November 26, 2020

Billy Gillispie and Your Pastor: What do they have in common? (Part 1 of 2)

The commonwealth of Kentucky where I reside is currently completely captivated by the drama surrounding the firing of University of Kentucky Men’s basketball coach Billy Gillispie. Gillispie had only been at UK for two years. Both years featured lackluster performances in comparison to fan expectation, but Gillispie was just starting to recruit his own players. It’s odd- very, very odd- to see a coach dismissed after two years, but we’re talking about a state where University of Kentucky men’s basketball is the official religion of 90% of the population.

Gillispie’s firing followed one of the strangest and most dramatic paths of the demise of any coach of a major sports program. Gillispie was hired because of his single-minded focus on basketball. He was fired, apparently, because of his single-minded focus on basketball.

The mystery resides in that part of Gillispie’s job description labeled “being an ambassador for Kentucky basketball.” As former Coach Joe B. Hall, the successor to the legendary Adolph Rupp, said, the job of being the UK coach involves being custodian of the entire legacy and meaning of basketball in the state. It’s a job that happens at the practice court, in recruiting and on the floor, but it also happens in visiting high school games, signing balls, going to hospitals, speaking at Rotary, having dinner with boosters, participating in charity, getting along with the press and carrying yourself with the awareness that the program is basketball royalty.

Signals are that Gillispie did not sufficiently excel at this aspect of the job. (Gillispie himself disagrees.) He initially canceled a speech with the Lexington Rotary Club, a tradition for many years. He had running arguments with reporters. Rumors were constantly floating about behavior in public. Gillispie made some decisions about the program that didn’t set well with the parents of some players. When he lost games that sent the UK faithful into cardiac arrest, he seemed too accepting. Clearly nervous and uneasy with the public aspects of the game, Gillispie eventually made public statements that he was not hired to be a celebrity or to do the non-coaching aspects of the game.

Local reporters, who often know more than they can write, had been after Gillispie’s ouster for weeks and they left no doubt that it was the non-coaching aspects of the game- as well as some on court decisions- that made Gillispie a “bad fit.” One reporter, looking fondly back to the Rick Pitino era, reminded the public that Pitino had opened a restaurant and written a book. I thought at the time, that if Gillispie has said in his first news conference that he wanted to open a restaurant and write a book, it would have been a bad start.

Now….what am I doing writing about this? Well, you obviously haven’t pastored a church lately.

Gillispie was encountering something many pastors know about rather well. The church hires you with a list of tasks in their hands: preach, evangelize, grow the church, administer the programs, increase missions giving and involvement, supervise staff, go to the hospitals, be available for funerals.

Three or four years later, you’re out for reasons as follows (former pastors: prepare for deja vu.)

-You didn’t visit someone’s distant relative who was not only not a member or prospect, but was hospitalized two hours away.
-You were always at the church.
-You studied too much.
-You didn’t spend enough time hanging out at members’ homes, drinking tea and talking.
-You spent too much time at your home.
-You didn’t recognize Mrs. Smith for her large donation to the nursery fund.
-Your children weren’t in every program the church put on.
-Your wife occasionally missed services.
-Your wife had a job. (Apparently the salary we’re paying you isn’t enough.)
-You bought a new car that was too expensive.
-You bought a used car that was too shabby.
-You didn’t come to very many high school football games.
-You canceled the monthly gospel sing at the church.
-The Clark girl got pregnant. When was the last time you preached against premarital sex?
-Your wife didn’t have a Christmas reception for the ladies of the church like the previous pastor’s wife always did.
-We don’t like the worship guy.
-You moved the American flag out of the sanctuary.
-You didn’t wear a suit and tie during the week.
-You were seen at a restaurant that served alcohol. (By a member who was eating there. This really happened to me.)
-You played drums in some kind of rock band.
-Your last sermon seemed to be talking about our congregation.
-I don’t see why you keep telling us we need to fund missionaries in Africa when we’ve got people right next door who don’t go to church.
-I wish you’d stop telling us to bother our neighbors about where they go to church. That’s their business.
-You said some critical things about having a full worship service on Sunday nights.
-You don’t go to the hospitals every day.
-The picture of you and your wife on the web site looks too romantic.
-You’re always trying to start something new. What’s wrong with what we have?
-You don’t smile enough. (No people, I’m not bitter.)
-You don’t ask Kathy Brown to sing very often.
-You ask Kathy Brown to sing all the time.
-If you don’t preach on money this place is going bankrupt.
-All you ever preach about is money.
-Your children dress like everyone else’s kids.
-You are eating out almost every day. Where are you getting that money?
-You didn’t speak to Mr. Samuels. Well, you spoke, but you didn’t seem friendly. Yes, you asked about his gout, but there was just something wrong with the way you said it.
-You pay too much attention to visitors and new members.

