In Pastors and Other Christian Leaders: Loosen Up, Before It’s Too Late!, I talked about the obnoxiousness of using exclamation points in titles.
Wait. No I didn’t. I talked about the advisability of Christian leaders loosening up and being themselves. And a good point that is! But, like the final arrow in the quiver of ticked-off Tonto, there’s another point to be grasped here: It’s also vital that we believers let our Christian leaders loosen up and be themselves.
To some extent we all have to be different in public than we are in private. It’s one of the reasons we have doors. And neckties. Who wears a necktie when they’re lounging around at home watching TV? Only Richard Nixon did—and look what happened to him. When we’re out in public, we naturally expect to leave our more natural self at home. That’s fine and fair and normal and makes us use forks and spoons.
The problem with being a Christian Leader is that when you’re out in the world doing your job, you’re supposed to be perfect. And not just pretty darn good, either: Perfectly perfect. Godly perfect; the most perfect there is. Very dangerous stuff, that. Most of us are pretty hard on ourselves; most of us (sadly enough) expect or very much want to be perfect ourselves. But pastors and their ilk are pretty alone in the group of people whom everyone else really does expect to be perfect. It’s kid of their job to be perfect. If I’m going through my regular day at the office, trying to be perfect, and I accidentally staple my tie to my desk, no one’s going to freak out over how far I fell from the mountain-top of my God-inspired perfection. People’ll write funny Post-Its and stick them to my backside or offer to sell me a staple remover for 50 bucks, or whatever, but that’ll be about it.
But when you’re a pastor, it’s almost like you are God. You’re with God; you’re one of his appointed angels on earth; you’re everyone’s Papa, loving big brother, counselor, guide, inspiration. You’re a saint; people think that’s why you became a pastor. You’re gifted. God’s hand is upon you. You’re special. Higher. Closer to heaven. Better.
Meanwhile, you’ve got chronic intestinal distress, your wife is having a midlife crisis, and you’re about ready to strangle the old bitty who keeps complaining to everybody about how your church’s youth minister has a tattoo.
You know what always makes me nervous about a church? When its pastor is too popular. If, whenever congregants talk about their pastor, they get that kind of glowing glaze in their eyes, and in real breathy tones use the highest possible terms of praise, I know that church is sick. It always means that church has become nothing more than a cult around its leader. It’s one of the reasons I like being Episcopalian; there, the whole worship presentation is structured so that no one individual clergy person stands out. It can make services a tad excruciatingly dull—but at least no one’s up there pounding the lectern and galvanizing everybody with their stellar charisma.
Not that that’s necessarily bad. But you know what I mean.
We have got to let our Christian leaders be people. We’ve got to relax around them. Talk normally to them. Encourage them to talk normally to you. Communicate to them that you understand that they’re just as weak and burdened by the constraints of whom they have to be every day as are you and everyone else in the world. Joke with them.
Never, ever forget that your pastor is just like everyone else: He wants to be—he needs to be—loved for who he is, not for what he does.
Related post o’ mine: An Open Letter to Britney Spears.
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