I had an opportunity today to speak with a church search committee. It was the first interview they’ve had with me and most of the time was spent trying to figure out who I am when you get past the careful words written on my resume. For a few minutes the conversation swirled around the topic of being an authentic and real fellowship; about being a community that allows believers to have weaknesses, to fall on their faces, even to struggle with sin, without fear of rejection or being shamed. A community that allows for failure and sin, even as it seeks to rebuild lives with compassionate integrity. A community where “masks” are worn less and less, and people are appropriately transparent, vulnerable … authentic.
What went unsaid is how difficult it is for pastors to model this from the pulpit. Many in my generation think that a spiritual leader must not demonstrate too much weakness, or admit to too much that is personal. They should only admit to safe sins, and then only when they have found victory. Most in the younger generations just tend to let it all out in the name of being real. They often “share their journey” whether or not they have arrived, or have kept to the biblical path of obedience.
I thought about this un-discussed topic and came up with two guidelines, at least for myself, for being transparent as a teacher, leader, pastor in the pulpit:
- Self-exposure must have a purpose that helps my audience. Merely telling people about my struggles usually does little unless I also share how God is at work in them, or how I am working it through with God. Talking about my sin for the sake of talking about sin, or merely for the purpose of identifying with others, might make me seem more real, but the pulpit probably is not the place for that.
- Point people to Christ, not to myself and how bad I am, or how difficult my struggle, my doubts, my …. We don’t tell how we solve problems, but rather how Christ does, or how he meets us in the midst. We must constantly point people (each one of which is sinning at some level) back to the gracious work of God at the Cross … where we all fall on our knees in humble dependence. Especially this pastor.