I better stop or I’m going to need to make a call to my counselor.

Coach Gillispie is working in a state where this sort of thing has been happening to pastors for a very long time. The spoken and the unspoken are both very real. No matter how well you do at the task you agreed to do, there are always aspects of the ministry that are unspoken. After a while you may be able to write them down, but by then it’s usually too late. If you find yourself preaching against them as if they are real, you’re really asking for it.

Is it fair to ask a pastor to read the minds of a congregation? Is it fair to find a minister unacceptable for a list of things that appear on no list anyone’s ever written or read?

How much should the unspoken expectations of ministry play a role in the success or failure of a ministry?

I sympathize with coach Gillispie. My pastoral experience was much the same as his coaching tenure. (I did escape without being fired. A minor miracle.) I was focused, loyal and worked hard at what was important. But I’ve never been much on unspoken expectations. I recognize their reality and importance, but I feel like I’m being manipulated. I don’t want to be judged on what I never agreed to do or consider important. I didn’t believe everything was the congregation’s business. I didn’t try to pretend that what was not the job was the job. I was prepared to disagree with my people, which was definitely poking the hornet’s nest with a stick.

But this is what it’s like in ministry. There’s no denying it. I’m sure more than a few readers have experienced the reality of unspoken expectations, and some may have lost their jobs because of them.

Billy Clyde…..I’m right there with you, man. Right there.

In part 2, I want to look at the interesting response of many evangelicals to the changing view of the pastorate.


  1. I feel for pastors who have so many expectations placed upon them. It’s unfair to them. I just don’t see in scripture where a pastor’s role is to experience so much burden and pressure. The list that you provide iMonk is sad to me. Too many responsibilities for one part of the body of Christ to deal with.

    My prayer is that pastors would be set free of what seems to be a man made position and that the church would see the body of Christ as Paul described to the Corinthians.


  2. Given the general apathy in the church, it’s hard to empathize with much of this. Pastors often burn out and are forced out because they’re frantic people pleasers who lack faith in Jesus to such extent that they pour all their energies into keeping their job rather than allowing the power of Gospel to work through their lives. Rather than just trusting that the God behind the Gospel will move hearts and provide for their daily needs, they people please. And this ironically is a blueprint for disaster because you simply cannot please hearts that are spiritually dead. We need Gospel saturated leaders. I know you agree with that Michael, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on your analogy here.

  3. I suppose the people pleasing pastor is another topic, but I haven’t seen much of that in the small church. I’ve seen a lot- a LOT- of this.

  4. I agree, and here’s my theory why it happens: because American churches feel there is a smorgasbord of available pastors, ready to take over the helm. Over here in Western Europe, where the congregations are tiny in most every flavor of Christianity and no one, not even the Catholics, is flocking to the pastorate/priesthood, it seems churches are way, way less picky.

    Yes, they may think or feel some of the above, but if they really ousted a pastor over any of those trivial things, they’d have no one at all, maybe for years, sometimes until the church folded. When you don’t have the benefit of choice, you weigh your options and carefully consider what is important. And I do believe if there were a sea change over here that brought a glut of pastors clamoring to get a job, the attitudes would be closer to what you described.

  5. just bill says

    A former pastor in my childhood church was fired because he took a part time job and bought a used car. Seriously.

  6. I intrugued by the contrast in Atone’s response. The church is apathetic, but it’s the pastor’s fault he’s having to work so hard? What’s wrong with this picture?

    I studied for the ministry for 2 years, but decided I wasn’t interested in being both chief cook and bottle washer. But realistically that’s what all too many pastors are.

