Censor Your Pastor?

I was reading Todd Rhoades post on Friday morning on the pastor in Illinois who was referred to as the "TMI (Too Much Information) Pastor."

The pastor of a Naperville area church attended a pastor's conference in Chicago and soon returned to his congregants announcing that he was embracing "a new found vulnerability" with them and started a confession streak.
Lay leaders began expressing how uncomfortable they were with their pastor getting the reputation as the "TMI Pastor" further commenting to the press...
"I brace myself until he spits it out," said Jocelyn Garnet. "It makes for a tense service." One week Ott admitted he was sometimes tempted to claim Starbucks food purchases as ministry-related tax deductions. Another time he said he "struggled with angry outbursts," and occasionally "barked" at fast food drive-thru employees. He even said he sometimes walks "a little too slowly" by the Victoria's Secret store in the mall."
So all of this causes me to ask the question: How much is too much to share?

Nearly the same time this story broke in 2006, LifeChurch.tv's Craig Groeschel wrote a book "Confessions of a Pastor" and since then introduced a teaching series in his church by that name. Earlier this year several more churches, including Revolution Church, pastored by Gary Lamb introduced the series (pic above from that series), sharing some struggles he has with his audience.

I personally think the series idea is great... but I can see where some attendees, like Garnett, would feel uncomfortable with what is shared.

I worked with a lay-leader years ago who loved to share his struggles weekly. After getting some complaints I stepped in and carefully evaluated the situation later determining that it was very unhealthy and wondered if he felt the small group he led was his therapy session. He made several people in our church very uncomfortable and soon I had to speak with him about what he shared in prior meetings. While I appreciated his heart and what he wanted to share, he sometimes shared too much and too frequently. Whether it was the right call or wrong one, it was something that I had to address. Since that time I have wondered on occasion if I handled things appropiately and questioned where the line should be drawn.

I think we live in a day where transparency and authenticity is appreciated but where is the line in knowing how much you should and should not share? Do you have a personal rule in how much dirty laundry or struggles you share? Do you think the Naperville church handled things appropiately by censoring their pastor?

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5 Responses to “Censor Your Pastor?”

  1. # Anonymous Shane Kennard

    This is a tough subject. When leaders talk about specifics in front of students in particular (which pastors should be in front of students) parents hear them say, "I did this and this and this and Jesus forgave me; so you can do it too and one day you can ask repentance." They may not really say that, but they are thinking,"Wow, I have some cleaning up to do when I get home." Church should produce conversations among families, but they should be building on, not rebuilding what they heard. They want you to warn students, but not go too far.  

  2. # Blogger jasdye

    these types of confessions (as opposed to say, witnessing confessions) are good and serve a purpose, but they need to be done within healthy and intimate relationships. the nature of the confessions are not such that one should spew them out to a captive audience.

    this pastor - and i admire his willingness to be transparent - needs to find a different outlet. his listeners should be voluntary listeners and prayers - not people who've come to church to focus on the other type of confession: that Jesus is Lord and that God is Love.  

  3. # Anonymous radiogalz

    This is a fabulous, thought provoking question. One that is necessary to consider in whatever ministry capacity we are in.

    Be advised, though, that the original article appeared in LarkNews.com which is a completely tongue-in-cheek web posting. It is considered to be evidence of the church's ability to laugh at itself.

    That said, it has raised an interesting discussion. Here are my two cents.

    Ministry leaders should avail themselves of certain resources when confession is necessary. Trusted friends and advisors, denominational leadership, other pastoral counselors are all good choices. Being real and transparent are laudable goals, but what that means is avoiding the veneer of "Christian perfection."

    Sheep who are struggling need to know they have a pastor who can relate to them, yes, but they don't need to see all the ugly warts. That has a way of dissolving the confidence they have in their shepherd.

    A good leader appreciates the fine line between dealing appropriately with his issues (after all, he is a human with human struggles), while at the same time maintaining his sheperding skills and the confidence of his congregation/student group/etc.

    I have personally seen where the accountability for personal issues was put in the wrong place, to disastrous results.  

  4. # Blogger Terrace Crawford

    @ Shane - Good word.
    @ Jase - I agree. It seemed this pastor was filling a spot in the bulletin (insert confession this week here). We need to prayerfully evaluate our message and if so led, share.
    @ Radiogalz - Judes, I was wondering where you went! I appreciate the advisement. The article only provided a springboard for discussion. I agree with you that members want the confidence of their shepherd and be able to respect them and their office. We must proceed with sensitivity for sure.

    This is a great discussion, for sure, because I see churches springing up all over and for the sake of being 'edgy' are willing to say almost anything from the pulpit. That might lead me to write a different post.  

  5. # Anonymous Mark Waltz

    Several thoughts come to mind as I read this dialog: 1) It's too bad a series is required for a pastor to be "real" with his church. A culture of honesty and appropriate vulnerability seems healthy... from week to week as it fits within any given message. 2) To what degree should a pastor/leader be vulnerable? The "confession" should certainly be redemptive. If people leave only focused on the pastor's dirty laundry, then the opportunity to point to Jesus may have been sadly missed. On the other hand there are plenty of folks who don't want to imagine their pastor being tempted in any way. This reveals one or more things: People have an inaccurate definition of temptation; all of us are tempted. Period. Secondly, if people continue to see their leaders on pedestals, there is a risk of hero-worship, as well as a tendency to be dismissive of one's own failure, because "there's no way they can be perfect like the preacher".

    Seems the point is - we all face temptation... and there is a way to live life following the summary of the law: Love God and love others. We can live above the devastating destruction of choices that cave to our selfish desires.

    Over all - I'd say, let's buck up, get real, be real and not live behind masks in glass houses thinking we're fooling everyone.  

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