Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Transparent-ish Pastor
How honest do we really want our pastors to be? I recently read a post entitled, "Dear Pastors - Tell us the Truth," encouraging ministers to be more transparent with their struggles, doubts and weaknesses. The author, who signed the letter as "the congregation" promised understanding and support as the preacher allowed a more candid glimpse into his/her soul. It sounds ideal, but ideal is usually unrealistic.
How vulnerable are pastors allowed to be before they run the risk of being judged, criticized, or fired? This blogger can offer reassurance as much as she wants in regards to understanding and support, but realistically, is that what would happen? I was visiting a church and the pastor said that he has a group of people that he is accountable to and they are allowed to ask him the tough questions. He didn't say what his struggles were, but what if he had? "I gossiped yesterday." Big whoop. "I was gluttonous at the potluck last Sunday." Who wasn't? "I looked at porn a few weeks ago." You're fired.
Growing up, my pastor used to say "I'm a sinner just like anybody else," but I didn't believe it. He had to say that. It was even harder to grasp when I only saw him on Sundays in his three-piece suit on an elevated platform worshipping and preaching.
This is how many parishioners see their pastors, high and lifted up, nicely dressed, and only talking about spiritual things. How could they possibly be less than perfect? I was once talking to a young man I was discipling and a certain minister's name came up. The young man said he couldn't imagine this very popular pastor struggling with the same things he dealt with. But I knew better. Pastors do struggle, pastors are sinners. Pastors make mistakes yet are recipients of the same grace and forgiveness from God that any sinner receives. But would they be offered that same grace and forgiveness from their congregation should they mention their specific weaknesses in a Sunday morning sermon?
Though some pastors enjoy the pedestal they are perched upon, I lean towards sharing out of my brokenness. I was asked to speak at a youth snow retreat several years ago. The Lord led me to share with the kids something I had never spoken of in public. I was nervous about it and felt very vulnerable. At the end of my message, I talked with several teenagers one on one who had the same experience I did and they had never shared it with anyone. They had been holding on to the pain and the shame of the past and felt so alone... until that night.
When I decided to be up front about my struggle with past pornography use, I realized I wasn't going to be pedestal material any longer. There was some back-lash over it simply because I was a pastor, and I realized that was going to come with the territory, but each time I receive a phone call or message from someone asking for help because their story mirrors mine, I know I'm doing what God has called me to do. "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses..." (see 2 Corinthinas 12), because as I share out of my brokenness, it connects with someone else's, and they can be assured that there is hope.