The 20 Times I (Definitely) Failed As A Pastor


This list is personal. It’s a collection of errors from the last 18 years of full-time church ministry. And I write this because even though it is a very personal list, I can hear helpful warnings for you (and me again).
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1. When I Exaggerated The Story: 

a.k.a. Embellished the truth – a.k.a. Took licence with reality – Lying, basically. It’s one of the biggest temptations a preacher will face. But the truth is beautiful, it’s daring, it’s captivating enough. And it carries more power than any add-ons we can produce.  

Say it like it is, or don’t say it at all.

2. When I Ignored My Emotions:

So they became loud enough to NOT be ignored (and it was mostly the bad ones that made an appearance). You might feel spiritual while turning a deaf ear to your heart, but trust me, the fruit will not be helpful or godly.

“It is not possible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.” – Peter Scazzero in Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

3. When I Pretended Like The News Did Not Matter:

So I kept quiet about racism and misogyny and violence and etc and etc and etc. My fear was offending the audience. Trying to please everyone in the crowd (especially the rich people who donated good money).

But that’s called being a coward, not a leader. If something is wrong, call it out. Plain and simple. Because Jesus abandoned His privilege for the sake of the under-privilege, and now it’s our turn.

4. When I Told Other People To, “Get Over It!”:

Most of the time, I said it a nice way. I sounded spiritual and caring. But it was the fleshy advice of someone who didn’t care. I didn’t want to be that someone, but I was so consumed with the things I was dealing with in my own life, that I had nothing else to give. From now on, I’m going to try my best to listen.

5. When I Pretended To Be Humble: 

(Which is the most prideful thing). I shared enough to appear humble, but not enough to actually be humbled. Yes, our generation is enamoured with the idea of vulnerability. It has become a marketing tool to appear approachable.

But we still want control.
We’re still ashamed.
So we hide.

No thanks.

6. When I "Spent Time With God" So He Would Give Me a Great Sermon:

Which is like prostituting the relationship. Which is deception and manipulation. Which was using the Holy Spirit for my own glory. #NoBueno

7. When I Booked Too Many Meetings:

It’s like an addiction. A need to meet again and again. I guess we do it because we like the people we work with? Maybe we're trying to communicate as best as possible?

But the problem for me was that the “meeting” became the driver. I forgot to value the faces and began to focus on the agenda. I realised that I was communicating unspoken messages like,”I don’t trust you”, “I need to keep my eyes on you” “Unless I lead you in this project/strategy/situation you will fail.”

8. When I De-Valued People’s Desires:

I forgot that people are at their best when they are doing what they want. We all love choices. Especially our own. And God seems to be ok with that. 

Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart. Ps.37:4

9. When I Started To Fall In Love With Western Christianity:

Which made me fall out-of-love with Christ. Dumbest. Move. Ever.

10. When I Believed The Lie, “Ministry Is A Lonely Place”:

Which gave me permission to be a hermit, to play the victim card… Enough of that junk! We were created for community. This is not a cute church slogan, it’s a reality for survival.

11. When I Kept Looking Back At The Sound Guy:

Using facial expressions to convey my annoyance because the sound was not perfect. Or when I texted him a million times about the volume, the guitar, the drums, the vocals. Imagine if we treated the preacher the way the preacher treats the sound guy?

To all the sound guys in the world: I LOVE YOU and respect you. Thank you for serving us so well. #Sorry

12. When I Thought My Sermon Was Awesome:

Or thought my sermon sucked bad. Both self-centred reactions. Just had to trust God with what came out of my mouth. 50% of it was my opinion. The other 45% was the opinions of others.

The 5% left was probably God (probably) (I hope).

And I have to trust that He loves me, and the crowd, enough to do wonders with that 5%.

13. When I Became Religious About Being Non-Religious:

Which is a modern form of religion. A more subtle way to ride the high horse. But if in any shape or form you consider others to be missing the mark… then you might be missing the good news of Jesus for yourself.

