What follows is something that I wrote several years ago when I was going through a difficult time in my life. I was struggling with my faith after having a number of negative experiences in a particular church and in dealing with particular church leaders. This is something that I wrote from a place of pain and confusion, but from a heart that desired honesty. I share it now, all these years later, to help my current readers gain an understanding of who I’ve been and how I’ve grown and how I’ve learned to heal from the pain of the past.
Are you ready for a fairly serious subject matter? If you came here today looking for a lighthearted post about something trivial or came looking for a good laugh while I poke fun at something I’ve experienced in my day, you might want to click your browser on over to something from the past. Today is not when you’ll find much in the way of funny. Though, I am pretty sarcastic, so you never know how things could turn out by the time I’m done with this particular rant. Are you ready? You’ve been warned.
I’ve been around long enough to experience life in more than a few churches. I’ve experienced good times. I’ve experienced bad times. I’ve experienced very bad times when people have nearly come to blows over seemingly unimportant issues, like whether we should have pews or chairs in the sanctuary. I’ve experienced churches that become so engrossed in finding new members and growing their numbers that they forget the flock that they already have, leaving them to fend for themselves as they’re left behind in the church’s search for growth. I’ve even been one of the ones that has been forgotten and felt unimportant. I’ve watched as church leaders preach about the importance of personal growth and change for the better in one’s walk with Christ, while these leaders, themselves, remain hardhearted and unchanging. I’ve watched as leaders are placed on pedestals by their congregations until their egos grow to reach a self-important status and they start believing that they can do no wrong and are, in fact, God’s only mouthpiece.
I have no doubt that I’ve mentioned on this blog, somewhere in the past, that the Church is made up of people. People are inevitably imperfect. Yet, time and again, congregations elevate their pastors into sainthood and, often, truly believe that their leaders can do no wrong. I’m here to tell you that this simply isn’t the case. Our leaders need to be held accountable for their words and their actions. Our leaders need to be reminded that they’re just as flawed as the rest of us and that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was just as much for them as it is for us. Somewhere along the way, a lot of pastors seem to forget this. Oh, they still work it into their sermons on a regular basis, but are they living lives that show that they’re humbled by that fact?
This is not directed at every pastor that’s out there. It’s my hope that the majority of our church leaders are genuinely humble. I hope that most pastors really do seek to do the will of God and not only reach new people for Christ, but help those who are already believers to grow in their faith. But experience tells me that the odds of this are not great.
I’ve seen it happen too many times. Leaders allow their pride to take over and their congregations just allow it to happen, going on believing that these leaders can do no wrong. And then it happens that one or two members will see just how wrong it is for their pastor to have such a high view of themselves. They make the mistake of speaking out and attempting to hold their pastor accountable and end up being ostracized by their church family. I’d be willing to bet it happens more often than anyone cares to admit. Think about it… Have you ever been part of a situation where someone who was once very active in ministry has suddenly vanished from your church? Did you ever wonder what happened to that person? Did you attempt to reach out to them in the love of Christ? Or did you choose to listen to the gossip and hearsay that others in the church were spreading, only to write that person off as someone who simply fell away from God?
In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Andrew Peterson used this idea in a song called “Come Lord Jesus“. Click the link for the complete lyrics. I mean it, get the lyrics. If you can find the song itself, listen to it. The words are pretty powerful and very convicting. It’s important to note that Peterson doesn’t limit his accusation of hypocrisy to just our leaders. It’s something that every member of the Church is guilty of. We need to stop worrying about how others are going to view us on the outside. We need to stop giving off an air of perfection while we rot away from the inside. We need to start focusing on what’s truly right and what God would have for us and start helping others to see that true light, not the dim light that we think we can shine by living false lives.
Remember that these are just the ramblings of a seminary dropout and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Fast forward five years and my life is very different. I still believe that church leaders should be held accountable, and I believe that a good leader will say the same. I’m happy to say that I have been blessed with a new church home that I’ve been a part of for nearly three years. It’s a place where I’m surrounded by people who are imperfect and they’re not pretending to be perfect. Each week, I’m privileged to work with a church staff and with leaders who are humble and whose first priority is seeking to love others and to make Jesus known.