Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions

Once upon a time, it was thought that I lied to a church about moving into their parsonage. That is not exactly correct. While I failed to communicate my change of mind, I did not lie. These points and more I accept responsibility. More importantly, I am glad for God’s redemption ability despite challenging church leadership and my poor judgment.

As stated in a previous post, “The Church Parsonage is Not a Benefit,” but many churches believe it is an excellent tool to recruit ministers. In some cases, it still is a significant advantage. More and more pastors though are declining to live in them. Like many in their congregation, they want to build equity for their family’s future, which a provided house does not give. As a result, many churches are choosing to sell their parsonages. However, where I once pastored the expectation was still for the pastor to live in the parsonage.

The conflict over me and their parsonage began when a deacon on the Pulpit Search Committee asked

“Brother Mike, I got a question for you! Are you going to live in our pastorium?!”

On asking his question, there was at least one committee member who interjected against this deacon’s question. His objection centered on the previous pastor who experienced problems when he lived in the home owned by the church. Despite this committee member’s concern, the deacon reiterated with,

“Hey, our former pastor needed to get out. When you resign as the pastor, you need to exit the pastorium sooner than later. Besides, we are better than some churches. I know one church who had the water cut off the next day. We gave the former pastor more time than a day!” 

This scenario was a shock to my senses. Not only did I doubt the long-term benefit of living in any parsonage; the committee was admitting their checkered history with their building. Still, I had to give a response, so I said, Continue reading “Parsing About the Parsonage: Pastoral Redemptions”

Delays: Pastoral Redemptions

The last post on “The Church Parsonage is Not a Benefit” was written to set up the next post. This post will be published on Friday 11-August-2017. The next post deals with a very sensitive subject from the churches I pastored. To represent the full story, accept my responsibility, and show God’s redemption from the story an extra day is needed. It is a massive post with a lot of details, and I want to represent the events and people well. Please come back tomorrow to read it then.

The Church Parsonage Is Not A Benefit: Pastoral Redemptions

****The benefit of a church parsonage in 2017 is debatable. It is such a concern that I am republishing this article again since it fits within the Pastoral Concern series. Therefore, read and enjoy this article because it is thought provoking. Plus, it will provide the needed background for the next post. A post that will expand on this concept of pastoriums as I expose my faults from my experiences with a church parsonage.****

Many traditional and older churches have a parsonage or pastorium they offer to their pastors while they serve their church. The concept is that in addition to the salary provided it’s a “free” place to live and a benefit to the pastor. In some cases, it is a benefit, but in others, it’s not. For example, some churches wrongfully use the parsonage as a means to control the pastor or check-in to see if he or she is doing one’s job. A well-known Alabama pastor who used to work for the State Board of Missions shared with me that, “One Saturday I received a knock on the door and it was a committee from the church who had arrived to do a ‘surprise’ inspection.” For ministers whose lives are already like living in a fish bowl the parsonage only adds to the pastor’s stress and the church’s.

In contrast, some churches have a very healthy use of the homes they offer for their pastors. One parsonage I knew even had a Jacuzzi-hot tub. Despite such amenities, churches should reconsider their offers and demands that pastors live in a home owned by the church. Often this “benefit” to the pastor only helps the church long-term. In fact, it can put a pastor at a disadvantage later in life. For example:

  1. Lower Credit Rating
  • Payments in one’s life such as utilities, car notes, credit cards, etc. also impact one’s credit score. Also, some of a person’s credit rating is based on the housing payment made each month. Housing payments can include mortgage or a rental payment. As a result, pastors who do not make a house payment affect his or her credit score. Fortunately, one’s credit score is not solely determined by one’s housing payment, but churches need to know that requiring a pastor to stay in their parsonage has long-term financial consequences.

Continue reading “The Church Parsonage Is Not A Benefit: Pastoral Redemptions”

PSA: Psalm 42 & Prayer

Today I’m taking a break from my Pastoral Corrections series to share a written piece from a sermon I preached last Sunday. I pray it is a blessing to you!

Psalm 42 begins with the famous lines, “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs after you.” These words from Psalm 42:1 are a beautiful phrase to start off a passage that addresses the opposite extremes of our faith experience.

The Christian faith is filled with many wonders, riches, and joys as we walk with God. These moments make it easy to say, “As the deer pants for water, so my soul longs after you.” However, life is filled with difficulties that oppose our love for God. There are moments that seem as puzzling as some of the lines in Psalm 42. Lines such as verses 9-10:

“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about in sorrow
because of the enemy’s oppression?”
My adversaries taunt me,
as if crushing my bones,
while all day long they say to me,
“Where is your God?”

These lines appear to stand in direct contrast to the psalms opening line that compare a deer panting for water as us longing for God. Yet, they are not in contrast to another; no, they are complimentary.

