Why Recentered? Because Pastors Are Some Of The Best Liars On Earth.
Pastors are very uncomfortable with the idea of telling the truth about themselves and their church. They fear that if they disclose weaknesses, they won’t be loved, or even worse—fired. They think that if they strive enough to convince others that their church is uber healthy and effective while they work on being a better leader, the dream church they describe to others will come true for them. They feel that if they try hard enough, if they love people enough, if they study enough, if they’re selfless enough, prayerful enough, godly enough, God will have to reward them with this mythical church they brag about.
I know this, because I was one of those pastors.
For so many years during my first two decades, I was enormously invested in other pastors and even everyday Christians knowing that I was an extremely competent, capable, and passionate leader. I needed them to know that about me, because it was true of my strengths as a leader and shepherd. I believed I would feel secure, affirmed, and significant if I talked about a church that a leader like me would undoubtedly lead.
One of my most trusted profs in seminary had assured me, “Ed, preach the Word and love the people, and your church will grow and thrive.
Shoot ahead to about six months into my first pastorate. A deeply political, traditional, and legalistic community of leaders, disconnected from the Lord Jesus’ two priorities to make disciples and love one another, trying their best to undermine every decision or option that would move us toward success as defined in the New Testament, discouraged me beyond hope. Unwilling (and probably unable) to admit this painful reality, something snapped in me, and my desire to look good to my peers and friends superseded my true evaluation of what was true about me, my church, and my frustrations, fears, and doubts.
And so, I started lying.
When sincere mentors and friends pointed out something that seemed sick in our church or unsafe for me, Judy and our family, I would take over the conversation, overwhelming their questions and points with persuasive arguments. “Oh, but you should meet our leaders, they’re coming along nicely.” Or, “So many new people are coming to Christ and beginning to walk with God. We baptized this many last month, don’t worry, this is really going great.”
What you need to understand about lying pastors is that our lies to others come from the lie we’re desperately tying to tell ourselves. “This isn’t that bad, and I can lead myself and others out of this mess.” Or, “I should have known it wasn’t going to be easy, this is just temporary. The tensions in our leadership team will vanish as soon as we get this church going and I’ve had some time to implement my strategy.” In reality, these are defense and control mechanisms designed to insulate us from the pain of feeling the way we know we’ll feel if we admit the truth, trusting God and others to speak into our lives. There’s so much at risk.
But here’s the good news: Jesus said the truth will set us free, especially when that truth stands up to our fleshly desire to control our lives (Galatians 5:16-17) and yield to the earthly, natural, and demonic motivation of selfish ambition (Philippians 2;3-4; James 3:14-18).
Something deep inside lying pastors has to change.
And that something is our view of who God is and who we are. My friends at Trueface say, “The greatest commentary on your view of God is your view of yourself.”
An excruciating failure jarred me back to this fundamental truth about God and me. Lying to myself, my bride, my family, and anyone else who would listen about the unhealthiness of the leadership community of our outwardly successful church, I couldn’t take it anymore. When I admitted my frustrations and real feelings to these leaders, it was over. Two weeks later Judy and I were looking for another job and our dear church was splitting into warring factions. It was terrible.
What every pastor needs along her or his journey as a shepherd: the capacity to trust God’s love so that we might live willingly vulnerable to His love for us and the love He is expressing through caring friends in community.
Pastor, remind yourself:
Saying what is not true about yourself and your church only prolongs the inevitable wreck and will not make you feel loved.
You will not find the love your redeemed heart longs for, and what you’ll feel and experience in its place is the fruit of the flesh, compounded with large doses of frustration, hopelessness, and the allure of greener pastures in a more “perfect” church.
Your only hope is to choose to say yes to God’s invitation to keep on receiving His love, expressing your willingness to receive God’s touch in your heartswhen it involves what John of the Cross described as the “wound of love.”
Even when that wounding requires risking a ministry that is dear to your heart.
I’m learning that honesty and vulnerability release me from the exhausting but futile quest to measure up to my dreams for my ministry while trusting my Loving Father for His dreams for my life.
If you’re ready to stop lying and trust God, contact me. I think i can help.