I know what you are thinking. My disbelief comes as a consequence of ministry burnout. That oft heard about plight where good healthy pastors hate their jobs and leave the church. Sometimes it’s because of mistreatment, sometimes it’s because of ministry failure. There can be disappointment with God and the Church, but such pastors may lose faith in themselves but they still loosely still hold on to the title Christian.
Sure we’ve seen a few pastors go through this themselves. Guys who just get tired of looking at ministry as if it were a job and not a calling. They become disillusioned when they realize that church people don’t really want to become better Christians. They have one too many broken friendships in the church and they don’t want to see church as a place where they punch a time clock. So they leave ministry thinking they’ll be happy in another career.
But here’s the thing, I’m not burnt out.
Yes I’m sick of Christians who say they believe in Jesus but look nothing like him. Yes, we’ve had a few broken friendships at the church. Yes, I’ve been frustrated that nobody ever wants to volunteer to help the church operate at base level functions. I’m tired of Christians not tithing, then wondering why we don’t have money to pay for shit. I was really pissed last year at the budget meeting when people complained I wasn’t getting paid enough, but their lack of giving is why the church doesn’t have money to pay me.
But I learned something that most burnt out pastors miss; everyone hates their job.
Nobody likes to go to work, that’s why they have to pay you to show up. Don’t get me wrong, I always felt it a privilege to do the Lord’s work but it has always been a J.O.B. to me. I had no delusions that being pastor was some sort of holy higher calling that I must do even if I don’t get paid. Sure, I would have still tried to be part of the leadership of a church had I not been a paid pastor, but I understand boundaries when it comes to employment. There was always hours I had to fill. Responsibilities and commitment I must keep, and a baseline competency that I had to meet if I want to keep getting paid.
I did feel privileged that my job was also my calling. I did feel good about going to work at a church. You know how much I loved teaching the bible. But I also knew the Bible well enough that God’s people are always really crappy. That’s part of the job. So some days I hated being a pastor. Some days I just punched a clock.
But I still felt privileged to do what I do, and I knew all our friends hated their jobs probably worse than I hated mine.
I’m not burnt out. I just don’t believe God exists.
I’m tired of praying knowing that it doesn’t matter what I pray, what’s going to happen is going to happen.
I’m tired of thinking there is something wrong with gay people.
I’m tired of believing in a god who makes no effort to convince anyone he’s real.
I’m tired of teaching from a bible that has God commanding genocide one minute, then telling people to love their enemies the next, then sending people to hell after that.
I’m tired of wondering if God sees me and hears me, but makes no effort to help me.
So I guess “tired” is a burnout phrase. Well fine, maybe I am burnt out. But I’m not burnt out on being a pastor, I’m burnt out on this god. My relationship with the Lord has been one of neglect. He neglected me.
God has neglected to keep promises found in the bible.
God has neglected to answer my prayers.
God has neglected to execute any justice in defense of the weak or poor in all of human history.
God has neglected to do anything for me which has required me to do all things in my own strength.
This isn’t God’s fault. You know, seeing as he isn’t real. It’s like being mad at Santa for not bringing you the bike you always wanted. But unlike Santa, I trusted my life to God. I fricking work for the guy.
But no, I won’t stay a Christian if things at church get better. I realize now that successful churches have strong and talented leadership, not supernatural gifting. Just like every other organization.
It doesn’t matter how faithful you are, how true to scripture you are, how pure and holy you are. God doesn’t care. Churches grow for the same reason businesses do, skill and not divine blessing.
I’m leaving the ministry & faith because if there is a God, he certainly hasn’t paid any attention to me. And no amount of church growth or health can change that. No vacation, sabbatical, counseling, or medication can make up for a God who isn’t there. It’s not that I “feel” like he’s not there, he has given zero indication he exists.