The Faking of the Pastor

I don’t know of any other profession in which it is quite as easy to fake it as in ours. By adopting a reverential demeanor, cultivating a stained-glass voice, slipping occasional words like “eschatology” into conversation….not often enough actually to confuse people but enough to keep them aware that our habitual train of thought is a cut above the pew level–we are trusted, without any questions asked, as stewards of the mysteries. Most people…know that we are in fact surrounded by enormous mysteries: birth and death, good and evil, suffering and joy, grace, mercy, forgiveness. It takes only a hint here and a gesture there, an empathetic sigh, or a compassionate touch to convey that we are at home and expert in these deep matters.

Even when in occasional fits of humility and honesty we disclaim sanctity, we are not believed. People have a need to be reassured that someone is in touch with the ultimate things. Their own interior lives are a muddle of shopping lists and good intentions, guilty adulteries (whether fantasized or actual) and episodes of heroic virtue, desires for holiness mixed with greed for self-satisfaction. They hope to do better someday beginning maybe tomorrow or at the latest next week. Meanwhile, they need someone around who can stand in for them, on whom they can project their wishes for a life pleasing to God. If we provide a bare bones outline of pretence, they take it as the real thing and run with it, imputing to us clean hands and pure hearts.

More from the introduction of “Working the Angles” by Eugene Peterson.

18 thoughts on “The Faking of the Pastor”

  1. You know, until someone starts kicking people in the nuts to get their attention, I really believe the “Church” is a doomed ship, and lots of people are going to hell after they hear “Get away from me you sons of the devil”.I know I said I would calm down, but it’s difficult when you worry about how far Hell is filling up, and why “pastors” could care less.

  2. Interesting how you can look at a comment and still find a way to turn it into an issue of “The other guys problem”.At what point are you willing to take this an a you problem, and not their problem? Aren’t we responsible for the people in our lives? The people around us? Why do we leave the big issues to the “high-and-mighty preacher man”?

  3. As a pastor I agree that it is very easy to be fake. I also believe that good pastors are the ones who are able to lead and encourage people without trying to be someone else. I think most of us know when Church leaders are being fake or if they are being real. I would argue however, that all professions have an element of being fake and just playing the game. My friends who work with computers (Steve excluded) purposely use lingo and terms to keep the rest of us feeling a step behind. Have you ever heard someone who is into philosophy? They love to sound more intellectual. I could go on and on… the difference obviously is that we want our pastor’s to be real and to not try to make everyone else feel a step behind. I’m not perfect but as long as I always keep in mind that I am dispensible, that I am not God’s answer on earth, and that I am just as full of it as everyone else, then I think I can keep an element of authenticity. If I don’t, let me know and I want to be quick to change. Just don’t use this weakness in church leaders as an excuse to just bitch and leave the church… help us all in the corporate journey to live as Christ lived.

  4. Dorsey- I actually have not only read the archives but have been an active contributor here for the past year. I agree that most churches have big problems mostly caused by leaders who use business models, who seek their own kingdom, or whatever. I do understand that many on this site became frustrated and needed to get away. I have spent a lot of time talking with Steve in person and have discussed issues with others on their blogs. Many of you thoughfully and painfully left the church but many did not go through that process and simply look for reasons to complain and give up. My criticism is more towards those who never tried to constructively be a part of a solution (which is the majority I think). However, I would love to see people like Steve, and others that I read on this site, to be an active part of local churches. If I was a Senior Pastor I would look for people like this… but I don’t want to be a Senior Pastor because my motivation for doing so would be false at this time.

  5. This is the thing about it – like it has been said over and over – why are we so concerned with what everyone else is doing wrong. Isn’t it time we take responsibility for our own selves? I have the follow my path, feel out my journey. I can’t and won’t answer for other people. It’s going to be God one day and me face to face. Did I do what I was supposed to do? Yours will be the same – did you do what you were supposed to do? If I am called to be a Pastor – I need to do it, and do it like God wants me to. That’s the deal. If I am not called to Pastor then I need to figure out what it is God wants me to do. Jesus left the disciples to go and preach the gospel to every creature…He didn’t label that a pastor, preacher, evangelist, teacher, revivalist, missionary, or anything. He just said go and do. So why not become doers, instead of watchers and critique’s?

