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Five Secrets (and more) Pastors MUST Tell

Posted by on Dec 10, 2012 in blog links, discipleship, elders | 5 comments

Five Secrets (and more) Pastors MUST Tell

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?

  1. “My marriage is struggling.”
  2. “I fear my kids will grow up hating the church.”
  3. “I let a handful of critics control me.”
  4. “I often have anger toward the supportive church members who don’t defend me to my critics.”
  5. “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.


5 Comments

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  1. 12-10-2012

    That’s a problem I have with the organization of church. I have to detach mentally from the workings of the body, and get to the ideals of Christ and His example. When you look to any leader, it’s hard to look past their human faults, it looks like hypocrisy. But who knows the intricacies of scripture enough? The danger with the organization is that we might fly off into an imagined God that stands for anything we believe. I don’t think there is a solution on earth.

  2. 12-10-2012

    There was a time when pastors and teachers were the only gifts to the body that were worth anything in the eyes of conventional church, with evangelists a poor third. Apostles and prophets were nowhere to be seen, explained away as no longer necessary – gifts to the early church alone.

    But these days there’s a real tendency to have apostles and prophets as well, and to strengthen the office of evangelist.

    Of course, none of these wonderful gifts are ‘offices’ at all. In no way did Christ give offices to the church, he gives gifts to men and women to bless and benefit the church that he is building. And we need all five working in harmony (with Christ at the centre) if we are to see sustained revival and growth.

    You are right Alan, you too Susan. There are great dangers here, hidden lives on the one hand and the working of the body not achieving the standards set by Christ on the other. Perhaps they are two aspects of the same problem as the secrecy makes us imagine standards are being met.

    Until we recognise our own brokenness and gratefully accept the gifts of Christ to his broken people, how can we move forward at all? I truly think we need to combine open honesty with one another and loving forgiveness with an enthusiastic purpose to hear Jesus and obey him.

    We have, I think, little idea of the powerful way Jesus will build us together into his Bride once we place humble obedience ahead of our own fears, ambitions, and need for a ‘safe’ existence.

  3. 12-10-2012

    Thanks Alan for posting this.

  4. 12-10-2012

    I’ve found that in church communities that are highly relational and pastors are recognized by their functioning in the body instead of by title, the hurts, failures, and struggles of one who shepherds are a source of strength and wisdom that are used to help others. After all, Christ typically teaches us wisdom through our experiences, especially our failures. Or so it seems to me.

  5. 12-11-2012

    Susan,

    All people will have faults, including all leaders. To me, the best leaders are those who not only recognize their faults, but share them openly with others.

    Chris,

    You said, “Until we recognise our own brokenness and gratefully accept the gifts of Christ to his broken people, how can we move forward at all?” I think that’s a great reminder. All of us are broken, and Jesus works through all of our broken. If we pretend we are not broken – or try to hide that brokenness from others – then we deny Christ the right to work through that.

    Jim,

    Thank you.

    Mark,

    You said, “the hurts, failures, and struggles of one who shepherds are a source of strength and wisdom that are used to help others.” Yes, exactly!

    -Alan