A Doormat Christianity

Matthew 22:34-40, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Loving God and loving others. The two greatest commands. The heart and soul of what it means to live a Christian life.

In an old newspaper column somewhere back in time, I once wrote about God’s response when looking at his children and all of the theological drama we have created. In my imagination, I saw Him shaking His head and saying, “No, no, no. That isn’t it all.”

I suspect there are lots of ideas, beliefs, and dogmas that satisfy our human nature but miss entirely the ideal of God.

You might be an arm chair or a classically trained theologian and think me arrogant to even suggest such thing. In return, I think it pretty arrogant to ever imagine even for a minute that we have gotten it all right.

Along the way of developing and defending our doctrinal beliefs, it sometimes feels as if we have lost the main thing. I often tell the sixteen year old in our house, you can be right and still be wrong. If you are right, but mouthy and snotty in the process, all the right doesn’t undo what the attitude got wrong.

The same is true of Christianity. If your doctrine of _________ is exactly what God intended, but you fail to be loving toward your follow man, what good does it do?

You can be right and still be wrong.
Can I get an Amen?

I will probably not make any friends with this post. I suspect some will disagree vehemently. And that’s ok.

I keep being told that one day I will be back in full time ministry. I agree.

I am trying hard to find my voice, to discover my niche, or for lack of a better term, create my own ministry role. But, if you mean being a full time pulpit minister/ preacher/ pastor for a local congregation… I just can’t do that.

One reason is I am a long way from an everyday hey-God-I-can-do-this kind of thing. God and I are still wrestling. I am still limping. And like it or not, most churches wouldn’t handle very well a preacher who openly limps. I am sure there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t know them.

More importantly, another reason is my inability to practice a Doormat Christianity.
Go ahead and ask… you know you want to… What is Doormat Christianity?

As a preacher, my greatest desire was to see the kingdom of God grow. To do that, I strived hard to love God by loving others. In the process, I often allowed myself to become a doormat to those I served.

What about Jesus’ commands to turn the other cheek or to go the extra mile? I fully believe those words at work in our lives would go an awful long way to bringing us peace in our relationships.

Loving God by loving others even when they are unloveable is not the issue. On the other hand, we are often motivated by something less than love in going the extra mile or turning the other cheek.

It’s not a pretty picture, but in my life as a preacher, it was often more about self-preservation. In order to not rock the boat, I welcomed the opportunity to be a doormat to keep my job or provide for my family.

I am kidding right? Not one little bit.

Spiritual abuse? Bring it on.
Power trips? Learn to roll with the punches.
Maintaining the status quo at the cost of your own spiritual growth and creativity? You betcha.

I probably sound bitter. I am. But, I am not content to stay there and so God and I are having to wrestle with that as well.

In the meantime, can I ask a favor? Love your ministers lavishly. Chances are you have no idea what they are sacrificing–sometimes even their own self-esteem. If you like to make jokes at the preacher’s expense about only working one day a week or keeping his moving boxes close to hand or how much money he makes, Stop!

Stop now. He may laugh with you, but it takes a toil.

Eventually he becomes a doormat whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. Even when he can’t or won’t see it for what it is, his spouse sees it and suffers too.

Doormat Christianity is hurtful, destructive, and ultimately damaging to the spirit within.

Loving others means saying this is wrong!

Thanks for reading.
Anything in particular you would like me to address?
How can I help you?

Les Ferguson, Jr.

33 thoughts on “A Doormat Christianity

  1. I’ll give you a hearty “AMEN!” I was fortunate to be with a church my last 14 years of preaching that allowed me to limp, and limped with me. But much of the other baggage a preacher carries was also a part of the job … especially all the jokes. Yes, they take their toll.
    That said, our present ministry is far more rewarding than preaching ever was. I am hoping the same for you. I don’t believe for a moment that your ministry is past tense.

    • Thanks, Greg. I don’t know how this will all play out. Patrick is pluging me every chance he gets–you and others are too. If I could be independently wealthy and not have to do this 100% commission thing for a couple of months, I think I could crank a book out in no time. At any rate, I am not unhappy to be free of the doormat!

  2. Much food for thought – especially the way we treat others as well as ourselves. Even though I can see (and definitely understand) how you might feel bitter, I also see the humble and serving heart you have, and how open and willing you are to guide and inspire those of us lucky enough to read your words. I appreciate being able to check out what you’ve written each time 🙂

  3. Love this analogy: “you can be right and still be wrong. If you are right, but mouthy and snotty in the process, all the right doesn’t undo what the attitude got wrong. ”
    I so feel with/for you, Brother, thank you for helping me through the “messy” Christianity. Hang in there, we are gonna make it – I wanted to say some more great “platitudes” but fell short. Oh,well.

