How to Insult Your Pastor Creatively

I have concluded that most church people are positive, encouraging, and supportive. Nonetheless, it generally takes at least ten encouraging things to offset one discouraging thing (this varies a lot with intensity).

The greatest discouragement most pastors face is from within the Kingdom. Jesus warned his disciples that they would have to bear insult because they belong to him (Matthew 5:11). What Jesus did not warn his disciples about is that Christians would insult fellow Christians, and particularly that Christians would insult or demoralize their leaders. I call these offenders the “ungracious ten per cent.”

Most insults are passive-aggressive—insinuation and inference. Here are some common insults—coupled with my subjective rating scale rating intent to insult.

1. All brain and no heart

“You should have been a scholar or seminary professor.”

Chance of being an insult: 67%

Some mean this as a compliment. Odds are this is a passive aggressive insult.

Interpretation: “You are not good at meeting people’s needs (or your teaching is not relevant to me); you belong with the egg heads.”

2. Preacher vs. Teacher insults

A. “You are more of a teacher than a preacher.”

Chance of being an insult: 70%

Negative Interpretation: “Your sermons are not practical (or challenging or inspiring) or they bore me.”

B. “You are more of a preacher than a teacher.”

Chance of being an insult: 70%

Interpretation: “Your sermons are too emotional and shallow in content and doctrine.”

One pastor friend chatted with two different men from his church in the same day, both of whom had set up appointments with him. One man informed the pastor he was leaving the church because the pastor’s preaching was too passionate, the other because it was not passionate enough.

3. Comparison to other pastors

A. “I love to listen to Pastor___________ on the radio. His messages really help me and motivate me to walk with the Lord.He’s the best!”

Chance of being an insult: 60%

B. “Pastor so and so (your predecessor perhaps) used to ______________, and God blessed our church more in his days.”

Chance of being an insult: 95%

C. “At my friend’s church, the pastor is involved in practically helping the community.”

Chance of being an insult: 95%

Interpretation: “You are inferior to the radio pastor or your predecessor or my friend’s pastor, so you should either leave so we can get a better pastor or work hard at imitating him.”

Many people do not realize how intensely insulting it is to suggest you surrender your personality and become a robot or actor who imitates another.

Could you imagine a pastor telling a member the following? “You should be like Mrs. Smith. She volunteers for every ministry, has a beautiful voice, never misses church, is always on time, tithes, and has never gossiped or complained.”

4. Implications of failure, and the pastor is to blame.

A. “People are saying that the church is declining or losing quality under your ministry.”

Chance of being an insult: 95%

Interpretation: “I believe the church is declining under your ministry and it is your fault.”

There are few insults more cowardly than the “people are saying” insult. Another variation is, “The church is growing numerically under your leadership, but people are saying the type of people we are drawing are shallow or odd.”

Sometimes baseball teams lose, not because they have a bad manager, but because they have bad players, or their players have been injured (unfortunate circumstances). The same can be true in a church.

B. “We need to the get the Holy Spirit’s power and passion back in our church.”

Chance of being an insult: 85%.

Interpretation: “You are not a Spirit-filled man or leader. You are leading the church downward because you don’t have the relation to the Holy Spirit that I do.”

A theological agenda or an attitude of superiority is often hidden in such statements.

C. “That church over there is growing leaps and bounds. Why can’t we?”

Chance of being an insult: 50% (might not be directed at the pastor)

This is not always an insult, sometimes simply the expression of frustration the person feels when comparing his church to another.

Negative Interpretation: “You are not in tune with God or are not diligent enough or a strong enough leader; if you were, our church would be growing numerically.”

The belief that bigger is better remains to be proven. By such a standard, Jesus was a major flop as a shepherd (John 6:66).

4. Bolder Insults

A. “Today’s sermon was better.”

Chance of being an insult: 99%

This is very different from saying, “I really enjoyed today’s sermon,” or “Better than usual.” In that case, the baseline might be “good” or at least “fair.” In the quotation above, the baseline is “poor.”

