I was a pastor for 20 years, mostly in smaller towns. I would blend into a community and relate with them and help them rehabilitate their church. Mega Church pastors told me the struggles of pastors are the same, no matter the size of the church.
I came from the business world, but I obtained a seminary degree to help me understand what I was getting into. Mostly it just taught me how to wrangle the scriptures to match my pre-existing beliefs. Another pastor taught me to preach over lunch, writing on a napkin.
They didn’t teach me much at all about mental health or trauma , but I quickly learned how to bypass issues and keep people busy, including myself, so that we didn’t have to slow down the trains that needed to keep running.
Nearly every pastor I know avoided counseling, especially with secular, more qualified therapists. “Biblical” coaching or counseling usually fell flat and usually ended with “Read your Bible, pray, go to church, focus on others.”
When we would arrive at a new church, the love bombing was excessive. As Laura described in our book, they saw me especially as an answer to prayer, and the one that was going to save them. I was expected to have the answers to their questions, and even though I had been wounded and traumatized by life and religion, I would still be their default advisor.
Seven or eight years ago, I started deconstructing my faith and religion and suddenly realized that I had trauma that was unaddressed. I experienced several different healing methodologies, and I genuinely feel like I’ve addressed many layers of my trauma.
But the trouble with pastors, is we tend to take the shortest path because we still have this desire for the recognition and the illusion that we might be the only ones that can “save” them. We learn just enough from another teacher to start teaching others. Then, we venture out like a missionary going to a foreign country.
When we do this inside of organized religion, it leads to what some call “toddlers in charge.” The people most in need of help are often the ones that are on stage and never have time to access it. “Who can I tell?” is their preferred mantra.
I’m proud of the pastors that have determined to remove themselves from organized religion to deconstruct their faith and search for a better truth. But many times, we drag our problems with us and jump right in to another “ministry” instead of doing the hard work necessary to heal.
It’s painfully obvious who has done the work. I have dozens of ex-pastor friends out here in the desert. The ones that have done the hard work are authentic and sometimes vulnerable, but represent a rock solid presence in my life. I am grateful for them.
The ones who avoided the hard work or the ones who did a quick study or found a secret formula, etc. are easy to offend and generally unreliable. Mostly, they are still playing the same games they played inside of religion.
I don’t think this ever gets better by developing a new version of religion or finding a new way to interpret scriptures. I think the only way to transform the situation is to do deep, shadow work, counseling, and spend lots of time getting comfortable with solitude.
Most of the things we pastors write and produce as art, is mostly about our own healing. But, when we consider sharing it with the world, we often are unable to navigate the similarities between the old world and the new and we fall back into old habits.
I have said it many times. I don’t know many pastors that started off with bad intentions. Most of them have a deep longing to help people. But, as RuPaul says, “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell you going to love someone else.”
Many times we confuse our big egos with love for self. It’s not the same thing!
I’m obviously not against publishing books, since I have produced seven or eight in the past 7 or 8 years. Like I said, it’s healing for us, but hopefully it’s not a way to bypass simply spending the hours doing the hard work.
I am a soft-spoken person and I generally don’t make a big scene even when people tell me to be more animated. But authenticity is important to me and I feel like it’s important to tell the truth. Sometimes this upsets people who were hoping I would agree with them or endorse what they are doing.
Like I said, it’s easy to spot the ones who have done the work and those who have not. I don’t want to be right or prove anybody wrong, and I’m certainly not trying to hurt anyone. I don’t think it’s mean or even condescending to ask someone to act professionally.
I’m not talking about any specific person. But collectively I can say that I’ve been cheated, ignored, maligned and attacked here in the desert by people that identify as thought leaders, theologians, and former pastors.
If we’re going to make this work as a new age, or new way of living, we are going to have to get serious about doing the work and getting better, not just attracting a crowd. We’ve all done it the wrong way many times.
Let’s determine to get it right this time!
Be where you are,
Be who you are,
Photo by Rene Asmussen: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-sitting-on-a-chair-holding-book-636010/