Why your pastor sometimes feels like a fake (hint: he probably is).

When she was younger, my daughter used to watch “Hannah Montana” on Saturday mornings. It’s a kids’ TV show about a teenage girl living a double life as a superstar. When Miley donned her blonde wig and climbed on stage as Hannah, her fans didn’t realise she was just an ordinary schoolgirl living an everyday suburban life, with all the normal stresses of family, friendships and high school.

Sometimes I think pastors are living a double life. At home, they wrestle with the same stuff everyone does – how to love their wife (or husband) well, how to love their kids well, how to deal with their own stresses, doubts and fears. They have mortgages, mid-life crises and emotional immaturities, just like everyone else. Their theological degrees don’t come with a get-out-of-jail free card, a promise that life will be easy – in fact, statistics will show you that pastors are more stressed, more prone to depression, and more lonely than most of the population.

And yet, week after week, they get up on the stage and give it their best shot. They smile, they dress up (or dress down – depends on the church), and they tell us that they have all the answers.

Why? Why is there this mismatch between “ordinary human” and “know-it-all pastor”? Because thats what the system turns them into. When the venue is set up as a performance hall, the guy (or girl) on the stage is expected to perform for the audience. Hannah Montana’s fans don’t want to know that she’s behind in her homework, or having a fight with her best friend – they want to see her dance and hear her sing. When the church members sit passively in rows, they expect the guy they hired to spend his week studying the Scriptures and listening to the Spirit, and to package it neatly for Sunday morning and present it in a challenging-but-enjoyable format.

How do I know all this? Because I’m the pastor’s wife. For 6 years, we drove to church each Sunday, psyching ourselves into performance mode despite whatever stresses and morning-time mishaps were on our mind. It wasn’t until we moved out of established church ministry and started gathering as equals in an interactive, participatory community, that we could relax and lay aside the act, and start being ourselves.

Meeting in rows sets one person up to be a role model, to have all the answers and to take responsibility for the spiritual growth and well-being of the whole community. Meeting in a circle puts everybody on an equal footing, allows us to admit we don’t have all the answers, and to share the burdens of the whole community as we grow together. Changing the layout doesn’t just reduce the pressure on the pastor – it also empowers the rest of us to discover our voice, discover our gifts, and minister to one another as Jesus told us to.


7 thoughts on “Why your pastor sometimes feels like a fake (hint: he probably is).

  1. Kathleen, Annette and I made a commitment early on as a young ministry couple that we would live honest, open, and authentic lives before the people we felt called too. Our mottos have been, “Show up and throw up,” and, “No secrets, no leverage (from the enemy).”

    We made this commitment knowing full well that many would prefer a performance oriented pastor.

    • Great mottos. I feel like we would get on well with you guys – pop in if you’re ever in Australia.

      We once had a pastor who was more prepared than usual to share his weaknesses and mistakes in his sermons. He was probably the best preacher I’ve heard in years. I was able to listen all the way through his sermons and left changed.

      For all that I write about “church in a circle”, I still believe “church in rows” is a beautiful and godly place of community when it is done well.


      – Kathleen

      • I so agree Kathleen, the Bride is beautiful in all of her expressions. Attractional. Missional. Incarnational. All valid expressions of Jesus’ heart to redeem. Yes, I’m sure we would have much to talk about face to face. If we get over your way we’ll make that happen 🙂

  2. Gee, thanks for the compliment Kathleen!!!!

    Good post again, you have a great ability to simplify ideas and present them in a fashion that brings God to the fore.

    • It’s ok Garreth, I’m quite sure your people know you are an “ordinary human”, not a “know-it-all pastor”.

      In all seriousness, I do think one of the greatest gifts a pastor can give is to be human and vulnerable. This whole journey is about discipleship, not about motivational speeches.

      Nice to connect. Blessings to you and Karen,

      – Kathleen

  3. I’m wondering how the reality of biblical leadership is manifested in a circle? The performance I see in most churches every Sunday has one easy motive to trace, the staff (typically the senior pastor) needs to get paid. He is therefore a professional making a living rather than essentially a changed man relying on Go and leading by the Spirit. But we cannot deny Ephesians four, some have been given and that leadership is for the purpose of releasing all into their ministries in Christ. How does the circle concept of fellowship fit with that teaching?

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