Throwing in the Towel

by DW
(Arkansas)

I have been a pastor for twelve years. I don't come from a family of pastors and I was not raised in church. I don't have a degree in theology and have not attended seminary. I was encouraged to answer the call by a former pastor who became a good friend. After six months of "struggling" with the call I gave in and promised God that if He would stop bothering me I would preach. On the day of my ordination my wife cried. They were not tears of joy. She was raised in church and had been witness to what church was really like. At the time, and for a long time I resented the fact that she cried at my ordination when she should have been happy for me.
For the first year or so I did my best with my passion and love of God but it wasn't long before my youth (30 years of age) and inexperience and lack of knowledge of church ways caused some serious problems. Many people rallied around me but the church eventually split over a building project. After that the conflict subsided but the apathy increased. I still remember a sermon I preached where I knew I didn't believe what I was saying and I knew the congregation didn't believe what I was saying and knew the congregation knew that I didn't believe what I was saying, but the preaching continued and so did the Amens but of course with no change in attitude in me or them. I felt God calling me away from that church so I returned to my home church as an associate pastor. I wanted this so I could work on serving people instead of being in front of them. Within eight months the pastor left and the church split and I was left holding the bag.

I and my ego wanted to pastor the church and I and my ego got the chance. I thought it was going to be easy, after all I had known these people for years and they were all my friends right? Wrong. After the new wore off I realized these folks were friends so long as I wasn't their pastor. The respect I had so expected and hoped I would get dried up like a raindrop in the desert. Each time I have tried to make changes in the music or order of worship or attempted to start new programs or committees it has met with failure. I am at the point that I am convinced that these folks wouldn't follow me out of a burning house. I have done everything to prevent another church split. I have gone along with everything the deacons wanted but still no respect or friendship. There has not been one deacon's meeting where I have not felt highly uncomfortable and was in fear of being roasted, and was roasted on more than one occasion (too many to mention).

Recently it has become clear to me that if I leave this church the next one will be just like it. I have missed the greater part of watching my children grow up. My oldest daughter has gotten married and moved out and probably will not ever set foot in a regular church again. My marriage has suffered with the church playing the part of the other woman for years. I have no friends. I have friends in the church now but I am constantly asking myself, would they be my friends if I was not the pastor? Last month I did a funeral for a church member that was becoming a friend of mine. He was 41 years old and had three children, the youngest is five. I shed no tears at his funeral and had no words to say to his widow. I mentioned his death in two sermons and felt judged for spending too much time on someone that was not related to or a friend of one of the deacons. All I can see in front of me is pain and misery. I see my bible as a tool instead of a source of inspiration and guidance. My relationship with God has suffered to the point that I am wondering if church God is the real God or just the god of small talk and pot luck dinners. I am looking for something more deep and real and meaningful in my life. That's what I thought the ministry was about but I haven't found it to be true.

I am giving the church one more year. I am graduating from graduate school in the fall with a degree that is not related to pastoring or preaching. My plan is to leave not only the church but the ministry as soon as I can find a job in this new career. I know that God is out there. I know that His Son saved my life, but I wonder if (I am almost certain) that the church has left Him. So I'm leaving the church before they pull me away from Him too.

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