Emo Vocab

I can’t speak authoritatively about women (I try to because I’m a smarty pants) but I reckon women have a better emotional vocabulary than men. The describe nuances of emotion better than men and that vocab gives them the ability to understand and express their emotions which is much healthier than us men.

Emotional authenticity is vital to emotional health. Men see the red oil light on the dashboard but not the red light on the emotional dashboard because we aren’t “in touch” with our emotions in general. If you ask a man what’s wrong he’ll probably say in an agitated voice “NOTHING’S WRONG!”, meaning something’s wrong but he just doesn’t know how he feels about it. When pressed he’ll say “I’M JUST ANGRY” and it’s the situation that’s making him angry. Try and talk about the anger e.g. where it comes from and he won’t know. He’s just angry. But the reality is he’s either afraid of something (he’ll never admit to that of course) or he’s hurt, threatened, disappointed, sad, worried or all of the above.

Somehow we need to help men develop their emo vocab. I’m starting with myself and my boys. Why do the gals have to have all the fun debriefing with their girlfriends leaving us to grunt at each other?

Church just like a phone contract

Someone handed me a book called “The Trouble with Paris” by Mark Sayers. The point of his book is to look at how consumerism has permeated the church. He reckons that people basically enter into an unwritten contract with the church/pastor similar to a phone contract. The contract is that we the church will offer you the christian certain programs, music, ministry, preaching, and style, and you will put your bum on our seat and hopefully give something in the offering (and if a miracle happens you’ll get involved).

Things start to get screwy when the contract is broken by either side. If the church changes it’s programs, style, songs, preaching etc. then that will upset people (try googling “worship wars”) and they have every right to leave. However, whilst the christian feels that they’re getting perceived value, then they stay. I can’t tell you how ticked I have been at people who have upped and left because of broken contracts. Music too loud, not the right lyrics, the preaching didn’t have enough scriptures, the use of film clips in church, not being allowed to wave flags in the church. There’s always a huge turnover whenever a new pastor starts. There’s always a segment that don’t like the new one. It wasn’t in their contract.

I remember a time that I told one lady she couldn’t bring her flags and endanger people by waving them around on Sundays. I encouraged her to worship however she liked in church, but as a church family, we would worship together on Sundays in some sort of order. I remembered her eyes narrowing into a piercing glare and she said “who do you think you are, to tell me how I should and shouldn’t worship?” Needless to say she didn’t last long. I could tell so many stories and I probably will at some stage on this blog.

Thus consumerism tends to suck pastors onto the merry-go-round of offering products and services that will appeal to christians and non-christians alike in the hope that christians will stay and non-christians find God. We also try and minimise the losses (called closing the back door) and hey presto suddenly we’re no different to any other free market enterprise without knowing it.

Books that helped

Here are a few books that I started reading as I slipped down the slope of burnout and depression.

The Shack

William P Young’s book really rocked Christendom. I don’t get to read much fiction, but this is an amazing book that tells the story of a father who’s daughter was abducted by a serial killer. He questions God’s goodness and power and gets more than answers. He finds God himself and experiences him in a profound way. Some Christians (usually religious ones) have struggled with this because they are analysing the author’s theology. What they don’t understand is that he’s not trying to write a theological book. He’s trying to tell a story. And the cool thing is, when you think about it, the Bible is first and foremost a story. I’ve heard preachers preach against reading this book. Suspend judgement, read it yourself then we’ll see.

Destined to Reign

Joseph Prince is a voice to the church worldwide. He freaks a lot of people out because his message of grace is so extreme. But extreme times call for extreme measures. The church is so religious and “method-based” and many churches really only propogate “behavior modification”. Princes’ message to me was that God loved me no matter what state I was in, nor what results I had achieved and that’s what I needed to hear.

Journey of Mercy

This book was written by a pastor Down Under called Peter McHugh who unravelled. He is now a very successful pastor but was a control freak and had a breakdown. He writes very bluntly as only the Aussies can and says stuff that most pastors would never say. He comes up with some amazing insights into why pastors burnout and what he learned.

A Grace Disguised

This book should be the companion to The Shack. A bible college professor Jerry Sittser, experienced a car crash with a drunk driver. His mother, wife and young daughter were all killed that night. He was left to raise his three remaining children. He wonders why God didn’t prevent the crash, intervene. He wonders why his children are growing up without a mother. He finds himself unable to pray, only to cry. His ideas are similarly profound.

Henri Nowen

Nouwen was an amazing. He’s a catholic priest gifted with tremendouse insight and wisdom. A true contemplative. Out of Solitude really helped me. With Open Hands was brilliant. The Wounded Healer is a classic.

