5. We say we are transparent—it’s actually opaque.
Today, pastors are generally more open about their struggles than previous generations, but we still sense there is a threshold that is not to be crossed.
People want open, honest and real, but not too much.
Generally, churches want just enough so they feel safe with you, but not so much that it spoils the expectations they have of you. Unfortunately, the threshold is a blurry line by which pastors never know how much is too much until it’s too late. After a couple of infractions, we learn that opaque is safe—even if it’s isolating.
When pastors’ wives are polled on how it feels to be the spouse of someone in full-time ministry, the #1 answer is one profound word, “Lonely.” They are around hundreds of people every week, but they never feel they can let their guard down because they know people have opinions on how a pastor’s wife should be.
Now, I know people say they don’t, but literally every church I have served in has shared unflattering stories of the previous pastor’s wife. Many of these stories came from the spiritually mature leadership who considered the pastor and his wife to be their friends. The real irony comes in when later in the conversation I would be told, “But don’t worry, we don’t have any expectations on your wife. We just want to love on her.” Right!
Now, I don’t blame people for this natural human tendency, but being aware of how things are keeps you relationally opaque. And it’s not merely pastors and their wives who insulate. Pastoral families at large feel alone because there is a certain level of unknown expectations buried like landmines through the field of the church, and so there is a constant mode of mostly transparent.
6. We measure ourselves by the numbers.
Numbers don’t matter! Yeah, right.
No matter how badly we want to slap that bumper sticker on our Ford, the reality is that numbers matter to us. And they matter to us it part because they matter to God.
The problem, however, goes back to #1-3. The absence of growth in our churches can cascade into an internal turmoil by which we begin to scrounge for “The Next Big Thing” that will bring “Radical Growth,” “Guaranteed.”
So we read books on how to be a “Deep & Wide, Vertical, Purpose-Driven, Radical-Reformission, Creature of the Word, Big Idea, Center Church.” Then we jet off to a conference with thousands of other pastors who are seeking to glean the secret of success. And what is the first question we ask one another between sessions? “So, how big is your church?”
Yep, we measure ourselves by the numbers.