Christian author Don Miller has written a couple bestselling books (I read one of them and enjoyed it). He also gives really fantastic talks (I saw one of them and loved it — to watch, click here and find his name).
But he wrote something today I had a problem with. He had on his website a list of reasons pastors are important.
1. They lead social movements that change the world.
2. They speak truths that create guardrails to keep us out of danger and stop us from hurting each other.
3. They introduce us and remind us about God, who redeems us and guides us in love.
4. They model good marriages and families (Your mind may have gone to an exception, but quickly list five who do. It’s an easy list to create.)
5. They bring people together to live and work in community.
6. They counsel hurting and broken people.
7. They bring the presence of God into the most dark and painful circumstances.
8. Most of them could be making lots more money doing something else, but they sacrifice to build God’s kingdom.
9. They put up with our crap.
10. Because without them the world would be unimaginably dark.
Let’s go through the list…
#1 may be true, but it’s true for anyone who has a lot of “followers” — when people are listening to you, whether you’re a pastor, blogger, teacher, entrepreneur, or celebrity, you have the power to create social change. Pastors aren’t special in that regard.
#2 is completely wrong. Their “truths” are often opinions or lies and they can do more harm than good. You think what some pastors have to say about gay people has helped that group? You think what some pastors have to say about evolution have made our science classes better?
#3 Christian theology aside, I can thank my parents and friends for those things as well.
#4 Some pastors have good marriages. Some don’t. Just like everybody else. It’s not unique to the profession.
#5 And exclude people who don’t think like them. Hell, some churches have “Christian Yellow Pages” so you can restrict your business dealings with only other Christians… because everyone else is unworthy?
#6 Many pastors do counsel hurting and broken people (many, without any formal training). But also doing that: Good friends, trusted colleagues, and professional counselors.#7 In other words, they offer false hope. Some people like that. I don’t.
#8 It’s true that most pastors don’t get paid much. But neither do teachers and I’d argue they sacrifice just as much of their time and make a far bigger difference in the lives of people.
#9 I’m sure they do.
#10 That’s not true. I can imagine a world without pastors and it’s perfectly sunny and fine to me. What we need are good friends and a tight-knit community. You don’t need a church or a pastor for either of those things.
Let me be clear: Some pastors do amazing things and they really do help the people they shepherd. I’ve met several of them. (Hell, a terrific one posts on this website.)
But while some pastors may do very positive things, let’s not forget that they do a lot of awful things as well.
I asked people on Twitter and Facebook what pastors did that they disliked.
The responses were very interesting and some go completely against what Miller said:
- Some pastors preach in favor of Creationism and Intelligent Design, both of which go against the face of all the evidence and the wisdom of professional scientists. They dumb our society down.
- Some pastors preach against homosexuality and homosexuals. This, in turn, spurs prejudice against perfectly fine people.
- Some pastors view non-believers as a challenge, instead of just accepting us as we are.
- Some pastors beg for money which is in turn used to further their lavish lifestyles.
- Some pastors teach that women should not do certain things men can do (even though they could do them equally as well).
- Some pastors pretend to know what God thinks even when their guess is as good as anyone else’s.
- Some pastors rape little kids.
- Some pastors cherry pick parts of the Bible to support their own agenda and ignore the more barbaric, disturbing parts altogether
- Some pastors impose a perverse set of sexual morals (and, in some cases, don’t live up to them themselves).
- Some pastors spread misinformation about sex, abortion, politics, etc.
- Some pastors get involved in politics while illegally trying to maintain their church’s tax-exempt status.
- Some pastors offer “spiritual guidance” when they’re really just offering platitudes (e.g. “We know that God is in control”).
- Some pastors think that the plural of anecdote is fact.
I suppose it’s not all bad. Some pastors get people to eventually leave the church 🙂
Care to add to the list?