Top Ten Lies People Believe About Their Pastors

10. If I do bad, the pastor thinks I’m bad.  If I do good, the pastor thinks I’m good.

This first one is based on the false assumption that our actions are what determine our nature.  However, your nature is not determined by your actions.  Your actions are merely a reflection of your heart.  Remember people can cover up reflections.  We can dress up ourselves up so we look perfectly good.  You can do good things all you want, but in the end you’re simply covering over a reflection.  Your pastors are aware of this reality.  In fact, your pastors often cover over their own hearts.   So, if you want to impress your pastors, be honest with them.  Stop covering things up!  We usually assume that you are just as wicked as everyone else.  So if you’re honest with us, most likely we’ll just think better of you than we already do.

9.  Pastors are uneducated, except where the Bible is concerned.  Unlike everyone else in the world, pastors have everything figured out when it comes to Scripture.  However, every other area of life, they are completely clueless.

Most men don’t start the pastorate in cushy pastor jobs (an oxymoron we will deal with in number 5.)  The majority of pastors don’t want to be pastors at first and God puts them through a kind of vetting process.  For the others, we typically work two or three jobs when we first start in ministry.  For example, in my first post as a youth pastor, I worked two other jobs.  I worked in a craft store as a custom framer selling high-end framing for high-end art.  I managed a department, worked receiving, swept floors, kept inventory, researched artsy things, and every other job you can imagine at Michael’s Arts and Crafts.  My second job was a sort of farm hand and odd jobs guy.  I mucked stalls, painted fences, worked on equipment, repaired broken stuff, etc… it was very difficult hands on work of about 70-80 hours a week.  As for my co-pastors: one was a software engineer in the Air Force, one was on a Nuclear sub in the Navy, and one was in construction.  You’re pastors are often men with a great deal of life experience.   Not to mention education.  Did you know your pastors spend on average 3-11 years in post graduate studies!?  In the same amount of time it takes a medical doctor to become a Resident, a pastor is usually graduating their Masters degree program, and that is not because they take forever, it’s because a masters in Divinity is usually 90 + hours long.  To put that in perspective, College degrees are usually 120hrs. So, your pastors are well educated and they typically have a great deal of life experience.

8.  Pastors spend all their time in prayer, fasting, practicing levitation, and glowing with holiness

While many pastors would love to spend the majority of their time in prayer, study, and levitation, bar-none the majority of us are just like everyone else.  We’re normal.  We only levitate when on a plane and only glow if exposed to sever radiation.  We must purse holiness just like everyone else, one day at a time one step at a time.  We must read our Bibles just like everyone else, and we must struggle with what it means to be a follower of Jesus, just like everybody else.

7.  Pastors would be shocked if they really knew you

There is not much you can tell a pastor that will surprise him.  By nature of our careers we are exposed to a great deal of bad things.  So, your struggles are probably not the worst that we have ever heard.  I mean think about it… most of our time is spent counseling people through struggles that are so bad, they cannot be shared.  Most likely you’re not the worst person we are going to deal with.  Also… read number 10.  No matter what good things you do, we know you’re not perfect and what you do does not determine who you are.

6.  Pastors can see into your soul

Totally true… just kidding.  Pastors don’t have special revelation from God, you’re just not that good at hiding stuff.  Seriously, we see past the mask because it is thin, not because we are hearing an audible voice tell us, “Jane Doe did (insert sin here) yesterday!”  Think about it, we spend a great deal of time with people dealing with their junk, therefore we spend a great deal of time reading people who are trying to hide stuff.  That makes us pretty experienced at seeing through the masks.  Besides, if you’d just get over it and be honest, you wouldn’t have to hide and we could help each other deal with our sins a little better.

5.  Pastors don’t work except on Sunday, for youth pastors: Wednesday.

HA!  Most of your pastors work 70 hours a week.  Don’t believe me, ask their kids.  I remember hearing a pastor’s child reminisce about how when they were little Thursday night was their favorite night of the week because Daddy was home!  Did you catch that, Daddy was only home one night out of the week.  This particular pastor went to the church every morning at 8 am, earlier on Sunday, worked until 5pm and then was back at the church every night of the week except Thursday.  So, while there are some pastors that don’t work hard, the majority of us live our lives on a perpetual feeling of “on call.”  Someone gets sick, dies, needs counsel, has relationship problems, needs some potato chips, has a moral question, or is just lonely, and they call us.  Now, just a side note, a smart pastor will teach his congregation that he is not superman and will say no to things, thereby being home more than one night out of a week.  And a smart congregation will make sure he does that.

