I was talking to someone recently about one of the biggest pressures which faces pastors. It is based on the chasm which can separate people’s expectations of you as a pastor (as if you were some kind of ‘super Christian’) and the reality of one’s own sinful heart.
Here are a few observations.
There is, at one level, something right about people’s expectations. Because Jesus expects much from those to whom much has been given (Luke 12:48). And Paul encourages undershepherds to watch our life and doctrine closely (1 Tim 4:16).
But on another level, these expectations place an impossible burden on a pastor. Because, like any member of the congregation, he is a sinful human being who though forgiven still struggles with sin.
As I reflected on this truth I realised that something similar can be going on in churches all the time. Though, as individuals, we are conscious of our own sinfulness (and our total reliance on God’s grace) we look around us and assume everyone else has got it sorted. It is as if I need grace but I assume YOU don’t. And that kind of false assumption is what stifles openness – as we’re terrified of sharing struggles that we assume no one else faces.
Another peculiar irony of this phenomenon is that it can lead to judgementalistm. So if I look at you and you present as if you’ve got it all sorted, then it is easy for me to become critical of the things which you obviously haven’t got sorted! When in fact we’re all in the same boat, none of us have it sorted, and we’re all utterly dependent on grace.
And all this is why we need to keep coming back to grace, revelling in it, and seeking to live out its implications in our interactions with one another. That is one of the reasons we have just started a series all about grace. You can hear the first in the series here. And you might find some further mulling on the above in the sermon on Sunday evening…