When I was a young whippersnapper like many of you here, I disdained some older pastors who stood somewhat aloof from their congregations. I determined to be myself, to be vulnerable, to be “real” with my congregation. I had my closest friends within the congregation. I refused to be called anything but Dave, rejecting any honorific titles.
But as time went on, I began to notice something. This may come as a bit of shock to some of you, but I am not perfect. No, really, I’m not kidding. I have flaws. And what I found is that a lot of people in my churches had trouble dealing with seeing their pastor’s flaws firsthand.
- I have a bizarre sense of humor that has gotten me in a lot of trouble through the years.
- I used to be (still am?) hyper-competitive when I participated in sports and gave some offense to people I fouled on the court or argued with on the ball field.
- When I was young, I had “whippersnapper’s disease” – the inability to walk away from an argument. I would argue my point to the death and never admit the other person had a point.
- Cataloging all my faults would take too long and frankly, its none of your business.
What I discovered is that people did not want to come face to face with their pastor’s flaws. Worse, I found that whenever there was conflict, people were using those things as weapons against me – throwing back in my face that which I had admitted to (or sometimes demonstrated). And frankly, through the years some of the deepest hurts I have received have been from people I thought were my friends.
Gradually, through the years, I have pulled back a little. I have friends in the church and try to be friendly with everyone. But I do not have “soul-friends” – people with whom I share my soul. I have found it preferable to have my closest friends outside the church and to maintain a pastoral relationship with people inside the church.
- I do not try to pretend I am something I am not. I admit publicly and frequently that I am a sinner deserving of hell.
- I admit my faults and struggles, just without some of the details I used to share.
- I do not tell stories that make me the hero – generally, my stories are about my struggles and failings – they just are not quite as specific as perhaps they once were.
- But I keep my spiritual struggles and personal issues to my (and my wife). I do not believe any pastor should share family issues or other deep personal struggles within his church.
And, ultimately, I think I am more effective this way. People don’t want me to pretend that I am SuperDave, faster to truth than a bullet, with more spiritual power than a locomotive and able to leap tall conflicts in a single bound. I do not try to pretend I am something I am not. .
But neither do my people want me to walk around with all my flaws hanging out for all to see. They don’t really want me to be “Dave” at the church. They want me to be real, humble, vulnerable and genuine, yes, but they also want me to be “Pastor Dave” – someone they can follow.
I know there is a balance here. I think I went too far to one side in my youth and perhaps too far the other way at times. I’m trying to find that balance every day.
I’m interested in other pastors’ views on this. Are your closest friends in the church? How transparent are you with the people of the church? How much of your failings, struggles and trials do you share with your congregation?
What say you?