Periodically, I experience Sundays when I leave the pulpit feeling a deep sense of frustration. Today was one of those days.

As I sit here at my desk in the study reflecting on what just happened in today's worship experience, I really just want to scream. In fact, my flesh just wants to say, "This is it! What's the use? I quit!" I mean nothing seemed to flow as it should and ought. What we just went through had no sign of worship at all. Praise and worship was weak. The choir sang with no passion. The congregation was basically non-participative throughout most of the worship service, and vocally non-responsive to the preaching. It was obvious that this was one of those Sundays when people just came to church to go through the routine. As the pastor of the church, it really hurts me to admit it, but gee...the truth of the matter is that today's "worship experience" lacked the fervor and excitement that should resonate in any sanctaury where Christ is honored. I'm ashamed today to say that this is the church where I serve as pastor.

What intensifies my frustration is that I came to worship expecting to have a joyous time in the Lord and in the fellowship of the saints, but I couldn't find it. It was absent. It just wasn't there. I spent myself preparing to preach. I labored all week hearing God, doing all I needed to do to exegete the passage from which I was preaching today. After returning home on Saturday morning from visiting with family out-of-state over Christmas celebration, I went right into Saturday Church School and spent myself teaching the flock. Then I spent myself in my study at the church until after 10pm crafting my manuscript. I went home, took a shower, got a few hours of sleep, and then returned to my study at the church three hours before the start of our morning worship service to put the finishing touches on my sermon. And I did all that for what? Just to pour myself out again in ministry to a people who displayed an indifferent attitude---not just towards the sermon, but towards the whole worship experience. I just want to scream!!!

Please! Understand as you read this that I'm not looking for pity. With over 20 years of pastoral experience under my belt, I've been here many times before and bounced back, and am certain that I will come here many more times as I continue in ministry. I'm writing this because I know that somebody else is going through a frustration that is similar to mine. I readily recognize that my experience is not exceptional nor exclusive. Every Lord's Day thousands and thousands of senior pastors leave their pulpit feeling a deep sense of frustration over the apathy and indifference that those to whom they have been assigned to minister to display towards worshiping the Lord and towards hearing His Word! Every Lord's Day, thousands and thousands of senior pastors exit the pulpit, sit in the silence of their own private thoughts and think about throwing in the towel. They genuinely love ministry. They genuinely want to help people gain a clearer understanding of God's revelation. They give all of who they are and all of what they have to pour into the lives of others. But often it seems that all the sacrifice and effort required in pastoral ministry is wasted on people who lack authentic appreciation for it. Its enough to make you want to SCREAM! While we have to be rooted enough to recognize that's only the flesh, and we can't follow the counsel of the flesh; we have to be led by the Spirit, yet there is the reality of our human-ness, too. For we are only earthen vessels into which a spiritual treasure has been deposited. We have emotions...and sometimes....sometimes our emotions overwhelm us to the point where we get infected with the Elijah-under-the-juniper-tree Syndrome: "Lord, it's enough!"

When we are strugling with negative emotions, perhaps the last thing we need is to be in isolation. That often only serves to intensify what we feel, and leads us to self-pity and/or destructive behavior. This is a real danger zone for pastors. Most pastors are lonley poeple. Sure, we have people around us much of the time, but they are around us because they are needy. They look to us to give them what they need. We dare not look to them to give us what we need. We have to locate that somewhere else. And often, we who serve in pastoral ministry do not have another pastor with whom we can be transparent about our negative feelings and emotions relative to our ministry, and even our personal lives. We feel it, but we dare not voice it. That wouldn't be the spiritually mature thing to do. We get caught up in the notion that we must appear before others to be an ecclesiastical version of Superman.

So my questions are: 1) Do you experience such Sundays in your ministry? and 2) How do you handle your emotions and recover?

Perhaps if we can be open and honest here, we can provide some wise counsel to one another, and be strengthened to better handle our next episode of ministry madness when we feel like we just want to scream. WARNING: Sunday Morning Blues Coming To A Pulpit Near You!

"Spiritual leaders pay a price as they seek to serve God's people, but the people usually don't appreciate it. The same people repeat the same sins and refuse to trust God and obey Him." Warren W. Wiersbe

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Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on July 6, 2009 at 5:51pm
Very profound, Jacqueline: "minister 'one-to-one' to a desperate soul in a crowded room." WOW! I don't think it can be expressed with any greater simple eloquence.
Comment by Jacqueline Andrzejewski on July 6, 2009 at 3:17pm
Pastor T. A., having witnessed your struggle first hand I can only say this. If you take into account the city in which we live then you can truly apply Solomon's wisdom in Ecclesiastes 3: To everything there is a season. We used to sing this song, "I wish somebody's soul would catch on fire," notice the use of the singular 'somebody.' Also, there is rejoicing in heaven when 'one' (again the singular) soul is saved. Sometimes God is only trying to reach 'the one,' maybe He's allowing you to minister 'one-on-one' to a desperate soul, in a crowded room. Hmmmm. You continue 'to do you' with all the energy and fervor that God gives you each Sunday, and know that they are not sitting down on you and taking you for granted so much as they are taking God for granted, that is until their next crisis.
Comment by l. v. gibbs on July 2, 2009 at 8:00pm
pastor smith, i am new to this network. i pastor grace and truth prayer temple in pensacola fl. first i must say i that i have great appreciation for your i just want to scream blog. i can relate to it in its totality. i wanted to ask are you related to rev roberet smith jr in detroit. i saw him on your favorite preacher list. also you resemble his earlier days. i also enjoyed your messages. be encouraged.
Comment by LADY A on May 5, 2009 at 7:43pm
I am very sorry that the people are not passionate in their praise. It is then that we have to praise, worship, and preach from the depths of our very being. God is awesome at all times, He is worthy no matter what and He is the very air that I breathe. I will bless His name at all times because of what he did for me.
Comment by Micah RaSun-Vann on March 2, 2009 at 1:38am
Yes continue to preach with passion but not carry the weight give to the Lord. Such a move would have to be orchestrated by the Lord. I was witness to a move such as this but it was in a conference setting. The Pastor of the congregation was talking and trying to pray and the people continue to laugh, talk and joke. So he continued through much distraction. When it was time for the guest speaker to speak, he mounted the platform and informed the congregation that the Lord was not pleased and they weren't ready to hear and God was not going to speak today and he sat down and never delivered the message. I do know that the power of those words were riveting and I wont forget and I'm sure it woke some people up. So God knows.

