When a Pastor Fails

As I look back on and assess my 30 years of active ministry, I have to admit that it feels like one great failure. I know, objectively speaking, it was a mix of “success” and “failure,” with lots in-between. I suspect many, many pastors feel this way. Yes, I know all about the cross of Jesus and how it redefines failure. I know that by his grace God works in and through our defeats. But for the pastor who fails, these biblical truths do not provide much comfort. When parish membership drops, it’s almost impossible not to feel personally responsible. When one is told by the congregational leadership to leave, it doesn’t feel like God is simply opening a new door. We pastors enter the ministry because we believe we are divinely called, only to discover that our personal weaknesses, flaws, and sins are constantly undermining our effectiveness and any possibility of success. Hence I was encouraged to see that someone has actually written a book on this sensitive and painful subject of pastoral failure.

If you are a parish priest or pastor, perhaps you may find this book helpful: Fail. I have not read it, so I cannot personally recommend it. I’m just grateful someone has broken the ice. You know what I mean.

If you are a layman, please pray for your pastor and do not judge him or her too harshly.

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5 Responses to When a Pastor Fails

  1. padrerichard says:

    Reblogged this on padrerichard and commented:
    An all too present reality at times!

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  2. Michael Bauman says:

    Father, as a layman I see most instances of such “failure” (baring moral/spiritual turpitude) as a shared failing. It is a bit like a marriage is it not?

    As I am sure you know there exisit parishes which I call priest-eaters. While God’s grace can heal even this example of communal distorted will, it does not come easily. The havoc such a parish can wreak on a good man’s soul is amazing. I have seen it.

    Small congregations can have particularly volatile dynamics that make them quite difficult.

    So I do pray for my priests and bishops. If they come up short, as we all do, it is as much my fault as the priest.

    “If only….” is a recipe for remembering wrongs and neglecting thanksgiving. At least I have found it so in my life.

    In baseball, the best hitters of all time fail 60% to 70% of the time. The spiritual life, impossible without God, is much more difficult.

    The question is whether we fail and just fail or use the detritus of failure to fertilize a garden that bears fruit.

    May God continue to bless and strengthen you in your ministry.

    By your prayers, Michael

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  3. Kim Fabricius says:

    Yes, I know all about the cross of Jesus and how it redefines failure. I know that by his grace God works in and through our defeats. But for the pastor who fails, these biblical truths do not provide much comfort.

    I feel you, Alvin. But if “these biblical truths do not provide much comfort,” which ones do? Surely there are none deeper. Clearly something has gone very wrong with our pastoral formation if being-in-Christ provides so little consolation and fortification against the machinations of Screwtape and Wormwood.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Quite right … but still … the sense of failure remains for many. No doubt if we were saints, we would quickly transcend such feelings.

      All we can do, of course, is to commend our work and lives to the Lord.

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  4. Kim Fabricius says:

    Yep – and Amen.
    Pax

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