Interpretation: “Hallelujah—finally a decent sermon out of you. It wasn’t great, but better than your usual flop. Your sermons are typically poor.”

B. “I was just teasing. Can’t you take a joke?”

Chance of being an insult: 85%

Interpretation: “I am too cowardly to insult you directly, so I do it indirectly. If you are offended, I can escape responsibility by claiming it as a joke and put you in the hot seat instead of me, accusing you of being a poor sport.”

C. This is a generalized insult not directed toward the pastor (supposedly), but actually is so directed. “America has too many pastors who think they own their churches and won’t share authority.”

Chance of being an insult: 75%

Interpretation: “You are one of them and need to be reined in” (probably spoken from someone who has an agenda and actually needs to be reined in himself).

5. Family insults

These can be directed at the pastor’s wife or the pastor’s children. Nothing nastier than attacking a pastor through his family.

“The pastor’s wife in the church down the block volunteers for our club. She believes in getting out into the community.”

Chance of being an insult: 99%

Interpretation: “Your wife is a loser as a pastor’s wife. We own you and your family.”

6. Praising someone who has hurt the pastor badly

“That person (who hurt you badly) is really a great Christian guy who really cares about this church.”

Chance of being an insult: 50%

Sometimes a comment like this is based upon the misguided belief that talking kindly about someone who hurt you will help you to like him or her. People often fail to realize that this just rubs salt in the wounds.

Negative interpretation: “That guy is right and you are wrong. I’m with him.”

7. Broadcasting disagreement with the pastor

From the platform/microphone,“I know our pastor doesn’t’ believe in (getting emotional, healing prayer, the Holy Spirit, revival, etc.), but I see it this way.”

Chance of being an insult: 90%

Interpretation: “The pastor is defective in his thinking, theology, or practice. I want you all to know it.” There is a 10% chance the person is just incredibly ignorant.

8. Negative Assumption Insults

A. “I thought you might be willing to take on this or that, since you have the time.”

Chance of being an insult: 80%

Interpretation: “Pastors have little to do with lot of free time, unlike ‘we who work for a living.’” No other way to interpret this one. The truth is that most ministers have to switch hats so often and squeeze their schedules for an amazing amount of tasks. Flexibility of schedule, however, is a great benefit. But it doesn’t mean we work fewer hours (we don’t), and it certainly doesn’t mean we have less stress!

The reason I allowed for 20% otherwise is to make room for new believers or people who have never done much with the church.

B. “I know you wanted to get the funeral, but they wanted another minister to do it.”

Chance of being an insult: 50%

I have been insulted many times this way, mostly by people who do not know me and perhaps either are not involved in church nowadays or never were.

Negative Interpretation: “I know you ministers love the money from doing a few minutes work at a funeral.” Or, “I know you are in a competition with other ministers, and you lost this one, buddy.”

Positive Interpretation: “I don’t want you to feel rejected or unappreciated because I know you cared about that person.”

Most ministers have a holy jealousy for their flock, but they do not stand ready to pounce on an opportunity to officiate a funeral to pick up an honorarium, as cynics believe.


In this world of ours, insulting and being insulted is part of life. We all must develop a thick skin, but even thick skins can be pierced and feel pain.We all slip up, but we must heed the Scriptures, which tell us to “show perfect courtesy toward all people” (ESV, Titus 3:2).

Pastors deserve the same courtesies we show to other people, and perhaps a little more: “respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you” (1 Thess. 5:12). The good news is that the overwhelming majority of believers treat their pastors with great compassion and respect. The bad news is that some do not.

Ed Vasicek Bio

Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed earned his BA at Moody Bible Institute. He has served as pastor of Highland Park Church since 1983. Ed and his wife, Marylu, have two adult children. Ed has written many weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and posted many papers at his church website. Ed has also published the The Midrash Key and The Amazing Doctrines of Paul As Midrash: The Jewish Roots and Old Testament Sources for Paul’s Teachings.

