I think it is great when pastors are candid about their own struggles. Authenticity builds trust and allows for others in the fellowship to speak honestly about their own issues. Church masks are removed, and people are able to get the help they need.
But there are times when the pastor can share way too much information and cause people to actually stumble. This past Sunday, I shared a really vulnerable story about my personal struggle with depression last year. I hope it was helpful, but I was mindful of a couple of questions we should all consider before we share personal issues.
1. Has the issue been resolved? I am not sure pastors should confess their struggles publicly until they have at least started the process of getting some help privately. The Sunday morning stage should not be the first time we confess our weaknesses. We need to have a trusted circle of mature friends who can hear this first, and then we can talk about it publicly when it is appropriate. Don’t be vulnerable just to be cool. I know many young believers who have given up even trying to live Godly lives because they believe there is no use trying if their leaders cannot be victorious. Confess, but then tell them the path you found toward healing and wholeness. That is encouraging and will actually build hope in people.
2. Am I about to share something that will embarrass someone? In the first talk on Sunday when I was telling my story of near depression, I made it seem that Pam and I were struggling in our marriage, although the struggle was not with her but with my role as Senior Pastor. I made that clearer in the 11 a.m. service, but it reminded me to be very careful not to reveal something about someone just to tell a cool story about my messiness. Protect people and their reputations at all costs, even at the cost of a good sermon illustration.
I hope every leader feels the freedom to be transparent, honest, and vulnerable. It’s refreshing and healing to those who hear, and it helps all of us take off those silly church masks and live honest lives filled with hope and freedom.