Thinking Out Loud

June 4, 2018

The Fallible Pastor

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:20 am

That books like these ever existed is proof that the challenges faced by pastors and ministry workers are nothing new.

Pastors are people, too.

It seems obvious, but it’s not always the case that people really grasp the underlying principle: The humanity and fallibility of those we “set apart” as our shepherds. They are subject to all the temptations, frustrations, emotions, and disappointments that the rest of us face, with the added challenge of living out their lives in a fishbowl.

It’s a stressful, always-on-call-24/7 lifestyle.

And now, thanks to both mainstream media and social media, every time a pastor falls, it gets reported around the world. Nobody may have ever cared about the little neighborhood church in Nowheresville, Idaho before, but when word gets out that the youth pastor was caught at the Rest-Awhile Motel with one of the high school students, it becomes a trending hashtag.

And all of that impacts your pastor.

All those stories of moral failure denigrate the job.

Ever watched one of those funerals for a policeman who dies in the line of service? Representatives from forces across North America converge. A different city; a different state; but he or she is one of their own. They show support at those times; a loud chorus resonating, “We’re all one team.”

Pastors need someone to talk to. They’re reluctant to do this with parishioners because they are supposed to be strong for them. It’s unusual for a pastor to have someone in the congregation or on the board with whom they can be completely candid about a struggle they are facing. There are organizations which come alongside in tough times, and there is usually a denomination chain of command allowing a hurting minister to turn to his superiors in moments of crisis.

Not every pastor wants to ask.

There’s something about the job which either overtly, or subconsciously trains pastors to put on a brave face, or suffer in silence. From early days they are taught that sometimes their public position may not be the same as their private position.

All of this, bottled up inside with nowhere to go, inevitably leads to a breakdown.

Meanwhile, media continues to report on another failure of another clergy person. It’s like running a marathon where all of a sudden, the runner next to you runs into the ditch, and then the one on the other side simply collapses and drops. In the next mile, it seems like runners are dropping left and right. You can see the finish line in the distance, but the intellect is busy processing, asking, “What the heck is going on here?” And, “How long before I drop to my knees?”

At the beginning, I said that pastors are people. They are fallible. If you prick them, they will bleed. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that “love believes the best.” With no reason to proceed differently, we need to hold them in high esteem and not allow the stories on the evening news or on Twitter to have any bearing on our pastor.

What’s more, we need to come alongside them with support and encouragement.

We just don’t know what challenge or crisis they are facing, and due to the intricacies of their calling, they’re not always likely to tell us.



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