    And because we put so much emphasis on all ministry coming from the pros (i.e. paid staff, that is, the pastor) the church is badly crippled. If we put less emphasis on the pastor, and more on congregational participation, we’d have stronger churches that weren’t being carried on the back of only one man.

    I’ve recently realized that the size of a given congregation is strictly dependent on the energy and skills of one man. And that’s not how the church is supposed to be structured.

  7. Richard Hershberger says

    To C. Holland, I think there is something to what you say. But there is also a strong cultural element. In my tradition (Lutheran, ELCA) the sort of firings described here are rare. I have never belonged to a congregation where it happened, and I don’t hear many stories about this sort of thing. We don’t have a clergy shortage, so that isn’t the explanation. It simply isn’t part of our culture.

    It helps that it is part of our culture that pastors don’t stay in one place forever. Five years is about right. More than ten and you will likely have problems, if only for the next guy. (The hardest call to fill successfully is to follow a beloved outgoing pastor who was there for decades. The new guy will not be the old guy, and therefore people will be unhappy with him. What few firing stories I do hear tend to be of this sort.) So if you don’t like the car your pastor drives, it won’t be there forever.

  8. Geez,

    Bad memories. I don’t even want to go into all the riciculous reasons I’ve heard of pastors being fired, or pastors families being ruined b/c the pastor was trying to please the church and neglected his own home, or just how stupid baptist churches can be about this. And stupid is the kindest word I could use.


  9. The church is apathetic, but it’s the pastor’s fault he’s having to work so hard? What’s wrong with this picture?

    JtM, everything. No doubt, it’s a full body problem. But the pastor should know what he’s getting into, and rather than just casting the congregation under the bus, there needs to be more ownership as to who the bus driver is. Dead churches will only be revitalized with Gospel saturation, but if the head of that church is more worried about losing his job, there can no hope that he is saturated with the Gospel. Are there churches that toss godly men out on their ear? Sure. But how often do you hear of a pastor leaving in a circumstance like that with smile on his face knowing that he preached the Gospel faithfully and that God has other work waiting for him around the corner? It’s pretty rare.

  10. Being a preacher’s kid, I thoroughly empathized with the article.
    Being a displaced Okie, I thought the comment about KY basketball being the faith of 90% of the state population was frighteningly accurate.
    You people scare me.

  11. Scott Eaton says

    For all the talk of abusive pastors these days, rarely do I hear anyone talk about abusive congregations. But they are there – in droves.

    Thank you for writing about this, Michael.

  12. [mod edit].

    Michael, is what you described even a church in the biblical sense? Shouldn’t our focus be on being a disciple of Christ? What does any of that have to do with being a disciple of Christ?

  13. I was criticized for being too controlling, so I backed off on a couple of issues, then was criticized for not being on top of things. Frustrating. Having said that, being a pastor is the greatest job in the world, wouldn’t think of doing anything else.

  14. Ky Boy but not now says

    Everyone here who’s doesn’t get how this works in a congregation where majority rules on every subject needs to read iMonk’s posting on SBC local church business meetings.

    This type of thing is also why more and more new churches and some old ones are setting themselves up to be elder led. But this can have its own set of problems as I’ve discovered recently.

    As to the Ky coach, well I agree there are some similar issues but I personally feel Gillispie should have known what he was getting into. It’s not like coaching Ky was a “unknown” job. And now that they are debating how much of the $6 million he feels he’s owed in severance, well there are more than a few differences between coaching big time D1 ball and pastoring a non-mega church.

    But back to the main point. Many pastors are pilloried for not being the perfect image of a pastor to every member. I personally feel it’s a sign of a church that will be soon or already is dieing.

  15. I think we place pastors on a pedistal so high that it’s too hard for anybody to reach. That’s why there are so few who are willing to become pastors. The expectations are far too high. The list you give only scratches the surface.. But..

    At the same time, I see way too often that pastors demand that much and more, and aren’t willing to let others do anything. They need to micromanage everything. Many of them have made their own bed.

    People need to learn to do kingdom things for themselves. Pastors are too busy doing it for them that they don’t have time to do the necessary things. Pastors are simply members of the body just like the rest of us, except that their functions are a little more specific and specialized.