1508 reads
15809 reads

There are 36 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture


Thanks, Ed. Good reminder to watch what we say, especially to guys who are in a position where discouragement has a target rich environment. (I think the whole book of 1 Timothy is evidence of that!)

I have heard a few of these myself a couple of times, too. In the case of "you're more of a teacher than a preacher," I chose to take it as a compliment. Smile

There's an overlooked category here though, maybe. Sometimes church goers/members have criticism they believe needs to be delivered but they just don't know how to say it. And it comes out "wrong"... though the right/wrong is often up to the hearer as much as the sayer.

One thing I often comforted myself with when hit with a doosey (intentional or otherwise) is that this is somebody who is at least delivering their criticism to me directly. It's the ones delivering to others behind your back that really do the damage (though some do both)

But it's kind of an interesting question: what's the difference between "insults" and "criticisms," anyway?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron, I had to pare down this article or it would have been a two parter, but to cover it all would require even more  parts.

For example, in the earthly realm, Pastors are generally held accountable to (1) the majority of the ruling board, (2) a majority of the members, or (3) both of the above.  Assistant pastors are generally additionally accountable to the pastor.  This varies.  However, when an individual board member or an individual church member thinks the pastor is accountable to him/her, that creates a problem.

Obviously when someone is offended, he should speak directly to the pastor, as per Jesus' teachings. But we are focusing on matters that are not directly addressed in Scripture and are not moral or doctrinal issues.

A straight-forward criticism, in my opinion, is more honest than passive-aggressive "hinting" criticism.  Still, the criticizer has to determine whether he has the right to criticize.  If an individual prefers topical preaching, (as a hypothetical example), it is not wrong for him/her to express an opinion on an appropriate occasion: "My favorite sermons are the topical ones."

But when that person asserts that the pastor should preach only topical sermons, he is doing several things:  (1) he is potentially messing with the pastor's convictions; the pastor is not a consumer, but came to the church with a certain philosophy of ministry and certain convictions;  (2) he is assuming that everyone feels the same way; he might be surprised to find otherwise; pleasing one person or group often means displeasing another; (3) he is implying he has a right to do this, as though his opinion counted as much as the pastor's and the majority of the ruling board; John Piper, there is a sense in which pastors ARE professionals who have disciplined themselves and been schooled to learn about ministry and develop convictions. All opinions are not equal.

Now if the majority of the board said, "Preach topically," the pastor has a choice; he (1) could  conform if his preaching style is not a matter of conviction, but just a preference, or (2) he could leave the church to pastor another church that is receptive toward his convictions.  But to ask a pastor to do what he does not believe in, that takes a lot of nerve. And to think one's opinion outweighs the combined opinion of the church board may often be a sign of arrogance or a very bad board.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

...of this Babylon Bee "article".    I also wonder how the likelihoods Ed gives would change if we somehow found a way to change the culture of a dagger behind a lot of choir robes, so to speak.  I would guess a certain number of well-meaning people unintentionally deliver a good swift kick to the pastor simply because he's heard that before so many times--again, with that dagger.  Probably including me.

Had a nice time trying the art of teaching this weekend--Phillippians 3:16-21--and was treated to a fair number of blank stares and awkward silences as I explained some of the nuances of the Judiazers to my Sunday School class.  Teaching is harder than it looks, especially when you're trying to involve the people you're talking to.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


How funny - I spent seven hours yesterday doing translation work on that exact same passage!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

I would say great minds think alike, but I wasn't working from the Greek.  :^)  The thing that caught my eye was that Paul was weeping for those enemies of Christ, which brought Romans 9:1-4 to mind for me, and that Paul's more or less saying that he wept for Judiazers as they...made a god of their own belly.  

Stunning to contemplate, especially as most classicists would characterize the Jews as fairly modest in their appetites compared to Greeks and Romans!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture


I never claimed to be working from the Greek competently! I hope nobody issued any of Ed's "remarks" to you.

