Concluding Pastoral Redemptions…For Now!

Writing this Pastoral Redemption series has been difficult. When I started, I had over 30 stories that I intended to publish. Despite this goal, I believe that some stories are not meant to be shared…For now. In previous times, I did not feel this noble. No, for years I was bitter about many of my church experiences. I did not see God working through them, so I just wanted to play the victim, and felt that when I trash these churches, I am justified. By God’s grace, He never let me write those stories while I was still bitter. Rather, it is only now that I have been able to write any story with two goals in mind:

  1. Write only stories that are humorous
  2. Write only stories that reflect an element of hope and redemption. Remember “God redeems.”

As a result of these goals, some stories I will not share now. Either they are not amusing enough, or they do not display any redemptive qualities…yet. Continue reading “Concluding Pastoral Redemptions…For Now!”

Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions

Discernment of the Holy Spirit is essential. This skill is one that we never master because there is always room for improvement. Still, it is important for Christians to have a baseline understanding on how the Holy Spirit speaks. If anything, to know how the Spirit does not speak. Otherwise, we may just make important spiritual decisions on our own, which we are sure to get wrong from time-to-time.

Unfortunately, it took two difficult pastorates for me to grow in the area of discernment. In fact, as I look back at one set of church interviews, it was clear that God was shouting to me, “DO NOT GO HERE!” Sadly, like many others, I had to learn through the hard path of experience. Continue reading “Interviewing the Holy Spirit: Pastoral Redemptions”

Church Interviews Are Like Speed Dating: Pastoral Redemptions

You have met the person of your dreams, and after knowing them a month, you are ready to marry them. Most people on hearing the last sentence would raise prudent caution. Friends would ask you to slow the relationship. They might even try to talk you out of the hasty engagement. It is not because they want you to ruin your happiness. No, like many in our culture they believe a rushed engagement is unhealthy and will lead to future unhappiness.

Similarly, many congregational churches use this “speed date” method to hire their next pastor. To be fair, not all congregational churches use this approach, but many churches and pastors reflect this “speed date experience.” It goes something like this: Continue reading “Church Interviews Are Like Speed Dating: Pastoral Redemptions”

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”