Posted by: watchman | November 26, 2013

Familiar Story

“Not all churches are bad, but the ones that are have no problem being as bad as they can be. ” Ugh… this poor guy.

Check out Rob Fee’s story on –

(Warning: the story appears on Links are usually either awesome or traumatizing)

Posted by: Botolff | March 22, 2012

Fired Mars Hill Church Pastor Releases History

Thank God some are waking up, and are courageous enough to speak up about their abuse. (See Link Below)

Paul and Jonna just wrote their stories a few days ago about their abusive experience within their last church.  Jonna described some of the heart of the problem with church abuse when she said…

We were in the ether, under a kind of ‘delusion.’ I have come to believe that when idolatry is at play, it often creates and allows for an unreality to take hold of those who participate, as if under a spell, unable to see or hear the truth because it is all filtered through a projected “reality.” But it is a false reality – a delusion. I believe this dynamic is often true in cults where there is one dominant, charismatic, controlling leader.”

Paul and Jonna, thank you so much for both your courage and your compassion.  You are not alone on this journey.  Your hearts have been heard…if only by a few.

If there is anything I/we can do to help support or encourage you, please get in contact.  ~ Botolff (

 Fired Mars Hill Church Pastor Releases History.

Posted by: watchman | March 1, 2012

Ed’s Story

Watch the video. It is well worth your time. Ed Dobson was a mega-church pastor. ALS forced him to give up the pulpit. It was then, he discovered his purpose and identity.

Click Here: Ed’s Story: My Garden

Posted by: watchman | March 1, 2012

Reasons I Should Pastor: Crack Dealer

Previously on ‘Why I Shouldn’t Pastor’:


Peter Rollins posted another incendiary thought that resonated with me as I look back at ministry. Check it out here –

Within the post, Rollins writes:

My concern is that most of the actually existing church acts as a type of drug den with the leaders being like the nicest, most sincere, drug dealers. What we pay for are songs, sermons and prayers that help us avoid our suffering. These drugs are very appealing because of the quick fix and powerful high they offer, hence the success of such communities. However they do not help us face up to, speak out and work through our pain.

When I was pastoring, I did feel like a drug dealer. I would stand up front and I would offer easy answers to complex questions. I would build flimsy facades around deep and profound mysteries. I would offer an artificial reality to replace what people were really going through. Why? Because people wanted to get away. People wanted to avoid much of the crap that was piling up all around them. So, they sought out  a church and a preacher that helped them feel good and I was an all-to-willing accomplice.

Isn’t that what we are looking for when we abuse substances? Aren’t we looking for escape? Aren’t we trying to construct an alternate reality – a place where things suck so much less?

I wish I could have been better at pushing congregations and individuals to confront the tragic reality of our lives and our world, instead of pushing them to stare blankly at useless facades.

For far too long, pusher preachers have turned the Church into a crack house and now folks are so strung out there would be an absolute revolt if the product stopped flowing.  Once I realized this, I had to get out.

And here I sit, in a self-prescribed rehab, longing for a fix.

Posted by: watchman | February 15, 2012

Reasons I Shouldn’t Pastor: Artificial Calling

A friend of mine wrote a very personal reflective post about the contradictions he perceives in people who rail against pastors who see their jobs as a jobs instead of callings. What he points out is that these people are actually paid professionals that tend to add to the system that they criticize.

Read the post here

So, what do you think of his thoughts and experiences? Have you ever though of the pastorate as a ‘profession,’ or do you maintain the label ‘calling’?

I think the difficulty in all this is  that the Church has no way of understanding ‘calling’ outside of a carnal professionalism that it regularly claims to avoid. In other words, someone feels like they should do more in the context of the local church and the church ships them off for professional training, certification, and job procurement. JUST LIKE ANY OTHER JOB. Whatever happened to this being more than just another job?

Sometimes, people are just called to make a difference. Sometimes people are called to care. Sometimes people are called to give hope to a hurting community. There are nuanced expressions for all those things within the local church and it is likely to be different for each person.

Yet, the Church has maintained a different approach. There are those who are called and they are the clergy. There are those who are not called and they are the laity. Theologically, this is pretty bogus and most people realize this. So, they say things like ‘No, no. Everybody is called to something, not just preachers. I may be called to preach. You may be called to clean toilets. But, it is all the same to Jesus.’

Yeah, right. The problem is that Jesus only writes one check and it doesn’t go to the poor sucker who is scraping the porcelain throne.

I was always wracked with guilt over this subject. Son’t get me wrong, I think I earned my checks. I worked hard and long hours. I made great sacrifices. Also, somebody had to do the stuff. So, I don’t have a problem with paying preachers. My issue is how do we choose whom to pay and for what we will pay? Doesn’t the money determine a preference for one gifting over the other?

Not only is there a significant monetary distinction made for clergy folks. There is also a deference given to clergy folks. There are titles, honorifics, and a place within the church that is clearly for a select few. The toilet cleaners aren’t given a title, or honored, and their place in the church is not special at all.

