I used to think that pastors were pretty much sinless. Jesus certainly must have woken them up in the morning, made them coffee, and then carried them to the shower on a cloud. And as faulty as this perception was when I was growing up, it’s unbelievable how many pastors (myself included) still want to put on a face of near perfection. So many pastors have told me that I should never show my brokenness to the people I was leading.
So, should pastors be able to share their brokenness with others? The Bible is clear on this. Yes. We are broken and shouldn’t pretend that we aren’t. The question is, how can pastors and church leaders address our own brokenness in ways that exalt Christ, demonstrate the power of the Gospel, and strengthen the mission of the church? Here are four truths God has made clear.
We must have real relationships.
Leadership can be a very lonely place. I hear from many pastors, and especially lead pastors, that they feel alone at the top. It’s sometimes way too easy to for us to go at it alone without the messiness of real relationships, so we push people away. Obviously, I see the tendency of others to push us away, but I wonder how many pastors allow it to happen all to easily. By pushing others away or allowing them to push us away, we suffer from loneliness among many other things. You certainly need to be careful about who you invite into your circle but don’t stop until you and your wife have developed accountability with people who can be trusted with who you really are. Broken people in need of daily grace.
We need other seasoned pastors to speak the truth to us.
One of the key relationships that will be helpful is an accountable relationship with another seasoned pastor. If you don’t yet have one, pray that God will give you an opportunity to find a seasoned pastor who will take you under their wing. They have the experience and wisdom that you don’t have yet and will be able to guide you in places that they have already traveled. Just be certain they are practicing the same biblical openness and accountability in their church that you’re trying to establish in yours.
Give others permission to be real with their brokenness.
Odds are, others think that you are perfect just like I did with my pastors. They probably think that you don’t struggle with sin like they do, so it’s healthy to show them they’re wrong. Do this with wisdom of course but let them see your struggles and invite them to open as well. This begins with the faithful preaching of God’s Word. As you humbly preach and lead, your continued need for the Gospel should shine through and thus create a culture of dependency on Christ and on each other for our sanctification.
Create a culture where pastors need the gospel, too.
I think many times we slip into the trap of believing that the Gospel is just for lost people; this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are going to create a culture where it’s okay to experience brokenness in community, then you will need to create a culture where the Gospel is an everyday necessity. The Holy Spirit will continue to convict Christians of their sin and when He does, what will we do with it?
Without a culture of daily need for the Gospel, the tendency will either be legalism or license. People will either see their actions as sufficient and try to earn God’s favor or mark it off as cheap grace. Either is a mockery of Christ’s work on the Cross. The goal would be to train people to see their sin, turn from it, and take opportunity to worship the Savior who paid for freedom from it. When people start being real with the fact that they have issues, they will need to be reminded again and again that they have been forgiven and have been given a grace-filled way out of bondage.
Openness and accountability are imperative to pastoral spiritual growth. As we continue to repent, to believe the Gospel again and again, and invite real relationships with others, we’ll be on the path for a long but great road of ministry. And, this is will prove to be a lasting example to our congregations.