There on stage at a recent marriage enrichment event stood a visiting pastor and comedian who was addressing the couples in the audience. He shared some opening jokes, and began telling us a bit about himself, and I have to admit he cracked some great jokes. The premise to his sharing was to talk openly about sex and other things we don’t often hear in a church setting. To be honest, whenever I hear someone say that he or she isn’t a conventional Pastor, I tend to cringe for what might come next. Not because I’m worried they’ll share too much but because I often leave disappointed in the lack of depth in their own transparency. For the record, this guy did pretty good.
As a pastor I understand the notion that we are “spiritual leaders” or “role models,” but I think that we have unhelpfully raised pastors, leaders and missionaries to levels of unattainable holiness. We foster an environment within church communities where people end up wearing a lot of masks. We often don’t have close community, or the language, or the courage to share what is really transpiring in our lives and so we form false appearances. We share only the frivolities of the day or week.
As I peruse social media, I notice it’s largely the showmanship of our own lives and that of our family. We tend to paint this picture of perfection, with success and riches being applauded. Little do people know the real issues and struggles that someone might be facing. I’m guilty of this in many respects. In 2005, I encountered God in a life-changing way. I knew that he was asking me to be transparent in my life and that hiding was no longer an option. So I began sharing my life with trusted people and then with those who wanted to hear “the whole story.” Interestingly, it was much easier to share about my struggle with same sex attraction and harder to admit that I struggled financially and often used overspending as a coping mechanism. Not to mention that I sometimes overate, that I needed a glass of wine to unwind and entertainment began to take over control of my life. The disciplines of what a “pastor” should do began to fall by the wayside. I struggled to maintain a vibrant prayer life and read the Word. Yet I would share everything but these things, because I was supposed to have at least these basics in place as a pastor.
Then one day I decided that I needed to just be a normal human being. Instead of wearing the title Pastor, I wanted to be Kenny, who just happened to be a pastor. I decided to lead authentically. I was tired of living an illusion of “perfect holy Pastor” who shared intimately about gender and sexuality but nothing else. I needed to go deeper with the ongoing struggles with spiritual disciplines and everyday life struggles. Here in this place I was free to question, think, grow, listen, speak and hear and most importantly to know that I was loved by God and that he would provide everything I needed in every area of my personal poverty. I began acknowledging my pretences and was strengthened and encouraged. It gave a place for others to show their own illusions and know that I too was growing and dependent on Jesus.
Each one of us, no matter who we are and the titles we hold, are being transformed by Jesus’ initiatives. There are broken places within us that continue to need Jesus’ power to heal and restore. There are qualifications of certain job titles which are important and valuable and I don’t take these lightly, but when the pressures of the title take control of your life and you begin to falsify things in order that you appear better than you really are, it will only be a matter of time until you are either too tired or things just unravel by themselves. The hope here is God’s grace, which does not keep record of wrong but freely cleanses us from all our sinful ways. As we walk in the light of truth, we live in God’s amazing abundance.