I’ve heard it from every conceivable angle. Staff members who feel like they’re working for an isolated jerk. Church members who miss – or are tired of – the old guy. People who can’t stand the new guy. Heck, I’ve even met pastors who didn’t like themselves.
Little did I know there is a counseling hotline available for people to call for advice or to vent their frustrations. It’s called, appropriately enough, the “I Don’t Like My Pastor Hotline” – or “Idle Miff” for short.
Idle Miff is run by a guy named Big Al, who will only give his first name. His only other known credential: he was once a pastor himself. Rumor has it that Big Al has a gift for cutting to the issue… and cutting to the quick if he has to.
And for the first time ever, Big Al has agreed to an exclusive interview. Be amazed, friends.
Be amazed, too, that Big Al probably weighs about 130 pounds dripping wet.
It’s a busy day at Idle Miff, and Big Al, as always, is working the phones alone. Mondays are always his busiest day, he says, “for obvious reasons.” So we’ll just have to be OK to catch him between hotline calls.
Not a problem, says I. It’ll be fun to see him in operation.
AW: So how long has Idle Miff been around?
BA: Almost 12 years (phone ringing). Hang on a sec…
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Uh huh. I see. So how long have the weeds been growing in his alley? I see. Well, here’s a thought – it’s obviously bugging you more than him, or he’s too covered up with work to notice them. Why don’t you cut them down yourself? Can you hold?
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Really? Amazing. Well, I can understand why you’d be upset, but look on the bright side. Now you know for SURE there is no book of Hezekiah in the Bible! Can you hold?
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. No ma’am, you can’t change churches… you’re the pastor’s wife, that’s why. Can you hold?
BA: I mentioned that Mondays are always busy, didn’t I?
AW: You did, but I had no idea…
BA: Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Well, he probably doesn’t like you, either. You’re welcome!
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Oh, Hi John. Uh huh. Wow. I’m sorry. Yeah, maybe it IS time for the nuclear option. Sure will.
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Really? How much does he make? Wow. Amazing. NO… it’s amazing that he would want to stick around in a place that pays him $6.50 an hour.
Okay, sorry. Where were we?
AW: So where’d you get the idea to open up this hot line?
BA: My therapist. He said it would help me to find a way to serve without being a pastor myself and without committing homicide or suicide.
AW: So what kinds of issues do you deal with?
BA: Oh, I’ve seen a little bit of everything. There is the classic double standard, where church people want their pastor to live under circumstances they wouldn’t accept themselves.
AW: I’ve seen that.
BA: There’s the hypersensitive… you know, the one he walked right past on Sunday without speaking.
BA: Of course, the power struggler, who spends six days a week telling other people what to do, and by God, isn’t going to let some preacher tell him how to live!
AW: And they call a hotline?
BA: Yeah, to try to tell me how to straighten up the pastor. Like the one I just told “he doesn’t like you either” – she calls every Monday.
AW: And you tell her the same thing?
BA: Pretty much. It seems to give her the perspective she needs.
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Oh hi, Louise. Okay… uh huh… so define “arrogant.” I see. Well, we may just have to disagree on this one. Rescheduling a meeting so he can take in his son’s football game isn’t arrogant. It just means his family is a higher priority than the picnic planning committee. Yes ma’am. I understand that the picnic only takes place once a year. But he only has this son once in a lifetime. You too, honey. Bye.
AW: So apparently you have some regulars.
BA: Oh yeah. Louise calls about once a month. Just needs some reality checks every once in a while. She’s a classic case of somebody who wants to like her pastor, but just needs help occasionally.
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Uh huh. Sure, whatever. Just one thing… when you join that new church, make SURE the pastor knows you’re not church hoppers. I mean, four churches in two years? Yeah, that’s pretty average.
AW: So was that a reality check?
BA: (smiling) Something like that. Just exercising my gift of sarcasm.
AW: So is that mostly all you get? Negative, griping church people?
BA: Oh, no. That’s just what I typically get on Monday mornings. There are some people who are really struggling because their pastor is a jackass.
AW: I don’t doubt that.
BA: Last week, a youth pastor called me from Birmingham, Alabama. He told me that the day before, 15 youth pastors in the city got together for prayer and fellowship. One of them asked for prayer because he and his pastor weren’t getting along. The moderator asked, “How many of you here could say the same thing?” All 15 youth pastors raised their hand!
BA: Fact is, if you polled staff members across America, I believe the majority of them would tell you they are frustrated, scared, hurt, or shackled by the one in charge.
BA: I think so.
AW: Why is that?
BA: Lots of reasons. Pride. Pressure from church members. Control freaks. No time to encourage or supervise because they’re so covered up. Clueless as to how to lead.
AW: But didn’t these guys go to seminary to learn how to lead churches?
BA: (laughing) Not hardly. Most seminaries train people for jobs that don’t exist.
AW: So how do you help people who are trapped in a situation like that? They don’t want to leave their church or their ministry, but they’re being led by someone who is incompetent, or arrogant, or whatever?
BA: I talk to them about the one solution I have found that ever works. Sorry, can you hang on a minute?
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Hi Tina. He did WHAT? Wow. I’m sorry. Now we did talk about the nuclear option, didn’t we? Okay. So you think you’re ready for that? Okay. Here’s what I want you to do. Do you have a Bible nearby? Good. Read Colossians 3:1-15. Then, once you put this into practice for yourself, ask God to kill him. Call me back and let me know how it’s working out. You too. Bye-bye.
AW: Did I just hear you right? Did you just tell her to ask God to kill somebody?
BA: Yeah, it’s the only thing that ever really works. I call it the nuclear option.
AW: So you ask God to nuke the pastor?
BA: In a manner of speaking. God says there are certain things we are to put to death – sexual immorality, lust, evil desires, greed… anger, rage, slander, potty mouth, lying. And then we are to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and peace.
BA: Well sometimes, even pastors get in a season where they aren’t doing that. So we teach people to pray in his place – that’s what it means to be an intercessor, anyway.
AW: So you’re saying to pray for pastors that God will kill the crud and raise up the good stuff? Or should I say, the “God stuff?”
BA: Yes. But only after they have the courage to ask the Lord to put those things out of our own lives.
AW: Wow. That’s something to think about. Hey, I know you’re busy… just one more question.
BA: OK, shoot.
AW: You’ve been doing this for 12 years. How are you funded?
BA: Oh, I have a support team, and I’m very well taken care of.
AW: Um… they’re all pastors, aren’t they?
BA: (smiling) It is not for me to disclose such sensitive information.
Thanks for calling Idle Miff, how can I help? Uh huh. Yes, I think I do… you can ask God to kill him…
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