    A simple shepherding of the sheep is fine for me, while leaving everything else to everybody else.

  16. -You were seen at a restaurant that served alcohol. (By a member who was eating there. This really happened to me.)

    What the…how could this be construed as anything even remotely scandalous? Maybe the local watering hole, I could *possibly* understand, but it’s not like you were at one of the local nightclubs mixing it up with the college kids from the Girls Gone Wild crowd.

    The picture of you and your wife on the web site looks too romantic.

    How on earth could this possibly be a black mark against a pastor? If anything this would be the perfect symbol for the sort of stereotypical image of marriage that many Culture Warring Christians seem to flock to in their defence.

    I used to think that I can sympathize with Culture War/Legalistic Christians who love to rant and rail about this kind of thing, and could understand a lot of the things they do or say and why, but the logic of this totally escapes me.

  17. Been there. Done that. Didn’t even get the lousy T shirt or coffee mug. Thankfully I wised up and don’t have to be abused any more. And me and God are okay with that.

  18. I thank my Lord that He didn’t move me into the pulpit until I was 50. I told the church I am pastoring that I am not going to be the janitor, plumber, electrician, grounds keeper, etc. However, I told them I will do my part when my month to clean, etc, comes up. I warned them ahead of time that they WOULD see my pickup at the one and only local bar. I also told them that if they have a great idea for a program that God probably had them in mind to start it, not me. I told them a few more things, and I’ll be darned, they took me on, and that was eleven years ago. My turn to clean the toilets in August.

    However, I believe that if I had been a young 20 something right out of Bible college I would not have told them what I wouldn’t do, and just done what they told me to do. I would have become another casualty of a dominating congregation.

    50 is a good time to become a pastor. I do not push people around, but I don’t let them push me around, either.

  19. Two observations.

    One, I have a deep respect for full time pastors. Sure us bi-voc guys have some headaches, but I think it takes tremendous faith to be a good full time pastor. As a baptist pastor you are never more than one business meeting away from being homeless and out of a job.

    Being bi-voc gives a lot more assuarance. But honestly, I’m not sure the job can be done right bi-vocabtionaly, but I try.


    I have to crazy stories.

    a) i wanted to take my new pastor out to eat, he was young like my wife and I and he and his wife had no children, i offered to take him to some place like Chili’s (big spender me) he said no, they had a bar, then he said Red Lobster was okay b/c the bar was off to the side and not in the middle of the restraunt, you get a lot of that around here

    b) a good friend of mine years before he I knew him, had just had an autistic child, his wife fell into severe post partum sp? tried to kill her self by setting fire to their house and said she was doing it b/c she was struggling with Lesbian feelings, the next day the deacons were at this man’s house, not offering help or kindness, but telling him he needed to resign and leave immidietely,this was a good man, his wife had serious mental health issues, and he had a severly autistic infant

    I hope non-Christians don’t read this blog

    this stuff happens all the time

  20. There exists a pervasive evil that spans many generations, and nestles deep in the hearts of the seemingly most innocent congregations.

    I was young, and fresh out of seminary, when I accepted a call to a century-old congregational church in a small, rural town. The numbers were small, and the members aged, but they were scrappers wanting to give it one last “go.”

    It wasn’t until my second year, in preparation for their anniversary, that I began to investigate their history. I discovered that in their over 100 year existence they had called some 60 or so pastors. The average pastorate lasted 2.5 years, with the longest lasting only 7. It wasn’t long after my mention of this discovery during a council meeting that the clock began ticking for me. Wild accusations were made about financial mishandlings (I could not touch the coffers even if I wanted to), a sexual predator was put in leadership, a few of the more active “church ladies” walked out only to influence other members from behind the scenes. Much of Michael’s list played out for the next year. I remained faithful, all the while my gravestone was being chiseled.

    I was being destroyed. Every Sunday morning was a battle to walk through the doors and into the pulpit. It was wrecking my relationship with my newly married wife (it was the only topic of conversation for that year), it was wrecking my ability to minister in the community (community members knew of the church’s past and did not trust them), it was wrecking my relationship with God (hopelessness is a bottomless pit). It wasn’t so much a fight to save my job, as it seemed a fight for my very soul.

