Choosing to Be a Church Pastor as a Career Path, Not as a Calling

I am currently fascinated by this concept in America: In theory, a man who is not actually a believer could choose the profession of being a church pastor; not because he believes in the teachings of Christianity or that he is being called by God to do so, but instead, simply because he sees being a church pastor as a promising career path.

Church pastors have to make a living, too, you know. They have families to support. The tricky part is this, though: The salary that a pastor earns is often directly related to the size of his congregation.

Not only is there a salary to consider, but often, the church members’ tithes cover the pastor’s insurance, as well as a housing stipend.

Here’s what the career path looks like:

This man goes to seminary. This man graduates seminary.

Man starts pastoring a small country church and remains there two years, as he builds a reputation as “an engaging speaker and a strong leader, just what this church needs” (largely due to the fact he simply has the right personality for the job and is a good communicator); while using clever social media posts to build his reputation. The money isn’t amazing, but it pays the bills.

Word gets out, and now this man is offered a position at a larger church in a bigger town just an hour away: This one even has two church buses and even a humble sized “life and recreation center”. The money is definitely better and there is now basic insurance available.

He puts in three years at this one before his reputation (and his congregation’s perception of the Lord’s calling) sends him to the suburbs of a decent sized city; like Atlanta, Indianapolis, or Houston.

His church now has a dozen members in the worship band alone. His sermons get thousands of views on YouTube. The pastor even has a popular Instagram account which regularly features his high dollar sneaker collection; even if most of those shoes were given to him as publicity by the shoe companies to promote their brand.

By this point, it’s hard to speculate exactly how much money this pastor actually makes; but given all the perks with his career, it doesn’t matter as much anymore.

For example, he gets paid thousands of dollars per event, to travel and speak at other churches.

He even has his own book out, which he earns all the royalties from. So even without depending on the church itself, his side hustles help provide an extra cushion for him and his family.

As long as this man is smart enough to invest in his marriage, ultimately by avoiding cheating on his wife or getting divorced; and as long as he never involves himself in official financial scandal, like embezzlement or tax evasion, his career remains strong.

He retires in his mid 50’s and lives happily ever after. He totally gets away with “serving” as a church pastor for his entire career. Then, he peacefully dies in his sleep at age 78; having lived quite comfortably the past 30 years on his financial investments. Not to mention, he still has millions of dollars in the bank to leave for his family.

But then what?

I bet there are more of these “career path pastors” then we realize. In the end, though, we all answer individually to God at the end of our lives for our own actions:

For how we cared for the poor, the widows, and the fatherless.

For how we treated our neighbors as ourselves.

For how we made the decision to forgive, even when it didn’t make sense from a human perspective.

For how we worked out our own secret sins (gossip, judging others, apathy for the hurting), as opposed to focusing more on the ungodly tendencies of other people who have didn’t temptations than we do.

But I suppose that is a risk these career path pastors are willing to take; given that they don’t actually have to believe in order to successfully pastor a church.

Uh oh… I think I just accidentally wrote the concept for a screenplay for a Christian movie starring Kirk Cameron, Sean Astin, or Nicolas Cage.

Most People, By Default, Choose to Focus on What They Can’t Control (The Illusion of Karma), Instead of What They Can (Their Own Emotions)

It was about three years ago, when I turned 35, that I taught myself one of the most life-changing lessons (and secrets) about the human experience:

That 100% of the time, no matter what anyone else says to me or about me, I always get to decide whether or not I will allow that person to hurt my feelings, insult me, or disrespect me. Similarly, it’s always a choice as to whether I will forgive another person, regardless of what they have done.

Imagine the freedom that I have been able to appreciate these past few years knowing this unspoken nugget of wisdom: That I alone control how I feel in relation to other people… unless I allow them to control me.

That bit of information is one of the greatest gifts I have received in my life so far. If only I could have known this all along!

Contrast that to the illusion that most people live in: Most people, by default, believe this about themselves:

“I’m a good person. Well, I may not be a saint, but at least I’m not an ax murderer.”