On a serious note, I am more convinced than ever that every new Seminary student who intends to go into the ministry must be challenged to quit and do something else if he has any doubts about God's will for him to go into the ministry. Quit. Save yourself. Be a normal church member. Don't ever go into the ministry unless you're certain you can do nothing else. You will be attacked. Prepare yourself. Prepare your wife. People are evil. Some people in your church are not Christians. Prepare for battle.

I'm not being hysterical. I'm just "bein' real" about the kind of struggles you'll face in the ministry.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

None of Ed's classic insults, no.  But I would not expect to see them--it is my hunch that what Ed's writing about is not as much theology as it is about power and control.  Since I was in a position of only very nominal authority, I simply ordinarily wouldn't be a target.

I really liked Ed's comment about topical sermons.  I remember one time that I noticed that the youth pastor did an OK job with topical sermons, but his exegetical sermons were just dynamite.  So perhaps foolishly (and I hope not too rudely), I asked him about that, and he was gracious enough to admit that for him, the exegetical model was a lot easier because the text just "unwrapped" itself for him.  And that is, in a nutshell, what I learned yesterday.  The teacher's/preacher's job seems to get exponentially more difficult when your topic requires more thinking out of the hearers.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

I've observed that there are a significant number of pastors who do not take criticism well. They either get defensive or dismissive. Recognizing that, some people have chosen to take the veiled insult route. If someone tosses one of these insults at you, please realize that they may have a point. 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Ed Vasicek's picture

I  disagree with you, Ron: 

If someone tosses one of these insults at you, please realize that they may have a point. 

We have to learn to speak the truth.  Responding to hints encourages the very passive-aggressive behavior I am talking about. It does not need to be reinforced.  Nothing worse than someone making a point in a cowardly, manipulative way, IMO. I would say, "Please don't respond to hints. It encourages more less-than-honest communicaiton."

If you cannot talk to your pastor about what ails you in the appropriate times (not before church) and in an appropriate way (speaking the truth in love), then you have a problem.  You need to obey Scripture. Go to him, talk to him.  If he gets nasty, bring someone with you and talk again.  If it is not worth the effort, then it is not worth bringing up.

William Backus authored the ultimate book on Christian communication, IMO,  entitled, "Telling Each Other the Truth."  A part of our issue under discussion occurs precisely because people steer around doing just that.  I keep a stockpile of that book for counseling.  It is a great read, and I highly recommend it to all SI participants.

The other week, I was preaching on communication, and I stated, "Assume other people are oblivious and cannot connect the dots, especially your spouse."

When someone speaks kindly and honestly to me and at a good time,  I am much more prone to listen.  I cannot say this is true for all, but I can opine that I think that most pastors would respond well to it.  This is especially true if you have been offended.  If you expect him to revamp his ministry to satisfy a new bug in your ear, however, you might need to examine your heart for arrogance.

To those of you in the Philippians twilight zone, I posted Philippians 3:20 this morning on my Facebook!  Don't know what this means!




"The Midrash Detective"

T Howard's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

I've observed that there are a significant number of pastors who do not take criticism well. They either get defensive or dismissive. 

I once made several comments in jest about how my former pastor dressed on Easter (something to the effect of looking like Benny Hinn). Concerned that I had offended him, I went to him and asked him about it. He told me he wasn't offended and found my comments humorous. Fast forward a couple months later, when we were discussing a completely different topic, he told me I was challenging his authority and making him look bad in front of his church members just like when I made my comments about his Easter suits.

Looking back, I did take the joke too far, and, in hindsight, was acting like a jerk.

That being said, if pastors are offended by criticism, they should not become passive-aggressive and act like everything is okay when they are secretly harboring anger or resentment.

Bert Perry's picture

I can understand the disgust Ed feels when people use rather "sneaky" methods of presenting concerns, but at the same time I've also been where Ron is--seeing a lot of people who, having received "the right boot of fellowship' and such, are "once bitten and twice shy."  

