Disclaimer: Not for the Weak

I want to begin with what I consider to be an obligatory disclaimer. The Drunk Ex-Pastors podcast is listed under “MA” for mature audiences in iTunes. It is not a Christian podcast. It’s not for the weak of heart, ultra conservative, or the legalistic Christian. If you have an issue with swearing, left leaning politics, drinking, or simply listening to those who you may not agree with you’d do well to stay away from Drunk Ex-Pastors.

I want to get that out of the way so I can get, hopefully, to a deeper level of interaction with the podcast and its hosts, Christian Kingery and Jason Stellman. Anyone in the church could listen to half an episode of Drunk Ex-Pastors and quickly dismiss it for a variety of moral reasons. However, I think if we get beyond the surface level and take some time to listen to both the hosts, and their audience, we can discover some very real concerns that are worthy of our attention.

With that in mind, I also want to note that I have listened to all forty-seven episodes of the Drunk Ex-Pastors podcast. I am not working from a small sampling to write this review. To Jason, Christian, and those in their audience who may stumble upon this post I just want to say that some of us are listening.

The Hosts: Jason and Christian

Drunk Ex-Pastors is hosted by two former missionary pastors Jason Stellman and Christian Kingery. They both had interaction at a young age with Calvary Chapel churches. From what I’ve gathered from the podcast they both served as missionaries overseas for Calvary Chapel. While serving overseas, they began leaning toward a Calvinistic view of soteriology (GASP!!!). As a result of this shift in their theological conviction Calvary Chapel dropped all of their support.

At this point, Jason and Christian took two different paths ideologically while remaining close friends along the way. Christian went into the workforce and developed into an agnostic. An agnostic, by the way, is not the same as an atheist. Christian believes that there may be a higher power, he’s just not sure that this higher power is exclusively or accurately represented in Scripture.

Jason, on the other hand, moved on to become a fairly well known Presbyterian pastor, publishing “Dual Citizenship” with Reformation Trust publishing. Naturally, you won’t find that title available at Reformation Trust or Ligonier Ministries, but you can still dig it up on Amazon.com. From there, Jason began investigating Catholicism. His search lead him to leave the ministry and join the Catholic church.

Their unique background and affiliation with the evangelical/protestant church affords them a very unique and important perspective. More importantly, their unique perspective allows them to speak on behalf of a large number people who have been wounded by that same church. Their message is one that is resonating with people who have left the church and the reasons they are leaving are, frankly, understandable.

The Format and Content: Can We Talk Openly?

The podcast kicks off with Jason and Christian kicking back a shot in honor of listeners who have shared or supported the podcast. Then they ramble a bit about their week before hitting their intro music. Currently, they’ve been taking the first half of the podcast to listen, and respond, to voice-mails. Next, they jump into a main topic or two. Along the way they get lost on long rabbit trails that lead to an inordinate amount of movie quotations, actor names, and reminiscing of shared experiences from their past. None of this, though, is lacking in entertainment value and they almost always find their way back to the main topic.

One of the main things that drew me to the podcast, initially, is that they openly discuss topics that don’t typically get a lot open dialogue in the church. Topics such as indoctrination, politics, transgenderism, racism, police brutality, gender inequality, etc. These are all topics that I suspect Christians are facing in their public interactions but I don’t see a lot of open discussion on these topics. When there is discussion, it’s not very open. One thing I really appreciate is that I think Jason and Christian express thoughts and opinions that a lot of churchgoers may harbor internally but are afraid to discuss openly.

This brings me to my first point. Can Christians talk openly? If we have a passing thought that goes against the grain of our church are we afforded the freedom to express that thought in open, honest dialogue? I have to admit, personally, I don’t think we really can in most cases. In fact, I think what happens is exactly what happened to Jason and Christian when they lost their support from Calvary Chapel. Rather than discuss the controversy, we divide, or separate.

That ends up causing a lot of hurt and pain. In fact, one of the most telling moments of the podcast so far, for me, came at the end of episode 35 when Jason was sharing his “Bieber.” A “Bieber” is a small, insignificant thing that annoys or irritates somebody. Jason and Christian end every episode by sharing one of their “Biebers.” This segment is usually humorous in nature. However, in episode 35 Jason reveals that his Bieber is authenticity and vulnerability. He is upset with authenticity and vulnerability because whenever he opens himself up he gets blasted.

Jason uses the example of a turtle coming out of its shell to illustrate how he feels. Every time he comes out of his shell he gets blasted by criticism that cuts him deeply and personally. So, in this episode, he contemplates whether or not coming out of his proverbial shell is really worth it. Are authenticity and vulnerability worth the risk of being lambasted? Maybe it’s better to just tell everybody that things are “fine” and that you’re “happy.”

It’s at moments in the podcast like this that I can really resonate with. I rarely agree with Jason and Christian on any religious or political position. However, I can relate to the feelings and thought processes that they express so openly. My concern, as a pastor, is that there are many Christians in the church who actually feel the same things Jason and Christian feel, and they just keep it to themselves. They stay in their shell. Rather than saying these things openly, and publicly, they just say “I’m fine” and “I’m happy” while inwardly they are questioning a lot of what the Bible teaches. I think, as a church, we need to get to the place where we are as open and honest with our thoughts and feelings as Jason and Christian are when they’re drunk (or mildly inebriated).

The Audience We Need to Hear

Finally, I want to zero in on the audience of the Drunk Ex-Pastors. I’m not sure I’d write this review if it weren’t for the listeners who have called into the Drunk Ex-Pastors. If it were just Jason and Christian rambling on about the church, their life experiences, and their political views I’m not sure a review would be necessary. However, as I have listened to their callers, I realized that there are a lot of people out there who feel exactly the same way Jason and Christian do. There are a lot of people who have been wounded by the church and the Drunk Ex-Pastors podcast has become a sort of safe outlet for them.

One of the main reasons I listen to the Drunk Ex-Pastors is because it gives me a rare opportunity to hear people share their honest opinions about the church without any filter. Many of the callers are people who became disconnected with the local church and are airing out their grievances. Others are somewhat unaware as to what goes on in the local church and simply want to gain a better understanding of why churches do what they do. In either case, they feel right at home calling Jason and Christian to discuss these issues.

I think we, as Christians, need to think about why these callers are so comfortable calling Jason and Christian, and yet seem extremely uncomfortable sharing the same thoughts in their local church. It seems to me that the local church should be the safe environment where such questions could be asked and honestly answered. We need to evaluate the environment that we’re creating and the perception that we’re putting out there to those who have honest questions and who have been hurt by the church.

To The Drunk Ex-Pastors: I Hear You

I want to end this review by simply saying to Christian, Jason, and all their listeners: I hear you. I can relate to a lot of the hurt, pain, and struggles that have been described in the podcast. I know that the questions are genuine and the hurt is real. As a church, we need to do better at being open and honest. We need to do better at allowing people to wrestle through questions and disagreements they may have. We need to do better at answering complex questions biblically and logically. In short, I understand why you’re leaving, and why you’ve left. I get it.

Biebers

I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a couple of my own Biebers. DXP listeners will understand…

  • When Christians shut down a conversation by saying “I’ll Pray For You.” It’s arrogant, self righteous, and frankly annoying.
  • When I get the wrong order at McDonalds.
  • Creflo Dollar.
  • People who make fun of NASCAR (I told you I listened to episode 47).

*Dick Bush… Out!*