Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“Why PKs Leave the Church”
I’ve said and written this so often over the years – especially when it comes to ordinations and installations of pastors – that I know lots of pewsitters really, really, really are offended by it.
It’s salty if you know what that means.
Hold your breath and fasten your pewbelts.
If you want to know what it’s like to be a pastor, put on a deerskin and go walking through the woods on the first day of hunting season.
Or as my Freudian pastoral psychotherapy professor from the Netherlands said in one of the few things remembered from those practically worthless days in ivy-leagued shelters from the storms, “The problem people in your life are usually constipated. That’s why they dump on you.”
As Chan writes in his latest Letters to the Church, “Nowadays people are eager to fight. Many are on edge, waiting for anyone to misspeak so they can pounce.”
Sadly, Chan was talking about churches.
So many are more like hornets’ nests than compassion closets.
“There are people,” Chan observes, “who gravitate toward anything critical…So in the church, rather than marveling at the incredible mystery that we are a part of God’s body, we critique the leadership, the music, the programs, and anything else we can think of. We point out the flaws in our pastor’s sermon with the same convictions we critique a movie star’s acting or our favorite team’s recent loss. “
Is it any wonder why too many people aren’t attracted to too many churches?
Things are bad enough around the world, on the job, in school, over in DC and down in Springfield.
Do I really need more of the same in a place called “church” where safety and security are so often skewered by slander and spears?
That came to mind as I read a devotional by a young pastor’s wife just after they started in their first church.
The words are so hopeful about life in the church even as she challenged the church to model Someone better.
Some excerpts: “It’s so good to be here…It’s such a privilege to be in the church where people love each other and know God and want to make God known…Still, we need to get better…We need to go back to the original plan for us of living with and for God…God wants His bride to stop living with someone else – idols – and start living with and for Him alone…God is calling us to come back and take residence in Him…We can talk like Him, sound like Him, act like Him, and serve like Him…Yes, we can!…We as a church can show those outside these walls the crazy, supernatural, passionate, full of love, joyful, God-inspired people we are so they want what we have!…Yes, we can!”
Fast forward less than two years.
She stopped worshipping at the church and urged her husband to serve God in another way.
Though I don’t wager except in the family Super Bowl pool, I’d bet I don’t need to tell you why she wants out of the church.
You would be surprised if I told you of the pastors’ wives in your/our neck of the woods who’ve stopped going to the churches paying their husbands to be abused.
Everybody knows the fate of PKs.
Back on January 13, 2019 in a mostly warm yet sometimes highly charged Sunday School class that I attend on the corner of Lincoln and Main, three reasons why PKs leave churches were identified then lamented.
First, the hypocrisy of their preacher-dads telling people to act like Christians while they don’t.
Second, seeing how their preacher-dads have been mistreated by pewsitters in the name of Christ.
Third, living in a fish bowl in which every breath is analyzed with the silly expectation that PKs will be better behaved than their children.
Parenthetically, I’ve been fortunate to be the undershepherd to the Good Shepherd on the corner of Lincoln and Main. Our PKs love the church, feel loved by the church, and show up when in town.
Pero too many churches aren’t like our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main.
While we’re not pure and perfect in every way – and no one is which is why Jesus had to come and save us by grace through faith – we’re praying and trying harder and harder and harder with more dependence upon Him to be His in all things at all times in all places with all people by the book.
We’ve got a long way to go but we’re a lot farther down the road from where we started.
Unfortunately, we still have our really, really, really irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable moments which cause more people than PKs and pastors’ wives to run for the closest exit.
David knew all about that desire to flee: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest!”
That’s Psalm 55.
Psalm 38 lists the reasons why so many people are leaving churches.
Sometimes our own hypocrisy catches up with us because God always does: “Your arrows have sunk into me…My backside smarts from your caning.”
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by our unworthiness to even pretend fidelity: “There is no soundness in my body…My sins have flooded over my head. They are a burden too heavy for me to bear. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness.”
Sometimes we are overwhelmed by the meanness of people around us: “My loved ones and friends stand back from my affliction. My relatives stand at a distance. Those who seek my life set traps to harm and destroy me.”
Then David reminds us of the only way to refreshment and reunion with Him and His: “I trust You. I hope in You. So I confess my guilt. Lord, do not abandon me. Do not be far from me. Hurry to help me, Lord, my Savior.”
Contextually to David and the rest of the Bible, we know God always forgives, refreshes, revives, regenerates, and restores the confessional and repentant with 1 John 1 summarizing His grace so well: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Admittance is the initial step to absolution.
Attitudes and actions affirming admittance of sin aka repentance guarantee absolution.
Not too long ago for a variety of reasons that don’t add up to a good, Godly, and righteous excuse, I was in a really bad mood.
While I’ve learned to hide it over the years as a vocational necessity, I didn’t do very well that morning.
I had just parked in a clergy spot at a local hospital.
As I got out of my truck, a guy came over to me and said, “You shouldn’t be parking in that spot reserved for clergy.”
Internally acknowledging I probably didn’t look like a pastor, which kinda made me feel better, coming out of a black truck with black boots and black jeans and black hat and black leather jacket and black wallet with a chain attached to my belt, my bad mood got the best of me and I said, “Hey, I’m in a bad mood and I don’t need to hear any of your ___. Besides, I’ve been parking in this spot for nearly two decades and you were probably in kindergarten when I first started visiting people in this hospital. So, please, back off!”
For a split second, I felt pretty B A.
Then I looked at the cross around my neck; which, BTW, is why I wear it. I don’t wear it to show off or anything but to remind myself of who I’m praying and trying to be.
Then I felt an overwhelming shame that I had sinned against Jesus by being such a jerk – “As you do it to them, you do it to Me!” – and immediately started looking for the guy after the visit.
When I found him, I apologized and asked for his forgiveness.
He forgave me.
We prayed together.
Obviously, he’s a Christian; because Christians forgive.
I came away from that experience with a few thoughts.
First, I thanked God for Jesus being my Savior by grace through faith in Him for moments of personal meanness, madness, and miscreance.
Second, I thanked God for Christians who forgive like Jesus for moments of personal meanness, madness, and miscreance.
Third, I pledged to pray and try harder to walk as well as talk like a Christian in all moments.
I realized that I’m just like everybody else who never outgrow the need for Lord Jesus as Savior.
I realized some people have left the church and will leave the church because I’m just like everybody else who never outgrow the need for Lord Jesus as Savior.
Then I thanked God for the opportunity to get better, become increasingly sanctified or holy in/through/for Him, and not be the reason why more people, pastors’ wives, PKs, and others leave the church.
Then, with people everywhere through every time, hands and hearts were joined to sing with David, “Hurry and help me, Lord. Sometimes I need You because of them. Sometimes I need You because of me.”
Moving closer to Jesus as our Master and the Bible as our manual for following Him, the less chances there will be of people leaving churches because of us.
In a Christian kinda way, we can bet on it/Him.
Blessings and Love!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!