Pastors Who Tell the Truth

truthIf we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  1 John 1:8

Sometimes clergy lie to their parishioners and sometimes we lie to ourselves. Of course this is true for people in every vocation, but pastors are in a particular position of authority – at least in some circles – and we are susceptible to others’ unrealistic perceptions. I’m especially struck by this news story about the number of clergy outed on Ashley Madison.  And this story about the pastor who was both a successful seminary professor and Baptist minister and a human being with secrets.

If you are part of Church World – either vicariously or personally – you surely know a clergy person whose secret life has been revealed – painfully.  I’m less interested in the Jimmy Swaggarts and Ted Haggards of the world than in the local pastor who lies to him/herself and or lies to his/her people only to have those lies disclosed.

We need to hold each other accountable.  We need to try to be the people we profess to be by virtue of our ordination vows.

There are too many links in this post, but this article is a must-read.   I especially like this:  “Give a heady sermon and folks are moved, but give a vulnerable sermon and they are set free.”  Preachers who disclose our own failures and struggles create community.  Those of us who minimize our own vulnerabilities perpetuate the notion that we are morally and spiritually superior.

Sure, it’s our hope that we pastors will be Christ-like, but it’s our hope that everybody will be Christ-like, right?

It’s not enough to declare the obvious:  pastors are not perfect.  But my point is that we are doing a disservice when we lie to ourselves or fail to note that our secrets – if revealed – will hurt the people we love.

  • Maybe we have calmed ourselves with food, alcohol, sleeping pills, etc. for so long that we don’t even realize we have a problem.
  • Maybe we have presented a certain way of life (happy marriage, perfect kids, unwavering spiritual life, super-human emotional resilience) to the point that even we don’t even acknowledge the truth to ourselves.
  • Maybe we have made personal life choices that we hide from our parishioners.  Controversial example: Pastors in open marriages. Chances are that most parishioners would not understand/appreciate this.  But when it gets out in the community, the resulting damage will be long-lasting.  If we have a secret life that we would not want revealed on social media, perhaps we need to rethink our calling.
  • Maybe we believe that nobody could possibly know the truth about ____.   Don’t be so sure.  It’s a really small world.

Being vulnerable is a crucial part of being a spiritual leader.  Our truth is comprised of brokenness, imperfection, and shame just as much as anybody.  If you are reading this and thinking, “This is not about me.  I’ve got it together,” please take a couple days off and read some Brene Brown.

The healthy 21st Century Church is about authenticity.  There are countless BS-ers out there who will preach cliches and prop themselves up as pillars of spiritual coolness.  But the world is craving something real.

We can do a lot of damage when we’re fake or self-deceived.  But we can go some good if we admit that we are kind of a mess and need something bigger than ourselves.

Also: read these really good posts by John Vest and Rocky Supinger.

Image source.

4 responses to “Pastors Who Tell the Truth

  1. When we caught John Gibson in the act of sin. We were furious because he lied to us, to his church, to his seminary, to his wife and kids. It doesn’t matter he had overcame an addiction, or that he had serve the Lord fervently; it doesn’t matter he was a loving father and husband. The truth is that God revealed his sin. Shame on you John! We can’t tolerate this kind of behavior among the holy ministers. To correct this deviation of what is right, we all went to talk to him and for hours, days, weeks, and years told him how disgusting he was. We told him we will never forget what he did, and that he had destroyed his reputation and family. We told him what he deserved. Then, we left him alone and I graciously borrow my holy gun for him to do the right thing. I removed all the Bibles from his studio. He needed to repent, we needed blood and restitution. We were angry, disappointed, ashamed of him. Suddenly we felt the sound of a gun being shot, and while Johns’ blood was dripping to the floor, we all felt in peace, thinking that holiness has been restored. However, in one disturbing moment of honesty a cold sense of fear crossed my heart saying “I hope no one can hack my mind”.


    • Ivan – you seem to be speaking to how we respond to someone’s vulnerability (or deception.) My hope in this post is that we who are pastors would become more truthful about ourselves to model authenticity to our congregation.

      As someone pointed out on Facebook, our congregations (much less the whole world) sometimes doesn’t want to see our weaknesses and burdens. There are still many parishioners who want their pastors to be pillars of strength and unwavering devotion to God. The truth is not only that all of us fall short of the glory of God but all of us need God and each other to help us with our struggles, our wounds, and our demons. A healthy church is both a safe place to share what’s really going on in our lives and a community that helps us turn around and change directions (i.e. repent.)


  2. Pingback: Layers of Goodness | achurchforstarvingartists

  3. Pingback: This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg

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