  4. I am currently studying to go into preaching or some kind of ministry… officially that is – I will always minister as you do by allowing others to reflect with you (Thanks btw, you got my wheels turning). It is very interesting to me to listen to what ministers and preachers experience… I already share in it, however, having never worn the official title, I have not invited that aspect of a congregation’s perspective.
    Could this be a part of the suffering Paul and others frequently speak of? We know he, in fact, bore physical scars due to beatings and such… all for the sake of Christ.
    When I first read the title, I was thrilled at the thought: if a doormat is needed to help you to the door and that is the role of the Christian, wonderful!
    If being walked on, especially by those we serve is what it takes to wake them up to actually GO THROUGH THE DOOR, then that is what we must do… but that wasn’t exactly what you meant… or at least not where you concluded.
    Good stuff. Thanks and may God bless you for and by your sacrifices!

  5. Les, I agree with you entirely! Amen! We through following the scripture have come close to restoring New Testament teaching/doctrine to God’s standards, but we are a long way “away” from restoring the the “spirit” of New Testament Christianity I see in the early church in scripture, today. The church as you said may be right doctrinally, but still be wrong in the application/spirit of that truth. Preach ON!

  6. I can completely relate to what you are talking about being a minister and what you are talking about is my biggest problem. A big part of me feels locked up and I have learned to become that doormat you speak of.

    When I first got hired I thought to myself, “I won’t rock the boat for the sake of rocking the boat, but I will not compromise what I believe to be true for the sake of sparing controversy.” I lived by this for a while and then all of a sudden I found myself in hot water (coincidentally, while preaching about the very passage you mentioned above) and the fear of not being able to provide for my family quickly took over.

    A part of me feels defeated if that makes sense. My struggle still is how can I work in a church that new what I believed when they hired me yet has forced me into a doormat situation.

    And you are absolutely right that your spouse can pick up on this as she remains a little unsettled after that whole situation. Being doctrinally right yet still wrong is certainly an issue that I see sticking around for me to wrestle with as well as this doormat mentality.

    And Les, you or anyone else, is fooling themselves if you think this isn’t a ministry. You minister to those who are hurt spiritually but refuse to give in! God bless you!

    • Thanks Jacob. I realize this is a ministry of sorts. I have had several tell me it is my best ministry work ever. Not what I ever imagined. One day it might even help me by being my “line of work” again.

  7. I can often justify my own “doormatyness”(been pulpit man for 12 years same place, not been a particularly easy gig), but the most difficult for my wife and I is with our kids (14,16). Can’t count number of times we’ve told them, “suck it up”, “ignore it”, etc, etc…when the brethren take their shots. I do not wrestle with God at or on the level you do or have. I have not had to endure the things you have. But on my own level and in my own arena, I wrestle. Somedays I do better than others. Somedays I walk with a pronounced limp. I worry about my kids. Thank you for being so honest and willing to share your journey. It helps.

    • David, I was and still am a preacher’s kid. I know exactly what you are talking about. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Thank you, brother, for this post. And you’re ministering to me right now as I write this. I am feeling completely drained, defeated, and alone, and yet I’m not supposed to tell anyone that. I’m told to be a peace”maker” – don’t rock the boat. “People will say things, just ignore them.” I want to say, “Well, let me walk into your place of work and start saying some of those things about you and see how long you can ignore them.” The “jokes” do take their toll, but I just smile and act like everything is okay. Inside, I’m questioning every move I make, every sermon I preach, every word I say, wondering if I should even be a preacher anymore. I’m supposed to lay down my convictions, my vision, my personality, my desires, all for the “greater good” of the congregation?? I’m tired of being a doormat. Thank you, again, from the bottom of my heart.

    • David, gosh… I hate what you are dealing with there. Tough stuff. You are a good man, good husband, good father, good friend, and a good preacher. I hope the folks there recognize you for who you are and what you do…

    • Hate to hear of anyone feeling that they need to compromise convictions, dreams and desires David. Perhaps a session with church leaders regarding convictions and vision might be in order? I had several meetings like this when I pastored. Sometimes the leaders were in the dark about my feelings and other times they did not agree with my views. In all cases the air was cleared and I at least felt “heard”.

      Blessings as you press forward with Jesus!

  9. LOL, you got a lot of comments on this one Les. I think that your thoughts about church resonate with many of us.

    I have often thought about how difficult it is for a pastor to oppose those who pay his or her salary. Makes a good case for lay pastors. Sadly, that would not fly with most church goers as they want their own preacher rather than having a team of teachers share the pulpit. These are all examples of how we are still influenced by a Roman Catholic interpretation of “church”.

    All that said, I am glad that you are rethinking what it means to follow God with a limp. Perhaps you should consider teaching a class in seminary or bible college on the topic? I suspect that you would do well in that environment!

    Have a great weekend!

    Blessings, Bob

  10. You definitely get an ‘Amen’ on that!

    RE: “I will probably not make any friends with this post.”

    Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if you make LOTS of friends with this post. This post is accurate, true, and needed. I think it is a travesty that many (maybe most) church folk hold their preachers to higher standards than they, themselves, are willing to live up to. I think it is sad when preachers aren’t allowed to think and grow. I think it is ridiculous when people think they have it all figured out and that there’s no reason for thinking and growing.