This mindset is generically based on the ideologies of Buddhism and Hinduism. Ultimately, people rely on the flaky concept of karma to determine what good things they do deserve in life and what bad things they don’t deserve in life.

Here’s the problem: Karma, in this understanding, doesn’t actually exist.

Children have terminal cancer. Meanwhile, white collar criminals go unpunished their entire lives because they have the luxury of being called politicians.

Most people make themselves constant easy targets to be offended or disrespected because they believe they are moral people who “deserve better”, while they ironically deny the fact that only they alone decide whether another person offends or disrespects them.

Here’s where I’m at in life:

I don’t see myself as a good person or a bad person. I am a person.

I make good decisions and I make bad decisions.

I don’t deserve good and I don’t deserve to escape bad. I ultimately can’t control those things as much as I would like to.

Instead, I can control my own emotions; especially in regards to how I react to other people.

As goofy as it sounds, being a YouTuber and a blogger for the past several years has taught me this:

People in the comments section are constantly hoping to label me as one of the following:

Wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

I feel that in the real world, it’s the same way. People are insecure within themselves and haven’t fully figured out their own identity, so they look for people who will get offended, insulted, or allow their feelings to be hurt when it is applied they are wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

So imagine the power you have when you are instantly ready to agree with a person like that:

“You’re right: I’m wrong. I’m ignorant. I’m immoral.”

Man, I wish somebody would have taught me this stuff about 30 years ago!

Dads Secretly Take Their Sons to See PG-13 Rated Superhero Movies, Like Aquaman (But They Don’t Admit It On Social Media…)

At what age is it socially acceptable for a boy to go see a PG-13 rated superhero movie with his dad?

Follow up question:

At what age is it appropriate or okay for a boy to watch a PG-13 rated movie with his dad?

I think those are difficult questions to answer, and even dangerous to ask, because ultimately, each parent has their own standards on what they perceive as acceptable in raising their children.

And in an age where many people have traded in their fear of God for fear of a social media backlash thanks to ever-potential mob mentality of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, no one wants to have to defend their views to the 10% of the population who passionately disagreed in the comments section; and then have to follow-up with a token social media apology a few days later.

My theory is that many dads do take their sons to watch PG-13 rated superhero movies, they just don’t talk about it on social media because it may not be socially acceptable to broadcast it.

On certain issues, I am undeniably more conservative as a parent. But with other things, I am perhaps more liberal than people might expect.

I recognize that not all PG-13 rated movies are created equal. So to me, the movie rating is a bit arbitrary.

Fortunately, it’s as if there is now an unspoken rule that PG-13 rated superhero movies that have their own toy line have agreed to keep sexual content out of their movies. Instead, the PG-13 rating is earned from stylized action sequences; in other words, violence without blood.

There are also typically a handful of milder profanities thrown in these PG-13 rated superhero movies. Even though my 8 year-old son doesn’t hear his own parents cursing, I’m sure by now he’s learning the “bad words” from other kids at school.

Honestly, what bothers me more is my son hearing the casual use of “oh my God” in PG rated movies and kids’ sitcoms. To me, that phrase is breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to be worried because my son hears an alternate word for butt or poop?

So as long as he knows which words he’s not allowed to say, as he gradually becomes aware of which words our society has given power of taboo, then I am not too concerned.

However, this is all simply my own parenting style.

This isn’t necessarily what the norm is. Maybe it is. I don’t know. Honestly, I’m not keeping up with what other parents are saying on the subject.

Or maybe they’re like me- they’re not admitting to taking their sons to see PG-13 rated movies; not because it’s inappropriate for the child, but that it’s inappropriate for the parent to admit it on social media?

But if it were socially acceptable for a dad to admit he took his 8 year-old son to see Aquaman this past weekend, I would use this opportunity that say that it was probably my son’s favorite superhero movie so far.

And knowing that he and I had quality time together this weekend doing something we both enjoyed- well, that makes me happy to be a dad.

