While I’m on vacation and then on a mission trip, I’m treating you to some exceptional guest bloggers and reposting some of my best content from the last year. I’ll be tweeting and commenting off and on, but will be back full time on the blog July 25th.
Today’s guest is a blogger I recently discovered, Matt Drake. His blog, Frequently Unasked Questions, or F.U. Questions for short (which he insists is pronounced “A Few Questions” when abbreviated). You’ll want to check out his story because, true to his name, Matt is incredibly awesome. Be sure to give him some love here and then go visit his blog. Here’s Matt…
Not long ago I thought I was a big deal. I traveled, spoke, recruited for missions, and generally was a super cool Christian leader. But I was kind of fake too. Public Me was mostly a projection of what people wanted me to be. And Private Me had some issues I avoided so I could keep being a superhero.
Eighteen months ago I stepped back from ministry to deal with myself. It’s been a crazy journey, a faith crisis, and an opportunity to experience Divine Love in the middle of personal failure. In the aftermath, as I try to discern what’s real and what’s fake, I’m left with lots of questions.
This tale is an attempt to raise a few questions about human frailty, spiritual leadership, transparency, and how the courage to face our faults is sometimes squelched by the pressure to keep preforming. I hope it sparks thoughtfulness about church models, empathy for conflicted leaders, and introspection for the things we avoid.
Imagine You’re a Pastor
Every week you sit in the front pew, looking dapper in your freshly ironed Sunday best.
Stomach full of butterflies, hair full of gel. You tap your feet nervously as the music winds to a soft, emotion-filled close. You’re on. You crack your neck, grab your notes, and ease slowly from the mahogany bench.
On this particular Sunday each step feels increasingly heavy, like marching to a guillotine. You’ve avoided this message for years. “Don’t do this! Turn back!” Your chest tightens with the internal warning but you ignore the voice and resolutely mount the carpeted steps.
“This is how change happens,” you remind yourself as you clutch each side of the pulpit like an I-beam in an earthquake.
Preaching to Yourself
After an uncomfortably long silence you lift your eyes to the audience.
Dozens of perfectly aligned pews stand at attention like uniformed guards, stretching back as far as the elongated room will allow. The morning sun glints off the freshly stained mahogany seats and reminds you that you’re alone.
The sanctuary is empty. One pair of eyes stares back at you. Your own. At the back of the church you’ve positioned a giant mirror that magnifies your reflection and sends it straight back. You won’t miss an expression.
It’s time. You gather your breath and begin.
“I haven’t been totally honest. I’ve lied to you.” It’s the first time you’ve leveled with yourself in years. “I told you God called me, that if you followed me we’d get closer to Him. We’d change our community, our nation, the world…” Your voice trails off, distracted by images of last year’s Mexico mission.
“But I can’t be trusted. I’ve told you how to live your life, what God thinks and expects, like I’ve got things figured out.”
What sermon would a pastor preach if no one showed up to church?
“Look at me!” You shout. “Just look at my clothes. It’s all to impress. But I’m a fake. I talk like an authority but inside I’m as crumbly as the next guy. Last night, instead of preparing I watched porn. My ‘prayer closet’ has become a synonym for masturbation. God never called me here, I called me here. I wanted my name on the sign. I wanted to be a leader.”
For the first time during your confession you address the imaginary crowd: “I shouldn’t be your pastor. You know how to talk to God. You know how to exhort and love each other. Why don’t you do that from now on?”
“I don’t know half of your names and I wouldn’t care if I did. But I love my family, and need to stop living this lie. For their sake. For your sake. For my sake. It tortures my wife to hear me preach about purity, then catch me online. And my son pretends I’m not at the dinner table. That’s how little credibility I have.”
“This is the first thing I’ve done worth emulating.”
So what do you think? Should church be a place of complete honesty, or are secrets allowed? Should leaders deal with their crap behind closed doors, or are they not to be trusted unless they can be totally honest in front of everyone?