Thursday, August 6, 2009

On the Couch

Today, I’m on the couch, talking to my imaginary therapist. You can listen in if you’re interested but I'll understand if you’re not:

One of the things I enjoyed about seminary was the fact that for a finite amount of time, I would take a class, complete assignments for that class, get a grade, and then move on to the next one. At the end of each semester, I had a tangible means of seeing how much progress I had made.

I miss that sense of satisfaction.

I don’t get that much in the ministry, where people come and go, numbers ebb and flow, and personal popularity may not indicate how effective I really am. If people come to a church because they like me, but then leave when I have to move on, how successful have I really been?

It’s not like in sports where success can be measured in terms of high scores and win/loss ratios. And it’s not like in business where the amount of money at the bottom line indicates success or failure.

How do we measure how well we’re doing? In a George Barna poll, around 80% of the people said they felt spiritually mature. That’s successful, right?

Not so fast. If we’re all so dadgum spiritual, why aren’t we worshiping regularly? Why are most church struggling with half empty sanctuaries and bulging debts?

If we’re doing so well, why is there so much sexual pain, shoplifting, embezzling, and downright rude behavior in people who ought to know better? And why is there so much depression, anxiety, and addiction?

I wonder sometimes if there really is a heaven. When I get there, will there be a God who will say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”? Will it be worth it all to hear those words? It would be nice to hear them now.

Let’s just say there is no heaven. And let’s say that it doesn’t really make any difference at all what I do--that I am not succeeding at helping people get better. Should I quit and go into sports—maybe one of those eating competitions? Or business—“Hey mister, wanna buy some used Bibles cheap?”


For me there are only two choices. I can lie down and die, or I can stand up and serve. I’m also remembering that down through history, the people who are now considered successful often had to feel their way down the path. Their success occurred because they didn’t quit even during their dry spells.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself the last few years is that I don’t quit.

Fail? Maybe. Quit? Never.


  1. Man, that's the truth. You sure as hell don't quit. And if you know that about yourself, most other things don't matter.


  2. Why does spiritual have to mean worshiping? I used to know a person that said her personal relationship with Jesus was just that, PERSONAL. Does everyone have to have the same relationship?

    Perhaps your relationship with your god is right the way it is. And your measurement of success isn't what you may think.

    ...or not....

  3. @sistermoon65: I think your questions are certainly valid. And I guess success is in the eye of the beholder. Church leaders who evaluate me may have a set of criteria, whereas I know I have a different one, and then I might have to entertain the possibility that there's other perspectives, too.

    Did I mention feeling a certain confusion?

  4. In a way, it's sort of nice to see (read) about a clergyman who doesn't have all the answers, who struggles with the life questions of am I making any difference here. In some church communities even thinking something like that would be grounds for review by the elders. Anyway, I don't know, but I find it refreshing. It's a tough job you have. Not for the faint of heart. :-)