  6. Man! I’ve seen 658-thousand copies of “The Message” in local bookstores, but I can’t find THIS book anywhere! (I wonder why…)Oh well. Onto bn.com

  7. <>Most people…know that we are in fact surrounded by enormous mysteries: birth and death, good and evil, suffering and joy, grace, mercy, forgiveness. <>I think that’s true… but it seems to be the work of many evangelical teachers to create the illusion that those mysteries have all been solved. That the answers to the great questions of life are so fundamental, so accessible, so easy to reach that they can be conveyed in Power Point slides, t-shirts and bumper stickers.

  8. No joke shefrog. Since when is the pastor’s responsibility to care less? The only thing the Bible does say about there role is that they are supposed to equip you to do the work of the ministry. If you are so worried about hell filling up, why don’t you do something about it.That’s crazy, preacher, first you get mad at the pastor for not doing your job abd then you get mad at him for doing it the wrong way.( I like how you throw the profanity in for dramatic affect).What was it you were so angry about again….seems to me someone oughta be a little ticked off at you.

  9. <><>Meanwhile, they need someone around who can stand in for them, on whom they can project their wishes for a life pleasing to God. If we provide a bare bones outline of pretence, they take it as the real thing and run with it, imputing to us clean hands and pure hearts.<><>Sounds like the Old Covenant system for sacrifices. We ignore God and let the priests do all the work. Only the ‘priests’ of our day aren’t really any better off than we are (probably worse-off, in many respects), because they’re so entrenched in corporate church culture, that things like building projects and capital stewardship campaigns have become their idea of “kingdom business”.And we buy into it, as long as they keep up the facade that they’re more ‘spiritual’ than us. And that keeps us coming back.

  10. Peterson’s no longer a pastor, I take it. Perhaps if more pastors found other ways to make a living, they’d be free to be this honest, too.

  11. Ryan said: <><>I’m not perfect but as long as I always keep in mind that I am dispensible, that I am not God’s answer on earth, and that I am just as full of it as everyone else, then I think I can keep an element of authenticity.<><>Hey Ryan, thanks for saying this. I think a lot of the problems with church leadership is the way we tend to take ourselves so seriously… like God would limp, without us.If you really mean what you’ve said here, I think you probably are a few steps ahead of most pastors I’ve met.btw- I work in sales. I’m totally fake!

  12. Sorry this is so long- here’s what I wrote in my endorsement essay for my candidacy in the Lutheran church-In terms of being an example of Holy Living and Faithful Service, I have a few reservations, not about my personal morality or behavior, but in the expectation that I am to somehow be “holier than those”, although I recognize that perhaps I am reading this question in a manner in which it was not intended. I understand that I am set apart and that I will hold a public office, and as someone who has been married to a pastor for 10 years, I understand and am comfortable with this, but I am unwilling to think that I am holier or more sanctified than anyone else. To the contrary, I believe that my willingness to express the tension between being deeply faithful and deeply flawed is exactly why people are drawn to me. The people who I envision being a part of this emerging church would not want a pastor who is on a spiritual and moral pedestal. Having said that, I do believe that as a clergy person I represent more than myself, in many ways I represent the church and as such am set apart from my fellows. I suppose I believe it is important for me to not attempt to appear perfect or sanctimonious in any way, simply because I am not. I believe that to try and appear holier than I am, as though I by my nature am morally superior, is insulting to the one who gives me the strength and guidance to not act out of my brokenness, which would be to point to self and not to God.

  13. <>“Just don’t use this weakness in church leaders as an excuse to just bitch and leave the church… help us all in the corporate journey to live as Christ lived.”<>Pastor, if you think that’s what’s happening here, you need to spend some more time reading the archives. Many of us spent years IN leadership, trying to “help us all” find a way to live like Christ. But again and again, ran into the brick wall of the church machine, those above us anointed by god (not God) to be defenders of the status quo. I’m willing to take my share of the blame, but the primary problem with the American church is its clergy–leaders who follow business models, defining success by worldly standards, or leaders who don’t lead at all, because they’re lost, too.I wasn’t looking for an excuse to leave, like an idiot, I kept thinking that somehow, the church could start to look more like Christ if I just tried hard enough. Imagine my surprise when I found Jesus more on the outside than I ever did in there.

  14. Well, too damn many cross that fine line and talk down to people, folk that may be hurting, or need encouragement, not a high-and-mighty preacher man….

  15. Well, it’s nice to know nothing is changing…..I saw this evening, the “latest and greatest” theme for pastors everywhere. It’ll be bigger than Jabez !!Go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, in ever-widening circles to make disciples.Baptists announced it Sunday, Church of God (Anderson) been doin’ it for a month.Where is the originality of Christ???

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