    God thankfully released me from my call and I left before the axe fell. I lasted nearly 3.5 years, and even in the final months there was kingdom growth. It has been 7 months, and they have already called and dismissed the next poor soul. And there is no one left to pastor, I pray. No good can come from a church such as this. Are there faithful Christians in the mix? Absolutely, and my heart breaks for them. Is there a need for a strong gospel-witnessing church in the community? Absolutely, and this church stands in the way.

    I’m 32 and wondering, if given another chance at pastoral ministry, would I, should I, get back in the game? The Devil is very real, and he sits in our pews every Sunday.

  21. ProdigalSarah says

    My mother was visiting church members some years ago. She visited one woman who hadn’t been to church in a couple of years. The woman’s reason? Last time she was there and the pastor was shaking hands after the service, he didn’t smile at her husband.

  22. There really aren’t any comedy writers in the world who could come close to covering what pastors of churches deal with. (And I know some pastors are a mess. No denying that.)

    J. Jenson’s pastoral turnover figures are the extreme of a phenomenon that every director of missions in the SBC knows all about: churches that eat up and spit out pastors like a machine.

    And the stated reasons are either trivial or incredible.

  23. this really hits a nerve. i’m a pastor’s kid and i’ve seen how destructive “unspoken expectations” can be to a pastor. my father replaced a kind of celebrity pastor as i liked to call it. and their styles were very very different. and that caused a lot of tension with the leaders he was serving with and i sensed the stressful atmosphere in the church. but amazingly, i saw in my father a kind of peace that really is beyond comprehension. always thought that it was bec he was confident in his skills and firm in his beliefs. but it was more than that. he was under the grace and power of God. no controversy derailed his ministry or caused him to leave bec God called Him to be there. it was not bec of him or what he did but it was the Lord who was indeed moving in that ministry at that time. the problem is very complicated. there is the issue of the pastor being “fit” for the congregation, the leaders should also realize that a pastor is not a personal spiritual trainer not unlike a personal chef. all of these things, i believe, are borne out of “unspoken expectations”. but as christians, we should be transparent with each other and seek out to talk about such openly with the people concerned. and the heart of this is, i think, prayer. sincerely asking the Lord’s will on the pastor’s calling to the particular church. and once confirmed by the congregation and the leaders, the responsibility to see it through, no matter what. thanks..

  24. J. Jensen,
    I don’t know who said it, but the quote that hit me a while back after I almost got burned out of the ministry in a bad experience was, “if you can do anything besides preach you need to do it.” I found I could work plenty of other jobs, but God had called me to ministry and I couldn’t do anything else. It is what Jeremiah said, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in;indeed,I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)

  25. monk,
    I might be throwing rocks at a hornet’s nest here, but do you think that it is because we are guys that these “unwritten” expectations jump up to bite us?

    I mean, my wife is awesome and I love her, but she has “unwritten” rules that she expects me to figure out, and it is a little frustrating at times. For instance she wants something done, but wants me to see that it needs doing without her having to tell me. She doesn’t want to tell me what to get her for her birthday, she wants me to study her and get her something that I come up with. Every Christian marriage counseling book that we read before we were married talked about studying your wife and getting your “Ph.D.” in what your wife needs and wants. There is something that blesses our wives when we do this, but it is somewhat frustrating to me.

    I personally would prefer for her just to tell me straight up what she wants so that I can either do it, or not. I don’t like the mind-reading. I don’t think many guys do. This is one reason why the military always seemed like a great career choice. They give you orders and you follow them.

    I think women are better at this than guys are. It’s almost as if my wife expects unwritten rules in society and she prepares for them and is on the look out for them. I, on the other hand, plunge through life taking things at face value and believing my wife when she says she is “fine”.

    I know the husband/wife dynamic is different than the Pastor/church relationship. But the stakes are high in both cases if we do not understand what is going on in the realm of the “unwritten”.

  26. From what I heard about the Gillispie situation (this is coming from people down in Atlanta who do not have the benefit of local knowledge so it may be off), the problem was that his coaching style was to have one star player as the go-to guy and everybody else run the system. This worked at Texas A&M but not at Kentucky, where everybody had the talent to be the star and everybody wanted to be the star.