Our Culture Doesn’t Believe in Sin Anymore: It’s Too Politically Incorrect and Judgmental

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t think they weren’t a “good person”. The default seems to be comparing oneself to another person who has committed worse offenses: “Well, at least I’m not an ax murderer…”

My observation is that people subconsciously continually convince themselves they are not “bad” by referring to another person who makes them look like a saint, in comparison.

Clearly, people recognize that good and evil exists in the world. So therefore, there must be good and bad people in the world, as well.

But as Michael Jackson profoundly asked back in his 1987 follow-up to Thriller, Who’s bad?

Christianity differs in ideology from the “I’m a good person” concept that our culture seems to accept as the norm.

Christianity teaches that we were all born with a sinful nature; or as Metallica put it in the title track from their 2016 album, we are “hardwired to self-destruct“.

In other words, none of us, not one, is a good person. Instead, we are all sinners.

Who’s bad? We all are.

We were all born this way. We all have our own sinful instincts to manage.

As individuals, we all have what I call our own “sin personalities”.

Some people struggle with certain issues that other people never do.

So it becomes easy to notice other people’s sins that are different from our own, as a way to make ourselves feel better about our own “lesser” sins.

And that simply brings us to one of the most obvious sins that the Bible warns against:

Pride.

But in today’s culture, to acknowledge sin is becoming perceived as politically incorrect and/or judgmental.

When we start recognizing what specifically constitutes as sin, it makes people feel uncomfortable.

Even adultery, which is included in the Ten Commandments, is now being excused by our culture:

“Well, they were really unhappy in their marriage so…”

To me, sin is sin. I don’t care which particular sin it is: I don’t believe in discriminating against another person or group of people because their sins are different than mine.

Instead, I recognize my own sins. To focus on other people’s sins instead of my own would be that sin I mentioned earlier: Pride.

We were all born this way. We all have our own sinful instincts to manage.

But to deny that sin exists… what does that do to our perception of God?

If sin doesn’t exist, because we’re all good people anyway, then we have no reason to be saved from our own destructive sinful nature; here in this life or what comes after it.

As for me, I’m not a good person. I’m a sinner.

I’m a sinner who is crazy enough to believe that Jesus was the only perfect person to live on this Earth and that by believing in Him, my soul can be saved from God’s judgment.

Yes, that might sound ridiculous. I’ll go ahead and call myself a fool for believing it.

But to believe that I am a good person, simply because my sins are different from other people’s, is more ridiculous to me.

Dear Jack: Tonight was the Night You Prayed to Jesus to Tell Him You Believe in Him

7 years, 1 month.

Dear Jack,

Today has officially become one of the most important days of your life. Just less than an hour ago, you prayed to Jesus, officially telling Him what you’ve been growing to understand and believe for these past couple of years:

That you believe Jesus is God’s son and that He died on the cross for your sins and came back to life to give us eternal life, and to give us hope in this life on Earth in the meantime.

You prayed to God telling him you want to life your life to please Him and help other people.

I will never forget this day. This means so much to me.

Though I knew you have been heading towards to this moment for the past year or so, I had no idea today would be the day. I felt it was important that this was your decision, not mine that I was making for you.

You and I had spent most of the day together, as we made the trip to Nashville to go see the monster trucks at Monster Jam. It was funny because for a nearly hour-long drive, we didn’t say a word to each other.

We just contemplated life and enjoyed the lack of responsibility or conversation, as I played Dierks Bentley’s Riser CD through the stereo. (You had requested Johnny Cash, but my iPod battery was dead.)

But by the time we got to the monster truck show, you came alive. We started talking and enjoying our time together one-on-one.

By the end of the day, I think the fact we had our quality time together as father and son made somewhat of a special impact on you, because you specifically asked me to read to you from your children’s Bible when it was time for bed.

After I read to you the story about how Jesus explained to Nicodemus he must be born again, it led to you asking a series of seemingly random questions about God and Jesus and good people and bad people and what Heaven will be like for people who believe in Jesus and who live their lives for Him.

Then I immediately felt compelled to say to you, “How long have you known and believed that Jesus is God’s son who died for us?”