Most of us would prefer our view of God that matches the initial perceptions we have of Him. We love the idea of a Candyman God who gives us what we always want. But, life is filled with ups and downs that are unavoidable. As a result, we should embrace these inconveniences because they create unique opportunities to deepen our faith in God. Opportunities that will grow our love and trust who is present in every hope and adversity. Such depth then lets us truly long for God like a deer panting for water because we see His goodness in every circumstance, even when life is difficult.

The question then becomes, “How do we move from a shallow faith to one with depth?” Continue reading “PSA: Psalm 42 & Prayer”

The Veggie Boat Tour: Pastoral Redemptions

As a pastor, I get to know a diversity of people. Some of these individuals have hobbies and resources they shared with me and my family.Thankfully, these resources have provided good memories from my time as a pastor. Specifically, this story will cause me to fondly remember speedboats, couples’ communication, and veggie sandwiches.

Now, these people are some of my favorite people I have ever had the chance to pastor. Not only are they still they great supporters of both Amy and me, but we had a lot of values we shared together. Still, though they are friends I will refer to them as Larry and Sara in this amusing story.

Our boat journey began at a local State Park where we would put their boat into the lake. Unfortunately, our entry into the lake would be delayed because Larry forgot the ignition keys. This oversight was already embarrassing enough, but to make matters worse Sara fussed at him with her frustration. As an outsider to their debates I believe she too was embarrassed, but for different reasons.

Fortunately, Larry’s mistake was correctable since they only lived 5 miles away. This fact of convenience did not comfort Sara as she still spoke her mind towards Larry about his error. The fervor she expressed seemed like he had done something much worse. Larry, being the wise man he is decided to stop arguing and drive off to get the keys. Finally, he returned and Larry, Sara, Amy and I were on the lake with only a delay of 30 minutes from our original launch time.

Together, we each enjoyed the rest of the morning. As we traveled over the lake’s water Lary and Sara showed us how close their house was to the lake. Additionally, we saw other landmarks such as favorite dive points to the lake’s wealthier homes. It was a fun time and without incident…until lunch. Remember, earlier Larry suffered his share of embarrassment; now it was Sara’s turn. Continue reading “The Veggie Boat Tour: Pastoral Redemptions”

Pastoral Mistakes With the King James Version: Pastoral Redemptions

The phrase, “The King James is from Hell” is one that I said to another church member. It’s a statement I regret saying, but one I said. It was stated from emotion than my actual thoughts about the King James Version (KJV). Sadly, because of my ill-timed phrase, church members could embellish real events connected to Bible translations used under my pastorate. Despite both of our errors, the truth of what occurred was lost, but not forgotten by God.

The Origin of My Ill-Stated Phrase

For the record, I do not believe the KJV is from Hell. In fact, I know God has considerably used it over the last few centuries. It was not until the late 1900s that another modern and accessible English translation even existed. Therefore, despite its weaknesses today; the KJV allowed God’s people to understand the treasure of God’s word for hundreds of years. That’s a historical benefit of the translation that should never be disrespected, which I briefly did.

So, why did I say, “The KJV is from Hell?” Continue reading “Pastoral Mistakes With the King James Version: Pastoral Redemptions”

Learning From Our Mistakes: Pastoral Redemptions

“Let’s start with what you did wrong at the church before we talk about this church’s faults!” 

This one suggestion became a turning point for me. By my friend asking it, I began to process and heal from pastoring some very challenging churches. Before my friend’s comment, much of my discussion about these churches were focused on their faults, and not mine. Yes, the churches I pastored had significant issues. Each one was a “preacher eater” church, which means they had a long history of their pastors leaving consecutively under tense circumstances. However, this truth did not mean I was faultless. No, I made my mistakes, but in those errors, Christ is greater and His glory shows in each situation.

Starting with the next post, I will be occasionally sharing with you some stories from my time at these churches. As I share these posts I will continue to write other entries too. But, as I write about these churches know that you will see my errors. Let me say that again: “YOU WILL SEE MY ERRORS!” Being vulnerable and admitting my mistakes is necessary. Otherwise, I am leaving out the areas where Christ’s gospel moved me from sin to grace, from death to life.

Also, you will see a dire picture of the church. Some of the stories will be amusing; even more will be haunting. Some stories will be short; some will be long. Most importantly, these posts are not meant to shock you with church horror stories. Nor are they a means to just “get things off my chest.” Rather, they are aimed to show Christ’s redemptive gospel.

Due to these caricatures, great care will be given to sterilize the names mentioned in each story. If names are used then aliases will be provided instead of their real names. Many of these people are God’s people, and I still want the best for their faith in Christ.

Restoration in the Gospel and in God’s grace for every circumstance is what I have learned most from these experiences. Much pain and hurt occurred, but it is a two-way street. One where either side caused grief when we did not realize it. Thankfully, the Gospel does not stop at salvation. It continues to redeem, restore, and sanctify us for the rest of our lives. As Joseph said in Genesis 50:20, “what was intended for evil, God intended for good.” Christ came to redeem everything for His glory. My prayer then is that the Holy Spirit will show His grace with each story because the same applies to your story too!