I love pastors.
My best friends are pastors. Some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met are pastors. However, there is no one that has had a more damaging impact on my faith than my first pastor.
He was critical and judgmental of those who did not believe like we did. The Christian faith I inherited seemed to be more about what we were against more than what we were for. I learned that being “more accurate than others” in our interpretation of scripture was the most important thing. We arrogantly looked down on those “other Christians” who were just … well, wrong.
When I think about my first pastor, words like rigid, controlling, angry, legalistic and prejudiced come to my mind.
He was accused of an affair. At the accusation, the people reacted to him the way he had trained them to be over the years — harsh and judgmental. Some people stood by him anyway, but most left, so the church split.
My first pastor was my dad.
He was my pastor for the first 12 years of my life … until my mother divorced him, after 24 years of marriage.
He was a wounded soul and was unmentored in building genuine and loving relationships. When he passed away in his 80s, he had preached for over 50 years, but at the end of his life had very few friends, and broken relationships with most of his family.
I am grateful that I was raised in church and that I learned about Jesus Christ as a child. I honor my dad for serving God the best way he knew how. In spite of the challenges, I had many “God moments” on those pews in a small church in South Carolina. I remember singing hymns that touched me somewhere deep inside. I remember scriptures that spoke to my soul and preachers who told stories about Jesus in a way that impacted my life forever. I knew as a teenager that I would one day be a preacher myself, but it took me several years to get over the negative impact of my “first pastor.”
Finding a Safe Church.
If you asked me what is a vital element to ensure spiritual growth and maturity — I would say without hesitation, find a church with a wise, compassionate and “safe” pastor. I would also say to get fully involved and be dedicated to growing there.
That’s not as easy as you might think.
A person’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ, through prayer and reading His word, is extremely important. However, the church we attend and the pastor we follow can make or break our faith.
We’ve all heard of priests or ministers who have molested young children, pastors or evangelists who have affairs, and the powerful personalities who are so controlling and insecure that they manipulate people until the Christian’s faith drains out of their life.