Children and young adults traditionally look up to their elders. This is especially true of fathers, mothers, teachers and preachers. They are in positions of authority. They are the ones charged with leading young people to an understanding of the world around them. They are expected to be the messengers who convey wisdom, understanding and faith to their charges.
To some the concept expressed above may seem out of date. Many feel the roles of parents and teachers have changed. This may or may not be true, but the role of one group has not changed. The clergy, preachers, ministers or whatever they wish to be called, are still charged with being God’s messengers.
The problem with the clergy is that they are human. To some this is restating the obvious. Sometimes, restating the obvious is necessary. If you believe in the God of Abraham, you believe one perfect human walked this earth, or will walk this earth in the future. Unless your minister, pastor, spiritual advisor or Sunday school teacher is the Messiah, he is flawed. He is human.
Many of us, this writer included, have problems with the frailties of pastors and other clergy. At some level, we expect them to be perfect. If not perfect, we expect them to be a lot closer to perfect than we are. Doesn’t that make sense?
Teachers, at least in the past, knew more than their students. They were smarter, or at least more educated, than their students. One was not expected to learn from someone who was not higher on the knowledge and education curve than his or her students. Is it unreasonable to expect that a pastor be a better and stronger believer than the members of his congregation?
The truth is pastors are no closer to perfection than you or me. They may be better versed in the bible. They may have more life experience and be wiser than you or me. However, they are no closer to spiritual perfection than any other believer. That is a hard pill for some to swallow. For me, and I am certain for many others, realizing this truth is the last nail in the coffin of our faith.
The first pastor I knew as a child had feet of clay. He talked a good game. He had a great presence. He could say all the right things, but he eventually showed himself to be a man. Not only was he a man, he was a petty and prideful man. He came into conflict with my father, and allowed the conflict to disrupt the church.
The next pastor I knew well was older and wiser. By the time my mother and I met him, he had been leading his church for years. It was well known and well established. It seemed to be a good place to worship and fellowship with other believers. It was for a time.
The end came for me when the pastor spread lies about the youth pastor at another church. He felt the newer, younger church was stealing his congregants by preying on the youth in his church. His response was to accuse the youth minister of acting inappropriately and leading the youth astray. As I was one of those youth, I knew the accusations to be false, but they cost the young minister his job and drove me from both churches. This was not the final blow to my faith, but it was close.
The final blow came several years later. My brother was killed in Vietnam. When his death made the local paper, guess who showed up on our doorstep. Yes, it was my two favorite preachers. One had not seen my brother since he was a young child, and the other had never met him, but both thought it was appropriate to solicit the honor of conducting his funeral.
I did not think either of these men were worth mentioning in the same breath as my brother. The idea of either one speaking at this funeral was abhorrent to me, and in my mind it was the ultimate insult. These men should have known that they no longer had any credibility with my family. Yet, they wanted to be a part of his funeral.
These men represented God’s church to me. The way I felt about them became the way I felt about all pastors and ministers. I was always looking for the flaws, the weaknesses, in each preacher, minister or pastor I met. Flaws were easy to find, if you looked hard enough. I lived this way for twenty-four years. I did not trust churches. I did not trust pastors. I especially did not trust the fools who followed or attended them.
My armor was thick after twenty-four years of running from God. It included looking down at those who claimed to follow Him and speak for Him. I used their flaws as a shield to keep me from facing my own weaknesses. Thankfully, God had a plan to deal with that, but that is a story for another time.
The truth is we are all flawed in creatures. Even those who claim to speak on God’s behalf or teach His word are flawed. Another truth is being flawed does not automatically disqualify someone from preaching or teaching God’s Word. If God did not use flawed messengers, pulpits throughout the world would be empty or filled with false messengers. The challenge of course is to know which pastor is simply a flawed messenger and which is a false messenger.
© S. E. Jackson 2011