The Next Generation Leaders

Oddly, this book by Andy Stanley kick started my journey in discovering who I really was and what i was actually gifted to do. I realised that outside of my giftings I was crap, but inside my giftings I was the bomb!

Now Discover Your Strengths.

Following on from Stanleys’ leadership book, I picked up Marcus Buckinghams book to look more deeply at my strengths. I found that when I stayed in my strengths i was energised and when I was outside my strengths I was depeleted. As my emotional reserves plummeted I became more and more focussed on staying within my strengths and developing a team that could handle my weakness. It sounds obvious, but the model that I inherited was one where the good pastor was “across” everything. Not that we do everything but we have to be “well rounded” in order to have the respect of our staff and congregations. I gave myself permission to be me, I admitted that I wasn’t very good at everything else and asked for help.

Mental Health

My psychologist debriefs weekly with another psych which is standard for her industry. This is important to her health, objectivity and longevity. It’s just that none of us can spot our own blindspots.

Psychs obviously deal with serious mental issues which pastors most often don’t however, they don’t normally treat their friends and they don’t normally live for years within a community made up of those whom they have counselled. In many ways they can go home and disengage from work. Pastors may not deal with the hardest mental cases, but they often are the first port of call.

And yet I know of NO pastors who debrief like a professional psychologist does. Furthermore, we don’t have the training on mental health that psychs do, so really we have no clue as to how to maintain our own mental health. We’re basically kids playing with matches and most of us get burned. Some survive, many burn up and reach the scrapheap.

Jack’s Burnout

I burned out over a fairly long period of time rather than any classical “one day I woke up in a foetal position”. Maybe two years all up…. It was so gradual it was hard to notice.

Work became harder and harder. Anxiety increased. Running on adrenaline for any extended period is bad for anyone. I worked long hours, nights, weekends. Even when I wasn’t at work I was working in my head. I wasn’t “present” at home.

I grew less tolerant and less patient. Certain tasks became almost impossible, like planning and budgets. I avoided dealing with certain issues.

Towards the end, I was giving everything to my work and had no reserves. Nothing for friends, for my wife or kids. At home I was intolerant, wanted to be left alone. Couldn’t engage. My anger grew explosive at home and my marriage started to unravel.

I hated meetings. It took everything out of me. I avoided staff and others. I just wanted to lock myself in my office.

It got worse though because the pressure on the marriage made that crumble and then it all spiraled downwards. Work got harder because I was up all hours fighting with my wife, then I worked longer, and left it as late as possible to go home, so the marriage got worse.

Towards the end I was suicidal. I started reading about asphyxiation. Got a bit obsessed with it actually. It all got very dark.

Burnout is different for everyone. Mine was slow and incremental so I didn’t get treatment for a long time. Others are catastrophic requiring immediate high level medical intervention. I think the most important thing is being equipped to stay healthy and having people around you that can interpret the signs. My wife couldn’t. She only saw me as being angry, critical, demanding, intolerant and had no idea why I was behaving so badly. I managed to hide it from everyone else.

About Jack!

I’m writing under a pseudonym from somewhere in the western world. I don’t want anyone to get hurt by what we say, because we’re not targeting anyone, so for now, like The Stig, we’ll remain anonymous.

I’ve been a christian 20 years, and 19 of those I have been in leadership. For the last 8 years I have been full-time as a pastor/leader of a large church (ten times large than the average western church). This year however, due to burnout and depression and almost failed marriage I resigned. Now i’m on the scrapheap.

I have three kids, still attend the church I resigned from, and now I’m working in a factory and on dairy farms.

This is my attempt to explore the scrapheap. How did we get here? Why are we here? What can we learn?

I say we, because other scrapheap pastors will be contributing so we get various perspectives. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, about ministry and leadership, about church, christianity, religion and God. We want to share our journeys to the scrapheap and beyond to help other pastors who are heading down this road, and because we love God and His church and know deep down in our hearts that something’s gotta change.

We want to say the stuff that other pastors know, but won’t admit, because we haven’t anything to lose. We also hope you can be part of the conversation. Very little will be censored unless we start talking AT each other or yelling which is pretty unproductive, at least it has for the last couple thousands years in the life of the church.

If you’d like to join our team, contact me.

The Scrapheap Pastors

We’re a bunch of pastors and leaders, who through various circumstances found ourselves broken, discarded and on the scrapheap. The view from here though is interesting to say the least! We talk about our experience as leaders with burnout, ministry and try and pen what we’ve learned. We want to help others avoid our fate and we dream of a different church that doesn’t consume it’s leaders.