In today’s church culture, you will overhear people who want to be real, transparent and vulnerable. They want to be known. It is only by being raw with each other, they say, that we can truly be in relationship with God and one another. We are all about relationships.
I love that the church desires this level of truth. I hope all God’s people reach this place of great courage and honesty; but let us be clear; this invitation is not often extended to the pastor and his or her family.
There is a double standard. If a church member (a nurse, plumber, florist, or accountant) gets a DUI, he or she might lose some public standing, incur a fine, and be faced with legal proceedings. If a pastor gets a DUI, he or she will not only face these troubles but may also be forced to find a new church—if one will accept a pastor with a blemished reputation.
A pastor does not have the same freedom to be real or vulnerable about his or her battle with porn, lust, drugs, or pills. It is acceptable, even inspiring, if a pastor dealt with these demons pre-Jesus and pre-ministry. In this case, the story is a testimony of triumph! But when these addictions are current, most pastors will keep their struggle a secret, hiding it from the church that is all about the truth.
Our expectation of how pastors should be elevates them beyond their humanity. When pastors realize this expectation, they step upon a shaky pedestal knowing that sharing their struggles could jeopardize their careers and destabilize their families.
Many professions have advocacy boards that provide a process for employees to get treatment, re-enter the workplace, and receive ongoing care so that the employee’s struggles can be overcome. Ironically, this intentionally redemptive process is yet to be offered to pastors in most protestant denominations.
How might our clergy be healthier if we offered them the space and freedom to admit they have a problem and the grace to receive help? The impact on their families, churches, and communities could be astounding.
I still have hope, but for today, the wounded healer remains wounded. Even sadder, he (or she) remains silent listening to others in the church be real and transparent.