Archives For Kurt Bubna

Letter of Criticism

“You’re a pathetic leader and pastor. Why God would let you pastor our church or any church is a mystery to me!”

That was just the opening line in a four-page single-spaced letter. Seriously. Of course, it wasn’t the first scathing correspondence to cross my desk, and it won’t be the last, but it hurt. A lot.

Adding insult to injury, this letter came on the heels of some other staff struggles and in the midst of a season of decline in our church. It might not have stung as deeply as it did if I hadn’t already been questioning my leadership. Nothing like getting kicked in the head when you’re down. For several days I wondered what it would be like to sell cars for a living.

I wish I could tell you that I’m so secure that I am unaffected by criticism. I wish I could write a blog about how to put people in their place when they go ballistic on you. Frankly, I wish the awesomeness of my leadership skills and the growth of our church were enough to silence the critics. They’re not.

So what did I learn…

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Give up b & w guyWe tend to see God through our shattered perspective, and that’s a big problem. With a severely damaged self-image, we generally have a broken God-image too. In fact, let’s be honest; some of us believe God is great and all-powerful, but we can’t imagine Him doing anything astonishing through our lives. We sing worship songs about His awesomeness, but we believe God is limited in what He can do with screw-ups like us.

A huge part of the dilemma is that we like to create gods in our own image. We make gods out of the rich and famous. We elevate leaders (including politicians and pastors) to god-like status. We put them on a pedestal somewhere prominent in our lives, but in the end it’s a puny little god we’ve made to worship rather than Almighty God. Here’s the problem: If our God is too tiny or too human (like us), then our faith and confidence in Him will be too small.

Deep down we want to believe that God can do anything, but we’re pretty sure He has limits when it comes to us. Time or space might not…

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Mute BusyOur world is filled with noise. It’s hard to find a place of quiet reflection anymore. Whether it’s some kid’s over-driven-bass-thumping music from his car, the laughter or racket of children, or jets overhead—we are frequently bombarded with sound. Some good. Some not so good.

Due to my bad back, bad knees, and bulbous belly, I haven’t backpacked in years. One of the things I miss about those great outdoor outings into the backcountry of the Cascades or Glacier National Park is the serenity. Except for the occasional call of a bull elk or the melodic chatter of birds, the silence was golden. Those quiet times refueled my soul.

Believe it or not, I’m an introvert. I love people. I can engage in a crowd with smiles and conversation. But I am refreshed in moments of solitude. There’s nothing I love more than a good book in one hand and a great cup of java in the other. Reading. Alone.

I find solace in solitude.

Interestingly, many people are uncomfortable with silence. I know people who must have a radio, CD or TV playing in the background all the time. Perhaps quiet intimidates some…

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Leaving“It’s my church home. I will never go anywhere else!” I smile when I read those words on our church’s Facebook page, but I know differently. Nobody stays forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only person not eventually leaving is my wife.

People come, and people go often for all the wrong reasons.

  • They grow bored with your teaching. “I’m not getting fed any longer.”
  • You’re not new and exciting anymore. “We feel called to support a new pastor in town.”
  • They don’t like the music. “We don’t do my favorite songs enough and the music is too loud.”
  • They’re struggling relationally. “I’m having some issues with Bob and feel it’s best to just move on.”
  • It seems like you’re all about numbers and reaching new people. “What about me?”

Of course, there are a hundred other reasons given, but they always boil down to one: they don’t love you anymore or at least not as much as they used to. Let’s face it, people rarely leave what they truly love.

They don’t leave a dream job that they love.

They don’t leave a spouse whom they love.

They don’t leave a church that they love.

It just doesn’t happen. We…

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Church Sucks!

By Kurt Bubna

Not too long ago, a family entered our church lobby looking fairly stressed. Having had a few fights on my way to church over the years, I understand the potential for family tension on the way to worship. It also seems that Murphy’s Law is extremely active when people are on their way to something that’s good for them.

As I smiled and said, “Hello” to this family, one of their kids (a junior high boy) said under his breath, “Church sucks!” From the look his mother gave him, I suspect he was grounded for a long time following that comment. Unfortunately, the dad almost winked at him as if to say, “I understand how you feel son; I don’t want to be here either!”

As you can imagine, this is not a great confidence booster for pastors.

You see, for pastors, church is like the Super Bowl, except it happens every Sunday. We love it! We’re excited to connect with our community of faith. We look forward to investing in the lives of people we love. So when they don’t show up, or worse yet, they show up with an attitude, it’s hard for us to understand.

Sure, at times I’ve left…

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Curse-Leadership-FailEveryone has seen a political or religious leader implode, and often the failure is sexual in nature. Recent political history has many examples from men like Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer. In the Church it’s been guys like Ted Haggard and Doug Phillips. Of course, biblical examples include men like King David and his son, Solomon. It seems there is a potential curse, of sorts, on those who lead.

Tragically, I have way too many friends who have fallen as well . . .

  • A mentor in ministry who committed adultery many years ago.

  • A good friend who lost his church and wife due to a pornography addiction.

  • A fellow pastor in town who now is in prison for the use of and distribution of child porn.

Frankly, it’s happened so often to so many that I find myself bouncing between depression and anger.

How could he do that to his wife?

Why would he risk everything for the temporary pleasure of sexual sin?

