Your pastors and spiritual mentors are not “Super Christians.” They don’t have it all figured out, and they don’t have all the answers. They have unique spiritual gifts and a unique calling, just like you do, but they also struggle with doubts, fears, and daily temptations just like you do!
“Sure, I know that,” you might be saying. But examine for a moment the way you treat the spiritual mentors in your life. How often do you think of them as someone who might be hurting, or in need of spiritual edification or encouragement? How often do you think of them as someone who just needs a friend?
Whether we want to admit it or not, the “Super Christian” Myth has deeply affected the culture of modern-day ministry, and this is a very dangerous thing.
Yesterday I started reading a book called Dangerous Calling, by Paul David Tripp. After just a few pages, my heart was convicted and my mind was blown! Written by a pastor, this book examines a few of the dangerous traps that pastors tend to fall into as a result of today’s pastoral culture and the expectations that many people have of those in ministry. I think everyone who works in any type of ministry should read it.
Because you see, working in ministry can be a lonely thing sometimes. Whether it’s because people tend to treat you differently than their “regular” friends, or whether you view yourself as someone needing to be different from the general crowd (I think it’s a combination of both), you end up living in a sort of isolation. People expect ministers to be ever loving, ever kind, and ever patient – the picture of mature Christianity! This is a valid expectation, but the simple truth is that no human being can live up to these expectations all the time. At some point, even ministers need to vent their frustrations or talk about their fears. What often happens is that those in ministry tend to keep all of their negative feelings bottled up, saving them to be unleashed, in all their fury, at home. Do you see the danger? Home can quickly become a negative place, and the minister begins to lead a sort of double life.
As a seminary student and worship leader, I can testify to some of this. Take the following examples from my own experience:
- “I wish I could be a perfect Christian like you,” someone in my youth group said bitterly one day. It was like a slap in the face – I didn’t see myself as a perfect Christian, and wasn’t trying to give that impression – I was simply starting to get heavily involved in church ministry. I realized very quickly that working in ministry would cause my peers to view me differently.
- “I didn’t think we could ever be friends,” one of my best college friends told me as we neared graduation. “When I first met you in class, it was like you didn’t need anybody.” To this day, I have no idea what exactly I did to give that impression. I was a brand new college student, and was desperately hoping to find friends! But I also worked hard to be seen as a confident and competent student – and without even realizing it, I was pushing people away. The same happens with those in ministry… they want to be seen as confident and competent ministers, and give the impression that they don’t need anybody without even realizing what’s happening.
- “I’m sorry for blowing up at you,” I apologized to my wife one evening after losing my temper at home. “I’m usually a really nice person!” My wife listened, and said, “Yeah, you know how to turn on the charm for everyone else!” Her assessment was right on target, and I knew it. In my effort to meet everyone else’s expectations at church and work, I was becoming more and more negative in my own home. It’s something I have to battle against daily, and trust the Lord to help with. Fortunately for me, my wife is a very patient woman!
Do you really want to encourage your pastor or spiritual mentor? Then stop thinking of them as a “Super Christian” and start thinking of them as a Christian. Period. Talk to them the way you would with any other fellow believer. Joke around with them, encourage them, ask them how you can pray for them, and hold them accountable to the truths and principles of God’s Word! And if you find a crack in their spiritual armor, don’t walk away disappointed or crushed. Instead, walk with them through their hard time just as they do for so many others.
We must do away with the “Super Christian” Myth and remember to view our spiritual leaders as real people. This might just encourage your ministers more than you know. And you know what? They might just become more than a minister to you…
They might just become your friend.