 4.  The Pastor hates me. 

This one is my favorite.  It’s the biggest lie of all!  This is usually perpetuated by a convicting comment that the pastor made during some sort of sermon or an ideological difference we hold against him.  The pastor doesn’t hate you.  Most likely, he isn’t even thinking of you… sometimes he doesn’t even know you.  I’ll give you five proofs your pastor doesn’t hate you: 1. They haven’t left.  2.  They don’t come talk to you about “problems” they see in your life. 3. They are far too busy trying to deal with other issues to hate you.  4. They prepared that sermon a long time ago.  5. They haven’t left.  So there.  Your pastor’s presence should be proof enough that he doesn’t hate you… at least not enough to leave, which means he doesn’t hate you.

Note: just because your pastor may have left, it’s probably not because he hates you.

 3.  Pastors all love golf, coffee, fishing, and getting up at the crack of dawn.

I don’t know where people get these things!  Well, the fishing thing I can understand…  I mean, the disciples were fishermen, except for 9 of them, but never mind that.  The big three were fishermen: Peter, James, and John.  The other nine professions were just unimportant.  But, back on topic!  I am a pastor, I don’t like any of these things!  I think golf is weird, coffee is gross, fishing smells bad, and no one really likes to get up that early, they just don’t know how to go back to bed (an art that I have mastered!).   So if you want to honor your pastor, think about what he likes.  Don’t just assume he is going to enjoy walking on grass with a skinny stick while sipping hot crude oil and talking about his latest catch at 4am.  For anyone who cares, I like: hot tea, good food, deep conversation, and good books… and late mornings.

2.  Pastors want your money

The truth is: good pastors don’t even like money.  If they did, they would not have entered into a profession in which at one time it was appropriate to offer produce and a cottage (parsonage) in place of salary.  As per number 9 above, most pastors are quite qualified to do something else.  So, if they wanted money, they would do something else.  Now, by way of warning, there are weasel pastors out there who are all about getting your money into their pockets.  The easiest way to root these out is to run into financial trouble at your church and see if they offer to take a pay cut.  Good pastors almost always will go with the pay cut.  Good pastors don’t like to preach on giving.  We feel like it makes us seem like the aforementioned money grubbing weasels (push back your cynical urges to comment).  We would much rather talk about Jesus and His AWESOMENESS!  Yet, the Bible does talk about giving (and so do many church members when giving is down).  So your pastors feel the pressure to teach those things.  But, in all honesty, your pastors don’t like to talk about money and they don’t want yours.  Money just brings complication.

 1. The Pastor is the Superman of the Church!

No one actually says this out loud.  However, you can see it when members of the congregation have questions, or need counseling, or want something from God, or think they are not saved, or think someone else is not saved.  In these situations the members of the congregation run to the pastor.  The trouble is that the pastor is just another member of the congregation who has been set aside to minister to the church, pray, fast, and teach.  Thus, when your pastor is wearing a cape with a big SC (Super Christian) on his chest and proclaims that he is the answer (or at least has all the answers), then he has inadvertently tried to take the attention from the true hero of the church: Jesus.  Your pastor is not supposed to be your hero, he is supposed to point you to The Hero.  I promise you, your pastor will fail you, either on accident or on purpose.  Be ready for it and turn to Jesus before it happens.  Maybe, when we stop exalting pastors to the super hero status, we will learn to walk together and our pastors will stay at one church for more than 3 years (that’s the current average pastoral tenure I’ve heard floating around seminary.).  Maybe we will get back to the days when a pastor stayed at his first church for 30 plus years and then trained his replacement.  Maybe

So those are the lies I thought of.  Are there more I missed?  Comment on them below.

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Walking with a Giant

I’m working on a post about lies people believe about pastors…  but feeling the crunch I thought I’d share this one I wrote a while ago.

He was frail and hunched over his cane as he walked.  His steps were small and deliberate, the toil of years in each motion.  He griped the pew at his side for support and I reached to support his arm as we walked to the stage.  Every step seemed to be a struggle, as if he had carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, as some great colossus who had raised the staff in the wilderness providing pathways, water, bread, and victories.  I walked by his side privileged that I was permitted to walk next to him and aid him in the baring of his cup.

When we reached the front, his legs were weary and his eyes near pleading.  “I’m going to need to sit down” he said, almost in an embarrassed tone.  The long walk from the back to the front of the sanctuary was hard on his frail frame.  Quickly I arranged a bench for him to sit on, and he waited his turn to scale the mountain and intercede for those being ordained.

The chairman of deacons and I helped the elderly prophet climb up to the pulpit stage.  At the top, I placed a stool behind him and whispered, “there is a bench if you would like to sit, we’ll move it in front of each man while you pray for them.”  As if he could not hear me he reached his hand out and laid it on the back of the first candidate’s head.  He pulled the man close and prayed with tears pleading for God’s spirit to rest on the man.  Then he would repeat the action for the wife.  Six men in all, he prayed for each in this manner.  I could not hear all that he said, but as he left each man, they seemed acutely aware that some great work had just transpired in front of them.  All six men wept.

