.  They see the way we quarrel and bicker in the church and they are just turned off.  There are consequences in failing to hang together, be patient, speak the truth and being willing to change.  Our inability to maintain community no matter what sends the world a message that we don’t practice what we preach.  Please know that if you have been wounded by a pastor, a church, or church people, I apologize to you from the bottom of my heart on behalf of the entire Church of Jesus Christ in all times and all places.  But don’t give up.  If you believe then you belong in Church.  
Anyway, I’m back now.  I’m still hurting, I’m still wondering how things could’ve been different, I’m still sorry for the mess, but I also realize that my role is not to make people happy.  It’s to live out my life as a leader in the Church before an audience of just one, the One. To be faithful to him above all else, no matter what the cost.   At the end of the day, it’s his opinion that matters.  At the end of the day, when I look around our congregation, I don’t see destruction and devastation.  I see trees loaded with fruit.  For six months I’ve been consumed with destruction and have totally missed the fruit in front of me.  Please forgive me.  From now on, let’s talk about the fruit.  Thanks for reading.  God bless.  PJ 


  1. "People have become so quick to turn their backs on churches and pastors these days and walk away."

    You may want to consider that people who leave are also discerning just as much as you are and may depart because they, too, are keeping in mind who their master is. Just a thought.

  2. Anonymous said:
    "You may want to consider that people who leave are also discerning just as much as you are and may depart because they, too, are keeping in mind who their master is."

    Or maybe not. Perhaps you should check their blogs and find out for sure before posting passive-aggressive comments.
    Just a thought.

  3. Pastor John, I feel compelled to write ,, please don’t lose your nerve. My husband and I have been searching for years after relocating back to the Des Moines area. I, personally, had been praying for a church home. We didn’t have any specific criteria, other than “we’ll know it when we find it”. We’ve been attending Zion a little more than a year and I believe in my heart, God has answered my prayer. As a Church Leader, I believe you are not just a good man, but a Godly man and Spirit filled, and it is a privilege to listen to your thought provoking and inspired words as you provide us an awareness of what God’s will is for our lives. Zion is unlike any church experience I’ve had, in that there is not only much focus on serving others (2nd great commandment, love your neighbor as yourself), but much action in serving others as well. Possibly this may cause some to feel pressure or feelings of falling short. I admit, I have felt like Zion has high expectations even though we have never been pressured directly. But realizing the possibilities for my life and that God is still working on me, trying to direct me, if only I’d listen, understanding this as the truth isn’t pushing me away, but challenges me to pursue it further. Thanks for the direction and I encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. You’re very good at it!