    As one who currently inhabits the megachurch world, I see very little if any of what you describe here in my church. Of course we have a totally different set of problems as well.

  27. Ky Boy but not now says

    So which is worse?

    A pastor hired then told all the “extras” he must to or be run out of town on a rail, with a tar and feather chaser?

    Or people come forward to join a church, attend a new members class, then over the next months and years find out all the “B” issues they must believe or their salvation be in question?

    I think it’s a tie between two evils.

  28. The list made me laugh. We like that our pastor’s wife works–means we don’t have to pay as much for insurance.

    The deal with Gillespie reminded me of something, but it took a few moments to remember: a fighter pilot in the German Air Force who was working at the schoolhouse in Wichita Falls. His job description included being an ambassador, of sorts, to the American Air Force. He was sent back home, though, because he spent too much time with us Yanks and not enough going to official German functions. He (and his wife and four kids) would have rather stayed in the States, but he was just counting years until retirement when he could move to the Caribbean and be a diving instructor.

  29. Despite my denomination’s faults, one thing they are not afraid to do is let a congregation languish for years without a pastor if they earn a reputation as a congregation that destroys or runs out pastors. A friend of mine received a call to one such church, and after he resigned his call over the same crap that is on Michael’s list,the Denominational officials put the word out, and no one will accept the congregation’s call. This church has since dwindled down to a handful of individuals, and will eventually have to sell the property and disband or join another congregation.

  30. Cey,

    About the unwritten expectations. I don’t think that it is necessarily male/female, but organizational style.

    At my current job, I replaced a woman who had been working for the company 36 years. I’m in my 3rd year here, and I am STILL running into unwritten, tribal knowledge stuff.

    I don’t know if I will be hit by a delivery truck today or not. but I would like to leave the position, so if that happens, there is only minor disruption.

  31. Fishon:

    I really like your style and I agree with you that with age comes wisdom. It is so good that you laid out what they were getting if and when they hired you. That way, there is no misunderstanding. I, for one, like this no-nonsense approach.

  32. ProdigalSarah says

    On the other hand, there are some that just aren’t very good preachers.

    When my grandmother died, I lived the closest so it fell to me to make all the arrangements. This was back during my agnostic days and I didn’t know any preachers. My mother said we should call the one she knew IF we didn’t have any other choice. As she put it, “He’s not a very good preacher.”

    So imagine, barely any sleep for several nights while getting my house ready for the huge family gathering after the funeral. Up late cooking and then back to it before five. By the time we left for the funeral, I was beyond exhausted.

    Everything went fine until the preacher got up to speak. He started off with this story about losing a dog. The story went on and on meandering this way and that way and I still don’t know the point other than it was about a dead dog.

    Every time I thought he would move on to something a bit more relevant, here came another detail about that dog. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I buried my face against my mother’s shoulder and cracked up laughing.

    My mother muttered against me, “Told you he wasn’t very good.”

    After the service we weren’t sure whether he wanted money or maybe we should get him a new puppy. This was nearly ten years ago and he’s still preaching at that same church.

    As somebody said, a service that reminded us of God’s mercy and wisdom.

    Never-ending like God’s mercy, and beyond all comprehension.

  33. Mike Cheek says

    I served in the ministry for 3 1/2 years, to a rural church that celebrated its 100th anniversary the second month of my pastorate. They too had a history of pastors with short stays. I was no different. One thing Jimmy Carter once said about the Presidency applies to pastors as well. Mr. Carter once observed that the American people want a President as good as they wish they were. Many congregations want a pastor as good as they wish they were too. And they are disappointed when he / she fails to meet that lofty ideal.

  34. Brad Haggard says

    imonk, you hit the two closest things to my heart in this one article.

    It seems to me that people get crazy like this about things that are really important to them. I really think that part of my identity is wrapped up in UK basketball and football. So when the program is reflected poorly by the coach, it feels like I am represented poorly. It’s crazy but that’s the way it is. (And I might go into a depression if Calipari comes here like is being reported).

    And I feel that it is the same way with churches. The people who have been there forever have their personal identity wrapped up in their church, and they want their church to reflect them. It’s crazy, I know.

    I remember working at a church in SE Kentucky where the parents of the young children complained that I spent too much time with the high school kids, and then when I scheduled some elementary events the high school parents complained. I was annoyed at first, but they really coveted my time.