What possible reason could he have for risking all and losing so much?

But then . . .

I turn on the television, and the normalization of the abnormal and the promotion of illicit sex is everywhere.

I open…

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Back Door“Everybody is leaving someday!” When my pastor and friend of almost forty years made that declaration, I was a bit shocked. He could see the look on my face, so he clarified, “We shouldn’t get too bent out of shape when people leave our church because everybody will end up eventually leaving or dying.” If that didn’t come from a guy who pastors a very large congregation, I might have suspected he was just bitter about a struggling church.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that blunt statement then, but I know how I feel about it now. He’s spot on; no one (except my wife) is with me until the end.

For years, I’ve read articles and books and listened to brilliant mega-church pastors tell me, “You must close the back door to grow your church! It doesn’t matter how big your front door is if you’re hemorrhaging folks out the back.” In other words, if you don’t have a dynamic small group ministry, an effective way to plug people into service, and a strong discipleship program, people won’t stay long.

For years I believed them, but not so much…

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How Do You Define Success?

By Kurt Bubna

SuccessIn our culture, we underrate failure and overrate success. In fact, I recently did an Amazon search for “how to succeed” and found 27,857 books listed. Seriously, that’s a lot of noise out there about success, but I fear too many insights about this issue have got it dead wrong. Frankly, a lot of pastors wrestle with this issue on a regular basis (myself included).

Several years ago, a middle-aged pastor named Tom came to me extremely discouraged. He told me, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to succeed at something . . . anything . . . but the golden ring is always just out of reach. No matter what I do, my church just won’t grow.”

I asked him an important question, “Tell me how you define success?” Without blinking, he rattled off a list of measurables and goals that “must be met” (his words) for him to feel accomplished as a pastor. Most of them had to do with attendance numbers and recognition by his peers.

I gently pushed back and responded, “What if success is different than you think? Is it possible you’ve been reaching for the wrong golden ring?”…

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Leaving

“It just seems like we’re going different directions, and I think it’s time for you to move on.” Without a doubt, those are the hardest words I’ve ever spoken to a friend that worked for me.

I was a young pastor in a relatively small church located in a very big city. I’d let folks go before in my many years of managing people in business, but terminating a staff pastor and friend was completely new for me.

I hurt. He hurt. The church hurt. Handing someone his or her pink slip ranks right up there with a colonoscopy in my book.

Even when you know it’s right.

Even when it’s best for the church.

Even when you’ve done everything you could to avoid it.

It’s never fun to part ways with someone you’ve been with in the trenches of ministry. What complicates matters even more is the fact that we are Christians, and it seems inconsistent with our Christian values to fire someone.

Where’s the grace? Where’s the love? What about longsuffering? All good questions. But sometimes the kindest act of love and grace is to face reality and do the right thing even when it’s hard.

I…

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Atomic Explosion

If you’ve been pastoring for more than a month, you’ve had someone go nuclear on you. You know what I mean . . . a charter member, board member or disgruntled church member drops a bomb on you that blows you up! Deserved or not, it hurts. Ready or not, it comes with destructive power that sends you into an emotional mess.

Perhaps they’ve never read what Solomon wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death . . .” (Proverbs 18:21), and they don’t understand the wound they’ve inflicted.

So what should you do when you’re deeply disappointed with someone? Whether you’ve been hurt by a nasty email or upset by a post-service meltdown, what are the best ways to deal with your frustration and anger?

Here are some things that will help:

1.    Bite your lip and count to a million!

Try not to react. In fact, under-react. The first thing that comes to mind to say in your defense is rarely the best thing to say to resolve the conflict. Sit down. Shut up. Give it at least a few hours, if not a day or so, before you respond. Tell…

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It’s late at night and my phone rings. An old friend is on the line, and the first thing I hear is, “I think I’ve ruined everything . . . I’ve had an affair.”

In a culture gone crazy for sex, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am.

You would be hard pressed to find a television sitcom without sex. Primetime is bombarded with casual sex and illicit affairs. From dramas like Desperate Housewives to Scandal, it seems the new normal is to cheat on your spouse who then cheats on you for revenge.

Estimates of American men involved in extramarital affairs at least once in their lives range from 22% to 75%; estimates for women range from 14% to 60%. Add to that the statistic that 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never be caught, and it’s obvious this is a big problem in our society!

So let’s take a brief look at the anatomy of an affair and how to have one (if you want to ruin everything).

First, ignore all…

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When Trust is Broken

By Kurt Bubna

Most of us don’t have to think very long or hard to remember the last time our trust was shattered. Maybe it was a board member who devastated your trust and turned his back on your friendship. Maybe it was your teen who made some really bad or dumb choices. Maybe it was a staff member who promised one thing and yet did another. Perhaps it was a mentor who let you down, and like Humpty Dumpty he has fallen off his pedestal and trashed his honor and your trust to pieces.

Trust is at the core of every healthy relationship. When you trust someone, your mind is at peace, and even the thought of that person brings joy to your heart. When it is broken, however, there is a deep and unsettling pain at even the mention of the offender’s name.

Trust provides an environment of confidence in a relationship. It fosters an openness and boldness in a way that causes us to speak the truth in love. But without trust, it’s hard to believe the best about another person, let alone take the risk of…

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