If you work with hourly factory workers, you're going to see it a lot--the hierarchy is perceived as "know it alls" and hence people find other ways.  It forms a "hidden factory" that does a lot to keep quality engineers employed.  The smart ones find the "smoke shack", listen but don't promise much, and then figure out how to get something done according to what they've heard.  Rarely did the hourly guys steer me wrong--I might have to rephrase to make their concerns understood, but they generally drew a picture I could work from.

(and yes, sometimes the literal smoke shack--never smoked, never will, but that's where they let their guard down, at least among non-managers)

So what the "once bitten and twice shy" parishioner is telling you is two things.  First of all, they have a preference of X or Y in ministry.  It may or may not be a dig, as Ed's estimates of likelihood show.  They are also telling their pastor that they either have not learned, or have learned to ignore (that once bitten/twice shy thing), Biblical wisdom on conflict resolution.  

In other words, they are giving their pastor two great avenues for spiritual growth, not just one.  Ain't easy, and rhino hide's a great idea.  But when life serves you lemons....

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

First off, I have any number of mystical ideas why Ed, Tyler, and I all went to Phillipians 3....which in the interest of avoiding heresy, I'll just shut up about right now.  :^)

Seriously, one thought that comes to me is that in my interaction here, I've met (online at least) a bunch of people who are in the "once bitten twice shy" category.  I'll fess up to it for myself.  Or....given that we all have our that even a category that means much?  I'm not sure.


Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

By the end of 15 years of the pastorate, my hide was so thick nothing bothered me

At my last church, we had a major financial crisis related to Bearer bonds (these instruments are now illegal). We had $ 75,000 of bonds that were outstanding and were not known to our treasurer at the time. I can say that they never were reported on a balance sheet as debt the entire time I was there nor in any annual report that preceded my arrival (that I had access to). Surprise! They came due! Had to be paid! Guess who didn't get paid! 

My wife went back to work while I was unpaid (and her salary was half of what mine had been!)

After 2 years of no pay I myself went back to work while still pastoring

Every church bill was paid. We did not decrease any missions giving. Every bond was paid off. 

The year before I left there was a select committee on church strategy in our church. Neither I nor my assistant were members. It was to be independent.

I was interviewed by this committee and they asked me why my wife went back to work. They were completely oblivious as to the events. 

Trust me ... thick hide!

I left a church debt free (as I did my previous church). Unfortunately I did not leave myself being debt free. That would come later.


Probably most S/I readers (because of your youth) are unware of the abuse of bearer bonds. They were commonly issued to finance church construction. More on them here and here. Having a degree in fiance was a big help to me

Ron Bean's picture

There are people who "feel" that they can't talk to the pastor. (I've heard that a lot.)

There are people who are terrible and/or tactless in their attempts to communicate.

There are people who prefer to speak in fluent sarcasm.

And there are pastors who will not tolerate criticism. They will burn members who may have a legitimate criticism and those members will carry the scars to their next church.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Ed Vasicek's picture

People have long avoided speaking truthfully, and our culture and every culture rewards this.  Sadly, pastors, laymen, lost people, famous people and the man on the street are all conditioned to lie in varying degrees.  And we are usually unaware of how much we lie.

Pastors can be as bad or worse; some are.  Some pastors and churches put a high premium upon pretending: pretending to always be joyful, always be spiritual, never losing their temper, worrying, or a host of other vices, real or imagined.

My article is just about one form of that -- passive aggressive insults, insults that masquerade as something else.

But we don't have to propagate the problem.  Well, that's not really true, either.  It might be better to say that we don't have to propagate the problem as much as we do.  Direct communication that is both kind but true is what we need (Proverbs 3:3-4).  We all have an instinct to lie when we are insulted, for example, saying we were not.  Why do we lie? Pride.  We want to think we are above feeling insulted.  It takes great humility to admit that, yes, it did hurt (or irritate) us.  We also say we forgive when we have not.  Instead of saying, "I will forgive you, but I am not there yet," we don't want to appear ungracious, so we say, "I forgave you then" when this is simply not true. Until we learn to talk honestly to ourselves and then to others, innuendos, hints, implications, and question marks will continue to dot our conversation.