14. When I Told Everyone How Much I Prayed:

Or the last time I fasted (which was 2004 but I’m still taking about it). Or how good this “morning’s time with the Lord” was. ClassicBut Jesus was all about keeping that stuff secret. Expose your weaknesses, let your strengths speak for themselves.

15. When I Treated The Congregation Like They Were All Full-Time Pastors:

Demanding stuff from them like they were all employees of the ministry. Expecting them to drop everything for the sake of “the Kingdom” (Carlos’ kingdom really).

Never forget, the whole point is to serve, not to be served.

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16. When I Forgot to Take Care of Myself:

So I ended up bitter and angry and burnt out. Then I started to blame the church. But I could have said “No” to 50% of the meetings I attended. I could have chosen to train others to lead and shine. I could have trusted Jesus to lead His people. And I could have used all my vacation days properly.

17. When I Made People Feel Bad About Missing A Sunday:

"Oh you missed the conference"

"It was the best worship ever"

 blah blah blah.

Really, I needed people in the building to validate myself. I forgot that my job was way more important outside the 4 walls, than inside of them. I forgot that people had jobs, and family, and complications (and a need to rest).

So enough of that unrealistic expectation of perfect attendance.

18. When I Looked At Porn And Kept It To Myself.

We all have our struggles. And it’s insane to pretend! The freaking mask is too heavy! So find someone to be accountable to. Let them know what you’re struggling with.

Don’t be a prisoner to darkness and shame. Share. And be healed.

"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." James 5:16

19. When I Waited Too Long To Get Help:

Are you in pain? Are you constantly feeling alone? Do you have emotions that seem to be out of control? Talk to someone. Like right now. Don’t fight alone.

Read About My Journey Of Mental Health.

20. When I Told Everyone “Family Was Priority” But I Lived Like The Ministry Was: I fell for it. Like so many others before me. And so I ask for your prayers.
My wife is my calling. My boys are my disciples. My family is the congregation.

Amen?

Ohhh that feels good.

There's glory in self-awareness. And these leadership fails are the perfect opportunity for Jesus to shine in my life. Because there is more grace in Christ, than sin in me.

Let me know your thoughts. 

Comment below.

Peace.

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Carlos A. Rodríguez is a pastor, an activist, and a communicator. He's the CEO of The Happy NPO and the author of Simply Sonship, Drop The Stones and the upcoming Proximity. Together with his wife Catherine, they have three gorgeous children and have moved to Puerto Rico to continue relief efforts all over the Caribbean (post hurricane Irma and Maria).
Support the non-profit by purchasing items here 👇🏾

4 comments


  • Lisette Lugo

    Wow! Thanks for your honesty. I still can’t understand why many pastors and church leaders feel this need or obligation to seem “perfect”. This coning from soneone born and raised in a Protestant church. God forbid they open themselves up and be vulnerable because then, what would happen? How about you would be able to reach the broken hearts of so many of the people sitting in your pews because up to now their tender, sincere souls were filled with so much guilt: I have not- prayed enough, tithed enough, attended the church enough, witnessed enough, volunteered in the church enough (you know, the part where church leaders make their congregation believe that the ONLY way to serve God is through volunteering in church or going into full-time ministry, instead of letting them know that the division between “spiritual” and “secular” is man-made since as Christians everything we do is serving God: from the brother who works as a maintenance worker to the full-time missionary in a 3rd world country), and so on… Never good enough. But thanks be to God for his extravagant grace which has reached you, me and so many others. Not because of our “incredible” CVs but because of what He did. May his grace and mercy continue to strengthen and empower you to keep on spreading the Good News of the Gospel, because the world is tired of hearing about that other “gospel” which we’ve made up which is definitively not Good News. God bless!


  • Moriah McCurdy

    Thank you so so much for this I’ve been struggling witha number of things on this list and finding out that I’m not the only one gives a big relief and even more Hope, thank you!


  • Karsta

    ✊ may God bless you more and more, keep on being for Jesus.


  • Dan

    All good! Thank you! #15 reminded me of the many I have encountered over the years who always felt “less than” because they didn’t have the personality of those who appeared more committed and excited about church or God. And therefore felt somewhat judged as lacking. Sad.


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