Know that we are praying for the Body of Christ as we are anticipating a great move of
God in our local churches.
Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on March 1, 2009 at 10:50pm
Thank you for your comments. Know that I have had moments such as the one I experienced the Sunday I wrote this blog where I felt like walking out of the pulpit and going home. However, God would not bless such a move. The preacher is under divine charge to preach the Word and to be instant in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). We must be persistent in preaching with passion even when the people to whom we preach have no interest in the content of our message. That's a part of the tension experienced in the call. Quitting is not an option. Walking out is not an option. We must endure through every phase and season of ministry.
Comment by Micah RaSun-Vann on February 28, 2009 at 3:56pm
What can be expected when we live in the flesh all week and expect to hear or experience God on Sundays. He has made it clear that flesh is enmity against him. He does not interact with flesh.

You'll notice that if you play music that has any hint of the worlds music -- say with drum beats or a jamaican sound you would not be able to sit the people down. it's happending all over especially in the teen to 40ish group. The older group is full of cynicism and resignation having lost their zeal for God and have transferred their attention from God to our pastors. Assessing and judging the messages instead of hearing it as the Words of Almighty God. it's just Pastor so so they say. Until God gets sick of the lukewarmness and allows a storm to hit their homes then they call for God and the Pastor.

It's happening all over the United States. As Pastor I say to you don't lose your zeal and love and worship of God. Save yourself, keep preaching the unadulerated gospel, be an example and their blood wont be on your hand. Don't kill yourself or wear yourself out trying to stir the people up.

I've often secretly wanted to tell my pastor when he's up praising and worship and preaching under the anointing that one day when he walks in and say "lets praise the Lord and the crowd remains seated and continues to look at him with that blank stare like they are at the movies or a clown show, that he should stop the service tell the congregation that he is going home and they should return when they are ready to worship God for real. Walk off the pulpit and go home. The next sunday do the same. I'm sure at some point they'll get the point or stop wasting their time getting dressed on sunday just to site for 5 or ten minutes.

That's just me. That may not be the Lord speaking, but it's farce to continue to try and pump people up who say that God has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light and yet not experience any gratitude coming from them.
Comment by Pastor T. A. Smith Sr on January 14, 2009 at 12:50pm
Well spoken, my brother. Frustration in ministry is quite typical of those who possess a shepherd's heart. The issue is that we fear being open and honest about our feelings of frustration.

There's a tone of frustration in Christ's voice when He says to Philiip: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me?" (John 14:9).

Because of the tension between the flesh and the Spirit, between our expectation and reality, we all experince such moments in ministry such as I had on December 28, 2008. And it is normal and ok to get weary in the work as long as we don't get weary of the work. I truly love ministry and the people to whom I minister. However, I have moments when I'm frustrated to the point where my flesh wants to throw in the towel. But in my spirit, I am determined as ever to keep on pressing and pushing. Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm a debtor. God has given me too much grace to lock it up to myself. And I know that where I presently serve is a sacred assignment from God. All places of ministry are points of holy ground!
Comment by Rev. Charles Moore on January 14, 2009 at 9:37am
Pastor Smith,
It's your Muskogee brother............God Bless you for your honesty and being open. Many lack the courage to expose ourselves for fear of being perceived as weak or doubtful. The word doubtful is not entirely a bad word but we fear this powerful word. Many used this word to describe Thomas because of his request to see proof of Jesus. THis is were we make the mistake of labeling Thomas. Thomas was the one who told Jesus, Let us also go that we may die with you. Thomas did not know the out come of returning back to Judea, but he knew that not going back was not the right answer. I'm not too deep and I really like to keep things simple. Thomas knew that no matter the costs, results, effect, consequence, or outcome of the return trip; he was going to follow Jesus.

My Point: Doubt is a human characteristic that exist in us all, but it is also a safe-guard that automaticly turns itself on in situations when we become hesitant. Fear is not knowing the outcome, doubt is knowing the full range of possible outcomes, faith is believing in the expected outcome, frustration is slow progress to an expected outcome at an less than desired pace, The common factor in this equation is that regardless of the charactristic trait we feel, an outcome will occur regardless of our ability to impact it positively or negatively. Frustration at the end of a sermon does not indicate no growth, it shows growth at a pace slower than we desire.

Doubt never stopped Thomas as Frustration will never stop you. It is never wrong for a Pastor to desire that the flock worship our Father at a higher level. That's compassion. The error is not in being frustratingly compassionate because it demonstrates Christ-like character but the real error occurs when someone stops caring and the minstry becomes a job..

Pastor C
Comment by terrance douthard on January 6, 2009 at 12:37am

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