I don't think we can attain to full truthfulness in this life, but we can make great strides.  Many of you can testify of that reality.  We need to help one another learn to speak the truth.  The best of us and the worst of us do not always do so.  And often we are not conscious of the problem; we think we are being kind when we are really being dishonest.

Ron Bean said:

And there are pastors who will not tolerate criticism. They will burn members who may have a legitimate criticism and those members will carry the scars to their next church.

That is true. I have known of situations where that has happened.

The liklihoood of this, however,  depends upon the group you hang out with.  Certain types of churches do draw and propagate ultra-authoritarian pastors, as was the case a couple of decades ago with the Sword of the Lord bunch and seen in the personality cult churches today. Some view haughtiness as a virtue. Sadly, some people are drawn to a church precisely because of an authoritarian pastor.  Many laymen believe the "higher level of humanity" myth and seek pastors who are self-assured and have easy answers to all of life's problems.

These harsh pastors, however, thrive in environments where that quality is appreciated.  "The weak enslave themselves," Lord Acton said.

So Ron, your point is well taken.


"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jim Peet, your account is amazing.  I could say much about it, obviously (Am I ever at a loss for words? No.  I was vaccinated with a phonograph needle).  Suffice it to say that so many people do not investigate the history of what has happened in the past before they make decisions.  This results in our churches reinventing the wheel time and time again.  The assumption that previous generations were foolish and did the things they did for no reason is hard to overcome.

First, investigate the past rationale for what has been done and familiarize yourself with all the parties involved who will be affected by your decisions. THEN legislate!

Jim Peet, you are a man I greatly respect, even more so after hearing about your story.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture


There's a temptation on a topic like this to think there are two sides: a "pro-pastor" side and an "anti-pastor" side. But a good fact to keep us anchored is simply this:

Congretations = human. Pastors = human.

... and all that that implies.

So I wish I could say that in my experience pastors are more often unfairly criticized than fairly criticized. But I can't say that. I also can't say pastors are more often improperly sensitive. Pretty sure both pastors and church members tend to stumble in these ways about as much as all humans do.

I'm not being hysterical. I'm just "bein' real" about the kind of struggles you'll face in the ministry.

This was not my experience. Fear of that kept me out of pastoral ministry for several years, but it eventually seemed wrong to stay out for that reason. In 13 years of full time pastoral ministry, did I get a few jabs. Sure. I've gotten twice as many in my non-pastoral roles!

So I just want to say to young would-be pastors, yes, it can be rough "out there." But it isn't always like that. I am not in pastoral ministry now, but it is certainly not because church members treated me badly. I was continually amazed at how little of that I experienced. I expected far worse.

Is that exceptional? I don't really know. It would be a great D.Min. study for someone to do primary research on--and try to get enough data to do some kind of control for "pastor's fault" factors.

As for hints and indirect criticisms in general: My rule is usually if you don't say it to me plainly it just doesn't count. It didn't happen. I just don't try to parse ambiguous statements for criticisms. It's not because of some noble wisdom on my part--I just have poor conversational inference skills. So I try to let folks know that if they aren't saying it to me outright, they should assume I have no idea. :-)  (Some are so wired for subtext they simply refuse to believe me. But it's true.)

Similarly, if I'm not saying it to them outright--it's very unlikely that I'm trying to imply something. I'm just pretty much a fish out of water if I get involved in the whole realm of conversational subtext.

(This should not be confused with lack of tact and courtesy, which I'm sure I'm sometimes guilty of. Tact and courtesy are about respect and gentleness. Subtext and implication are something else. But they can sound very similar on the receiving end, I think.)

