Today, I read an article listing out things pastors should never do in the pulpit. Yep, another list that sucked me in and, well, pissed me off.
The basics of the article implied that pastors should present themselves as having it all together, as being righteous and holy, one who never questions issues of the faith, never brings coffee to the pulpit (which was in the first paragraph…an indication I should have stopped reading), never share struggles, and never allow someone with different beliefs to share, and so on. Oh, and it was very clear, from the article, that pastors should also not be women. Yep, I should have stopped reading at the statement on coffee.
I believe the idea behind the article is that, if pastors are too honest, they will appear weak and their witness will no longer be effective.
In other words, don’t be honest. Don’t be real. Don’t be authentic. Don’t be transparent. Instead, play the game, play the role, and keep up appearances. After all, we wouldn’t want people to get the idea that pastors are actually humans…every bit as sinful as those sitting in the pews and outside the doors.
When I read lists like this, I can determine a couple of things: a) the author is ultra-conservative, b) the author is old, c) all of the above.
These days, no one is being fooled by the pastors who present themselves as having it all together.
It is my considered opinion that people are looking for pastors who are open, honest, and transparent. No one desires the old “bait and switch”.
People crave relationships. People desire relevance. These two (relationships and relevance) are often found in the midst of open, honest, transparent, and authentic communities.
To admit that we struggle with certain passages of Scripture, yet still cling to the way Jesus, isn’t weak…it’s honest.
To admit that we struggle with certain “sins”, yet find hope in the grace, compassion, and mercy of Christ isn’t weak…it’s honest.
To admit that we don’t have it all together isn’t weak…it’s honest.
To drink coffee in the pulpit is a sign that we understand coffee to be one of the great ways God demonstrates great love for all of humanity.
We do more damage than good when we attempt to keep up appearances and then people discover that we’re all too real. The pastor who admits shortcomings, who admits doubts, who brings up questions is probably more credible than the one who keeps all that private, only to be discovered later.
I’m pretty sure the author of the article would dismiss me as a “pastor” as soon as he discovered that I didn’t tuck my shirt in on Easter Sunday (or any other Sunday for that matter) and that I sometimes wear blue jeans…because that’s who I am and I’m not going to pretend to be anyone else…even in matters of dress!
The days of the pastor on a pedestal are long over. Too many scandals have revealed that we really aren’t any different from anyone else. Trust and credibility of the “office” of pastor have been shattered by our lack of honesty, transparency, and openness.
Should we be standard bearers in the faith community? Absolutely. We aspire to a “higher” calling. Should we be open, honest, transparent, and authentic? Absolutely. Should we be held accountable and held to a higher standards? Sure. Should we pretend that we are something we are not? Absolutely not.
So, I guess honesty IS the best policy!