People believe what they want to believe. And unfortunately, there is a growing group of people that want to believe that all pastors are greedy, power-hungry, reputation-obsessed egomaniacs who don’t care for hurting people.
That, to be perfectly frank, is excrement.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t pastors like that. It’s horrible, but it happens. There are “pastors” who do use their people and abuse their authority for reputation and wealth. It is evil, but it is not the norm. We hear about them far more, but they are not the majority.
No pastor who is living and preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ is going to have a great reputation (insert Joan Jett & The Blackhearts lyrics here). That’s not to say that a good, gospel preaching pastor won’t be tempted to desire a great reputation, but a good, gospel preaching pastor will know that that is not biblical, and is completely impractical.
Unless you are going to completely ignore crucial aspects of the gospel, you are not going to have a great reputation. The truth is divisive. Some will hear and turn toward Christ. Most will hear and continue to run toward self and Hell. Some choosing to slander those that preach the truth as they pass.
How do I know? Story time.
My dad is a pastor. Has been for 18 years now. I’m 22 years old, so I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t a pastor’s kid. My dad has pastored the same church for all 18 years of his ministry. Membership has always been less than 400 people. We lived in a small city house with lots of problems for most of my childhood. My parents and younger siblings currently live in a small house in the suburbs. My dad has taken salary and benefits cuts. He only has one day a week off, and even then sometimes has to deal with pressing issues on those days off. My mom works two part time jobs. My dad serves our church faithfully as the primary preacher. He meets with members, often after hours. Answers emails. Teaches pastoring classes to guys wanting to pursue ministry. Visits other churches in our denomination to lead other pastors.
None of that sounds like it describes a greedy egomaniac.
Now, I don’t say all of this for sympathy, or to prop up my dad. But I want people to be aware of how unglamorous an average pastor’s life is. This isn’t uncommon. This is most pastors. Living humble lives of service.
Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that everyone sees it that way.
Recently, there has been an online movement trying to raise awareness of abuse in churches. They rally with a hashtag. #churchtoo. What started as a movement to attempt to raise awareness of sexual abuse that unfortunately can and does happen in churches, has quickly become a platform for bitter people to accuse pastors of spiritual abuse.
Spiritual abuse is an ill-defined concept that seems to have a wide range.
Recently, our denomination has been accused (again) of conspiracy to cover up sexual abuse of children. These accusations are completely false. The civil suit was thrown out. However, it has marred the reputations of many leaders, and our denomination as a whole.
And now my dad specifically.
In recent months my dad has had to put out fires as he tries to walk people through what is going on. Sometimes it doesn’t go over well. Sometimes people think they know what’s what, and if the pastors don’t agree, well, then they are bad pastors. People have left our church because of these baseless accusations. And now, people are slandering my church on social media, all under the banner of #churchtoo and “spiritual abuse.”
Unless you have experienced it, you can’t comprehend how it feels to see your dad slandered all over Facebook and Twitter. It hurts. It makes me angry. It makes me sad. It shakes my faith. Seeing anyone you love lied about is tough. To see a close family member lied about is indescribable.
It’s tough. Really tough.
That probably reveals my weakness. Pastor’s families have been through hell far worse than what my family is going through. However, that shouldn’t discount the hurt my family is going through.
Being in a pastor’s family has its ups and downs. Being a pastor’s family during the #churchtoo age is frightening and lonely. People are out to get pastors. They use the fact that some pastors have failed as an excuse to accuse innocent and faithful pastors.
My dad has served his church day in and day out for almost two decades. My family has had to sacrifice time with him so he can serve hurting people. And now, he’s being accused of being unloving.
Over my nearly 20 years being a pastor’s kid, I have seen this many times. A pastor disagreeing with someone becomes, “the pastor wouldn’t hear me.” A shift in a friendship becomes, “the pastor pulled away from me.” Defending themselves from a false accusation becomes, “he is defensive and wouldn’t humbly take criticism.” I have noticed that sometimes when a church member accuses a pastor of being unloving, it’s because they are either uncomfortably convicted by something the pastor said, or the pastor disagreed with them about something. Of course, that isn’t always true, and therefore shouldn’t be the assumption. But we should check our own hearts before we assume someone wasn’t loving us well.
In Ray Ortlund’s book The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty of Christ Ortlund says this: “People might accuse faithful gospel ministries of being unloving, which is an easy charge to make but nearly impossible to prove or disprove. We who lead must discern what is really going on by applying biblical categories of assessment… In an age when personal unhappiness is often regarded as someone else’s fault, some people walk into church looking for a scapegoat. The leaders of the church are easy prey. The people’s angry perception of those leaders is… logically confused but psychologically compelling within their own thought world, and they readily spread that perception to other people. Then, in the name of ‘reconciliation,’ those leaders might feel pressure to confess as sin aspects of their ministry that are, in fact, true to the gospel and loving to the people.”
Just because a leader doesn’t do what a particular individual wants, it doesn’t make him a bad leader.
I realize a lot of this might sound defensive and biased. And granted, I am merely a brainwashed pastor’s kid. But I want people to see. To see that being a pastor is hard. Being a pastor’s wife is hard. Being a pastor’s kid is hard.
But it is good! There is so much joy. People have rallied around my family and the other pastor’s families and shown their support. I have seen the worst the church can be, but also the best. People who love God and the truth of the gospel worshipping, praying, serving, and loving each other. Disciples making disciples. It is beautiful.
Even when things are difficult, when there is so much hurt, when Satan tries to destroy the church, Christ is still victorious. Security may be torn away and reputation destroyed. The ground may feel shaky. But the gospel cannot be taken away! Angry and bitter people can’t stop the gospel. Truth prevails, even when it isn’t believed. God will build his church, even when it’s messy. We are called to continue to follow God’s lead, preaching the gospel as we go.
My family and I are scarred and hurting, but in Christ is comfort and healing. He is doing good things.