TylerR's picture


I wrote earlier:

I'm not being hysterical. I'm just "bein' real" about the kind of struggles you'll face in the ministry.

Then Aaron wrote:

This was not my experience. Fear of that kept me out of pastoral ministry for several years, but it eventually seemed wrong to stay out for that reason. In 13 years of full time pastoral ministry, did I get a few jabs. Sure. I've gotten twice as many in my non-pastoral roles!

You were very fortunate. Or I was very unfortunate. I'm not sure which! My experience is that my secular co-workers at my new job are much nicer than many of the people from the church I left. 

I'll add this caveat - I did not write my warnings out of bitterness. I think men really need to be sure of what they're getting into. Ministry is a blessing, but it can also destroy you, depending on what your church is like. Men should know that. Wives should know that. 

My wife was nearly destroyed by the wickedness and evil at our former church. I've sworn to her I'll never make her be a "Pastor's wife" again. We've agreed to stay in ministry, but find another route than traditional Pastoral ministry. Thus, we're planning on returning to the Navy on active-duty so I can be a Chaplain in a few years. 

For anybody who reads this and wants to go into the ministry - be sure can't do anything else. It is a great blessing to teach, preach and shepherd God's people. But, know this - people will hate you. Church members will hate you. People will slander you. They will hate your wife. They will hate your children. They will gossip about you. They will attack you. Some will attempt to destroy you. The Apostle John's warnings (1 Jn 2:19) will become very real. You might not see much of this. But, you might see a whole lot of it. 

My warnings of doom are over. Here is a picture of a kitten to brighten the mood. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Tyler, I'm so sorry you had such a terrible experience.  I'm afraid the cause of Christ has lost a much needed good man for the essential role of pastor.  I could well imagine your experience being mine in some of the churches I candidated in my early years, but God kindly spared me and led me to greener pastures.  Against my initial inclination, God led me to plant a new church with a small group of people coming out of a nasty church split.  I was young, and they were hurting.  We grew together.  I could tell my share of war stories, but in the main, it has been a gratifying experience.  I learned to hunker down and keep preaching the Word whenever opposition surfaced, and God always brought us through.  Yes, like Jim Peet, I have developed rather thick skin, and sometimes wish it were not so thick, but God used that to enable me to survive and persevere.

To young aspiring pastors, please don't run away because of horror stories.  God doesn't promise us an easy path, but He promises to sustain us and work all events for our good.  Pastoring is a difficult role, but I can think of nothing I would rather do, and now, after forty-three years at the same church, I am blessed and content beyond all measure.

G. N. Barkman

Ed Vasicek's picture

Guys, I think the truth is that our experiences vary, even though we have had much in common.

Mine has not  been as negative as Tyler's or Jim's, and I don't know what happened to Aaron that he got off so easy!  I have gone through many eras barely hanging in there, but not like the situations those guys faced.

One of my opening points about insults (and insults are discouraging but certainly not the worst things we pastors may go through) is that it is the "ungracious 10%."  All it takes to make bad trouble and make a pastor's life (or his wife's life) miserable is one nasty person and lay leadership that will not crack down on that person. Sometimes it is one or two families.  I have read that it is usually about 4 people that drive a pastor out of a church.  Of course, this could not happen if the other members rose up against those four.  And, in some cases, they do, PTL!

Just as hypocrites in the church seem so out of place, so do the nasty things that people do to pastors and their families.  There are many nasty people in our world, they just seem out of place in the kingdom. But, in both cases, that is a reality we have to face and accept. But again, we need to remember, they are the few, not the many.

"The Midrash Detective"

TylerR's picture


Bro. Barkman wrote:

To young aspiring pastors, please don't run away because of horror stories.  God doesn't promise us an easy path, but He promises to sustain us and work all events for our good. 

I do agree with this statement with all my heart! I shall now leave the conversation so it can return to happier things . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ron Bean's picture

I have had experiences similar to Tyler's. After three bad church experiences, I was still looking for a place to pastor while my wife, who understood the situation better than I, was willing to follow me but praying for God to close doors and open my eyes.

