Last week, Adrian Warnock linked to a post from last June written by Thom Rainer called “Five Secrets Pastors Refuse to Tell.” The point of the original post is that pastors are often told secrets by other people and must keep those secrets in confidence. Similarly, pastors have secrets of their own – related to themselves and their families – that they do not tell others. As Rainer states, “These spiritual leaders refuse to share their thoughts or pains for fear that their own ministries will be damaged.”
What kinds of things are on Rainer’s lists of secrets kept by many (most?) pastors?
- “My marriage is struggling.”
- “I fear my kids will grow up hating the church.”
- “I let a handful of critics control me.”
- “I often have anger toward the supportive church members who don’t defend me to my critics.”
- “I’ve thought about quitting several times.”
I have a huge concern with this list and with similar lists. Now, I understand that there is a context to this list. When Rainer (and others) use the term “pastor” in contexts like this, they are referring to the leader(s) of a religious organization. This person may or may not be spiritually gifted at pastoring. This person may or may not be actually pastoring anyone. The title refers to a position within the organization.
When Rainer states, “These spiritual leaders refuse to share their thoughts or pains for fear that their own ministries will be damaged,” he’s referring to their position within the organization being damaged. And, keeping the kinds of secrets that Rainer lists (and other similar secrets) is a good way for someone to protect themselves and their positions within these organizations.
But, the problem is that when it comes to actually pastoring – actually shepherding other people in order to help them follow Jesus Christ and grow in maturity – keeping these kinds of secrets is antithetical to the desired goal.
You cannot help people learn to interact with their spouses in the Lord while at the same time keeping your own struggles a secret. You cannot teach people who to live with, love, and be at peace with those who oppose them or disagree with them by keeping secrets about those who oppose or disagree with you. You cannot show people what it means to follow Jesus Christ if you see your own role as something that can be “quit.”
How do we move away from the kind of life that believes it’s necessary to keep these kinds of secrets from brothers and sisters in Christ? I think it’s fairly simply… because I’ve been through it. It requires moving away from positional ministry among the church. It requires moving away from using and understanding terms like “pastor,” “evangelist,” etc. as positions and instead see and live them as ways to serve others. It requires refusing to see the “church” as an organization and instead to live with the people themselves as the church.
Are we willing to move away from these positional ways of thinking and more toward relational ways of thinking and living? If not, then it will be necessary to continue to keep these kinds of secrets from others in order to maintain our positions in the organization.
But, if we’re truly interested in pastoring – not in title, but in service in the Lord – then we will seek to open up our lives to others – warts and all – in order to help them follow Jesus Christ – even if it means we lose our positions among the organizations.