Shiny Happy People

We live in an age where more and more of the unchurched see Christians as hypocritical. We are viewed as people trying to make sure we “have it all together” living by the world’s mantra, “image is everything.”

So, as we still strive for purity, we must do it in a way that is real, transparent, and authenticTo admit our weaknesses while telling how Christ covers and transforms us (The Gospel).

This antidote of a willingness to admit and look at our own faults…means a cultural shift for many of our congregations & ministries.

But for a cultural shift to occur it must begin with leadership, being willing to admit program and ministry mishaps. Maybe we should be more willing to point out our mistakes in the hiring of a person, the misuse of money, or our idolatry towards numerical growth instead of seeking to give the impression every program is going great, every pastor is stellar, every penny is being spent wisely, and that we care more about maturational growth than numerical growth?

Could your church, parachurch, or business stand to hear such “realness?”

If not, then can there truly be a cultural shift in not only celebrating God’s successes through us, but also admitting our ministry mistakes. If we can begin to admit our ministry mishaps, maybe then our people will be more open to admit personal weaknesses.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor 12:9)


~ by Dave Smith on March 24, 2008.

12 Responses to “Shiny Happy People”

  1. Some of my darker thoughts as I left minimistry…

    I’m not trying to be inflammatory or deragatory…I’m not saying this is true of everyone at all time…I’m not bitter about my experience…

    I am saying these are the real thoughts I had…in the moment…on my way out. I think there may be some validity here as it questions what is real and authentic in a pastors (or ABF teachers) heart.


    – Pastors only show an interest in people because in the end, it helps them grow their church not because there is a pure interest in their spiritual condition.

    – Pastors want a growing church because they have been lived financially lean most of their ministry lives…and they would like to earn and have what their members do.

    – Pastors love the prestige, respect, and admiiration that their position can bring them.

    – A pastors most important job is to make sure people like them.

    – Pastors never admit they are wrong in matters of personal conduct…ever. To do so would imply that they have encroached on sinful behavior, which could downgrade their prestige or cost them their job. They might say I’m selfish or prideful – but that’s the easy way out…especially b/c it’s their only example.

    – Pastors are not intellectually honest…and for some reason they feel the need to give a concrete answer to every question w/ theological implications.

    – Pastors spend more time running programs and doing administration than they do caring, leading, praying, and studying.

    – A pastor is closer to a politician than any other job.

    – Pastors are very good at hiding their capitulation to the people of influence in the church – those who have money.

  2. You have definitely stirred the waters! In many ways you are saying that pastors are human…which is good for people to remember.

    Does this mean ALL pastors are like this ALL the time? Maybe some have higher tendencies towards these behaviors than others, but with you being a former pastor yourself, I think there is great insight here on how all pastors have these struggles at various points in their ministry.

    I think we have to let this one sit a little more and allow others to chim in here Anthony. A great start!

  3. No…tried to hedge at the beginning, but maybe not enough.

    Like I said, some of my darker thoughts (perceptions) in the moment. My main point – if I felt this as an “insider”, surely outsiders have had similar thoughts?

    Sorry if I was offensive – didn’t intend too.

  4. Not at all offensive. I thought you positioned it well, and was agreeing with your opening sentiments about these very REAL issues! Thanks for the insight.

  5. I think it is important for Christ followers to genuinely love each other and disciple each other. Vulnerability is an integral part of the equation.

    We must consistently preach the gospel to ourselves and constantly guard against self-righteousness that ruins our witness to the world. Again vulnerability is a key ingredient.

    When you start talking about pastoral leadership it gets really interesting. It has to be a very lonely and difficult road to travel. When I get vulnerable with a mens small group and ask for prayer because I have had unwholesome thoughts about a coworker, my bros nod and show concern and support. When the pastor attends the same small group and shares something similar he eventually gets canned along with the church secretary. I’m not sure the right answers, but I am sure we as a congregation need to do more to make it safe for the pastor to be a real human being and save the shiny happy people bit for Michael Stipe and the boys…

  6. Interesting and insightful stuff, Dave. Ironically, one of my classes today was devoted to discussing Willow Creek’s study, Reveal. We talked about leadership and failure for a good two hours… (and are you surprised we talk about Willow Creek at Princeton?)

    Our professor, Kenda Dean – do you know her name? – ended class with a powerful prayer. I hope I can do it justice.

    She prayed that in the upcoming year, we would fail miserably…because that meant we were daring enough to take a risk. She prayed that we would be embarrassed horribly…because that meant we were passionate about something to not play it safe. And finally, she prayed that we would receive negative criticism face-to-face, because that meant we were still honest and humble enough to receive it.

    Not the kind of inspirational prayer I expected, but it really shook me to the core.

    I don’t mean to sound arrogant at all — but I don’t know that I have ever failed HORRIBLY, and to be honest, today is perhaps the first time I’ve ever thought about that as potentially a bad thing. Does it mean I’ve played it safe and never taken a big enough risk? I’m not sure the answer is “yes,” but it might be… and that’s an awfully disconcerting place to be in.

  7. rich stuff ben. willow @ princeton, eh? i have a great amount of respect for Kenda Dean & it was just expanded…what a provocative prayer.

    so realistically how do we allow this to walk itself out in the church? how big of failures are we really “allowed” to be? i know that with the porn stuff i talk about, i often have people asking me “so has God healed you entirely?” and the like. it’s like if i had really faced my sin and given it to God, i would never have another lustful thought ever again. their ignorance…to my struggle (and to their own sin i imagine as well)…makes me sick.

    but how do you balance “new creations” with sin struggles & imperfections?

  8. To answer your questions, JDH, I don’t think Kenda had “sinful” failures in mind. Given the context of our discussion (Willow’s “Reveal” study), I got the impression she had other types of failure in mind. That is, we were talking about taking risks in ministry, i.e., implementing new mediums for spiritual development and transformation within church life. Moreover, the class is entitled “Christian Spirituality in Small Groups.”

    While I see your point as it relates to “sinful” failures, Kenda wasn’t encouraging us to sin 🙂

  9. Some good dialogue here. It really surfaces two issues among church leaders regarding their “authenticity”: the ability to share personal weaknesses and their ability to share ministry/leadership weaknesses.

    I personally feel within our church culture there is a growing freedom for church leaders to share their personal struggles with their members. (However, Anthony is right that many times they are “surface examples.”) There is a desire to show their humanness and that they too haven’t arrived. (The question here that remains, “Can you share too much?”…no one wants to see you naked!)

    For some reason I feel the harder thing is for church leaders to admit a program, strategy, or leadership failure. In a success-driven and high-productivity culture we live in, these admissions seem less recoverable. Maybe because with our “personal weaknesses” we can always blame it on our sin nature, but with our “ministry failures” we feel we must take more of the blame (& maybe should)…and care too much about, well, the things Anthony’s list mentions (losing our job, losing big donors, etc).

    Random thoughts here.

  10. good clarification ben. i didn’t mean to insinuate that she was encouraging sin.

  11. I’m not sure Joel. I one time met Kenda and she handed me a joint and told me to take a puff if I loved Jesus. Those liberals at Princeton live by a whole different standard!

  12. It’s a good thing you chose to remain anonymous… or you might have a fight on your hands.

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