Scripture seems to emphasize equality much more than our current system. Also, as my friend points out, the ministry was open to anybody. The qualifications were organic, the certifications were relational, and the leadership was familial. But, today we have a new system. We have created an artificial calling. The path is the way of professionalism and it is most certainly a career.

Want to make a difference? Just follow Jesus. But, if you want to stop playing games and be a REAL person of God, get your butt into seminary and get ordained.

This artificial model is inapplicable to the diverse and organic slate of experiences found in local church expressions.

In other words: people who are artists are creating art whether they get paid or not. They can’t help it. If they do get paid, great. If they don’t creativity still flows from them. Monetary realities do not determine the calling. Why isn’t that true of the pastorate, also? Do good whether you are paid or not. Pursue the calling, not the career and God might be found in the totality of it all.

Posted by: Botolff | January 28, 2012

More the “Why?” than the “What?”

I was going to comment on Watchman’s comment on the last post, but nothing like pretending a comment space is really a great place to write a full-on blog post.  So, I decided to pick it up here.

I feel like we(the church)’re missing something, and won’t find it until we ask a different question…”Why?”.  A much harder question to ask is  “Why?”.  We often go straight to “What?” because it’s easier.  What does the Bible say about _____?  What is the right thing to do about _____?  What would Jesus do about _____? What have other churches done about ____?  What should we do about him/her?  And inevitably, all of those questions lead most Christians back to the first one…”What does the Bible say about ______?”  It’s a GREAT question to ask, if we claim that the Bible is A or THE foundational source for understanding the Christian faith.  In the following comments, I am not at all suggesting we don’t consult the Bible or our experience with it.  However, I don’t think the question “What” has always, or even often, given us the stability we are looking for when it comes to grasping the reasoning for why we do what we do, and how we should really be living.

Instead, I think the question we need to be asking more often is “Why?”  Why does the Bible say that about _____? Why should we do or say ______?  Why would Jesus do ______?  Why have other churches done _____?  Why should we respond that way to him/her?  Why does he/she do that?  Why do I believe “Why?” is a more important question?  Because I think the question “What?” is usually a cop-out from doing the harder work required by asking the question “Why?”.  The question “What?” often propels us too quickly into action, and we love that, because it helps us feel like we’re in control.  Frankly I think control is the root of all of our human initiated problems, and one of the things we all love the most.  God, that sucks.  One of the things we love the most is something that causes us the most problems.  Sounds like the root of sin to me.  The most powerful word I think I read in Watchman’s comment was Kurt’s word “controlling”.  The root of all sin is control.  If Mars Hill leadership believes that controlling repentant people is the answer to “church discipline”, then they themselves are the epitome of the very sin they act like they want to banish.  Only they have twisted Biblical teaching to back them up in order to retain all the power…and control.

The question “Why?” causes us to contemplate intention and motivation.  I believe if we can spend more time considering those two things, and less time chasing “what” the right thing to do is, we may find the key to unlocking a lot of mysteries, not only about human behavior (“why” people do what we do), but “why” the Bible says what it says.  But if we don’t ask more “why” and less “what”, we’re bound to continue to demand control, and our individual and corporate mental illness will continue to grow.

Why did I bring up the DSM-IV in my last couple posts?  Because it gives a very educated perspective on a number of mental disorders (of which we all struggle with to some degree), that if left unaddressed, will lead individuals and whole communities into a frenzy for control.  I have seen and experienced more NPD and BPD within Christian churches and organizations that I have worked for/with and attended than I have in any other arena of my life.  NPD and BPD are found in people who demand control because they can’t mentally handle the fear and shame that comes from their lives being out of their control.  Most of their lives were out of their control when they were younger, and they were severely abused by people who themselves demanded to be in control.  If you take the issue of control to it’s most extreme, you end up with psychopathic and sociopathic behavior.  I’ve seen some of that in the church as well.  The question I ask you is “Why?”.  Why do I ask the question “Why?”?  Because inevitably it leads me back to grass roots awareness of my need for control, and the damage that can do if left unchecked.  It seems to me that the leadership of Mars Hill Church in Seattle is demanding to remain in control and unchecked.  Andrew on the other hand gave up control the first time he confessed to someone that he did something he didn’t think was right.  True repentance surrenders control.  The problem is, there are people out there that pray on those who have given up or lost their control.  We call the former…perpetrators, and the latter…victims.  The word those two categories fit best under is…ABUSE.  It’s a BIG problem in the church.

Posted by: Botolff | January 25, 2012

Does anyone own a DSM IV? (Part 2)

So, I just found out that Part 2 of Matthew Paul Turner’s post about Andrew is already online.  I just read it and this was my comment…

“Oh My God! I just read part two and gasped…out loud! I must have missed it when I commented on part one. I’ve got cold sweats right now. What a wicked way to “lead”. The amount of control and manipulation that was exhibited in that letter is frightening. Andrew, speaking from experience, I am glad you are free. As hard as it will be in the days, weeks, months ahead for you to watch people sacrifice you for their own fantasy, I’m confident from the little I’ve read that you and God will be just fine together. Again, if you or others read this comment and want help, let me know. I am working with a number of counselors in the Seattle area who specialize in helping people recover from institutional religious abuse. Some of them do distance counseling over Skype if anyone outside the Seattle area needs help. You can find me at

Here is Part 2 of Matthew’s posts…

Posted by: Botolff | January 25, 2012

Does anyone own a DSM IV?

