What if pastors were held to the same standards as all other Christians?
A pastor is simply human. However, the expectations, both internal and external, of pastors drive them to a place of isolation and secrecy. Some will not allow other people into their lives because it is too much work to be constantly on guard. A pastor feels the fear that people won’t be understanding of their humanity, so they hide all their struggles and work very hard at being good.
This behavior leads a pastor to being lonely. Although people surround them all the time, it is a very real threat to be vulnerable or truthful with a member of their congregation or even a ministerial colleague. They have heard the stories or been burnt before by allowing someone into their lives –only to be hurt by those same people, using their vulnerability against them. A pastor learns not to do that again, so they go back into their shell, safe and secure from all relationships and personal intimacy. This reality affects the pastor’s family, having to shoulder the emotional burden of their parent or spouse; the family learns to care take them because they don’t have a healthy outlet to share the hurts and frustrations of ministry.
There are also some pastors who have made up the story that it is wrong or sinful to complain, so they stuff all those feelings inside themselves, believing this is part of the cross they must bear. Not true.
How does this happen?
For pastors, it is easier to play the role of a good Christian than to engage people into the messiness of humanity—the result of this is a divided person—acting one way in front of church members, another way in front of people who understand. It is also possible that pastors subconsciously invite or accept the ascension to the pedestal and are not always eager to come down. It feels good to be treated as special or set apart.
The challenge is that church members can be quick to idealize a pastor, casting all their needs of safety and security upon the role; but once the human side of a pastor is revealed, these same people will now be punitive in their actions because this once saintly figure has let them down or been hurtful.
This can leave a pastor trying to be a person that they aren’t, wanting to always be available, meeting the needs of every person, even to the sacrifice of their own well-being or that of their family.
We need our pastors to be spiritual explorers–people who have plunged into darkness so they can tell us what it is like, tell the tales of loneliness and despair. We need to hear their stories of doubt, struggles in their marriage and their failures without a heroic turnaround and ending. We need pastors to show human emotion. We need them to be angry when they are angry, cry when they are sad and tell the truth even when it is not popular or fit with the majority.
What If Pastors are human?
Then . . they would have opportunities for real relationship
Then. . they would be less afraid of being themselves
Then . . they are invited to be human, not play a role
Then . . the people they serve can relax and be human as well
Then…the church becomes a place where people don’t have to dress up or pretend
Then…the church can become a truthful place