The prophet finished his blessing and began the trudge back down the stage heading back to his seat.  As we walked back, I began to realize why this man was so frail.  He had been holding the staff of God in the air for years while the battle raged below.  The evidence of a power beyond the hand of man was upon him and the Spirit of the LORD full in him.

Someone said to me afterwards, “that was a good deed you did helping [the elderly pastor] up there.”  My only response, “no mam, that was a good deed he did, letting me walk with him.”

I can’t help but wonder if Joshua felt this way about Moses toward the end.  Did Joshua stand beside him as he climbed themountainofGodto see into the promised land?  Was he privileged to hold the arm of an ancient warrior of God?  Did he realize the gravity of Spirit that lived in the man he stood next too?  If he did, he had one of the most sobering experiences any man has ever had.

Paper Tigers

I’m at seminary at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Havard Campus in Houston. I spend my day off each week working to study the various languages, and histories, and theologies, and missiologies, and all the other logies you can imagine (hahaha I just said I go to school to study logies). It’s a fun but exhausting experience each week. (I am blessed to be at the Havard Campus, they have FANTASTIC faculty who work there and brilliant pastors who attend there. What follows is in no way a critique of the school. Good? Good.)

As a young seminary student (I’m 30, so I’m no longer the youngest, but still young even though I am often the veteran minister in my class.) I have great conversations about the “church world.” Gregory Boyd, John Piper, Shane Claiborne, N. T. Wright, Mark Driscole, Rob Bell, Voddie Baucham, T.D. Jakes, and the like are constantly set up as examples to build up or tare down.

Now, there is an ease to attacking a celebrity pastor. You don’t have to get to know them, you don’t have to listen to them, and you certainly don’t have to read their books first. You can just assume that they are what you have made them to be in your eyes, or the eyes of the other person from whom you stole your rant. My favorite one to hear people talk about here is the good brother Claiborne. People who claim to have known him will say things like, “that guy talks about living like Jesus, but he is really just self righteous. He is incredibly arrogant!” or “Yeah, I know Shane Claiborne, he’s a nice guy, but he gets a lot wrong.” It’s a bit ridiculous to say things like that, isn’t it? Aren’t you being self-righteous in making the statement? Beside the fact that he is not in the vicinity to defend himself. (The good brother Claiborne is one of the founding members of “the new monasticism, the simple way community in Philadelphia. You can find out more here: www.thesimpleway.org.)

So, I wanted to take a moment to talk about paper tigers…

To be fare, the concept of “paper tiger” is something I learned from my brother while eating lunch. He confessed to setting up one such theologian as his own paper tiger and then proceeded to tear the poor little tiger to pieces. (For the record, while someone may do this occasionally, it does not necessitate them as wrong, it just weakens their argument.)  In further fairness, I set up a lot of paper tigers myself.  I’m trying to do less of that.

To define a paper tiger: A paper tiger is someone who is in a seemingly exalted position who is well known, unable to defend themselves against you (often because of your obscurity), and who your listeners often don’t know personally.

So, if you want to make a paper tiger you need a few things.  One: a theologian/celebrity pastor who is well known but not personally known by your hearers.  Two: a point of view that makes this theologian/celebrity pastor seem frightening and maybe like a three headed monster.  Three: a few quipy cynical remarks that alleviate tension.  Finally: You’ll need a seemingly solid argument, presented against a loose explanation of the scary paper tiger! Throw in there exclamatory statements like, “Really!?” and “That’s just goofy!” for emphasis and humor. It’s also helpful if you can rip quotations out of context to prove your point. (The more ambiguous the quote, the smarter you’ll sound.)

All in all, paper tigers are horrible ways to prove a point. While they make you look and sound smarter than everyone else, one day you’ll have what happened to my good friend at school who shall remain nameless.

STORY TIME:

My friend had masterfully set up his paper tiger in perfect rhetorical style. He spoke with such majestic ambiguity that everyone was trembling in fear of this particular theologian, each one of us trying to imagine how we could defeat the tiger.  My friend made a mistake when he climaxed his argument by using a quote out of context.  I noticed a young man pull out his cell phone and walk away from the conversation for a moment. A few minutes later he came back he quietly ushered my triumphant friend, who was in the midst of receiving the accolades due a man for killing a tiger, off to the side and handed him the phone.  Honestly, how could he have known that one of the guys he was ranting to knew this pastor/theologian personally and would subsequently pull out his cell phone to verify the rant.  Never mind the likelihood that this young defender of the tiger would, in the kindest manner possible, offer to let the young ranter have an opportunity to talk to the real tiger on the phone!?  I watched my friend squirm and respectfully apologize for not understanding.  All in all, it was about 20 minutes of awkward, “uh… well… yes sir… no I didn’t mean it like that… Oh, I hadn’t understood it that way… etc…”

Moral of the story, don’t set up paper tigers, it’s just not smart.  Someday the real tiger might bite you.