    Of course, the worst was when a deacon quoted to me the Great Commission and still said that we needed to be internally focused. I still have no idea how to respond to that.

    But I think as ministers we have to deal with those silly human tensions in ministry. They are non-sense, but it is because the churches are so important to those crazy members. We also need to teach the reality of ministry to our students as well, and not force-feeding them media training. Pastoring is not the same as preaching or worship-planning.

    And in our high school class this week we prayed that God would guide the coaching search at UK 😉

  35. The pastor is the pastor; doing three services a week (the average for churches in our area) is a full-time job itself. Certainly we sheep are capable of taking care of the building itself and of each other to an extent. Thank God our church has always had to do that; we’re too small to pay a full-time salary, so our pastor has to be bi-vocational. The result is that our members have always taken care of each other and the basics ourselves. Wasn’t that model set up early on in Acts, with the installment of the deacons to take care of the “grunt work?”

    (I say that as though it’s common sense, realizing that in many cases you can’t fix stupid.)

  36. Yeah, I signed it anonymous. I’m a coward and some church people might read this.

    This one hurt.

    I’ve been in the pastorate since 1976 and for the last four years I’ve been trying to get out because I’m weary of dodging bullets and eating crow I haven’t killed.

    Fortunately, the economy is bad and as I’m an “educated idiot” (my three college degrees are only suitable for a pastoring job) I have to stay in the job and help families and individuals as they work on their Christian walk.

    And heaven help me when as a human I do make an actual mistake.

    So I grit my teeth and plug away and plead to God for patience and endurance and when I commiserate with my fellow pastors, there is relief to know I’m not alone.

  37. Justin Fowler says

    That list was pretty hilarious. I can imagine, because I know what it’s like to have unspoken expectations placed upon you, as I’m sure many do.

    This is one reason why I no longer believe in official church roles. The congregation needs to share the burden of all these things together just like in the NT, or at the very least more people need to step up to the plate instead of complaining about the one guy who isn’t doing everything there is to do.

    Ever felt like a performing monkey?

  38. So painful. So true.

    I was fired from a youth pastor position for ‘unspoken reasons’ even though I hit the job description list out of the park.

    4 years later I still sometimes sit and wonder what I did wrong?

  39. Anonymous,

    I don’t see you as cowardly. I see you as wise. You are doing what is best right now. (I’m guessing that you have a family, and it is very hard to leave a bad situation with others to take care of.)

    I hope that you have talked with a career counselor, because I can think of several secular jobs that you might be able to do and do well.

  40. cey, your cri-de-coeur plucked at my heartstrings and so in charity I thought I’d give you a few hints for the mysterious art of what women want 🙂

    First: if you learn to change the toilet paper when the old roll runs out (by which I mean, put the new roll into the holder, not just leave it sitting on top of it, or on top of the cistern, or on the side of the bath, or… you get my drift), she will be astounded, amazed, grateful (and possibly suspicious as to where exactly you got the idea to do this). Seriously, gentlemen; what is it about men and the bathroom? No problem disassembling a car engine, but a simple toilet paper holder is too technically advanced to figure out?

    Second: birthdays, anniversaries (yes, these do count!) and other special occasion such as Christmas, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day – what does she like? what are her interests?

    Is she interested in cookery? Get her a cookbook (and no, presenting it with “Maybe now we’ll get a decent meal round here” is not the way to do it). Do NOT buy kitchen implements unless and ONLY unless they are very expensive: think Le Creuset (and one look at their prices will make you blanch and swoon. I’d love one of their casseroles myself, but no way I’d pay that money!)

    Gardening? Does she play sports (e.g. tennis?) Reads? What kind of novels?

    If all else fails, perfume (but check if she (a) actually wears perfume herself (b) what perfume she wears – everyone has their own favourite scent, and everyone’s body chemistry reacts differently with perfume, so it’s no good just buying the first expensive brand the lady behind the cosmetics counter fobs off on you if it smells like rotten fruit when your missus puts it on.)

    Do NOT, under ANY circumstances, attempt to buy clothing. This goes quadruple for lingerie 🙂

    I hope this helps!