My prayer for today…

“Dear God,

Can you please wake up the church?  It seems much of it is in some sort of trance.  I’m not kidding God.  It’s weird, and frankly pretty creepy.  It’s so hard to explain.  So much of what is happening is blatantly violent and abusive, but so few seem to see it.  I admit,  and repent, that it took me a while to snap out of it, and for a long time I just perpetuated it.  Frankly, sometimes I see myself still buying in to the lies, and if not causing more abuse, giving it permission by doing nothing about it.  But now that I’ve experienced and studied the trauma of such severe abuse, I can’t stop seeing it, and I don’t want to keep causing it.  God please, save your people from our own slumber.  Give us the wisdom and strength that it takes to learn about our own abusive ways, and to spot it in others.  And God…forbid us to keep pretending that we don’t have a serious problem, before our children reap the consequences, and develop even more manipulative tools than we did to keep the fantasy going.”

~ Botolff

This prayer comes as a result of a post that was forwarded to me by a friend…

To Andrew and others who find themselves in similar situations, please know that there are people in the Seattle area, and around the country, who are committed to working specifically with faith based folks who have found themselves tied up in abusive institutional structures.  Speaking from experience, there are religious leaders locally, nationally and internationally who say they are guided by Biblical standards, when in all actuality, they are guided far more by their mental illness.  We want to try and help those trying to recover from that kind of leadership.

If you, person of the church, are starting to wake up and willing to risk your own responsibility in the matter, a helpful tool to begin reading is a DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  Start by reading about NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder).  If you need some help interpreting, contact me and I promise to do what I can to help you wade through the professional lingo, and help you become part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

Posted by: watchman | January 22, 2012

Reasons I Shouldn’t Pastor: Hack Job

Previously Posted


Chaplain Mike over at Internet Monk posted some good thoughts on 2 Corinthians today. One of the things the Apostle Paul was concerned about was the type of leadership that was influential among the people of the Corinthian church. He feared that the Corinthians were more apt to follow snakes than true Christ-like leaders (2 Cor. 11:3).

The good Chaplain remarks that the type of tools a leader utilizes makes a huge difference. We can utilize Kingdom tools or carnal tools.

I have used both types of tools, I must admit, and I am way better at the carnal ones. Therefore, I should stay away from the pulpit and stay away from leadership.

What are these carnal tools?

First, there is a tendency to build a personality cult around a charismatic leader. It was true in Paul’s day and it remains true in ours. Evangelical pastoring often assumes that the preacher has such a forceful personality that he/she is able to move and nurture the church by the force of his/her presence.

Second is the dependence on carnal philosophies and methodologies. We live in a day and age when pastors proudly refer to themselves as their churches’ CEO. I once had a conversation with a church-planting coach that taught me a church growth means that was pulled straight from a pyramid scheme’s playbook.

The Church is addicted to this kind of stuff and I often felt pressure to comply with these types of strategies. I look back a bit horrified to realize that I wasn’t too bad at these kinds of things and I regularly incorporated them into my ministry.

But, I was never comfortable with such carnality. I was never able to sell out completely. I could act according to carnal principles during the day and then have trouble looking in the mirror at night.

This put me in a bad spot. I was pretty good at the carnal stuff, but I wasn’t very good at the Kingdom stuff. Looking back, I think I unwittingly attempted some sort of hybrid between the carnal and Kingdom orientations. Trying to mix those two things together is a perfect way to botch everything up. Thus, I made a bit of a hack job out of most of the ministries I was a part of.

My advice to any young pastors out there is to be one or the other. Either be the pyramid-scheme CEO, or try to be the gracious Christ-like shepherd.

Posted by: watchman | January 19, 2012

Reasons I Shouldn’t Pastor: Dictatorship of the Weak

My friend Jeremy (a former pastor himself) once used a term that I thought was an appropriate description of most of the churches I have been involved with: ‘Dictatorship of the Weak.’

Dictatorship of the Weak occurs when a ministry revolves around the weakest members and their (dys)functions. Now, I don’t mean weakness in the sense of the Beatitudes. For instance, a church rallying around a struggling family or a member with addiction issues. In Christ’s kingdom, those people are worthy of the attention and resources. The struggling and hurting should be a focus for any Christ-like ministry.

When I say ‘weak,’ I invoke the backwards, upside down Kingdom mentality presented in the Gospels. Within that perspective the drunken beggar is the image of Christ, but the haughty Pharisee is the antithesis.

Too often in the American free church, the Pharisee gets all the attention while the drunkard gets ignored or worse. Ministry meetings are dominated by people complaining about the length of the service, the attire of the youth minister, or the placement of the flags on the stage. To end the meetings, a quick prayer is said for the couple in the process of divorce. Read More…

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