You just smiled and shrugged, saying, “I’ve just always believed that, haven’t I? Just maybe not when I was a baby…”

Right then, I knelt down at your bed and explained, “The Bible says when we believe, we should say it out loud. I can help you pray that right now if you want me to.”

(I was referring to Romans 10:9, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”)

You seemed grateful for the offer. You smiled and said, “Sure!”

So I guided you through a simple prayer and then answered a series of legitimate follow-up questions like, “Do I have to be baptized, though?”

I then explained that it’s the way you officially share with the world what you believe, but that when you are ready, to let me know and I’ll get it all set up with our church.

It’s interesting how you’ve made this decision almost exactly 30 years after I did. For me, it was just a few weeks before Christmas 1987, when I was in 1st grade myself.

This night has instantly become one of the most rewarding moments for me as a parent.

Years of bedtime Bible stories and Sunday mornings at our church and praying before our meals and having unscheduled conversations about God has finally brought us to this fateful point in your life.

Oh, and a monster truck show, too. I guess that somehow set the course of events, as well.

This is your story.

I love you so much.

Love,

Daddy

New Book: Unstoppable God by Tracy Goodwin (Which Answers the Question, “Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?”)

I met her back in April when my son was invited to her son’s 6th birthday party. Then just a few weeks later, when our sons both won achievement awards in their Kindergarten class, I needed a seat in the bleachers for my wife and I as the ceremony was about to begin. It was then that Tracy Goodwin mentioned to me that she had a book coming out this summer; about how it’s a miracle she’s even alive.

Flash forward to last weekend, as our family was driving back from visiting my parents in Alabama. My wife sat in the passenger seat, reading Tracy’s book, Unstoppable God. Meanwhile, I drove up Monteagle Mountain with tears in my eyes; tears which I hid from my wife.

It is impossible to hear Tracy’s story and not be grateful. I think Unstoppable God is an instant cure for anyone is starting to feel jaded, asking the question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

Tracy’s book is, by default, the answer to that question.

To see Tracy with her wonderful family, you just would never guess what all she has been through. It is always inspiring to see a person choose to praise God during times others would question or curse God.

Unstoppable God is not a book about Tracy Goodwin. It is a book about how God worked through a person’s life who refused to give up on Him.

Like I always say, you have to either choose to victorious or you end up allowing yourself to become a victim.

Tracy chose to be victorious, through God’s divine intervention. Had she chosen to see herself as a victim, I don’t know that she would still be alive to tell her amazing story of overcoming impossible odds.

I am so grateful Tracy shared her story with me.

And to the first person who leaves a comment on the Facebook page for Family Friendly Daddy Blog advertising this post, you will receive a copy of Unstoppable God, as well!

Dear Jack: You Now Volunteer to Say the Prayer before Dinner

6 years, 4 months.

Dear Jack,

You have made me so proud this week. Tuesday night as our family held hands at the dinner table, I was just about to pray to thank God for our food and for our family, when you stopped me:

“Daddy, can I say the prayer tonight?”

I was definitely caught off guard, but I replied without missing a beat: “Of course you can, man.”

You went straight into it…

“Thank You God for this food we eat. Thank You God for the birds that sing. Thank You God for everything.”

That instantly became one of my favorite moments of being your Daddy, so far.

I pray for your soul. I want you to truly know God and how much He loves you.

We read Bible stories together. Our family goes to church, which you always enjoy; they have a really good children’s program there.  The free donuts surely help, too…

I want you to fundamentally understand in both your head and your heart what it means to love Jesus. And I know how important it is that I lead by example.

So it really means a lot to me that with no prior discussion, with no pressure beforehand on my end, with no attempt to get you to pray before dinner, you decided on your own this is something you wanted to do.

You have also volunteered to pray for our meal for the past two nights as well.

There are so many things that go through my head when I think of all I feel responsible for in raising you.

I want to make sure you feel loved. I want to make sure you have fun. I want to make sure you get a great education. I want to make sure you’re an adventurous, yet disciplined boy.

But I especially feel responsible for you wanting to please God.

Seeing you want to pray for our family’s dinner gives me a special, priceless confirmation that I wasn’t expecting so early on.

Love,

Daddy