Let Your Christian Leader Loosen Up–Before It’s Too Late!

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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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://ww.sheppardministries.com Greta

    I totally agree with you John……I tell my male peers it's time to 'chill out'…. take off the religious persona and put on who you really are. Good stuff!….and timely!

  • http://ww.sheppardministries.com Greta

    I totally agree with you John……I tell my male peers it's time to 'chill out'…. take off the religious persona and put on who you really are. Good stuff!….and timely!

  • http://christianranter.wordpress.com Des

    "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."

    That was a home run statement. If I recall all of the churches that had leaders like this, I can tell you that most have had big trouble come their way.

    Also, I've found that if they don't let off some steam or live life in vulnerability, then they'll usually gravitate toward their biggest weakness. Adultery is the usual suspect.

  • Sarah

    Exactly!! Thanks, John! I will be sharing this with my husband when he gets gome from church today. I know he'll love this!

  • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

    I live in a neighborhood that is 60 percent Mormon. One thing I like about their church structure is that they change out their Bishop (Pastor) every three years or so. It is a lay position and every few years, someone new in the neighborhood is selected.

    I think if congregants would think of their Pastor as an administrator/point person, rather than the star of the show, our churches would be healthier. It makes me ill when someone is going through a struggle and they HAVE to talk to the Pastor about it. We have a church full of many godly people, why is there magic in the Pastor's thoughts? In fact, depending on the situation, a Pastor may not be qualified to give counsel. Why do people think that because someone is a dynamic speaker, they are qualified as a marriage therapist or the like?

  • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

    I live in a neighborhood that is 60 percent Mormon. One thing I like about their church structure is that they change out their Bishop (Pastor) every three years or so. It is a lay position and every few years, someone new in the neighborhood is selected.

    I think if congregants would think of their Pastor as an administrator/point person, rather than the star of the show, our churches would be healthier. It makes me ill when someone is going through a struggle and they HAVE to talk to the Pastor about it. We have a church full of many godly people, why is there magic in the Pastor's thoughts? In fact, depending on the situation, a Pastor may not be qualified to give counsel. Why do people think that because someone is a dynamic speaker, they are qualified as a marriage therapist or the like?

  • Natalie

    We have a team of (5 to 7) pastors at our church. I'm not sure because we have a lot of other leaders who are not pastors. We don't make an overly big distinction between 'pastor' and 'volunteer'- everybody takes ownership whether they get paid for it or not.

    We do have a 'senior' pastor but it is evident that the load is shared by the whole team- the senior pastor actually doesn't preach that often, he is a great guy but his main strengths are leadership and evangelism, not teaching/preaching (he is a very competent speaker but not stellar). He lets other pastors (we have some extremely gifted speakers on staff) more gifted in teaching/preaching share the pulpit at least half the time. We also have a board of elders, any big decision goes through them.

  • Dan Harrell

    John, I’m thinking poker nights for the pastor, with cigars and beers. I mean, why would we want to have someone that much better than ourselves acting as our shepherd?

    We have three basic types of convictions in our lives. We have the things we say that everyone knows as truth, like America is a great country, or all our politicians are honest people who only serve others. Gravity is a big one too. Not too many sane adults challenge that one.

    Then there are those beliefs that we think we believe, that are challenged by circumstances. We may think we would never sell out for any reason, then all of a sudden its crunch time, and our livelihood is going to go away unless we toe the company line. No more neat vacations, new cars or braces for the twins.

    But by far the most interesting is those statements we make are because of how we live. You can claim to believe in anything, but your actions speak for you. You vote with your checkbook and your time.

    Why then would most church attending folk actually tolerate a pastor that had doubts about his faith, something we all have experienced? I’ve seen to many lonely pastors because they couldn’t get close to the flock because they were afraid of disappointing their “friends”

    Must be why there is a shortage of pastors and priests. We were taught to take everything said by the pastor as the literal truth. Who knew they could be wrong or that we could actually think for ourselves.

  • Judy

    I too am an Episcopalian. My minister has referred to us as the Frozen Chosen! He's pretty laid back. All of the team are, thankfully. It's true, we expect them to be pretty near perfect and know everything, but that's unrealistic.

    Good blog, John. Loosen up a little, will ya. ;)

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    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…

    Excellent.

  • ruralurbanwitness

    true. we should always remember that our pastors are also human, and will, like the rest of us, sin.

  • http://angelbearoh.wordpress.com angelbearoh

    I think my church is still in transition. Whenever they get that "glowing glaze" in their eyes, it's usually when they talk to "Pastor Sam" who passed away one year ago. "Pastor Torry", who succeeded him, is not quite up there yet, and frankly, I hope he never gets there. I like the way Pastor Torry speaks. Not a word of Christianese in his delivery. He speaks to us very plainly and intelligently.

  • http://angelbearoh.wordpress.com angelbearoh

    I think my church is still in transition. Whenever they get that "glowing glaze" in their eyes, it's usually when they talk to "Pastor Sam" who passed away one year ago. "Pastor Torry", who succeeded him, is not quite up there yet, and frankly, I hope he never gets there. I like the way Pastor Torry speaks. Not a word of Christianese in his delivery. He speaks to us very plainly and intelligently.

  • http://angelbearoh.wordpress.com angelbearoh

    I think my church is still in transition. Whenever they get that "glowing glaze" in their eyes, it's usually when they talk to "Pastor Sam" who passed away one year ago. "Pastor Torry", who succeeded him, is not quite up there yet, and frankly, I hope he never gets there. I like the way Pastor Torry speaks. Not a word of Christianese in his delivery. He speaks to us very plainly and intelligently.

  • Angie Palmer Kilian

    John… Love it! You need an email to a friend tab thing so I can send certain articles to people.. lol You gotta love reality.


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