12 Things I Never Thought I’d Hear in Ministry

When I was a 20-year old rookie pastor, an older pastor told me, “I couldn’t make up the stories I’ve experienced in ministry.” I didn’t know what he meant then, but I do now. Here are a few statements I never dreamed I’d hear in the ministry way back then:  

  1. We’d rather spend all our church’s money on ourselves than open our doors to ‘those people.’” Their community was changing, and the church did what they said they’d rather do. Until they died.
  2. “He belongs to my church, so I’d prefer you not visit him again while he’s here.” “He” was a hospitalized patient who happened to be a relative of my church member, I was "you," and the speaker was another pastor who didn't want me stepping into his territory. Seriously. 
  3. “Don’t you ever do that again, boy.” I was young and unwisely zealous at the time, but the church leader’s calling me “boy” crossed the line.
  4. “I hope that never happens again.” “That” was a mother so overwhelmed when her wayward son repented that she hollered loudly with joy when he was baptized (and to be honest, she did holler so loudly I almost dropped him in the baptistery – but even a small shout would have been too much for my church). 
  5. “This is my church.” I’d heard stories like this one, but I didn’t think anyone actually believed he owned the church. 
  6. “Close the door, and let me tell you the one about . . . .” I still grieve this one as I write the words. I never imagined that Christian leaders would close the door and cross lines with their speech.
  7. “I think I’m going to go kill her.” He was just talking, of course. In fact, this man with a failing marriage was so drunk that he could barely walk. A church member. 
  8. “Here – you drive the hearse back to the funeral home.” It was a county seat cemetery, and the funeral director had work to do there – so he handed me the keys to return the hearse. I did it, but not well. Have you ever tried to parallel park a hearse?
  9. “If you’re going to be our pastor, you’re going to learn.” The speaker was a women’s missionary leader who essentially ordered me, her young pastor, to learn about missions. To this day, I’m grateful for her. 
  10. “Brother Chuck is going to join us in the trio today.” I loved my worship leader, but I don’t sing publicly – and he surprised me in the middle of the worship service. It never happened again . . . .
  11. “We need to move to a different place tomorrow.” Suffice it to say that I was teaching in a risky place in the world, and we had to change locations often. As a young pastor, I never dreamed I’d have such opportunities.  
  12. “We love you, pastor.” I guess these words themselves didn’t catch me by surprise. What surprised me was how much they melted my heart in humility and gratitude. They still do.  

What would you add to this list?

51 Comments

  • Pete Keough says:

    One that has always stayed with me: “I was here when we ‘hired’ you and I will be here when you leave.”

  • Trey says:

    You are a guest in this meeting. You should just sit there quietly and listen. -This was said by the chairman of the deacons after I made a comment in my very first deacons meeting.

  • Ron says:

    How about this one:”We should never have allowed the pastor to live in his own home.Now how are we going to control him?”

  • Wes says:

    Not sure you can top this one: “I know he wants to be ordained, but you can’t ordain him. He and his wife think they are aliens from outer space. They go to the mall nearly everyday and scan people to see if there are more like them.”

  • Brian Horton says:

    When a deacon called me to “share concerns from the congregation”, I suggested that the offended persons come by and let’s talk. His response? “We deal with things ourselves on the phones.” Imagine his displeasure when I began quoting Psalm 101:5 and Proverbs 16:28.

  • Tom Jamieson says:

    I actually had a church member tell me “I was here before you got here and I will be waving the white flag when this church goes down!” And go down it did. Very sad.

  • Dennis McDaniel Jr says:

    “God, strike him down, dead, right now!” I was the “him”. I had been called as an interim pastor. We had to perform church discipline on one of the members of the worship team as it became apparent she was stealing from the church. Her and her cousin showed up Sunday morning, stood in the front row during my entire sermon, and prayed that prayer, out loud and repeatedly during the entire sermon. I contemplated calling the police, but decided in the end to just keep preaching louder.

  • Ben says:

    I was preaching a funeral and as we were going to head to the cemetery, the son of the man that died (named ‘Bubba’ I’m NOT making any of this up I promise) said to his brother, “I’ll grab the rifle, y’all grab the casket.” Those are words I thought I’d never hear. There was a gun rack on the casket. They then put the casket in the back of a pickup and drove to the cemetery. Just when I thought I could get this all over with I stand up for the graveside and Bubba says to me, “hang on a second, they are getting dad’s coon hounds.” I wish I could say that after the final amen the coon hounds started bawling, but they didn’t.

    As the funeral director and I were standing in the cemetery as the trucks were filing in blaring Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler”, he says to me–“do these people have any idea how to act?” This is just the tip of that iceberg.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      You really can’t make up some of this stuff.

