During my junior year of high school, it came time to start looking at colleges to attend. Which meant that I had to decide what career path I wanted to take. Why we trust 16 – 18 year-olds to make such a huge life decision with little support is beyond me. When it came time for me to decide there were many things that interested me, but really only one that seemed like something I could see myself doing long term. I wanted to be a pastor.
I know, how many teens actually want to do that? But I did. I never had a call into ministry; it was just the only thing I could picture myself doing. Here I am over a decade later, and I’m a pastor. And I still can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
While I love what I do, there are difficulties (as in any job). One that I’ve had to fight against the most is the pressure to have it all together or appear as if you do. I’m the last person that should be struggling and asking these questions, right? I should just know the answers and have it all together. Now I know that’s not true, but that’s what the expectation seems like sometimes.
Over the years and through a few hard lessons, I’ve learned that a pastor doesn’t need the answers. They need a genuine faith, even if that means it’s struggling, has doubts, and doesn’t know all the answers.
So here’s my confession. I’m a pastor and I…
I Have Doubts About My Faith
At one point everything in life made sense and seemed so much simpler. Those days have come and gone for me. I find the more I learn and grow in my faith the more room there is for doubt to creep in. There are a lot of things I just don’t have answers for and a lot of things I struggle to believe are true. I suspect everyone has doubts; it’s just not acceptable to bring them up in church.
I know my experience isn’t unique; many people have experienced doubt in their life. But it can get murky when I’m supposed to be the person that stands up and tells people how to grow their faith. That’s a difficult balance to find, what do I share and what do I not. But I’ve found the more I share, the more I’m genuine, the more of what I say is useful to others.
I learned that a pastor doesn’t need the answers; they need a genuine faith, even if that means it’s struggling. A genuine struggle to follow God is much better than pretending to have it all together. Read more here: Faith and Doubt (and how they coexist)
I Don’t Like A Lot of Christians
Hear me on this… I LOVE my church.
But, there’s so many times I get frustrated with how so many Christians act. There’s been so much hurt that has been caused by Christians, the last people that should hurt anyone. Many well intended Christians have in the name of Jesus pushed people away from him. And that gets me so mad.
I’ve largely stopped reading Facebook posts because I just get so upset about what Christians say. The way they portray the Gospel. The way they talk about people, specifically people they are against. The way they support their political ideology. All of it. It just frustrates me so much. In my anger I’ve written several articles that will probably never see the light of day.
It’s easy for me to justify why it’s righteous anger. And sometimes it probably is. The challenge is to use that anger constructively and not to drive a wedge between me and my fellow Christians. The easy thing to do is to go on a rant; the more difficult thing is to build a bridge.
I’m a Hypocrite
I’m a hypocrite in the worst way. I can get up and preach one thing on Sunday and do the exact opposite on Monday. I’ve given people advice that I don’t even practice, at my worst things I don’t believe. I’m trying to get better. I try to preach my messages to myself before anyone else. But I don’t always get it right.
Pride is a funny thing. I see it working in two extremes in my life. On one hand it gives me a big head, it makes me think I’m all that. But since I’m such a messed up person I can’t live up to that perception for very long. Eventually something will happen where I fail and in that moment my pride does the opposite, it beats up me.
I’ve had to learn that being humble is not thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less. (I’m sure someone smarter than me said that, but I can’t remember who) Being humble is having an accurate assessment of myself. In other words it’s knowing what I’m good at and where I fall short. I struggle to find that balance.
What You Can Do
My guess is most of you reading this are not a pastor. This leaves you in this awkward place because there’s no real application other than insight. So I thought I’d throw out a few thoughts of what you can do to help.
Let me first say two things. 1) These are my issues, but they aren’t universal for pastors. Your pastor has their own. 2) You aren’t responsible, but you can help.
Take Pastors off the Pedestal
Whether you put them there or they put themselves there, take them down. The fall is only going to hurt. Unfortunately, we see this happening at an increasing frequency. Pastor after pastor fails and the fall hurts. It hurts the pastor, their family, and the church. It’s best for everyone if we don’t view pastors as above or better than anyone else. We aren’t. It’s best if you don’t believe everything a pastor says, see for yourself. We don’t have all the answers. It’s best if you don’t blindly follow your pastor. Follow them, but with your eyes open.
Pastors aren’t better Christians or have some private line to God. They are just normal people. People struggling to follow and understand Jesus. They have a responsibility to lead the church, or an area of the church, but they are still on equal ground with those in their church.
Allow Your Pastor to be Real
Pastors will make mistakes. They will have bad days. People will be hurt by their words. They will forget things, sometimes important things. They will do the wrong thing. In other words they are just like anybody.
The beauty of the church is that together we can help each other get better. When one person is struggling the rest of the church can help them get past their struggles. Don’t forget your pastor, they need that too. It doesn’t happen in every church, however in many it’s the pastor that’s ensuring care for everyone else, but no one is caring for them.
Allow your pastor to make mistakes and help in their sin. Let them share what they are struggling with and don’t be surprised when you see what’s really going on.
Pray for Them
Finally, pray for them. I’ll keep this short; I think we know what this means. So pray for wisdom, humility, their family, and their faith. Pray that they feel free to be open, admit their struggles, and ask for help.
For more on how to pray for your pastor check out: Eleven Specific Ways to Pray for Your Pastor (via Thom Rainer)
Let’s hear from you, what are your thoughts?