At my lowest point I essentially gave up, donated my extensive theological library to a seminary, and decided to just "find a church and sit in a pew" and take a secular job.

God led us to a church that was healthy and allowed us to heal. He then directed us to a young church plant where some of the members had grown up in strife-filled churches and were determined to "do church better". I'm now an elder in that church and working in a secular job where I'm treated better than I ever was in ministry.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Mark_Smith's picture

To desire the office of a bishop is an honorable thing. Thank you for desiring to serve the body of Christ.

Mark_Smith's picture

If you find yourself in a church and for whatever reason you don't like the pastor or can't get along with him. LEAVE rather than running him and his family over... 

Joel Tetreau's picture

It's not even funny anymore. I used to I groan.......So everytime we at IBL (Institute of Biblical Leadership) help a ministry assess strengths and weaknesses.....almost always someone mentions that we struggle with communication. So I'm always kind but I want to say something like, "get in line Nimrod!" ......everybody struggles with communication." It's not that it doesn't need to be worked on but the bad news is it will never perfectly be fixed!......NEVER. I often stop the group and say "in my experience the major problem of communication is not that we don't say what's going's that people don't care to listen.....or pay attention" and then when something comes up on them at the last minute they accuse others for not communicating.....when really their problem was they were to busy gossiping (or sharing) with their neighbor when Pastor Stan made that announcement 4 weeks ago! Oh brother! A quick story.....In one setting an offer was made to the person complaining about the failure of communication - the offer was to make the guy complaining that the ministry would make him the "Czar of communication" in that ministry. He declined the offer.....he was too busy to help.....not to busy to complain! So the thing I often say is "every ministry struggles with communication." Let's think of two or three ways we can improve our communication. If the team we are working with has the time......we appoint a leader who will be accountable to implement the change by a given date. Then we move the real unique challenges of that ministry. 

Oh great post Ed.....I laughed all the way through the article - you are right on the money! I've seen and heard every one of your examples.....only after 25 years of pastoral ministry. 

Straight Ahead! 


Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (; Regional Coordinator for IBL West (, Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Bert Perry's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

If you find yourself in a church and for whatever reason you don't like the pastor or can't get along with him. LEAVE rather than running him and his family over... 

This is absolutely true, but it strikes me as a dilemma that can be avoided if only people will (per Ed) learn to handle conflict Biblically.  In other words, what are the reasons that the pastor and certain parishioners cannot get along?  Sometimes it is a matter of doctrine, but quite often, it's really an issue of handling issues in a Biblical manner.   I've seen issues blow up simply because one side simply doesn't understand what the other side is saying.  In other cases, it's because a legitimate concern gets obscured in some fairly inflammatory language.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

In reading the comments above, I've wondered to myself if being a bi-vocational pastor would make a difference in the quantity and type of criticism one received or in how one received/responded to the criticism.  For example, if my income is not dependent on the church, would I be more likely to let criticism roll off my back or more likely to confront trouble makers, etc.?

TylerR's picture


Yes, I believe it would make a substantial difference. This is one reason why I now believe a bi-vocational, dual elder scenario may be a much better option for some smaller (and bigger?) churches.  

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert said, "what are the reasons that the pastor and certain parishioners cannot get along?"

That is a good starting point, especially if all involved are reasonable and of moderate personality.  But often we are not in the realm of logic; what is presented is not always the real problem. Some people are convinced that logic is on their side, and any disagreement with them is a disagreement with logic.

There are also some people (but, again, a small percentage) who have personal problems that make reconciliation difficult or impossible. We are all damaged people, yet some people are more extreme than others in their personal defects, obsessions, or intense self-focus. Troubled people can easily trouble others, and the saying is also frequently true: "hurt people hurt people."

We do it to others, they do it to us; it is a matter of degree, frequency, and intensity.


"The Midrash Detective"


Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.