    I’m sure some would call me a hypocrite for stating that the verse that you opened with is ALL there is and that there really is nothing else. I guess that makes it sound like I think I have it all figured out. In my way of looking at things, it’s more like this: The ‘what’ is easy – Love. The ‘why’ is a bit more difficult. And, the ‘how’ is very elusive. I guess this is akin to knowing the goal but struggling with how to achieve it. It’s a life-long process. I will never arrive.

    Yes, putting others in a position of having to practice Doormat Christianity is wrong!

  11. So ….
    I was a follower. I was, I really WAS! Even went to a Christian college – a very conservative one. Went to chapel everyday, did Bible studies, the whole nine yards. But, I just can’t believe that the ONLY way to God is through Jesus. Oh, I understand my sinful status and that I need a Savior and that IS Jesus. But, it makes absolutely no sense that God condemned billions and billions of people to hell because they never heard of Jesus. And the OT God is not one of love and compassion. Two different testaments, two different Gods.
    Then, there’s the problem of “Where is God?” when people call on him. Don’t give me that crap “In His time.” The Bible says straight away, pray and the prayers will be answered. And, it doesn’t say, “Oh, that answer may be, ‘No.'” I still pray, just asking for his peace, and all I have is anxiety.
    I’m a scientist (atmospheric physics) and and engineer (environmental). I understand more about quantum physics than 99% of people, and probably understand more about astronomy than 95% of them. I KNOW the awesomeness of the Universe and don’t believe that it just randomly occured. There is a Creator. But, where is He (or She?)? Where is the relief from fear and anxiety? Why does He (or She?) refuse to help people in need?
    I’d love to get back to the simple faith I once had. No, really, I don’t want SIMPLE faith. I want faith based on reason, not simplicity.

    • I love your comment Janet! I too spent a lot of time in ultra-conservative churches that seemed to see everything in black and white terms. Life got better for me when I began to see the bible, and life in general, in grayer ways.

      Your thoughts about Jesus being the only way and how billions of people will suffer torment eternally reminds me that Jesus is a lot bigger than our narrow understandings of what it means to believe in Him. For sure many embrace a formulaic approach to salvation – makes sense to people living in a black and white hallucinogenic state. But please know that there other views (like the one Billy Graham has) that deals with those billions of peoples.

      Concerning your issues with what the bible says about prayers being answered straight away – I think that it is good to remember that a lot of things are written in hyperbolic language. In other words, all things are not really possible, literal mountains are not meant to be moved, not everything that we ask in prayer is answered. Many of the things written are over-emphasized simply to make a point.

      It is hard for a one-time engineer like me to wrap my head around that though – I want gray things to be black or white. Yet the bible is not really about black and white. Genesis is about a bigger story than the nuts and bolts of creation. The scriptures weave an amazing story about God and His creation. We do not have to accept that everything written in it is God’s literal dictation to and through man – that really just cheapens the story and drags us through pointless arguments.

      Better that we try to embrace a heart (i.e. grayer) view of biblical stories. I find that when I do I learn so much more about the ways that God interacts with humanity and humanity with Him. I think that the Book is all about the big stories and really not all that much about doctrinal stuff. The Jesus story, for me anyway, is unrivaled in all of history when we see it as a story of God visiting the planet instead of some heady doctrinal dissertation of some sort of dogma.

      Regarding questions of why God does not give relief from fear or why people in need are not helped – perhaps humanity owns more of the answer than we want to own up to? Perhaps the love of God is resident in other people who can help us if we simply humble ourselves and ask them?

      I am glad that you are not looking for simple faith. I have found that faith that does not struggle is not really faith but some superstitious and useless believer-ism that fails when times get tough. Watching my first wife die seemed to strip away a lot of that silliness from my life.

      In closing I want to thank you for the genuineness of your comment and the reality expressed in it.

      Cheers, Bob

    • Janet, I hear you loud and clear. I have lots of questions too. At this point it isn’t always about the answers, but the journey. My faith and understanding is often shaky, but here I am…

  12. AMEN AND AMEN, speaking from a former minister myself, I am right where you are. The limp is very noticeable.
    Thanks for being real. that will aid in your healing I assure you. I am praying for you, pray for me as well.

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  14. i have been saved for 24yrs. i remember the day vividly. i believe for a lot of people, particularly those who think being intelligent is the answer., this idea of being saved is very difficult.i had to basically come to the end of thinking i was the boss, and this through much suffering before i fell on my knees and told god, ;if there is a god please reveal yourself to me ! i had been reading the bible when i came to believe., not sitting around with my head down like i normally would. the word of god brought salvation to me, and the word of god is jesus.you really need to realize we , as smart as we are , streetsmart or worldsmart. we have nothing to bring to god , that he supplied all in christ.i struggle a lot and guys like me that hate religion but love the lord arent welcome in the church today., people really dont want to be bothered. and god forbid if you confess your faults people smile but never talk to you again.we all need to be broken before we even think of being of much help. thank you

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