Posts Tagged ‘pastors who self-destruct’

My wife and I have been searching for a church home in our area for months.  We’ve attended scores of churches but can’t find a fit.

We aren’t looking for perfection, but we are so uncomfortable sitting through most church services that we’re in despair that we’ll ever find another home church.

Kim and I visited still another church yesterday.

The congregation is a church plant that meets at an elementary school.

When Kim and I arrived at the school, I was shocked at how few cars were in the parking lot.  The Mother Church, about thirty minutes away, is a megachurch so I would have thought that the new church would have had a larger core group.

The church had the requisite banners, donuts, and coffee before the service.  The atmosphere was anything but festive.  When Kim and I entered the small auditorium, I was shocked again at how few people were present at the starting time of 10:30 am.  We sat in a back row.  Quickly looking at the makeup of the congregation, I whispered to Kim, “We don’t fit here.”

Kim later told me she wanted to leave multiple times.

The worship leader was a woman wearing weird glasses and although she had a good voice, hardly anybody was singing, even as the room gained more worshipers.  As she sang, she waved her hands in strange ways.  I felt very anxious.

The church celebrated its one-year anniversary a week or two ago, and in my view, they aren’t doing well.  The pastor talked about his three-year vision of hundreds of attendees and dozens of small groups (possibly reflecting the expectations of the Mother Church), but based on what happened yesterday, I don’t see that occurring.  At one point, I counted less than fifty people in the room.

The auditorium was mostly darkened with light on the stage coming from the back of the room.  The pastor told us that he’s thirty years old, and when he set up his podium to preach, it was tilted diagonally and positioned out of the light.  As he spoke, he pranced all over the stage … into the light, then out of the light, then into the light … throughout the whole service.  He spoke for a solid hour.

At one point, he walked down our aisle and stood near Kim, who was seated a few feet away.  We both squirmed in our seats.

This is the third church in a row we’ve attended where the speaker talks as fast as possible.  The first two churches ended up being charismatic churches (the pastor at the second church sang in tongues for a few minutes before his sermon).  I don’t think the church we attended today is charismatic, but I can’t be sure.   The websites of most churches don’t identify their worship style or their distinctive beliefs.

When we entered the auditorium, we were handed a folder of “sermon notes.”  While my folder had some notes inside, Kim’s was blank.  The outside of the folder contained one word: MESSY.

And that pretty much described the sermon.  It was a mess.  While the pastor read some notes that he had included in the folder, I couldn’t discern any structure … or many coherent thoughts.

But that wasn’t the main problem.

The pastor spoke in a stream-of-consciousness style … as fast as he could.  So fast that he could not, in my view, think about the next thing he was going to say.  This resulted in his repeating himself over and over again:

“If you’ve been through a divorce … if you’ve been separated recently … if you have financial problems …” And a few minutes later, he’d utter the same lines.

About 2/3 of the way through his sermon, the pastor told us that when his child was born last December, his wife contracted postpartum depression, and he said he’s been having a hard time handling their child’s teething episodes as well.

And I thought to myself, “Today’s sermon is titled ‘Messy?’  I don’t like saying this, but you’re a mess.”

He began talking faster and faster and louder and louder.  I thought he was going to self-destruct in front of us.  When he ended his sermon, he ranted loudly during his prayer.  At one point, I softly cried, “God, make it stop.  Make it stop.”

The pastor offered two responses after his sermon, and evidently some people raised their hands for salvation and some kind of dedication, although I could not follow his train of thought.

When the sermon mercifully ended, Kim and I practically ran out of the auditorium, and on the way to the car I told her, “He’s sick.  That man is not well.  He’s ready to have a breakdown.”

I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a pastor after a sermon before.

I went to the church website to see if they offer any recordings of the pastor’s sermons, but they don’t.

A well-known pastor in nearby Chino Hills committed suicide recently.  He was only thirty years old and left behind a wife and two children.  Even though he received months – if not years – of psychological care, he killed himself anyway … inside the church building.  I’ve been thinking about that situation for weeks.

So maybe I’m reading that tragedy into yesterday’s service … I don’t know.  While I’m not a mental health expert, I’m very concerned about this pastor, and fear that he’s headed for a breakdown, if he wasn’t having one during yesterday’s service.

I was so upset by the service – especially the sermon – that I wanted to break into tears on our short drive home.

I’d like to ask my readers two questions:

What, if anything, should I do about this situation? 

Let it go?  Talk to someone at the Mother Church?  Just pray about it?  We’re certainly not returning.

Is it trendy for pastors to speak at a lightning speed?  If so, why? 

It makes my wife and me highly anxious.

Thanks so much for any counsel you can offer me.

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