    • Ken says:

      Like most pastors, I’ve seen my share of weird things at funerals. However, I don’t think I could ever top what happened to a friend of mine. He was getting ready to walk into a funeral service when a woman came in and demanded that the funeral be halted. She wanted an autopsy done on the body (I’m no medical examiner, but I would assume it’s a little late for that after the body’s been embalmed). My friend had a good response: he asked the lady who was going to pay for it. She thought the state would pay for it, but my friend told her the state picked up the tab only if it was a suspected homicide. She decided the autopsy wasn’t so important after all.

  • Andy Botts says:

    When we sectioned off seating to make the room feel smaller… “You don’t get to tell me where I sit. I paid for these seats and I’ll sit here if I want to.”

    So they did. They sat directly behind the 8 foot solid divider and stared at it the entire service.

  • Robert Eric Walker says:

    As a worship leader, this comes from a group I affectionately call “The Doctrine Police.”The same people who complained about the lyric “in all I do I worship you,” have no problem singing “I surrender all.”

  • Jon Stallings says:

    “I just told the class you (me the pastor) did not agree with me showing the video so I will move my class to my home and show it there.” – This was from a long term Elder and Bible class teacher.

  • Ron Whited says:

    Here’s another one. A lady told me that she got mad at the pastor because he apparently said something in his message that pricked her heart. After he was finished she walked up to him and said “if I had a shotgun I’d blow your head off”. This from a woman who claimed to be saved and on her way to heaven. If this lady hadn’t told me this story herself I doubt I would have believed it.

  • Allen Baker says:

    I was in a Deacon’s meeting, and after I shared with them how God was blessing us, I was asked by one of my men, “Why are we having so many baptism?” (At that time we have had a baptism of 2 or 3 every week for almost 5 months.) Uh, because God has been blessing us?!?! Why do you ask? I said. This deacon said, “Because it seems like you’re showing off. ” I lost it a little … Ok alot, and said, “If anyone is showing off, its God.” Flags, flags, flags. From that meeting on we didn’t have another baptism. Ten months later I resigned

  • Christianity is the only religion where they shoot the wounded. Sadly I saw it happen more than once.
    Sometimes people are Ready, Fire, Aim!

    • Michael.J. Boyle Sr. says:

      Sometimes you do have to kick them out of the church. The Married Worship leader had an affair with a Christian school teacher. What else could you do?

      • Chuck Lawless says:

        I agree, Michael, that church discipline is sometimes necessary. That’s intended to be redemptive, though — which is different than shooting our wounded. 

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Others do it, too, but it’s never right.

  • Melissa Ann says:

    Just this past December, we had our annual budget committee meeting. We’re a small, mostly older congregation. However, we are growing! Our growth hasn’t shown an increase in tithes/offerings just yet so we run on a tight budget. One lady looked at the budget and actually said, “We can’t afford to have any more people at church.” My husband, the pastor, about fell out of his chair. Lots of conversation ensued about trusting the Lord for church finances.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Interesting….

  • Brian Sherwood says:

    “We’re number one!” A church member yelled this in a heated business meeting on opening our church doors to the community. Many long-term members were opposed because, in their minds, they came first before non-church members.

  • Ken says:

    I was presiding over a business meeting in which we were talking about buying a new heater for our baptistery. As we discussed the options one woman said, “But we don’t use the baptistery that much.” I wanted to beat my head against the podium! Fortunately, the man presenting the motion responded by saying, “Well, we want that to change, don’t we?”

  • A lady mad about the way I was leading pounded her hand on my desk and said “I don’t know the Bible, what it says or where to find things in it. But I’ve got the Holy Spirit and you’d better listen to me.”

  • Danny Isom says:

    Was talking to a mother about the way her daughter dressed inappropriately and she looked me dead in the eye and said “how will she compete with the other girls?”

  • Bruce Martin says:

    I have laughed at some of these, been awed by others and “oh, me’d” some others. Thanks for this post. I needed it.

  • grdonahoe says:

    My wife and I were visiting a church in view of a call many years ago and while on our way to dinner with the pastor and a deacon who was a member of the staff selection committee the conversation turned to the validity of scripture to speak to the needs of man. The deacon spoke up and said he didn’t understand why the Bible had so many references to blood sacrifices in the Old Testament. He continued by saying as far as he was concerned they could take all such verses out. After all they were gruesome. I thought my wife was going to come unglued. She about squeezed my hand off. He had no clue about the blood atonement of Christ and here he was serving the church in a leader role.

  • My first year as a pastor(24 years old) at my first church a man told me, “Enjoy your two years here.” At the moment I didn’t understand why he would say that. That was 28 years ago and I am still at my first church. That man became a dear brother. Pastors, as for as it depends on you be gracious in all things to all people.

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