  41. GratefulForGraces says

    What Martha said.


    Precious gems and metals are always a good idea.

  42. Theophilus says

    Most of my favorite pastors have had a “real” job before they became full time. I think it would do the church a world of good to make a 20 or 30 something pastor rare or extinct. Other than that, a relationship between a pastor and a flock is unique.

  43. It’s been my experience that congregations want the energy of a 35 year old, the wisdom of a 55 year old, and the financial blessings of having someone old enough to be drawing retirement and be on medicare so say a 70 year old.

  44. The thing that’s sad? I’ve seen Youth Pastors given less time and Grace than the coach. What a Country! We have enough excess to even have youth pastors, yet not enough Grace. No wonder the country is going belly up.

  45. Boy that was a painful read. But that is exactly the experience of the first church where I worked as the associate. I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t perfect and had my shortcomings. But they never seemed remotely relevant to what people were so eager to take issue with.

    The pastor ran a pretty tight ship and would never have tolerated any of the described tom-foolery. But when he retired, people took full advantage of the leadership lull to grab for power. After four months of the unspoken expectation nonsense my wife was too hurt to come to church anymore, and I resigned. They had refused, despite my pleading, to even get our DOM involved. I heard at least half the item’s on Imonk’s list or some variation thereof. Friends who I had poured myself into for two years (not too long for ministry, but they were my FIRST two years) who were suddenly all to eager to put a knife in your back. I suppose that’s what they call a learning experience.

    That was the closest I had ever come to leaving the ministry. The DOM, however, did help me to find new employment quickly.

  46. Would you seriously consider marrying someone who mistreats their mother or father? If not, why would anyone think that most of us would want to be part of a group that calls themselves a church and behaves in these kinds of ways towards the person who is their pastor? I can remember no situation where someone I knew who mistreated their parents treated their brothers and sisters well, nor any church where those who mistreated the pastor treated the other people in the church well. It does keep the group small and inbred though, does it not?

  47. I remember how shocked I was when I started going to church and saw how wicked the internal politics were. It made the dog-eat-dog business life I was used to look like a goldfish bowl.

    It’s very strange how organizations built around making money are gentler and kinder than organizations built (in theory) around God.

    One possible reason is that, in business, there are consequences to your actions while in church everyone is solidly convinced they’re going to heaven regardless of what they do. Faith, not works.

  48. Anyone who earns what Gillispie does can deal with being fired; for a pastor it is another matter. In more than 30 years of pastoral ministry a deacon who got sideways tried to fire me and thought he could; I refused to go and church stood by me. Long story.
    In part the problem is small towns with small people who find identity in making church business their life like KY makes basketball theirs. There simply has to be something more, and perhaps a pastor’s priority has to be building a big enough vision in peoples’ hearts from the get-go. Then again there may not be enough room in a small town for a big enough vision. If this is the case, no pastor with vision should stay. I’d be willing to bet it isn’t God keeping anyone in such a place to filfill a commitment; but one’s own overreaching sense of responsibility.
    My heart goes out to every pastor in such a place as you describe; church people can be far more cruel than pagans. So perhaps it’s to the pagans we should go with a style of ministry that raises up a church that leaves little people where they are to wither on the vine. Who was it that went to the fields to preach when the churches shut their doors?
    God bless; I suspect you’ve come along way since the days you decribe. Your blog reflects that.

  49. the apostles delegated.

  50. Christopher Lake says

    Having a plurality of elders as the main leadership in a church (instead of one “senior pastor” who does all of the preaching and is expected to do a good bit of everything else) can solve some of these problems. However, many congregations (from Baptist to Pentecostal to… etc.) will not accept a plurality of elders, because they have only seen the “senior pastor” model, and they do not realize that there is *no Biblical basis* for it. The churches in the Bible were led by elders (more than one). End of story– or so it should be.

    I am happy and grateful that the main preaching elder in my church (as well as the other elders) is courageous to preach faithfully and wise to not kill himself trying to live up to everyone’s unspoken expectations. Or maybe I am just blessed to be part of a church body in which there are very few unreasonable, unspoken expectations, and the main preaching elder is free to serve in a God-glorifying, healthy way. The final truth is probably some of the former and the latter.